HOLIDAYS AT ROSELANDS
A SEQUEL TO ELSIE DINSMORE
BY MARTHA FINLEY
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by M.W. DODD, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
Copyright, 1898, by DODD, MEAD & COMPANY.
"Hope not sunshine every hour, Fear not clouds will always lower."
Elsie's Holidays at Roselands.
"Oh Truth, Thou art, whilst tenant in a noble breast, A crown of crystal in an iv'ry chest."
Elsie felt in better spirits in the morning; her sleep had refreshed her, and she arose with a stronger confidence in the love of both her earthly and her heavenly Father.
She found her papa ready, and waiting for her. He took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly. "My precious little daughter," he said, "papa is very glad to see you looking so bright and cheerful this morning. I think something was wrong with my little girl last night. Why did she not come to papa with her trouble?"
"Why did you think I was in trouble, papa?" she asked, hiding her face on his breast.
"How could I think otherwise, when my little girl did not come to bid me good night, though she had not seen me since dinner; and when I went to give her a good-night kiss I found her pillow wet, and a tear on her cheek?"
"Did you come, papa?" she asked, looking up in glad surprise.
"I did. Now tell me what troubled you, my own one?"
"I am afraid you will be angry with me, papa," she said, almost under her breath.
"Not half so angry as if you refuse to give me your confidence. I would be glad to know that my little daughter had not a single thought or feeling concealed from me."
He paused a moment, looking down at the little blushing face, half hidden on his breast, then went on:
"Elsie, daughter, you are more precious to me than aught else in the wide world, and you need not fear that any other can ever take your place in my heart, or that I will make any connection that would render you unhappy. I want no one to love but my little girl; and you must not let the gossip of the servants disturb you."
Elsie looked up in unfeigned astonishment.
"Papa! you seem to know everything about me. Can you read my thoughts?"
"Almost, when I can see your face," he answered, smiling at her puzzled look. "I cannot quite, though; but I can put things together and make a pretty good guess, sometimes."
She lay still on his breast for a moment; then, raising her eyes timidly to his face again, she said in a half-hesitating way, "I am afraid it is very naughty in me, papa, but I can't help thinking that Miss Stevens is very disagreeable. I felt so that very first day, and I did not want to take a present from her, because it didn't seem exactly right when I didn't like her, but I couldn't refuse—she wouldn't let me—and I have tried to like her since, but I can't."
"Well, darling, I don't think I am just the proper person to reprove you for that," he replied, trying to look grave, "for I am afraid I am as naughty as you are. But we won't talk any more about her. See what I have for you this morning."
He pointed to the table, where lay a pile of prettily bound books, which Elsie had not noticed until this moment. They were Abbot's works. Elsie had read several of his historical tales, and liked them very much; and her father could hardly have given a more acceptable present.
"I was sorry for your disappointment yesterday," he said, "but I hope these will make up for it, and they will give you a great deal of useful information, as well as amusement; while it could only be an injury to you to read that trashy book."
Elsie was turning over the books with eager delight.
"Dear papa, you are so kind and good to me," she said, laying them down to put her arms around his neck and kiss him. "I like these books very much, and I don't at all care to read that other one since you have told me you do not approve of it."
"That is my own darling child," said he, returning her caress, "your ready obedience deserved a reward. Now put on your hat, and we will take our walk."
Mr. Travilla joined them in the avenue, and his kind heart rejoiced to see how the clouds of care and sorrow had all passed away from his little friend's face, leaving it bright and beaming, as usual. Her father had one hand, and Mr. Travilla soon possessed himself of the other.
"I don't altogether like these company-days, when you have to be banished from the table, little Elsie," he remarked. "I cannot half enjoy my breakfast without your bright face to look at."
"I don't like them either, Mr. Travilla, because I see so little of papa. I haven't had a ride with him since the company came."
"You shall have one this afternoon, if nothing happens," said her father quickly. "What do you say, Travilla, to a ride on horseback with the four young ladies you took charge of yesterday, and myself?"
"Bravo! I shall be delighted to be of the party, if the ladies don't object; eh! Elsie, what do you think?" with a questioning look down into her glad face, "will they want me?"
"You needn't be a bit afraid, Mr. Travilla," laughed the little girl; "I like you next to papa, and I believe Lucy and the rest like you better."
"Oh! take care, Elsie; are you not afraid of hurting his feelings?"
"No danger, as long as she puts me first," Mr. Dinsmore said, bestowing a smile and loving glance on her.
Caroline Howard was in Elsie's room, waiting to show her bracelet, which had just been handed to her by her maid; Pomp having brought it from the city late the night before.
"Oh! Elsie, I am so glad you have come at last. I have been waiting for half an hour, I should think, to show you these," she said, as Elsie came in from her walk. "But how bright and merry you look; so different from last night! what ailed you then?"
"Never mind," replied Elsie, taking the bracelet from her hand, and examining it. "Oh! this is very pretty, Carry! the clasp is so beautiful, and they have braided the hair so nicely."
"Yes, I'm sure mamma will like it. But now that Christmas is gone, I think I will keep it for a New Year's gift. Wouldn't you, Elsie?"
"Yes, perhaps—but I want to tell you, Carry, what papa says. He and Mr. Travilla are going to take you, and Lucy, and Mary, and me, riding on horseback this afternoon. Don't you think it will be pleasant?"
"Oh, it will be grand!" exclaimed Carry. "Elsie, I think now that your papa is very kind; and do you know I like him very much, indeed; quite as well as I do Mr. Travilla, and I always liked him—he's so pleasant, and so funny, too, sometimes. But I must go and show my bracelet to Lucy. Hark! no, there's the bell, and I'll just leave it here until after breakfast."
Elsie opened a drawer and laid it carefully in, and they ran off to the nursery.
"Elsie," said her father, when they had finished the morning lessons, "there is to be a children's party to-night, at Mr. Carleton's, and I have an invitation for you. Would you like to go?"
"Do you wish me to go, papa?" she asked.
"Not unless you wish to do so, daughter," he said kindly. "I cannot go with you, as there are to be none but little people, and I never feel altogether comfortable in seeing my darling go from home without me; and you will, no doubt, be very late in returning and getting to bed, and I fear will feel badly to-morrow in consequence; but this once, at least, you shall just please yourself. All your little guests are going, and it would be dull and lonesome for you at home, I am afraid."
Elsie thought a moment.
"Dear papa, you are very kind," she said, "but if you please, I would much rather have you decide for me, because I am only a silly little girl, and you are so much older and wiser."
He smiled, and stroked her hair softly, but said nothing.
"Are you going to stay at home, papa?" she asked presently.
"Yes, daughter, I expect to spend the evening either in this room or the library, as I have letters to write."
"Oh, then, papa, please let me stay with you! I would like it much better than going to the party; will you, papa? please say yes."
"But you know I cannot talk to you, or let you talk; so that it will be very dull," he said, pushing back the curls from the fair forehead, and smiling down into the eager little face.
"Oh! but if you will only let me sit beside you and read one of my new books, I shall be quite contented, and sit as quiet as a little mouse, and not say one word without leave. Mayn't I, papa?"
"I said you should do as you pleased, darling, and I always love to have my pet near me."
"Oh, then I shall stay!" she cried, clapping her hands.
Then, with a happy little sigh, "It will be so nice," she said, "to have one of our quiet evenings again." And she knew, by her father's gratified look, that she had decided as he would have had her.
A servant put his head in at the door.
"Massa Horace, dere's a gen'leman in de library axin for to see you."
"Very well, Jim, tell him I will be there in a moment. Elsie, dear, put away your books, and go down to your little friends."
"Yes, papa, I will," she replied, as he went out and left her.
"How kind papa is to me, and how I do love him!" she murmured to herself as she placed the books carefully in the drawer where they belonged.
She found Lucy and Mary busily engaged in dressing a doll, and Carry deeply interested in a book. But several of the little ones were looking quite disconsolate.
"Oh, Elsie, do come and play with us," said Flora; "Enna won't play anything we like. We've been playing keeping house, but Enna will be mother all the time, and she scolds and whips us so much that we are all tired of it."
"Well, what shall we play?" asked Elsie, good-naturedly. "Will you build houses?"
"No, I'm tired of that, because Enna takes all the blocks," said another little girl. "She isn't at all polite to visitors, is she, Flora?"
"No," replied Flora, "and I don't ever mean to come to see her again."
"I don't care," retorted Enna, angrily, "and I don't take all the blocks, either."
"Well, most all, you do," said the other, "and it isn't polite."
"They're mine, and I'll have as many as I want; and I don't care if it isn't polite," Enna answered, with a pout that by no means improved her appearance.
"Will you play 'O sister, O Phebe?'" asked Elsie.
"No, no!" cried several little voices, "Enna always wants to be in the middle; and besides, Arthur always wants to play, and he will kiss us; and we don't like it."
Elsie was almost in despair; but Herbert, who was lying on a sofa, reading, suddenly shut his book, saying, "I tell you what, Elsie! tell us one of those nice fairy stories we all like so much!"
