Holidays at Roselands by Martha Finley
"Joy! the lost one is restored!! Sunshine comes to hearth and board." MRS. HEMANS. "O remembrance! Why dost thou open all my wounds again?" LEE'S THEODOSIUS. "I am a fool, To weep at what I am glad of." SHAKS. TEMPEST. "But these are tears of joy! to see you thus, has filled My eyes with more delight than they can hold." CONGREVE.
Mr. Dinsmore was roused from the painful reverie into which he had fallen by a light rap on his dressing-room door; and, supposing it to be some one sent to consult him concerning the necessary arrangements for the funeral, he rose and opened it at once, showing to the doctor, who stood there, such a grief-stricken countenance as caused him to hesitate whether to communicate his glad tidings without some previous preparation, lest the sudden reaction from such despairing grief to joy so intense should be too great for the father to bear.
"You wish to speak to me about the--"
Mr. Dinsmore's voice was husky and low, and he paused, unable to finish his sentence.
"Come in, doctor," he said, "it is very kind in you, and--"
"Mr. Dinsmore," said the doctor, interrupting him, "are you prepared for good news? can you bear it, my dear sir?"
Mr. Dinsmore caught at the furniture for support, and gasped for breath.
"What is it?" he asked hoarsely.
"Good news, I said," Dr. Barton hastened to say, as he sprang to his side to prevent him from falling. "Your child yet lives, and though her life still hangs by a thread, the crisis is past, and I have some hope that she may recover."
"Thank God! thank God!" exclaimed the father, sinking into a seat; and burying his face in his hands, he sobbed aloud.
The doctor went out and closed the door softly; and Horace Dinsmore, falling upon his knees, poured out his thanksgivings, and then and there consecrated himself, with all his talents and possessions, to the service of that God who had so mercifully spared to him his heart's best treasure.
Adelaide's joy and thankfulness were scarcely less than his, when to her, also, the glad and wondrous tidings were communicated. And Mr. Travilla and his mother shared their happiness, as they had shared their sorrow. Yet they all rejoiced with trembling, for that little life was still for many days trembling in the balance; and to the father's anxiety was also added the heavy trial of being excluded from her room.
The physician had early informed him that it would be risking her life for him to enter her presence until she should herself inquire for him, as they could not tell how great might be the agitation it would cause her. And so he waited, day after day, hoping for the summons, but constantly doomed to disappointment; for even after she had become strong enough to look about her, and ask questions, and to notice her friends with a gentle smile, and a word of thanks to each, several days passed away, and she had neither inquired for him nor even once so much as mentioned his name.
It seemed passing strange, and the thought that perhaps his cruelty had so estranged her from him that she no longer cared for his presence or his love, caused him many a bitter pang, and at times rendered him so desperate that, but for the doctor's repeated warnings, he would have ended this torturing suspense by going to her, and begging to hear from her own lips whether she had indeed ceased to love him.
Adelaide tried to comfort and encourage him to wait patiently, but she, too, thought it very strange, and began to have vague fears that something was wrong with her little niece.
She wondered that Dr. Barton treated the matter so lightly.
"But, then," thought she, "he has no idea how strongly the child was attached to her father, and therefore her strange silence on the subject does not strike him as it does us. I will ask if I may not venture to mention Horace to her."
But when she put the question, the doctor shook his head.
"No," he said; "better let her broach the subject herself; it will be much the safer plan."
Adelaide reluctantly acquiesced in his decision, for she was growing almost as impatient as her brother. But fortunately she was not kept much longer in suspense.
The next day Elsie, who had been lying for some time wide awake, but without speaking, suddenly asked: "Aunt Adelaide, have you heard from Miss Allison since she went away?"
"Yes, dear, a number of times," replied her aunt, much surprised at the question; "once since you were taken sick, and she was very sorry to hear of your illness."
"Dear Miss Rose, how I want to see her," murmured the little girl musingly. "Aunt Adelaide," she asked quickly, "has there been any letter from papa since I have been sick?"
"Yes, dear," said Adelaide, beginning to tremble a little; "one, but it was written before he heard of your illness."
"Did he say when he would sail for America, Aunt Adelaide?" she asked eagerly.
"No, dear," replied her aunt, becoming still more alarmed, for she feared the child was losing her reason.
"Oh, Aunt Adelaide, do you think he will ever come home? Shall I ever see him? And do you think he will love me?" moaned the little girl.