"Yes, do, do!" cried several of the little ones, clapping their hands.
So Elsie drew up a stool close to Herbert's sofa, and the little ones clustered around her, Enna insisting on having the best place for hearing; and for more than an hour she kept them quiet and interested; but was very glad when at last the maid came to take them out walking, thus leaving her at liberty to follow her own inclination.
"What are you going to do now, Elsie?" asked Caroline, closing her book.
"I am going down to the drawing-room to ask Aunt Adelaide to show me how to crochet this mitten for mammy," Elsie answered.
"Won't you come along, girls?"
"Yes, let's take our sewing down there," said Lucy, gathering up the bits of muslin and silk, and putting them in her work-box.
Elsie glanced hastily around as they entered, and gave a satisfied little sigh on perceiving that Miss Stevens was not in the room, and that her Aunt Adelaide was seated with her embroidery near one of the windows, while her papa sat near by, reading the morning paper.
The little girls soon established themselves in a group on the opposite side of Miss Adelaide's window, and she very good-naturedly gave Elsie the assistance she needed.
"Elsie," said Lucy, presently, in an undertone, "Carry has been showing us her bracelet, and I think it is beautiful; she won't tell whose hair it is—I guess it's her sister's, maybe—but I'm sure yours would make just as pretty a bracelet, and I want one for my mamma; won't you give me one of your curls to make it? you have so many that one would never be missed."
"No, Miss Lucy," said Mr. Dinsmore, looking at them over his paper, "you can't have one of my curls; I can't spare it."
"I don't want one of your curls, Mr. Dinsmore," laughed Lucy, merrily. "I didn't ask for it. Your hair is very pretty, too, but it would be quite too short."
"I beg your pardon, Miss Lucy, if my ears deceived me," said he, with mock gravity, "but I was quite certain I heard you asking for one of my curls. Perhaps, though, you are not aware of the fact that my curls grow on two heads."
"I don't know what you mean, Mr. Dinsmore," replied Lucy, laughing again, "but it was one of Elsie's curls I asked for."
"Elsie doesn't own any," said he; "they all belong to me. I let her wear them, to be sure, but that is all; she has no right to give them away."
He turned to his paper again, and Elsie bent over her work, her face flushed, and her little hand trembling so that she could scarcely hold her needle.
"I'm afraid I ought to tell papa," she thought, "that I did give one of my curls away. I never thought about his caring, but I might have known, because when I wanted my hair cut last summer, he said they shouldn't one of them be touched. Oh! dear, why didn't I think of that? I am afraid he will be very much displeased."
"Don't tell him, then," whispered the tempter, "he is not likely ever to miss it."
"Nay, but it would be wrong to hide your fault," said conscience.
"I will tell him," she resolved.
"Wait till to-morrow, then," whispered the tempter again; "if you tell him now, very likely he will deprive you of your ride this afternoon, as a punishment."
So the struggle went on in the little breast while others were chatting and laughing around her, never suspecting what a battle the little girl was fighting within her own heart.
Presently Lucy jumped up. "Oh! I am so tired sewing; come, girls, let's put on our things, and take a run in the garden."
Carry and Mary readily assented.
"I must speak to papa first," Elsie said in a half whisper, "but don't wait for me."
She had spoken low, but not so low that his quick ear did not catch the sound. He had heard her, and laying his paper down on his knee, as the other little girls ran away, he turned half round and held out his hand, asking, with a smile, "Well, daughter, what is it? what have you to say to papa?"
She went to him at once, and he was surprised to see how she was trembling, and that her cheeks were flushed and her eyes full of tears.
"Why! what ails my darling?" he asked tenderly.
Adelaide had left the room a moment before, and there was no one near enough to hear.
"Please, papa, don't be very angry with me," she pleaded, speaking very low and hesitatingly. "I did not know you cared about my curls; I did not think about their belonging to you, and I did give one to Carry."
He was silent a moment, evidently surprised at her confession; then he said gently, "No, dearest, I will not be angry this time, and I feel sure you will not do so again, now you know that I do care."
"No, indeed, I will not, dear papa," she replied in a tone of intense relief. "But you are not going to punish me?" she asked, beginning to tremble again. "I was so afraid to tell you, lest you would say I should not have my ride this afternoon."
"Why, then, did you not put off your confession until after the ride?" he asked, looking searchingly into her face.
"I wanted to very much, papa," she said, looking down and blushing deeply, "but I knew it would be very wrong."
"My dear, conscientious little daughter," he said, taking her on his knee, "your father loves you better than ever for this new proof of your honesty and truthfulness. Deprive you of your ride? no, indeed, I feel far more like rewarding than punishing you. Ah! I had forgotten! I have something for you;" and he put his hand into his pocket and brought out a letter.
"Oh! it is from Miss Rose! dear, darling Miss Rose!" was Elsie's joyful exclamation, as he put it in her hand.
She made a movement as if to get down from his knee, but he detained her.
"Sit still and read it here, darling," he said, "I love to have you on my knee, and if there are any hard places I can help you."
"Thank you, papa; sometimes there are hard places—at least pretty hard for a little girl like me—though I think Miss Rose tries to write plainly because she knows that I cannot read writing as well as big people can."
She was eagerly tearing off the envelope while she answered him, and then settling herself comfortably she began to read.
He watched with deep interest the varying expression of her fine open countenance as she read. Once or twice she asked him to tell her a word, but the most of it she got through without any difficulty.
At last she had finished.
"It is such a nice letter, papa," she said as she folded it up, "and so good of Miss Rose to write to me again so soon."
"Are you not going to let me enjoy it, too?" he asked.
She put it into his hand instantly, saying, with a blush, "I did not know you would care to read it, papa."
"I am interested in all that gives either pleasure or pain to my little girl," he answered gently. "I wish to be a sharer in all her joys and sorrows."
Elsie watched him while he read, almost as intently as he had watched her; for she was anxious that he should be pleased with Miss Rose's letter.
It was a cheerful, pleasant letter, well suited to interest a child of Elsie's years; giving an account of home scenes; telling of her little brothers and sisters, their love for each other; the little gifts they had prepared in anticipation of Christmas, etc., etc.
At the close she made some allusion to Elsie's letters, and expressed her heartfelt sympathy in her little friend's happiness.
"I am so glad, my darling," she wrote, "that your father now loves you so dearly, and that you are so happy in his love. My heart ached for you in the bitter disappointment of your first meeting with him. It is true you never said that you were disappointed, but there was a tone of deep sadness in your dear little letter, the cause of which I—who knew so well how you had looked and longed for his return, and how your little heart yearned for his affection—could not fail to guess. But, dear child, while you thus rejoice in an earthly father's love, do not forget that you have a Father in Heaven, who claims the first place in your heart; and who is the giver of every good gift, not even excepting the precious love that now makes your young life so bright and happy. Keep close to Jesus, dear Elsie: His is the only truly satisfying love—the only one we can be certain will never fail us."
"Is it not a nice letter, papa?" asked the little girl, as he refolded and gave it to her again.
"Very nice, daughter," he answered, in an absent way. He looked very grave, and Elsie studied his countenance intently while, for some moments, he sat with his eyes bent thoughtfully upon the carpet. She feared that something in the letter had displeased him. But presently he looked at her with his usual affectionate smile, and laying his hand caressingly on her head, said, "Miss Allison seems to warn you not to trust too much to the permanence of my affection; but you need not fear that you will ever lose it, unless, indeed, you cease to be deserving of it. No, nor even then," he added, drawing her closer to him, "for even should you grow very naughty and troublesome, you would still be my child—a part of myself and of my lost Elsie, and therefore very dear to me."
"Ah! papa, how could I ever bear to lose your love? I think I should die," she said, dropping her head on his breast, with almost a sob. "Oh! if I am ever very, very naughty, papa, punish me as severely as you will; but oh, never, never quit loving me."
"Set your heart at rest, my darling," he said, tenderly, "there is no danger of such a thing. I could not do it, if I wished."
Ah! there came a time when Elsie had sore need of all the comfort the memory of those words could give.
"What are you going to wear to Isabel Carleton's party, to-night, Elsie?" asked Lucy, at the dinner table.
"Nothing," replied Elsie, with an arch smile, "I am not going, Lucy," she added.
"Not going! well, now, that is too bad," cried Lucy, indignantly. "I think it's really mean of your papa; he never lets you go anywhere."
"Oh, Lucy! he let me go to town with Carry the other day; he has let me stay up late two or three nights since you came; he is going to let me ride with the rest of you this afternoon, and he said that I might do just as I pleased about going to-night," Elsie summed up rather triumphantly, adding, in a very pleasant tone, "It is entirely my own choice to stay at home; so you see, Lucy, you must not blame my papa before you know."
Lucy looked a little ashamed, while Mary Leslie exclaimed:
"Your own choice, Elsie? why, how strange! don't you like parties?"
"Not nearly so well as a quiet evening with papa," replied Elsie, smiling.