"I am sure he does love you, darling, for indeed he mentions you very affectionately in his letters," Adelaide said, bending down to kiss the little pale cheek. "Now go to sleep, dear child," she added, "I am afraid you have been talking quite too much, for you are very weak yet."
Elsie was, in fact, quite exhausted, and closing her eyes, fell asleep directly.
Then resigning her place to Chloe, Adelaide stole softly from the room, and seeking her brother, repeated to him all that had just passed between Elsie and herself. She simply told her story, keeping her doubts and fears confined to her own breast; but she watched him closely to see if he shared them.
He listened at first eagerly; then sat with folded arms and head bent down, so that she could not see his face; then rising up hastily, he paced the floor to and fro with rapid strides, sighing heavily to himself.
"Oh, Adelaide! Adelaide!" he exclaimed, suddenly pausing before her, "are my sins thus to be visited on my innocent child? better death a thousand times!" And sinking shuddering into a seat, he covered his face with his hands, and groaned aloud.
"Don't be so distressed, dear brother, I am sure it cannot be so bad as you think," whispered Adelaide, passing her arm around his neck and kissing him softly. "She looks bright enough, and seems to perfectly understand all that is said to her."
"Dr. Barton!" announced Pompey, throwing open the door of the parlor where they were sitting.
Mr. Dinsmore rose hastily to greet him.
"What is the matter? is anything wrong with my patient?" he asked hurriedly, looking from one to the other, and noticing the signs of unusual emotion in each face.
"Tell him, Adelaide," entreated her brother, turning away his head to hide his feelings.
Adelaide repeated her story, not without showing considerable emotion, though she did not mention the nature of their fears.
"Don't be alarmed," said the physician, cheerfully; "she is not losing her mind, as I see you both fear; it is simply a failure of memory for the time being; she has been fearfully ill, and the mind at present partakes of the weakness of the body, but I hope ere long to see them both grow strong together.
"Let me see--Miss Allison left, when? a year ago last April, I think you said, Miss Adelaide, and this is October. Ah! well, the little girl has only lost about a year and a half from her life, and it is altogether likely she will recover it; but even supposing she does not, it is no great matter after all."
Mr. Dinsmore looked unspeakably relieved, and Adelaide hardly less so.
"And this gives you one advantage, Mr. Dinsmore," continued the doctor, looking smilingly at him; "you can now go to her as soon as Miss Adelaide has cautiously broken to her the news of your arrival."
When Elsie waked, Adelaide cautiously communicated to her the tidings that her father had landed in America, in safety and health, and hoped to be with them in a day or two.
A faint tinge of color came to the little girl's cheek, her eyes sparkled, and, clasping her little, thin hands together, she exclaimed, "Oh! can it really be true that I shall see my own dear father? and do you think he will love me, Aunt Adelaide?"
"Yes, indeed, darling; he says he loves you dearly, and longs to have you in his arms."
Elsie's eyes filled with happy tears.
"Now you must try to be very calm, darling, and not let the good news hurt you," said her aunt kindly; "or I am afraid the doctor will say you are not well enough to see your papa when, he comes."
"I will try to be very quiet," replied the little girl; "but, oh! I hope he will come soon, and that the doctor will let me see him."
"I shall read to you now, dear," remarked Adelaide, taking up Elsie's little Bible, which had been returned to her some days before; for she had asked for it almost as soon as she was able to speak.
Adelaide opened to one of her favorite passages in Isaiah, and read in a low, quiet tone that soon soothed the little one to sleep.
"Has my papa come?" was her first question on awaking.
"Do you think you are strong enough to see him?" asked Adelaide, smiling.
"Oh, yes, Aunt Adelaide; is he here?" she inquired, beginning to tremble with agitation.
"I am afraid you are not strong enough yet," said Adelaide doubtfully; "you are trembling very much."
"Dear Aunt Adelaide, I will try to be very calm; do let me see him," she urged beseechingly; "it won't hurt me half so much as to be kept waiting."
"Yes, Adelaide, she is right. My precious, precious child! they shall keep us apart no longer." And Elsie was gently raised in her father's arms, and folded to his beating heart.
She looked up eagerly into his face.
It was full of the tenderest love and pity.
"Papa, papa, my own papa," she murmured, dropping her head upon his breast.
He held her for some moments, caressing her silently; then laid her gently down upon her pillow, and sat by her side with one little hand held fast in his.
She raised her large, soft eyes, all dim with tears, to his face.
"Do you love me, my own papa?" she asked in a voice so low and weak he could scarcely catch the words.
"Better than life," he said, his voice trembling with emotion; and he leaned over her, passing his hand caressingly over her face.
"Does my little daughter love me?" he asked.
"Oh, so very, very much," she said, and closing her eyes wearily, she fell asleep again.
And now Mr. Dinsmore was constantly with his little girl. She could scarcely bear to have him out of her sight, but clung to him with the fondest affection, which he fully returned; and he never willingly left her for an hour. She seemed to have entirely forgotten their first meeting, and everything which had occurred since, up to the beginning of her illness, and always talked to her father as though they had but just begun their acquaintance; and it was with feelings half pleasurable, half painful, that he listened to her.
It was certainly a relief to have her so unconscious of their estrangement, and yet such an utter failure of memory distressed him with fears of permanent and serious injury to her intellect; and thus it was, with mingled hope and dread, that he looked forward to the fulfilment of the doctor's prophecy that her memory would return.
She was growing stronger, so that she was able to be moved from her bed to a couch during the day; and when she was very weary of lying, her father would take her in his arms and carry her back and forth, or, seating himself in a large rocking-chair, soothe her to sleep on his breast, holding her there for hours, never caring for the aching of his arms, but really enjoying the consciousness that he was adding to her comfort by suffering a little himself.
Mrs. Travilla had some time since found it absolutely necessary to give her personal attention to her own household, and Adelaide, quite worn out with nursing, needed rest; and so, with a little help from Chloe, Mr. Dinsmore took the whole care of his little girl, mixing and administering her medicines with his own hand, giving her her food, soothing her in her hours of restlessness, reading, talking, singing to her--exerting all his powers for her entertainment, and never weary of waiting upon her. He watched by her couch night and day; only now and then snatching a few hours of sleep on a sofa in her room, while the faithful old nurse took his place by her side.
One day he had been reading to Elsie, while she lay on her sofa. Presently he closed the book, and looking at her, noticed that her eyes were fixed upon his face with a troubled expression.
"What is it, dearest?" he asked.
"Papa," she said in a doubtful, hesitating way, "it seems as if I had seen you before; have I, papa?"
"Why, surely, darling," he answered, trying to laugh, though he trembled inwardly, "I have been with you for nearly two weeks, and you have seen me every day."
"No, papa; but I mean before. Did I dream that you gave me a doll once? Were you ever vexed with me? Oh, papa, help me to think," she said in a troubled, anxious tone, rubbing her hand across her forehead as she spoke.
"Don't try to think, darling," he replied cheerfully, as he raised her, shook up her pillows, and settled her more comfortably on them. "I am not in the least vexed with you; there is nothing wrong, and I love you very, very dearly. So shut your eyes and try to go to sleep."
She looked only half satisfied, but closed her eyes as he bade her, and was soon asleep. She seemed thoughtful and absent all the rest of the day, every now and then fixing the same troubled, questioning look on him, and it was quite impossible to interest her in any subject for more than a few moments at a time.
That night, for the first time, he went to his own room, leaving her entirely to Chloe's care. He had watched by her after she was put in bed for the night, until she had fallen asleep; but he left her, feeling a little anxious, for the same troubled look was on her face, as though even in sleep memory was reasserting her sway.
When he entered her room again in the morning, although it was still early, he found her already dressed for the day, in a pretty, loose wrapper, and laid upon the sofa.
"Good-morning, little daughter; you are quite an early bird to-day, for a sick one," he said gayly.
But as he drew near, he was surprised and pained to see that she was trembling very much, and that her eyes were red with weeping.
"What is it, dearest?" he asked, bending over her in tender solicitude; "what ails my little one?"
"Oh, papa," she said, bursting into tears, "I remember it all now. Are you angry with me yet? and must I go away from you as soon as--"
But she was unable to finish her sentence.
He had knelt down by her side, and now raising her gently up, and laying her head against his breast, he kissed her tenderly, saying in a moved tone, in the beautiful words of Ruth, the Moabitess, "The Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part me and thee." He paused a moment, as if unable to proceed; then, in tones tremulous with emotion, said: "Elsie, my dear, my darling daughter, I have been a very cruel father to you; I have most shamefully abused my authority; but never again will I require you to do anything contrary to the teachings of God's word. Will you forgive your father, dearest, for all he has made you suffer?"
"Dear papa, don't! oh, please don't say such words to me!" she said; "I cannot bear to hear them. You had a right to do whatever you pleased with your own child."
"No, daughter; not to force you to disobey God," he answered with deep solemnity. "I have learned to look upon you now, not as absolutely my own, but as belonging first to him, and only lent to me for a time; and I know that I will have to give an account of my stewardship."