"Well, you are a queer girl!" was Mary's comment, while Caroline expressed her disappointment and vainly endeavored to change Elsie's determination. The little girl was firm, because she felt sure she was doing right, and soon managed to change the subject of conversation to the pleasure nearest at hand—the ride they were to take immediately after dinner.
They were a merry party, and really enjoyed themselves about as much as they had expected; but they returned earlier than usual, as the gentlemen decided that the little ladies needed some time to rest before the evening entertainment.
Elsie assisted her young friends to dress for the party—generously offering to lend them any of her ornaments that they might fancy—saw them come down, one after another, full of mirth and eager expectation, and looking so pretty and graceful in their beautiful evening-dresses, heard their expressions of commiseration toward herself, and watched the last carriage roll away without a sigh or regret that she was left behind. And in another moment a graceful little figure glided quietly across the library, and sitting down on a stool at Mr. Dinsmore's feet, looked lovingly into his face with a pair of soft, dark eyes.
His pen was moving rapidly over the paper, but ere long there was a pause, and laying his hand caressingly on the curly head, he said, "How quiet my little girl is; but where is your book, daughter?"
"If you please, papa, I would rather answer Miss Rose's letter."
"You may," he said, "and if you want to stay with me, you may ring the bell and tell the servant to bring your writing desk here."
She joyfully availed herself of the permission, and soon her pen was vainly trying to keep pace with her father's. But presently his was thrown aside, and rising, he stood behind her chair, giving her directions how to sit, how to hold the pen, how to form this or that letter more correctly, guiding her hand, and commending her efforts to improve.
"There, you have spelled a word wrong, and I see you have one or two capitals where there should be a small letter; and that last sentence is not perfectly grammatical," he said. "You must let me correct it when you are done, and then you must copy it off more carefully."
Elsie looked very much mortified.
"Never mind, daughter," he said kindly, patting her cheek; "you do very well for a little girl; I dare say I made a great many more mistakes at your age, and I don't expect you to do better than I did."
"Oh, papa, the letters I sent you when you were away must have been full of blunders, I am afraid," she said, blushing deeply; "were you not very much ashamed of me? How could you bear to read them?"
"Ashamed of you, darling? No, indeed, neither of you nor them. I loved them all the better for the mistakes, because they showed how entirely your own they were; and I could not but be pleased with them when every line breathed such love to me. My little daughter's confidence and affection are worth more to me than the finest gold, or the most priceless jewels."
He bent down and kissed her fondly as he spoke; then, returning to his seat, bade her finish her letter and bring it to him when done.
He took up his pen, and Elsie collected her thoughts once more, worked busily and silently for another half hour, and then brought her sheet to him for inspection; presenting it with a timid, bashful air, "I am afraid it is very full of mistakes, papa," she said.
"Never mind, daughter," he answered, encouragingly; "I know that it takes a great deal of practice to make perfect, and it will be a great pleasure to me to see you improve."
He looked over it, pointed out the mistakes very kindly and gently, put the capitals in their proper places, corrected the punctuation, and showed her how one or two of her sentences might be improved.
Then, handing it back, he said, "You had better put it in your desk now, and leave the copying until to-morrow, as it will soon be your bedtime, and I want you on my knee until then."
Elsie's face grew very bright, and she hastened to do his bidding.
"And may I talk, papa?" she asked, as he pushed away his writing, wheeled his chair about toward the fire, and then took her on his knee.
"Yes," he said, smiling, "that is exactly what I want you to do. Tell me what you have been doing all day, and how you are enjoying your holidays; or talk to me of anything that pleases, or that troubles you. I love to be made the confidant of my little girl's joys and sorrows; and I want her always to feel that she is sure of papa's sympathy."
"I am so glad that I may tell you everything, my own papa," she answered, putting her arm around his neck, and laying her cheek to his. "I have enjoyed this day very much, because I have been with you nearly all the time; and then, I had that nice letter from Miss Rose, too."
"Yes, it was a very pleasant letter," he said; and then he asked her what she had been doing in those hours when she had not been with him; and she gave him an animated account of the occurrences of that and several of the preceding days, and told of some little accidents that had happened—amongst them that of the broken doll; and spoke of the sorrow it had caused her; but she did not blame either Flora or Enna, and concluded her narrative by saying that, "good, kind Mrs. Brown had mended it, so that it was almost as good as ever."
He listened with evident interest to all she said, expressed sympathy in her little trials, and gave her some good advice.
But at length he drew out his watch, and with an exclamation of surprise at the lateness of the hour, told her it was half an hour after her bedtime, kissed her good-night, and dismissed her to her room.
"There comes Forever something between us and what We deem our happiness."
It was quite late when the young party returned, and the next day all were dull, and more than one peevish and fretful; so that Elsie, on whom fell, almost entirely, the burden of entertaining them, had quite a trying time.
She noticed at breakfast that Arthur seemed in an uncommonly bad humor, preserving a sullen and dogged silence, excepting once when a sly whisper from Harry Carrington drew from him an exclamation of fierce anger that almost frightened the children, but only made Harry laugh.
Presently after, as they were about dispersing, Arthur came to her side and whispered that he had something to say to her in private.
Elsie started and looked extremely annoyed, but said at once that he might come to her room, and that there they could be quite alone, as mammy would be down-stairs getting her breakfast.
She led the way and Arthur followed. He glanced hastily around on entering and then locked the door and stood with his back against it.
Elsie became very pale.
"You needn't be afraid" he said, sneeringly, "I'm not going to hurt you!"
"What do you want, Arthur? tell me quickly, please, because I must soon go to papa, and I have a lesson to look over first," she said, mildly.
"I want you to lend me some money," he replied, speaking in a rapid and determined manner; "I know you've got some, for I saw your purse the other day, and it hadn't less than five dollars in it, I'm sure, and that's just the sum I want."
"What do you want it for, Arthur?" she asked in a troubled voice.
"That's none of your business," he answered, fiercely. "I want the money; I must have it, and I'll pay it back next month, and that's all you need to know."
"No, Arthur," she said gently, but very firmly, "unless you tell me all about it, I cannot lend you a single cent, because papa has forbidden me to do so, and I cannot disobey him."
"Nonsense! that's nothing but an excuse because you don't choose to do me a favor," returned the boy angrily; "you weren't so particular about obeying last summer when he made you sit all the afternoon at the piano, because you didn't choose to play what he told you to."
"That was because it would have been breaking God's command; but this is very different," replied Elsie, mildly.
"Well, if you must know," said he, fiercely, "I want it to pay a debt; I've been owing Dick Percival a dollar or so for several weeks, and last night he won from me again, and he said if I didn't pay up he'd report me to papa, or Horace, and get the money from them; and I got off only by promising to let him have the full amount to-day; but my pocket money's all gone, and I can't get anything out of mamma, because she told me the last time I went to her, that she couldn't give me any more without papa finding out all about it. So you see there is nobody to help me but you, Elsie, for there's never any use in asking my sisters; they never have a cent to spare! Now be a good, obliging girl; come and let me have the money."
"Oh! Arthur, you've been gambling; how could you do so?" she exclaimed with a horrified look. "It is so very wicked! you'll go to ruin, Arthur, if you keep on in such bad ways; do go to grandpa and tell him all about it, and promise never to do so again, and I am sure he will forgive you, and pay your debts, and then you will feel a great deal happier."
"Tell papa, indeed; never! I'd die first! Elsie, you must lend me the money," he said, seizing her by the wrist.
"Let go of me, Arthur," she said, trying to free herself from his grasp. "You are stronger than I am, but you know if you hurt me, papa will be sure to find it out."
He threw her hand from him with a violence that made her stagger, and catch at the furniture to save herself from falling.
"Will you give me the money then?" he asked angrily.
"If I should do so, I would have to put it down in my expense book, and tell papa all about it, because he does not allow me to spend one cent without telling him just what it went for; and that would be much worse for you, Arthur, than to go and confess it yourself—a great deal worse, I am sure."
"You could manage it well enough, if you wanted to," said he, sullenly; "it would be an easy matter to add a few yards to the flannel, and a few pounds to the tobacco that you bought so much of for the old servants. Just give me your book, and I'll fix it in a minute, and he'll never find it out."
"Arthur!" she exclaimed, "I could never do such a wicked thing! I would not deceive papa so for any money; and even if I did he would be sure to find it out."
Some one tried the door.
Arthur put his hand on the lock; then, turning toward Elsie again, for an instant, shook his fist in her face, muttering, with an oath, that he would be revenged, and make her sorry for her refusal to the last day of her life. He then opened the door and went out, leaving poor Elsie pale, and trembling like a leaf.
The person, whoever it was, that had tried the door had gone away again, and Elsie had a few moments alone to recover herself, before Chloe came to tell her that her father could not have her with him that morning, as a gentleman had called on business.
And much as Elsie had always enjoyed that hour, she was almost glad of the respite, so fearful was she that her papa would see that something had agitated her, and insist upon knowing what it was. She was very much troubled that she had been made the repository of such a secret, and fearful that she ought to tell her father or grandfather, because it seemed so very important that Arthur should be stopped in his evil courses. But remembering that he had said that her assistance was his only hope for escaping detection, she at length decided that she need not speak about the matter to any one.
She had a trying time that day, endeavoring to keep the children amused; and her ingenuity and patience were taxed to the utmost to think of stories and games that would please them all.
It was still early in the afternoon when she seemed to have got quite to the end of her list. She was trying to amuse Enna's set, while her three companions and Herbert were taking care of themselves. They had sat down on the floor, and were playing jack-stones.
"Let us play jack-stones, too," said Flora. "I don't know how; but Elsie, you can teach me, can't you?"
"No, Flora, I cannot indeed, for papa says I must not play that game, because he does not like to have me sit down on the floor," replied Elsie. "We must try to think of something else."
"We needn't sit on the floor, need we? Couldn't we play it on the table?" asked Flora.
"I don't know; perhaps we could; but papa said I mustn't play it," replied Elsie, shaking her head doubtfully.
"But maybe he'd let you, if we don't sit on the floor," persisted the little girl.
Several other little ones joined their entreaties to Flora's, and at length Elsie said, "Well, I will go and ask papa; perhaps he may let me, if I tell him we are not going to sit on the floor."
She went to his dressing-room, but he was not there. Next she tried the library, and was more successful; he was in an easy chair by the fire, reading.
But now that she had found him, Elsie, remembering how often he had told her never to ask a second time to do what he had once forbidden, was more than half afraid to prefer her request, and very much inclined to go back without doing so.
But as she stood a moment irresolute, he looked up from his book, and seeing who it was, smiled and held out his hand.
She went to him then, and said timidly, "Papa, some of the little ones want me to play jack-stones, to teach them how; may I, if we don't sit on the floor?"
"Elsie," he replied, in a tone of great displeasure, "it was only the other day that I positively forbade you to play that game, and, after all that I have said to you about not asking a second time, it surprises me very much that you would dare to do it. Go to my dressing-room, and shut yourself into the closet there."
Elsie burst into tears, as she turned to obey, then, hesitatingly, asked, "May I go down first, papa, and tell the children that I can't come to play with them?"
"Elsie!" he exclaimed, in his sternest tone; and not daring to utter another word, trembling and weeping, she hastened from the room, and shut herself up as he had bidden her.
The closet was large, and there was a stool she could sit on; but when she had shut the door, it was both dark and cold. It was a dismal place to be in, and poor Elsie wondered how long she would have to stay there.
It seemed a long, long time; so long that she began to think it must be night, and to fear that perhaps her papa had forgotten all about having sent her there, or that he considered her so very naughty as to deserve to stay there all night.
But at last she heard his step, and then he opened the door and called, "Elsie!"
"Yes, papa, I am here," she replied in a trembling voice, full of tears.
"Come to me," he said; and then, as he took her hand, "Why, how cold you are, child," he exclaimed; "I am really sorry you have been so long in that dismal place. I did not intend to punish you so severely, and should not have kept you there more than half an hour, at the very longest; but company came in, and I quite forgot you."
While speaking thus he had led her up to the fire and sat down with her on his knee. "My poor darling!" he said, "these little hands are very cold, let papa rub them; and are your feet cold too?"
"Yes sir," she replied, and he pulled off her shoes and stockings, and moving his chair closer to the fire, held her feet out toward the blaze, and rubbed them in his warm hands.
"You have been crying a good deal," he said, looking keenly into her face.
"Yes, papa," she replied, dropping her face on his breast and bursting into tears; "I thought you were going to leave me there all night."
"Did you? and were you afraid?"
"No, papa, not afraid, because I know you would be sleeping in the next room; and besides, God could take care of me as well in the closet as anywhere else. Is it getting night, papa, or morning?"
"It is beginning to grow dark," he said. "But tell me why you cried, if you were not afraid."
"Partly because I was uncomfortable, papa, but more because I was sorry I had been naughty, and displeased you, and afraid that I can never learn to be good."
"It is very strange," he remarked, "that you cannot learn not to ask to do what I have forbidden. I shall have to punish you every time you do it; for you must learn that no means no, and that you are never to coax or tease after papa has once said it. I love my little girl very dearly, and want to do all I can to make her happy, but I must have her entirely submissive and obedient to me. But stop crying now," he added, wiping her eyes with his handkerchief. "Kiss me, and tell me you are going to be a good girl, and I will forgive you this time."
"I will try, papa," she said, holding up her face for the kiss; "and I would not have asked to play that, but the children begged me so, and I thought you only said I mustn't, because you didn't want me to sit on the floor; and we were going to try it on the table."
"Did I give that reason?" he asked gravely.
"No, papa," she replied, hanging her head.
"Then you had no right to think so. That was one reason, but not the only one. I have heard it said that that play enlarges the knuckles, and I don't choose to have these little hands of mine robbed of their beauty," he added, playfully raising them to his lips.
Elsie smiled faintly, then drew a deep sigh.
"Is it so very hard to give up jack-stones?" he asked.
"No, papa; I don't care anything about that, but I was just thinking how very naughty I must be growing; for you have had to punish me twice in one week; and then I have had such a hard day of it—it was so difficult to amuse the children. I think being up so late last night made them feel cross."
"Ah!" he said, in a sympathizing tone; "and had you all the burden of entertaining them? Where were Louise and Lora?"
"They are hardly ever with us, papa; we are too little to play with them, they say, and Enna won't do anything her little friends want her to, and"—she paused, and the color rushed over her face with the sudden thought—"I am afraid I am telling tales."
"And so they put upon you all the trouble of entertaining both your own company and theirs, eh? It is shameful! a downright imposition, and I shall not put up with it!" he exclaimed indignantly. "I shall speak to Lora and Louise, and tell them they must do their share of the work."
"Please, papa, don't," Elsie begged in a frightened tone. "I would a great deal rather just go on as we have been; they will be so vexed."
"And suppose they are! they shall not hurt you," he said, drawing her closer to him; "and they have no reason to be. I think the children will all want to go to bed early to-night," he added, "and then you can come here and sit by me while you copy your letter; shall you like that?"
"Very much, papa, thank you."
"Well, then we will put on the shoes and stockings again," he said pleasantly, "and then you must bathe your eyes, and go to your supper; and, as soon as the others retire, you may come back to me."
Elsie had to make haste, for the tea-bell rang almost immediately.
The others were just taking their places at the table when she entered the room, and thus, their attention being occupied with the business in hand, she escaped the battery of questions and looks of curiosity which she had feared.
Flora did turn round after a little, to ask: "Why didn't you come back, Elsie; wouldn't your papa let you play?" But Elsie's quiet "no" seemed to satisfy her, and she made no further remark about it.
As Mr. Dinsmore had expected, the children were all ready for bed directly after tea; and then Elsie went to him, and had another quiet evening, which she enjoyed so much that she thought it almost made up for all the troubles and trials of the day; for her father, feeling a little remorseful on account of her long imprisonment in the closet, was, if possible, even more than usually tender and affectionate in his manner toward her.
The next morning Mr. Dinsmore found an opportunity to remonstrate with his sisters on their neglect of the little guests, but did it in such a way that they had no idea that Elsie had been complaining of them—as, indeed, she had not—but supposed that he had himself noticed their remissness; and feeling somewhat ashamed of their want of politeness, they went into the children's room after breakfast, and exerted themselves for an hour or two, for the entertainment of the little ones. It was but a spasmodic effort, however, and they soon grew weary of the exertion, and again let the burden fall upon Elsie. She did the best she could, poor child, but these were tiresome and trying days from that until New Year's.
One afternoon Mr. Horace Dinsmore was sitting in his own room, buried in an interesting book, when the door opened and closed again very quietly, and his little girl stole softly to his side, and laying her head on his shoulder, stood there without uttering a word.
For hours she had been exerting herself to the utmost to amuse the young guests, her efforts thwarted again and again by the petulance and unreasonableness of Walter and Enna; she had also borne much teasing from Arthur, and fault-finding from Mrs. Dinsmore, to whom Enna was continually carrying tales, until, at length, no longer able to endure it, she had stolen away to her father to seek for comfort.
"My little girl is tired," he said, passing his arm affectionately around her, and pressing his lips on her forehead.
She burst into tears, and sobbed quite violently.
"Why, what is it, darling? what troubles my own sweet child?" he asked, in a tone of mingled surprise and alarm, as he hastily laid aside his book and drew her to his knee.
"Nothing, papa; at least, nothing very bad; I believe I am very silly," she replied, trying to smile through her tears.
"It must have been something, Elsie," he said, very gravely; "something quite serious, I think, to affect you so; tell me what it was, daughter."
"Please don't ask me, papa," she begged imploringly.
"I hate concealments, Elsie, and shall be very much displeased if you try them with me," he answered, almost sternly.
"Dear papa, don't be angry," she pleaded, in a tremulous tone; "I don't want to have any concealments from you, but you know I ought not to tell tales. You won't make me do it?"