He paused a moment, then went on: "Elsie, darling, your prayers for me have been answered; your father has learned to know and love Jesus, and has consecrated to his service the remainder of his days. And now, dear one, we are travelling the same road at last."
Her happiness was too deep for words--for anything but tears; and putting her little arms around his neck, she sobbed out her joy and gratitude upon his breast.
Aunt Chloe had gone down to the kitchen, immediately upon Mr. Dinsmore's entrance, to prepare Elsie's breakfast, and so they were quite alone. He held her to his heart for a moment; then kissing away her tears, laid her gently back upon her pillow again, and took up the Bible, which lay beside her.
"I have learned to love it almost as well as you do, dearest," he said. "Shall we read together, as you and Miss Rose used to do long ago?"
Her glad look was answer enough; and opening to one of her favorite passages, he read it in his deep, rich voice, while she lay listening, with a full heart, to the dearly loved words, which sounded sweeter than ever before.
He closed the book. He had taken one of her little hands in his ere he began to read, and still holding it fast in a close, loving grasp, he knelt down and prayed.
He thanked God for their spared lives, and especially for the recovery of his dear little one, who had so lately been tottering upon the very verge of the grave--and his voice trembled with emotion as he alluded to that time of trial--and confessed that it was undeserved mercy to him, for he had been most unfaithful to his trust. And then he asked for grace and wisdom to guide and guard her, and train her up aright, both by precept and example. He confessed that he had been all his days a wanderer from the right path, and that if left to himself he never would have sought it; but thanked God that he had been led by the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit to turn his feet into that straight and narrow way; and he prayed that he might be kept from ever turning aside again into the broad road, and that he and his little girl might now walk hand in hand together on their journey to the celestial city.
Elsie's heart swelled with emotion, and glad tears rained down her cheeks, as thus, for the first time, she heard her father's voice in prayer. It was the happiest hour she had ever known.
"Take me, papa, please," she begged, holding out her hands to him, as he rose from his knees, and drawing his chair close to her couch sat down by her side.
He took her in his arms, and she laid her head on his breast again, saying, "I am so happy, so very happy! Dear papa, it is worth all the sickness and everything else that I have suffered."
He only answered with a kiss.
"Will you read and pray with me every morning, papa?" she asked,
"Yes, darling," he said, "and when we get into our own home we will call in the servants morning and evening, and have family worship. Shall you like that?"
"Very much, papa! Oh, how nice it will be! and will we go soon to our own home, papa?" she asked eagerly.
"Just as soon as you are well enough to be moved, dearest. But here is Aunt Chloe with your breakfast, so now we must stop talking, and let you eat."
"May I talk a little more now, papa?" she asked, when she had done eating.
"Yes, a little, if it is anything of importance," he answered smilingly.
"I wanted to say that I think our new home is very, very lovely, and that I think we shall be so happy there. Dear papa, you were so very kind to furnish those pretty rooms for me! thank you very much," she said, pressing his hand to her lips. "I will try to be so good and obedient that you will never regret having spent so much money, and taken so much trouble for me."
"I know you will, daughter; you have always been a dutiful child," he said tenderly, "and I shall never regret anything that adds to your happiness."
"And will you do all that you said in that letter, papa? will you teach me yourself?" she asked eagerly.
"If you wish it, my pet; but if you prefer a governess, I will try to get one who will be more kind and patient than Miss Day. One thing is certain, she shall never teach you again."
"Oh, no, papa, please teach me yourself. I will try to be very good, and not give you much trouble," she said coaxingly.
"I will," he said with a smile. "The doctor thinks that in a day or two you may be able to take a short ride, and I hope it will not be very long before we will be in our own home. Now I am going to wrap you up, and carry you to my dressing-room to spend the day; for I know you are tired of this room."
"How pleasant!" she exclaimed; "how kind you are to think of it, papa! I feel as glad as I used to when I was going to take a long ride on my pony."
He smiled on her a pleased, affectionate smile, and bade Chloe go and see if the room was in order for them.
Chloe returned almost immediately to say that all was in readiness; and Elsie was then raised in her father's strong arms, and borne quickly through the hall and into the dressing-room, where she was laid upon a sofa, and propped up with pillows. She looked very comfortable; and very glad she was to have a little change of scene, after her long confinement to one room.
Just as she was fairly settled in her new quarters, the breakfast-bell rang, and her father left her in Chloe's care for a few moments, while he went down to take his meal.