"Is that it?" he said, kissing her. "No, I shall not ask you to tell tales, but I am not going to have you abused by anybody, and shall take care to find out from some one else who it is that annoys you."
"Oh, papa, please don't trouble yourself about it. I do not mind it at all, now."
"But I do," replied her father, "and I shall take care that you are not annoyed in the same way again."
The tears rose in Elsie's eyes again, and she reproached herself severely for allowing her father to see how troubled she had been; but she said not another word, for she well knew from his look and tone that it would be worse than useless.
"Revenge, at first though sweet, Bitter, ere long, back on itself recoils."
MILTON'S PARADISE LOST.
"Tis easier for the generous to forgive, Than for offence to ask it."
THOMSON'S EDMUND AND ELEONORA.
The last day of the old year had come; the afternoon was bright and warm for the season, and the little folks at Roselands were unanimously in favor of a long walk. They set out soon after dinner, all in high good humor except Arthur, who was moody and silent, occasionally casting an angry glance at Elsie, whom he had not yet forgiven for her refusal to lend him money; but no one seemed to notice it, and for some time nothing occurred to mar their enjoyment.
At length, some of the older ones, seeing that the sun was getting low, called to the others that it was time to return, and all turned their faces homeward, walking more soberly and silently along than at first, for they were beginning to feel somewhat fatigued.
They were climbing a steep hill. Elsie and Caroline Howard reached the top first, Arthur and Harry Carrington being but a few steps behind.
Elsie stooped to pick up a pebble, and Arthur, darting quickly past her, managed to give her a push that sent her rolling down the bank. She gave one frightened cry as she fell, and the next instant was lying pale and motionless at the bottom.
All was now terror and confusion among the children; the little ones, who all loved Elsie dearly, began to scream and cry. Harry, Lucy, Carry, and Mary, rushed down the path again as fast as they could, and were soon standing pale and breathless beside the still form of their little companion. Carry was the only one who seemed to have any presence of mind. She sat down on the ground, and lifting Elsie's head, laid it on her lap, untied her bonnet-strings, and loosened her dress.
"Jim," she said to the black boy, who stood blubbering by her side, "run quickly for the doctor. And you, Harry Carrington, go for her father, as fast as you can. Lucy, crying so won't do any good. Haven't some of you a smelling-bottle about you?"
"Yes, yes, here, here! quick! quick! Oh, Carry, say she isn't dead!" cried Mary Leslie, diving into her pocket and bringing out a small bottle of smelling salts that some one had presented her as a Christmas gift.
"No, she is not dead, Mary; see, she is beginning to open her eyes," replied Carry, now bursting into tears herself.
But Elsie opened them only for an instant, moaned as if in great pain, and relapsed again into insensibility, so like death that Carry shuddered and trembled with fear.
They were not more than a quarter of a mile from the house, but it seemed almost an age to the anxious Carry before Mr. Dinsmore came; although it was in reality but a few moments, as Harry ran very fast, and Mr. Dinsmore sprang into the carriage—which was at the door, some of the party having just returned from a drive—the instant he heard the news, calling to Harry to accompany him, and bidding the coachman drive directly to the spot, with all speed.
The moment they were off he began questioning the boy closely as to the cause of the accident. Harry could not tell much about it. "She had fallen down the hill," he said, "but he did not see what made her fall."
"Was she much hurt?" Mr. Dinsmore asked, his voice trembling a little in spite of himself.
Harry "did not know, but feared she was pretty badly injured."
"Was she insensible?"
"Yes, she was when I left," Harry said.
Mr. Dinsmore leaned back in the carriage with a groan and did not speak again.
In another moment they had stopped, and flinging open the door, he sprang to the ground, and hurried toward the little group, who were still gathered about Elsie just as Harry had left them; some looking on with pale, frightened faces, others sobbing aloud. Walter was crying quite bitterly, and even Enna had the traces of tears on her cheeks. As for Arthur, he trembled and shuddered at the thought that he was perhaps already a murderer, and frightened and full of remorse, shrank behind the others as he saw his brother approach.
Elsie still lay with her head in Carry's lap.
Hastily pushing the others aside, Mr. Dinsmore stooped over her, sorrow and intense anxiety written in every line of his countenance.
Again Elsie opened her eyes, and smiled faintly as she saw him bending over her.
"My precious one," he murmured in a low, moved tone, as he gently lifted her in his arms; "are you much hurt? Are you in pain?"
"Yes, papa," she answered feebly.
"My ankle, papa; it pains me terribly; and I think I must have hit my head, it hurts me so."
"How did she come to fall?" he asked, looking round upon the little group.
No one replied.
"Please, papa, don't ask," she pleaded in a faint voice.
He gave her a loving, pitying look, but paid no other heed to her remonstrance.
"Who was near her?" he asked, glancing sternly around the little circle.
"Arthur," said several voices.
Arthur quailed beneath the terrible glance of his brother's eye, as he turned it upon him, exclaiming bitterly: "Yes, I understand it all, now! I believe you will never be satisfied until you have killed her."
"Dear papa, please take me home, and don't scold poor Arthur," pleaded Elsie's sweet, gentle voice; "I am not so very badly hurt, and I am sure he is very sorry for me."
"Yes, darling," he said, "I will take you home and will try to do so without hurting you;" and nothing could exceed the tenderness with which he bore her to the carriage, supported her in his arms during the short ride, and on their arrival carried her up to her room and laid her down upon a sofa.
Jim had brought the doctor, and Mr. Dinsmore immediately requested him to make a careful examination of the child's injuries.
He did so, and reported a badly sprained ankle, and a slight bruise on the head; nothing more.
"Are you quite sure, doctor, that her spine has sustained no injury?" asked the father anxiously, adding, "there is scarcely anything I should so dread for her as that."
"None whatever," replied the physician confidently, and Mr. Dinsmore looked greatly relieved.
"My back does not hurt me at all, papa; I don't think I struck it," Elsie said, looking up lovingly into his face.
"How did you happen to fall, my dear?" asked the doctor.
"If you please, sir, I would rather not tell," she replied, while the color rushed over her face, and then instantly faded away again, leaving her deathly pale. She was suffering great pain, but bearing it bravely.
The doctor was dressing the injured ankle, and her father sat by the sofa holding her hand.
"You need not, darling," he answered, kissing her cheek.
"Thank you, papa," she said, gratefully, then whispered, "Won't you stay with me till tea-time, if you are not busy?"
"Yes, daughter, and all the evening, too; perhaps all night."
She looked her happiness and thanks, and the doctor praised her patience and fortitude; and having given directions concerning the treatment of the wounded limb, bade his little patient good-night, saying he would call again in the morning.
Mr. Dinsmore followed him to the door.
"That's a sweet child, Mr. Dinsmore," he remarked. "I don't know how any one could have the heart to injure her; but I think there has been foul play somewhere, and if she were mine I should certainly sift the matter to the bottom."
"That I shall, you may rest assured, sir; but tell me doctor, do you think her ankle very seriously injured?"
"Not permanently, I hope; indeed, I feel quite sure of it, if she is well taken care of, and not allowed to use it too soon; but these sprains are tedious things, and she will not be able to walk for some weeks. Good-night, sir; don't be too anxious, she will get over it in time, and you may be thankful it is nothing worse."
"I am, indeed, doctor," Mr. Dinsmore said, warmly grasping the hand the kind-hearted physician held out to him.
Everybody was asking what the doctor had said, and how much Elsie was injured, and Mr. Dinsmore stepped into the drawing-room a moment to answer their inquiries, and then hastened back to his child again.
She looked so glad to see him.
"My poor little pet," he said, pityingly, "you will have a sad New Year's Day, fastened down to your couch; but you shall have as much of my company as you wish."
"Shall I, papa?—then you will have to stay by me all day long."
"And so I will, dearest," he said, leaning fondly over her, and stroking back the hair from her forehead. "Are you in much pain now, darling?" he asked, as he noticed a slight contraction of her brow, and an almost deadly pallor around her mouth.
"Yes, papa, a good deal," she answered faintly; "and I feel so weak. Please take me in your arms, papa, I want to lay my head against you."
He raised her up gently, sat down on the end of the couch where her head had been, lifted her to his knee, and made Chloe place a pillow for the wounded limb to rest upon.
"There, darling, is that better?" he asked, soothingly, as she laid her head wearily down on his breast, and he folded his arms about her.
"Yes, papa; but, oh, it aches very much," she sighed.
"My poor little daughter! my poor little pet!" he said, in a deeply compassionate tone, "it is so hard to see you suffer; I would gladly take your pain and bear it for you if I could."
"Oh, no, dear papa, I would much rather bear it myself," she answered quickly.
The tea-bell rang, and Elsie half started up.
"Lie still, dearest," her father said. "I am in no hurry for my tea, so you shall have yours first, and I will hold you while you eat it. What will you have? You may ask for anything you want."
"I don't know, papa; whatever you please."
"Well, then, Aunt Chloe, go down and bring up whatever good things are there, and she can take her choice. Bring a cup of hot tea, too, I think it may do her good to-night."