"I have brought you a visitor, Elsie," he said when he returned.
She looked up, and, to her surprise, saw her grandfather standing near the door.
He came forward then, and taking the little, thin hand she held out to him, he stooped and kissed her cheek.
"I am sorry to see you looking so ill, my dear," he said, not without a touch of feeling in his tone--"but I hope you will get well very fast now."
"Yes, grandpa, thank you; I am a great deal better than I was," she answered, with a tear in her eye; for it was the first caress she ever remembered having received from him, and she felt quite touched.
"Have the others come, grandpa?" she asked.
"Yes, my dear, they are all at home now, and I think Lora will be coming to speak to you presently, she has been quite anxious to see you."
"Don't let her come until afternoon, father? if you please," said his son, looking anxiously at his little girl. "Elsie cannot bear much yet, and I see she is beginning to look exhausted already." And he laid his finger on her pulse.
"I shall caution her on the subject," replied his father, turning to leave the room. Then to Elsie, "You had better go to sleep now, child! sleep and eat all you can, and get strong fast."
"Yes, sir," she said faintly, closing her eyes with a weary look.
Her father placed her more comfortably on the pillows, smoothed the cover, closed the blinds to shut out the sunlight, and sat down to watch her while she slept.
It was a long, deep sleep, for she was quite worn out by the excitement of the morning; the dinner-hour had passed, and still she slumbered on, and he began to grow uneasy. He was leaning over her, with his finger on her slender wrist, watching her breathing and counting her pulse, when she opened her eyes, and looking up lovingly into his face, said "Dear papa, I feel so much better."
"I am very glad, daughter," he replied; "you have had a long sleep; and now I will take you on my knee, and Aunt Chloe will bring up your dinner."
Elsie's appetite was poor, and her father spared neither trouble nor expense in procuring her every dainty that could be thought of which was at all suited to her state of health, and he was delighted when he could tempt her to eat with tolerable heartiness. She seemed to enjoy her dinner, and he watched her with intense pleasure.
"Can I see Lora now, papa?" she asked, when Chloe had removed the dishes.
"Yes," he said. "Aunt Chloe, you may tell Miss Lora that we are ready to receive her now."
Lora came in quite gay and full of spirits; but when she caught sight of Elsie, lying so pale and languid in her father's arms, she had hard work to keep from bursting into tears, and could scarcely command her voice to speak.
"Dear Lora, I am so glad to see you," said the little girl, holding out her small, thin hand.
Lora took it and kissed it, saying, in a tremulous tone, "How ill you look!"
Elsie held up her face, and Lora stooped and kissed her lips; then bursting into tears and sobs, she ran out of the room.
"Oh, Adelaide!" she cried, rushing into her sister's room, "how she is changed! I should never have known her! Oh! do you think she can ever get well?"
"If you had seen her two or three weeks ago, you would be quite encouraged by her appearance now," replied her sister. "The doctor considers her out of danger now, though he says she must have careful nursing; and that I assure you she gets from her father. He seems to feel that he can never do enough for her, and won't let me share the labor at all, although I would often be very glad to do it."
"He ought to do all he can for her! he would be a brute if he didn't, for it was all his doing, her being so ill!" exclaimed Lora indignantly. "No, no; I ought not to say that," she added, correcting herself immediately, "for we were all unkind to her; I as well as the rest. Oh, Adelaide! what a bitter thought that was to me when I heard she was dying! I never realized before how lovely, and how very different from all the rest of us she was."
"Yes, poor darling! she has had a hard life amongst us," replied Adelaide, sighing, while the tears rose to her eyes. "You can never know, Lora, what an agonizing thought it was at the moment when I believed that she had left us forever. I would have given worlds to have been able to live the last six years over again. But Horace--oh, Lora! I don't believe there was a more wretched being on the face of the earth than he! I was very angry with him at first, but when I saw how utterly crushed and heartbroken he was, I couldn't say one word."
Adelaide was crying now in good earnest, as well as Lora.
Presently Lora asked for a full account of Elsie's illness, which Adelaide was beginning to give, when a servant came to say that Elsie wanted to see her; so, with a promise to Lora to finish her story another time, she hastened to obey the summons.
She found the little girl still lying languidly in her father's arms.
"Dear Aunt Adelaide," she said, "I wanted to see you; you haven't been in to-day to look at your little patient."
Adelaide smiled, and patted her cheek.
"Yes, my dear," she said, "I have been in twice, but found you sleeping both times, and your father keeping guard over you, like a tiger watching his cub."