"Thank you, dear papa, you are so kind," Elsie said, gratefully.
When the carriage had driven off with Mr. Dinsmore and Elsie, the rest of the young party at once turned their steps toward the house; Arthur skulking in the rear, and the others eagerly discussing the accident as they went.
"Arthur pushed her down, I am sure he did," said Lucy, positively. "I believe he hates her like poison, and he has been at her about something the several days past—I know it just by the way I've seen him look at her—yes, ever since the morning after the Carleton party. And now I remember I heard his voice talking angrily in her room that very morning. I went to get a book I had left in there, and when I tried the door it was locked, and I went away again directly."
"But what has that to do with Elsie's fall?" asked Mary Leslie.
"Why, don't you see that it shows there was some trouble between them, and that Arthur had a motive for pushing her down," returned Lucy, somewhat impatiently. "Really, Mary, you seem quite stupid sometimes."
Mary looked hurt.
"I don't know how any one could be so wicked and cruel; especially to such a dear, sweet little girl as Elsie," remarked Carry Howard.
"No, nor I," said Harry; "but the more I think about it the more certain I feel that Arthur did really push her down; for now I remember distinctly where she stood, and it seems to me she could not possibly have fallen of herself. Besides it was evident enough that Arthur felt guilty from the way he acted when Mr. Dinsmore came, and when he spoke to him. But perhaps he did not do it quite on purpose."
"Oh!" exclaimed Mary, "I do think I should be frightened to death if Mr. Dinsmore should look at me as he did at Arthur."
"Looks can't hurt," observed Harry, wisely; "but I wouldn't be in Arthur's shoes just now for considerable; because I'll venture to say Mr. Dinsmore will do something a good deal worse than look, before he is done with him."
When they reached the house Lucy went directly to her mamma's room. Herbert, who was more ailing than usual that day, lay on a sofa, while his mamma sat by his side, reading to him. They had not heard of the accident, and were quite startled by Lucy's excited manner.
"Oh, mamma!" she cried, jerking off her bonnet, and throwing herself down on a stool at her mother's feet, "we have had such a dreadful accident, or hardly an accident either, for I feel perfectly certain Arthur did it on purpose; and I just expect he'll kill her some day, the mean, wicked boy!" and she burst into tears. "If I were Mr. Dinsmore I'd have him put in jail, so I would," she sobbed.
"Lucy, my child, what are you talking about?" asked her mother with a look of mingled surprise and alarm, while Herbert started up asking, "Is it Elsie? Oh! Lucy, is she much hurt?"
"Yes," sobbed Lucy, "we all thought she was dead, it was so long before she spoke, or moved, or even opened her eyes."
Herbert was crying, too, now, as bitterly as his sister.
"But, Lucy dear," said her mother, wiping her eyes, "you haven't told us anything yet. Where did it happen? What did Arthur do? And where is poor little Elsie now?"
"Her papa brought her home, and Jim went for the doctor, and they're doing something with her now in her own room—for Pomp said Mr. Dinsmore carried her right up there! Oh I mamma, if you had seen him look at Arthur!"
"But what did Arthur do?" asked Herbert anxiously.
"He pushed her down that steep hill that you remember you were afraid to try to climb the other day; at least we all think he did."
"But surely, he did not do it intentionally," said Mrs. Carrington, "for why should he wish to harm such a sweet, gentle little creature as Elsie?"
"Oh! mamma," exclaimed Herbert, suddenly matching hold of her hand and he grew very pale, and almost gasped for breath.
"What is it, Herbert dear, what is it?" she asked in alarm; for he had fallen back on his pillow, and seemed almost ready to faint.
"Mamma," he said with a shudder, "mamma, I believe I know. Oh! why didn't I speak before, and, perhaps, poor little Elsie might have been saved all this."
"Why, Herbert, what can you know about it?" she asked in extreme surprise.
"I will tell you, mama, as well as I can," he said, "and then you must tell me what I ought to do. You know, mamma, I went out to walk with the rest the afternoon after that party at Mr. Carleton's; for if you remember, I had stayed at home the night before, and gone to bed very early, and so I felt pretty well and able to walk. But Elsie was not with us. I don't know where she could have been; she always thinks of my lameness, and walks slowly when I am along, but this time they all walked so fast that I soon grew very tired, indeed, with trying to keep up. So I sat down on a log to rest. Well, mamma, I had not been there very long when I heard voices near me, on the other side of some bushes, that, I suppose, must have prevented them from seeing me. One voice was Arthur's, but the other I didn't know. I didn't want to be listening, but I was too tired to move on; so I whistled a little, to let them know I was there; they didn't seem to care, though, but went on talking quite loud, so loud that I could not help hearing almost every word; and so I soon learned that Arthur owed Dick Percival a gambling debt—a debt of honor, they called it—and had sent this other boy, whom Arthur called Bob, to try to collect it. He reminded Arthur that he had promised to pay that day, and said Dick must have it to pay some debts of his own.
"Arthur acknowledged that he had promised, expecting to borrow the money from somebody. I didn't hear the name, and it never struck me until this moment who it was; but it must have been Elsie, for I recollect he said she wouldn't lend him anything without telling Horace all about it, and that, you know, is Mr. Dinsmore's name; and I have found out that Arthur is very much afraid of him; almost more than of his father, I think.
"He talked very angrily, saying he knew that was only an excuse, because she didn't wish to do him a favor, and he'd pay her for it some day. Then they talked about the debt again, and finally the boy agreed that Dick would wait until New Year's Day, when Arthur said he would receive his monthly allowance, and so would certainly be able to pay it.
"Now, mamma," concluded Herbert, "what ought I to do? Do you think it is my duty to tell Arthur's father?"
"Yes, Herbert, I do," said Mrs. Carrington, "because it is very important that he should know of his son's evil courses, that he may put a stop to them; and besides, if Arthur should escape punishment this time, Elsie may be in danger from him again. I am sorry it happened to be you rather than some other person who overheard the conversation; but it cannot be helped, and we must do our duty always, even though we find it difficult and disagreeable, and feel afraid that our motives may be misconstrued."
Herbert drew a deep sigh.
"Well, mamma, must I go just now, to tell him?" he asked, looking pale and troubled.
Mrs. Carrington seemed to be considering the matter for a moment.
"No, my dear," she said; "I think we had better wait a little. Probably Mr. Dinsmore will make an investigation, and perhaps he may be able to get at the truth without your assistance; and if not, as the mischief is already done, it will be time enough for your story to-morrow."
Herbert looked a good deal relieved, and just then they were summoned to tea.
The elder Mr. Dinsmore had been out all the afternoon, and not returning until just as the bell rang for tea, heard nothing of Elsie's injury until after he had taken his seat at the table.
The children had all reported that Arthur had pushed her down, and thus the story was told to his father. The old gentleman was very angry, for he had a great contempt for such cowardly deeds; and said before all the guests that if it were so, Arthur should be severely punished.
Mr. Horace Dinsmore came down as the rest were about leaving the table.
"I should like to have a few moments' conversation with you, Horace, when you have finished your tea," his father said, lingering behind the others.
"It is just what I wish, sir," replied his son; "I will be with you directly. Shall I find you in the library?"
"Yes. I hope the child was not hurt, Horace?" he added, inquiringly, stepping back again just as he had reached the door.
"Pretty badly, I am afraid," said Mr. Dinsmore, gravely; "she is suffering a good deal."
Mr. Dinsmore was not long at the table, for he was anxious to get back to his child; yet his father, whom he found striding back and forth across the library, in a nervous, excited way, hailed him with the impatient exclamation, "Come at last, Horace, I thought you would never have done eating."
Then throwing himself into a chair, "Well, what is to be done about this bad business?" he asked. "Is it true that Arthur had a hand in it?"
"I have not a doubt of it myself, sir," replied his son. "They all agree that he was close to her when she fell, and neither he nor she denies that he pushed her; she only begs not to be forced to speak, and he says nothing.
"And now, father, I have fully made up my mind that either that boy must be sent away to school, or I must take Elsie and make a home for her elsewhere."
"Why, Horace! that is a sudden resolution, is it not?"
"No, father, not so much as it seems. I have suspected, for some time past, that Elsie had a good deal to bear from Arthur and Enna—to say nothing of an older person, to whom Enna is continually carrying tales. Elsie is too generous to tell tales, too meek and patient to complain, and so it has been only very gradually that I have learned how much of petulance, tyranny, and injustice she has had to endure from those from whom she certainly had a right to expect common kindness, if not affection.
"Yesterday afternoon she came to me in such a state of nervous excitement as convinced me that something had gone very much amiss with her, but what it was I did not know, for she seemed unwilling to tell, and I would not force her to do so.
"However, by putting a few questions to some of the little guests, I have since learned enough to fill me with indignation at the treatment to which my child has been subjected, even during the last two weeks; and now the occurrences of this afternoon have put the finishing stroke to all this, and I cannot any longer feel that my child is safe where Arthur is. It is a great mercy that she escaped being killed or crippled for life," and he dropped his face into his hands and shuddered.