"No, no, Aunt Adelaide; papa isn't a bit like a tiger," said Elsie, passing her small, white hand caressingly over his face. "You mustn't say that."
"I don't know," replied Adelaide, laughing and shaking her head; "I think anybody who should be daring enough to disturb your slumbers would find there was considerable of the tiger in him."
Elsie looked up into her father's face as if expecting him to deny the charge.
"Never mind," said he, smiling; "Aunt Adelaide is only trying to tease us a little."
A servant came in and whispered something to Adelaide.
"Mr. and Mrs. Travilla," she said, turning to her brother; "is Elsie able to see them?"
"Oh, yes, papa, please," begged the little girl in a coaxing tone.
"Well, then, for a few moments, I suppose," he answered rather doubtfully; and Adelaide went down and brought them up.
Elsie was very glad to see them; but seeing that she looked weak and weary they did not stay long, but soon took an affectionate leave of her, expressing the hope that it would not be many weeks before she would be able to pay a visit to Ion.
Her father promised to take her to spend a day there as soon as she was well enough, and then they went away.
Elsie's strength returned very slowly, and she had many trying hours of weakness and nervous prostration to endure. She was almost always very patient, but on a few rare occasions, when suffering more than usual, there was a slight peevishness in her tone. Once it was to her father she was speaking, and the instant she had done so, she looked up at him with eyes brimful of tears, expecting a stern rebuke, or, at the very least, a look of great displeasure.
But he did not seem to have heard her, and only busied himself in trying to make her more comfortable; and when she seemed to feel easier again, he kissed her tenderly, saying softly: "My poor little one! papa knows she suffers a great deal, and feels very sorry for her. Are you better now, dearest?"
"Yes, papa, thank you," she answered, the tears coming into her eyes again. "I don't know what makes me so cross; you are very good not to scold me."
"I think my little girl is very patient," he said, caressing her again; "and if she were not, I couldn't have the heart to scold her after all she has suffered. Shall I sing to you now?"
"Yes, papa; please sing 'I want to be like Jesus.' Oh, I do want to be like him! and then I should never even feel impatient."
He did as she requested, singing in a low, soothing tone that soon lulled her to sleep. He was an indefatigable nurse, never weary, never in the least impatient, and nothing that skill and kindness could do for the comfort and recovery of his little daughter was left undone. He carried her in his arms from room to room; and then, as she grew stronger, down into the garden. Then he sent for a garden chair, in which he drew her about the gardens with his own hands; or if he called a servant to do it, he walked by her side, doing all he could to amuse her, and when she was ready to be carried indoors again, no one was allowed to touch her but himself. At last she was able to take short and easy rides in the carriage--not more than a quarter of a mile at first, for he was very much afraid of trying her strength too far--but gradually they were lengthened, as she seemed able to bear it.
One day he was unusually eager to get her into the carriage, and after they had started, instead of calling her attention to the scenery, as he often did, he began relating a story which interested her so much that she did not notice in what direction they were travelling until the carriage stopped, the foot-man threw open the door, and her father, breaking off in the middle of a sentence, sprang out hastily, lifted her in his arms, and carried her into the house.
She did not know where she was until he had laid her on a sofa, and, giving her a rapturous kiss, exclaimed--
"Welcome home, my darling! welcome to your father's house."
Then she looked up and saw that she was indeed in the dear home he had prepared for her months before.
She was too glad to speak a word, or do anything but gaze about her with eyes brimming over with delight; while her father took off her bonnet and shawl, and setting her on her feet, led her across the room to an easy-chair, where he seated her in state.
He then threw open a door, and there was another pleasant surprise; for who but her old friend, Mrs. Murray, should rush in and take her in her arms, kissing her and crying over her.
"Dear, dear bairn," she exclaimed, "you are looking pale and ill, but it does my auld heart gude to see your winsome wee face once more. I hope it will soon grow as round and rosy as ever, now that you've won to your ain home at last. But where, darling, are all your bonny curls?" she asked suddenly.
"In the drawer, in my room at grandpa's," replied the little girl with a faint smile. "They had to be cut off when I was so sick. You were not vexed, papa?" she asked, raising her eyes timidly to his face.
"No, darling, not vexed certainly, though very sorry indeed that it was necessary," he said in a kind, gentle tone, passing his hand caressingly over her head.
"Ah, well," remarked Mrs. Murray cheerfully, "we winna fret about it; it will soon grow again, and these little, soft rings of hair are very pretty, too."
"I thought you were in Scotland, Mrs. Murray; when did you come back?" asked the little girl.
"I came to this place only yesterday, darling; but it is about a week since I landed in America."
"I am so glad to see you, dear Mrs. Murray," Elsie said, holding fast to her hand, and looking lovingly into her face. "I haven't forgotten any of the good things you taught me." Then turning to her father, she said, very earnestly, "Papa, you won't need now to have me grow up for a long while, because Mrs. Murray is such an excellent housekeeper."
He smiled and patted her cheek, saying pleasantly, "No, dear, I shall keep you a little girl as long as ever I can; and give Mrs. Murray plenty of time to make a good housekeeper of you."
"At what hour will you have dinner, sir?" asked the old lady, turning to leave the room.
"At one, if you please," he said, looking at his watch. "I want Elsie to eat with me, and it must be early, on her account."
Elsie's little face was quite bright with pleasure. "I am so glad, papa," she said, "it will be very delightful to dine together in our own house. May I always dine with you?"
"I hope so," he said, smiling. "I am not fond of eating alone."
They were in Mr. Dinsmore's study, into which Elsie's own little sitting-room opened.
"Do you feel equal to a walk through your rooms, daughter, or shall I carry you?" he asked, bending over her.
"I think I will try to walk, papa, if you please," she said, putting her hand in his.
He led her slowly forward, but her step seemed tottering, and he passed his arm around her waist, and supported her to the sofa in her own pretty little boudoir.
Although it was now quite late in the fall, the weather was still warm and pleasant in that southern clime--flowers were blooming in the gardens, and doors and windows stood wide open.
Elsie glanced out of the window, and then around the room.
"What a lovely place it is, papa!" she said; "and everything in this dear little room is so complete, so very pretty. Dear papa, you are very, very kind to me! I will have to be a very good girl to deserve it all."
"Does it please you, darling? I am very glad," he said, drawing her closer to him. "I have tried to think of everything that would be useful to you, or give you pleasure; but if there is anything else you want, just tell me what it is, and you shall have it."
"Indeed, papa," she said, smiling up at him, "I could never have thought of half the pretty things that are here already; and I don't believe there is anything else I could possibly want. Ah! papa, how happy I am to-day; so very much happier than when I was here before. Then I thought I should never be happy again in this world. There is your picture. I cried very much when I looked at it that day, but it does not make me feel like crying now, and I am so glad to have it. Thank you a thousand times for giving it to me."
"You are very welcome, darling; you deserve it all, and more than all," replied her father tenderly. "And now," he asked, "will you look at the other rooms, or are you too tired?"
"I want to try the piano first, if you please, papa," she said; "it is so long since I touched one."
He opened the instrument, and then picked her up and seated her on the stool, saying, "I am afraid you will find yourself hardly equal to the exertion; but you may try."
She began a little piece which had always been a favorite of his--he standing beside her, and supporting her with his arm--but it seemed hard work; the tiny hands trembled so with weakness and he would not let her finish.
"You must wait until another day, dearest," he said, taking her in his arms; "you are not strong enough yet, and I think I will have to carry you through the other rooms, if you are to see them at all. Shall I?"
She assented, laying her head down languidly on his shoulder, and had very little to say, as he bore her along through the dressing-room, and into the bed-room beyond.
The bed looked very inviting with its snowy drapery, and he laid her gently down upon it, saying, "You are too much fatigued to attempt anything more, and must take a nap now, my pet, to recruit yourself a little before dinner."
"Don't leave me, papa! please don't!" she exclaimed, half starting up as he turned toward the door.
"No, dearest," he said, "I am only going to get your shawl to lay over you, and will be back again in a moment."
He returned almost immediately, but found her already fast asleep.
"Poor darling! she is quite worn out," he murmured, as he spread the shawl carefully over her. Then taking a book from his pocket, he sat down by her side, and read until she awoke.
It was the sound of the dinner-bell which had roused her, and as she sat up looking quite bright and cheerful again, he asked if she thought she could eat some dinner, and would like to be taken to the dining-room. She assented, and he carried her there, seated her in an easy-chair, wheeled it up to the table, and then sat down opposite to her, looking supremely happy.
The servants were about to uncover the dishes, but motioning them to wait a moment, Mr. Dinsmore bowed his head over his plate, and asked a blessing on their food. It sent a glow of happiness to Elsie's little, pale face, and she loved and respected her father more than ever. She seemed to enjoy her dinner, and he watched her with a pleased look.
"The change of air has done you good already, I think," he remarked; "you seem to have a better appetite than you have had since your sickness."