"Don't, Horace, my son," his father said kindly, laying his hand on his shoulder. "I don't like to see you give way so. It is not worth while troubling ourselves about what might have been, and we will take measures to prevent such occurrences in the future.
"But you mustn't think of leaving us to set up a separate establishment, unless you are intending to marry again, and I don't believe you are."
Mr. Dinsmore shook his head.
"Nothing of the kind," he said; "but I must protect my child; she has no one else to look to for protection, or sympathy, or love—my poor little one!—and it would be hard indeed if she could not have them from me."
"So it would, Horace, certainly. I am afraid we have none of us treated the poor little thing quite as kindly as we might, but I really was not aware that she had been so much abused, and shall certainly speak to Mrs. Dinsmore about it. And Arthur shall be sent away to school, as you have suggested. It is what I have been wanting to do for some time, for he is getting quite beyond Miss Day; but his mother has always opposed it, and I have foolishly given up to her for peace sake. I set my foot down now, however, and he shall go. He deserves it richly, the young rascal! such a base, cowardly act as to attack a little girl, big, strong boy that he is! I'm ashamed of him. You, Horace, were a wild, headstrong fellow, but I never knew you do a mean or cowardly thing; you were always above it."
"I hope so, indeed, sir. But now, to go back to the present business, do you not think it would be well to call all the young people together and have a thorough investigation of this affair? I have promised Elsie that she shall not be forced to speak, but I hope we may be able to learn from the others all that we need to know."
"Yes, yes, Horace, we will do so at once!" replied his father, ringing the bell. "They must be all through with their tea by this time, and we will invite them into the drawing-room, and cross-question them until we get to the bottom of the whole thing."
A servant answered the bell, and received directions to request—on his master's behalf—all the guests, both old and young, as well as every member of the family, to give their attendance in the drawing-room for a few moments.
"Stay, father," said Horace, "possibly Arthur might be induced to confess, and so spare himself and us the pain of a public exposure; had we not better send for him first?"
His father assented, and the servant was ordered to go in search of Arthur, and bring him to the library.
Arthur had been expecting such a summons, and had quite made up his mind what to do.
"Confess!" he said to himself; "no, indeed, I'll not! nobody but Elsie knows that I did it, and she'll never tell; so I'll stick to it that it was only an accident."
He came in with a look of sullen, dogged determination on his countenance, and stood before his father and brother with folded arms, and an air of injured innocence. He was careful, however, not to meet his brother's eye.
"Arthur," began his father, sternly, "this is shameful, cowardly behavior, utterly unworthy of a son of mine—this unprovoked assault upon a defenceless little girl. It has always been considered a cowardly act to attack one weaker than ourselves."
"I didn't do it! she slipped and fell of herself," replied the boy fiercely, speaking through his clenched teeth.
"Arthur," said his brother, in a calm, firm tone, "the alternative before you is a frank and full confession here in private, or a disgraceful, public exposure in the drawing-room. You had better confess, for I have not the least doubt of your guilty because I well know that Elsie would have asserted your innocence, had she been able to do so with truth."
"She wouldn't; she hates me," muttered the boy; "yes, and I hate her, too," he added, almost under his breath. But his brother's quick ear caught the words.
"Yes," he answered, bitterly; "you have given full proof of that; but never, while I live, shall you have another opportunity to wreak your hellish rage upon her."
But threats and persuasions were alike powerless to move Arthur's stubborn will; for, trusting to their supposed inability to prove his guilt, he persisted in denying it; and at length, much against his inclination, was forced to accompany his father and brother to the drawing-room, where the entire household was already assembled.
There was a good deal of excitement and whispering together, especially amongst the younger portion of the assembly, and many conjectures as to the cause of their being thus called together; nearly all giving it as their decided opinion that Elsie's accident had something to do with it.
Herbert was looking pale and nervous, and kept very close to his mamma, Harry Carrington and Carrie Howard were grave and thoughtful, while Lucy and Mary seemed restless and excited, and the lesser ones full of curiosity and expectation. There was quite a little buzz all over the room as the two gentlemen and Arthur entered, but it died away instantly, and was succeeded by an almost death-like stillness, broken the next moment by the elder Mr. Dinsmore's voice, as he briefly stated his object in thus calling them together, and earnestly requested any one present who could throw the least light on the subject, to speak.
He paused, and there was a moment of profound silence.
"Who was nearest to Elsie when she fell?" he asked; "can any one tell me?"
"Arthur, sir," replied several voices.
"Who else was near her?" he asked. "Miss Carrie Howard, I have noticed that you and Elsie are usually together; can you tell me if she could have fallen of herself? Were you near enough to see?"
Carrie answered reluctantly: "Yes, sir; I had stepped from her side at the moment she stooped to pick up something, and feel quite certain that she was not near enough to the edge to have fallen of herself."
"Thank you for your frank reply. And now, Master Harry Carrington, I think I heard some one say you were quite close to Arthur at the time of Elsie's fall; can you tell me what he did to her? You will confer a great favor by answering with equal frankness."
"I would much rather have been excused from saying anything, sir," replied Harry, coloring and looking as if he wished himself a thousand miles away; "but since you request it, I will own that I was close to Arthur, and think he must have pushed Elsie in springing past her, but it may have been only an accident."
"I fear not," said the old gentleman, looking sternly at his son. "And now, does any one know that Elsie had vexed Arthur in any way, or that he had any unkind feelings toward her?"
"Yes, papa," Walter spoke up suddenly. "I heard Arthur, the other day, talking very crossly about Elsie, and threatening to pay her for something; but I didn't understand what."
Mr. Dinsmore's frown was growing darker, and Arthur began to tremble and turn pale. He darted a fierce glance at Walter, but the little fellow did not see it.
"Does any one know what Elsie had done?" was the next question.
No one spoke, and Herbert fidgeted and grew very pale. Mr. Horace Dinsmore noticed it, and begged him if he knew anything to tell it at once; and Herbert reluctantly repeated what he had already told his mother of the conversation in the woods; and as he concluded, Lora drew a note from her pocket, which she handed to her father, saying that she had picked it up in the school-room, from a pile of rubbish which Arthur had carelessly thrown out of his desk.
Mr. Dinsmore took it, glanced hastily over the contents, and with a groan, exclaimed: "Is it possible!—a gambler already! Arthur, has it really come to this?
"Go to your room, sir," he added, sternly, "there to remain in solitary confinement until arrangement can be made to send you to school at a distance from the home which shall be no longer polluted by your presence; for you are unworthy to mingle with the rest of the family."
Arthur obeyed in sullen silence, and his father, following, turned the key upon him, and left him to solitude and his own reflections.
"Did my little daughter think papa had quite forgotten his promise?" asked Mr. Horace Dinsmore, as again he stood by Elsie's couch.
"No, papa," she said, raising her eyes to his face with a grateful, loving look; "it seemed very long, but I knew you would come as soon as you could, for I know you never break your word."
Her confidence pleased him very much, and with a very gratified look he asked whether he should sit by her side or take her again upon his knee.
"Take me on your knee again, if you please, papa," she said, "and then will you read a little to me? I would like it so much."
"I will do anything that will give my little girl pleasure," he replied, as he once more lifted her gently, and placed her in the desired position.
"What shall the book be?" he asked; "one of the new ones I bought you the other day?"
"Not that, to-night; if you please, papa; I would rather hear a little from an old book," she answered, with a sweet smile lighting tip her little pale face; "won't you please read me the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah?"
"If you wish it, dearest; but I think something lively would be much better; more likely to cheer you up."
"No, dear papa; there is nothing cheers me up like the Bible, it is so sweet and comforting. I do so love to hear of Jesus, how he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows."
"You are a strange child," he said, "but you shall have whatever you want to-night. Hand me that Bible, Aunt Chloe, and set the light a little nearer."
Mr. Dinsmore was an uncommonly fine reader, and Elsie lay listening to that beautiful passage of Holy Writ, as one might listen to strains of the softest, sweetest music.
"Now, dear papa, the twenty-third of Luke, if you please," she said, when he had finished.
He turned to it, and read it without any remark.
As he closed the book and laid it aside, he saw that tears were trembling on the long, silken lashes that rested on the fair young cheek; for her eyes were closed, and but for those tell-tale drops he would have thought her sleeping.
"I feared it would make you sad, darling," he said, brushing them away, and kissing her fondly.
"No, dear papa, oh, no!" she answered, earnestly; "thank you very much for reading it; it has made me feel a great deal better."
"Why did you select those particular passages?" he asked, with some curiosity.
"Because, papa, they are all about Jesus, and tell how meekly and patiently he bore sorrow and suffering. Oh, papa, if I could only be like him! I am not much like him, but it makes it easier to forgive and to be patient, and kind, and gentle, when we read about him, how good he was, and how he forgave his murderers."
"You are thinking of Arthur," he said. "I shall find it very hard to forgive him; can you do so?"