"Yes, papa, I believe everything tastes good because it is home," she answered, smiling lovingly up at him.
After dinner he held her on his knee a while, chatting pleasantly with her about their plans for the future; and then, laying her on the sofa in her pretty boudoir, he brought a book from his library, and read to her.
It was a very interesting story he had chosen; and he had been reading for more than an hour, when, happening to look at her he noticed that her eyes were very bright, and her cheeks flushed, as if with fever. He suddenly closed the book, and laid his finger on her pulse.
"Oh! papa, please go on," she begged; "I am so much interested."
"No, daughter, your pulse is very quick, and I fear this book is entirely too exciting for you at present--so I shall not read you any more of it to-day," he said, laying it aside.
"Oh! papa, I want to hear it so much; do please read a little more, or else let me have the book myself," she pleaded in a coaxing tone.
"My little daughter must not forget old lessons," he replied very gravely.
She turned away her head with almost a pout on her lip, and her eyes full of tears.
He did not reprove her, though, as he once would have done; but seeming not to notice her ill-humor, exerted himself to soothe and amuse her, by talking in a cheerful strain of other matters; and in a very few moments all traces of it had disappeared, and she was answering him in her usual pleasant tone.
They had both been silent for several minutes, when she said, "Please, papa, put your head close down to me, I want to say something to you."
He complied, and putting her little arm around his neck, she said, in a very humble tone, "Dear papa, I was very naughty and cross just now; and I think I have been cross several times lately; and you have been so good and kind not to reprove or punish me, as I deserved. Please, papa, forgive me; I am very sorry, and I will try to be a better girl."
He kissed her very tenderly.
"I do forgive you freely, my little one," he said, "I know it seemed hard to give up the story just there, but it was for your good, and you must try always to believe that papa knows best. You are very precious to your father's heart, Elsie, but I am not going to spoil my little girl because I love her so dearly; nor because I have been so near losing her."
His voice trembled as he pronounced the last words, and for a moment emotion kept him silent. Then he went on again.
"I shall never again bid you do violence to your conscience, my daughter, but to all the commands which I do lay upon you I shall still expect and require the same ready and cheerful obedience that I have heretofore. It is my duty to require, and yours to yield it."
"Yes, papa, I know it is," she said with a little sigh, "but, it is very difficult sometimes to keep from wanting to have my own way."
"Yes, darling, I know it, for I find it so with myself," replied her father gently; "but we must, ask God to help us to give up our own wills, and be satisfied to do and have what we ought, rather than what we would like."
"I will, papa," she whispered, hugging him tighter and tighter. "I am so glad you teach me that."
They were quite quiet again for a little while. She was running her fingers through his hair.
"Oh, papa!" she exclaimed, "I see two or three white hairs! I am so sorry! I don't want you to get old. What made these come so soon, papa?"
He did not reply immediately, but, taking her in his arms, held her close to his heart. It was beating very fast.
Suddenly she seemed to comprehend.
"Was it because you were afraid I was going to die, papa?" she asked.
"Yes, dearest, and because I had reason, to think that my own cruelty had killed you."
The words were almost inaudible, but she heard them.
"Dear dear papa, how I love you!" she said, putting her arms around his neck again; "and I am so glad, for your sake, that I did not die."
He pressed her closer and closer, caressing her silently with a heart too full for words.
They sat thus for some time, but were at length interrupted by the entrance of Chloe, who had been left behind at Roselands to attend to the packing and removal of Elsie's clothes, and all her little possessions. She had finished her work, and her entrance was immediately followed by that of the men-servants bearing several large trunks and boxes, the contents of which she proceeded at once to unpack and rearrange in the new apartments.
Elsie watched this operation with a good deal of interest, occasionally directing where this or that article should be put; but in the midst of it all was carried off by her father to the tea-table.
Soon after tea the servants were all called together, and Mr. Dinsmore, after addressing a few words to them on the importance of calling upon God--the blessings promised to those who did, and the curses pronounced upon those individuals and families who did not--read a chapter from the Bible and offered up a prayer.
All were solemn and attentive, and all seemed pleased with the arrangement--for Mr. Dinsmore had told them it was to be the regular custom of the house, morning and evening--but Elsie, Mrs. Murray, and Chloe fairly wept for joy and thankfulness.
Elsie begged for another chapter and prayer in the privacy of her own rooms, and then Chloe undressed her, and her father carried her to her bed and placed her in it with a loving good-night kiss. And thus ended the first happy day in her own dear home.