"Yes, papa, I think I can. I have been praying for him, and have asked God to help me to forgive and love him."
"He has treated you very badly; I know all about it now."
And then, in answer to her surprised, inquiring look, he proceeded to give her an account of all that had taken place that evening in the library and drawing-room.
"And he hates me, papa," she said, mournfully, the tears filling her eyes; "why should he feel so? I have always tried to be kind to him."
"Yes, I know it," he replied, "you have often done him kindnesses, and I know of no other cause for his enmity, unless it is that you have sometimes been obliged to bear witness against him."
"Yes, papa, on several occasions when he was putting all the blame of his naughty deeds on little Walter, or poor Jim."
"You were perfectly right," he said, caressing her; "and he will not have another opportunity to vent his spite upon you, as he is to be sent away to boarding-school immediately."
"Oh, papa!" she exclaimed, "I am so sorry for him, poor fellow! It must be so dismal to go off alone among strangers. Dear papa, do ask grandpa to forgive him, just this once; and I don't believe he will ever behave so again."
"No, daughter, I shall not do anything of the kind," he answered, decidedly. "I think it will be for Arthur's own good to be sent away, where he will not have his mother to spoil him by indulgence; and besides, I cannot feel that you are safe while he is about the house, and I consider it my first duty to take care of you; therefore, I have insisted upon its that either he must be sent away, or you and I must go and make a home for ourselves somewhere else."
"Oh, papa, how delightful that would be, to have a home of our own!" she exclaimed eagerly; "will you do it some day?"
"Should you like it so much?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, papa, so very, very much! When will you do it, papa?"
"I don't know, darling; some day, if we both live; perhaps when you are old enough to be my housekeeper."
"But that will be such a long, long time to wait, papa," she said—the eager, joyous expression fading away from her face, and the pale, wearied look coming back again.
"Perhaps we will not wait for that, darling; I did not say that we would," he replied, in a soothing tone, as he passed his hand caressingly over her hair and cheek.
Then he added, a little mischievously, "I think, possibly, I might induce Miss Stevens to keep house for us. Shall I ask her?"
"Oh, papa, no; that would spoil it all," she said, with a blush and a look of surprise; "and besides, I'm sure Miss Stevens would feel insulted if anybody should ask her to go out as housekeeper."
"No, I think not, if I asked her," laughed Mr. Dinsmore; "but you need not be alarmed; I have no notion of doing it.
"Now, daughter, I shall bathe your ankle with that liniment again, and put you in bed, and you must try to go to sleep."
"My prayers first, papa, you know," she replied, making an effort to get down upon the floor.
But he held her fast.
"No, daughter, you are not able to kneel to-night," he said, "and therefore it is not required; the posture makes but little difference, since God looks not at it, but at your heart."
"I know that, papa, but I ought to kneel if I can; and if I may, I would much rather try."
"No, I shall not allow you to do so; it would not be right," he replied decidedly; "you may say them here, while I have you in my arms, or after I have put you in bed."
"Then I will say them in my bed, papa," she answered submissively.
She was very patient and quiet while her father and nurse dressed her ankle, and prepared her for bed, and when he had laid her in and covered her up, he sat down beside her and listened to the low, murmured words of her prayer.
"I think you prayed for me as well as for Arthur," he remarked when she had done; "what did you request for me?"
"I asked, as I always do, that you might love Jesus, papa, and be very happy, indeed, both in this world and the next."
"Thank you," he said, "but why are you so anxious that I should love him? It would not trouble me if you did not, so long as you loved and obeyed me."
A tear trickled down her cheek and fell upon the pillow as she answered, in a half tremulous tone: "Because I know, papa, that no one can go to heaven who does not love Jesus, nor ever be really happy anywhere, for the Bible says so. Papa, you always punish me when I am disobedient to you, and the Bible says God is our Father and will punish us if we do not obey him; and one of his commands is: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; and in another place it says: Every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him."
He did not reply, and his countenance was almost stern in its deep gravity.
Elsie feared she had displeased him.
"Dear papa," she said, stretching out her little hand to him, "I am afraid I have said things to you that I ought not; are you angry with me?"
"No, daughter," he replied, as he bent down and kissed her cheek; "but you must not talk any more to-night. I want you to shut your eyes and go to sleep."
She threw her arm around his neck and returned his caress, saying, "Good-night, dear, dear papa; I do love you so much;" then turned away her face, shut her eyes, and in a few moments was sleeping sweetly.
The next morning quite a number of the little folks begged leave to go in after breakfast to see Elsie, and as she seemed much better—indeed, quite well, except that she could not put her foot to the floor—Mr. Dinsmore gave a ready consent.
They found Elsie dressed and lying upon a sofa, with the lame foot on a pillow. She seemed very glad to see them, looked as smiling and cheerful as if nothing ailed her; and to all their condolences replied that she did not mind it very much; she was doing nicely—papa and everybody else was so kind—and the doctor said he hoped she would be able to run about again in a few weeks.
They were all around her, talking and laughing in a very animated way, when Mr. Dinsmore came in, and going up to her couch, said, "Elsie, daughter, I have an errand to the city this morning; but, as I have promised to give you all you want of my company to-day, I will commission some one else to do it, if you are not willing to spare me for a couple of hours; do you think you could do without your papa that long? It shall be just as you say."
"You know I love dearly to have you by me, papa," she answered, smiling up into his face; "but I will be quite satisfied with whatever you do, because you always know best."
"Spoken like my own little girl," he said, patting her cheek. "Well, then I will leave these little folks to entertain you for a short time; and I think you will not be sorry, when I return, that you left it to me to do as I think best. Kiss papa good-bye, darling. Aunt Chloe, take good care of her, and don't let her be fatigued with company."
He turned to look at her again, as he reached the door, and Elsie gaily kissed her hand to him.
Before long, Chloe, seeing that her young charge was beginning to look weary, sent away all the little folks except Herbert, who, at Elsie's request, remained with her, and seated in her little rocking-chair, close by her side, did his best to amuse her and make her forget her pain, sometimes reading aloud to her, and sometimes stopping to talk.
Many an hour Elsie had spent by his couch of suffering, reading, talking or singing to him, and he rejoiced now in the opportunity afforded him to return some of her past kindness.
They had always been fond of each other's society, too, and the time passed so quickly and pleasantly that Mr. Dinsmore's return, only a very little sooner than he had promised, took them quite by surprise.
Herbert noticed that he had a bundle in his hand, and thinking it was probably some present for Elsie, and that they might like to be alone, slipped quietly away to his mamma's room.
"What is that, papa?" Elsie asked.
"A New Year's gift for my little girl," he answered, with a smile, as he laid it down by her side. "But I know you are tired lying there; so I will take you on my knee, and then you shall open it."
She looked quite as eager and interested as he could have wished, as he settled her comfortably on his knee, and laid the bundle in her lap. Her hands trembled with excitement and haste, as she untied the string, and with an exclamation of joyful surprise, brought to light a large and very beautiful wax doll.
"Oh, papa, how pretty!" she cried, in ecstasy. "And it is as large as a real, live baby, and has such a sweet, dear little face, and such pretty little hands, just like a real baby's—and the dearest little toes, too," she added, kissing them. "I love it already, the little dear! and how prettily it is dressed, too, like a little baby-girl."
He enjoyed her pleasure intensely.
"But you have not come to the bottom of your bundle yet," he said; "see here!" and he showed her quite a pile of remnants of beautiful lawns, muslins, silk, etc., which he had bought to be made up into clothing for the doll.
"I did not buy them ready made," he said, "because I thought you would enjoy making them yourself."
"Oh, how nice, papa. Yes, indeed, I shall enjoy it, and you are so very good and kind to me," she said, holding up her face for a kiss. "Now, with you beside me, and plenty to do making pretty things for this dear new dolly, I think I shall hardly mind at all having to stay in the house and keep still. I'll call her Rose, papa, mayn't I? for dear Miss Allison."
"Call it what you like, darling; it is all your own," he replied, laughing at the question.
"I'm its mother, ain't I?—and then you must be its grandfather!" she exclaimed, with a merry laugh, in which he joined her heartily.
"You ought to have some gray hairs, papa, like other grandfathers," she went on, running her fingers through his hair. "Do you know, papa, Carry Howard says she thinks it is so funny for me to have such a young father; she says you don't look a bit older than her brother Edward, who has just come home from college. How old are you, papa?"
"You are not quite nine, and I am just about eighteen years older; can you make that out now?"
"Twenty-seven," she answered, after a moment's thought; then, shaking her head a little, "that's pretty old, I think, after all. But I'm glad you haven't got gray hairs and wrinkles, like Carry's papa," she added, putting her arms around his neck, and laying her head down on his breast. "I think it is nice to have such a young, handsome father."
"I think it is very nice to have a dear little daughter to love me," he said, pressing her to his heart.
Elsie was eager to show her new doll to Carry and Lucy, and presently sent Chloe to invite them to pay her another visit.
"Bring Mary Leslie, too, mammy, if she will come; but be sure not to tell any of them what I have got," she said.