Chapter XIV.
"Her world was ever joyous;
  She thought of grief and pain
As giants in the olden time,
  That ne'er would come again."


      "Then all was jollity,
Feasting, and mirth."


It was with a start, and a momentary feeling of perplexity as to her whereabouts, followed almost instantly by the glad remembrance that she was indeed at home, that the little Elsie awoke the next morning. She sat up in the bed and gazed about her. Everything had a new, fresh look, and an air of simple elegance, that struck her as very charming.

A door on her right, communicating with her father's sleeping apartment, was slightly ajar, and she could hear him moving about.

"Papa!" she called, in her sweet, silvery tones.

"Good-morning, daughter," he said, appearing in answer to her summons. "Why, how bright my little girl is looking this morning!"

"Yes, papa, I feel so well and strong I do believe I can walk to the dining-room. Please, may I get up now?"

"Yes; Aunt Chloe may dress you, and call me when you are ready," he replied, bending down to give her a kiss.

Chloe was just coming in from a small adjoining room which had been appropriated to her use, and exclaimed with delight at her darling's bright looks.

"Dress her very nicely, Aunt Chloe," said Mr. Dinsmore, "for I think it is quite possible we may have visitors to-day; and besides, I want her to look her best for my own enjoyment," he added, with a loving look and smile directed toward his little girl.

Chloe promised to do her best; and he seemed entirely satisfied with the result of her labors, as well he might, for Elsie looked very lovely in her simple white dress, and little embroidered pink sacque, which seemed to lend a faint tinge of color to her pale cheeks. She was tired, though, with the dressing, and quite willing to give up her plan of walking to the dining-room, and let her father carry her.

After breakfast he sat with her on his knee for a little while, and then, laying her on the sofa and giving her a kiss, he told her he must leave her with Chloe for an hour or two, as he had some business matters to arrange with her grandfather, after which he would take her to ride.

"I wish you didn't have to go, papa; but please come back as soon as you can," she said coaxingly.

"I will, darling. And now, Aunt Chloe, I leave her in your care; don't let her do anything to tire herself," he said as he went out.

Elsie listened until she heard the sound of his horse's hoofs as he galloped down the avenue, and then turning to her nurse, she exclaimed eagerly,

"Now, mammy, please hand me my work-box and that unfinished slipper."

"You's not fit to sew, darlin' chile," objected the careful old woman, doing as she was asked, nevertheless.

"Well, mammy, I want to try, and I'll stop directly if it tires me," replied the little girl. "Please put me in my rocking-chair. They are for papa, you see, and I want to get them done before Christmas."

"Dere's plenty ob time yet 'fore Christmas, darlin', to do dat little bit," Chloe said; "'tain't comin' dis four or five weeks; better wait till you git stronger."

Elsie was not to be dissuaded, however, from making the attempt; but a very few moments' work satisfied her that she was still too weak for such an employment; and she readily consented to let Chloe put away her work-box and lay her on her sofa again, where she spent the rest of the time in reading her Bible until her father returned. Then came her ride, and then a nap, which took up all the morning until near dinner-time.

She found Mr. Travilla sitting there, talking with her father, when she awoke. She was very glad to see him, and to hear that he was going to stay to dinner; and they had quite a little chat together about the new home and its surroundings.

After dinner, her Aunt Adelaide, Lora, and Walter called to see them and the house; but both they and Mr. Travilla went away early--he promising to bring his mother to see her very soon--and then she was left alone with her father again.

"Would you like now to hear the remainder of the story we were reading yesterday, daughter?" he asked.

"Very much, papa; I have been wanting it all day."

"Why did you not ask for it, then?" he inquired.

"Because, papa, I was ashamed, after being so naughty about it yesterday," she answered, hanging her head and blushing deeply.

"Well, you shall have it now, daughter," he said luridly, pressing his lips to the little blushing cheek. "I had forgotten about it, or I would have given you the book to read while I was out this morning."

A very pleasant, happy life had now begun for our little Elsie: all her troubles seemed to be over, and she was surrounded by everything that heart could wish. Her father watched over her with the tenderest love and care; devoting the greater part of his time to her entertainment and instruction, sparing neither trouble nor expense to give her pleasure, and though still requiring unhesitating, cheerful obedience to his wishes and commands--yet ruling her not less gently than firmly. He never spoke to her now in his stern tone, and after a while she ceased to expect and dread it.

Her health improved quite rapidly after their removal to the Oaks, and before Christmas came again she was entirely equal to a little stroll in the grounds, or a short ride on her favorite pony.

Her cheeks were becoming round and rosy again, and her hair had grown long enough to curl in soft, glossy little ringlets all over her head, and her father thought her almost prettier than ever. But he was very careful of her still, scarcely willing to have her a moment out of his sight, lest she should become over-fatigued, or her health be injured in some way; and he always accompanied her in her walks and rides, ever watching over her with the most unwearied love. As her health and strength returned he permitted her, in accordance with her own wishes, gradually to resume her studies, and took great pleasure in instructing her; but he was very particular to see that she did not attempt too much, nor sit poring over her books when she needed exercise and recreation, as she was sometimes rather inclined to do.

"Massa, dere's a gentleman wants to speak to you," said a servant, looking in at the study door one afternoon a few days before Christmas.

"Very well, John, show him into the library, and I will be there in a moment," replied Mr. Dinsmore, putting down his book.

He glanced at Elsie's little figure, half buried in the cushions of a great easy-chair near one of the windows, into which she had climbed more than an hour before, and where she had been sitting ever since, completely lost to all that might be going on about her, in the deep interest with which she was following the adventures of FitzJames in Scott's "Lady of the Lake."

"Daughter, I am afraid you are reading more to-day than is quite good for you," he said, looking at his watch. "You must put up your book very soon now, and go out for a walk. I shall probably be down in ten or fifteen minutes; but if I am not, you must not wait for me, but take Aunt Chloe with you."

"Yes, papa," she replied, looking up from her book for an instant, and then returning to it again as he left the room.

She had not the least intention of disobeying, but soon forgot everything else in the interest of her story.

The stranger detained Mr. Dinsmore much longer than he had expected, and the short winter day was drawing rapidly to a close when he returned to his study, to find Elsie--much to his surprise and displeasure--precisely where he had left her.

She was not aware of his entrance until he was close beside her; then, looking up with a start, she colored violently.

He gently took the book from her hand and laid it away, then, lifting her from the chair, led her across the room, where he seated himself upon the sofa, and drawing her in between his knees, regarded her with a look of grave, sad displeasure.

"Has my little daughter any idea how long it is since her father bade her put up her book?" he asked in a gently reproving tone.

Elsie hung her head in silence, and a tear rolled quickly down her burning cheek.

"It grieves me very much," he said, "to find that my little girl can be so disobedient! it almost makes me fear that she does not love me very much."

"Oh, papa, don't! oh, don't say that! I can't bear to hear it!" she cried, bursting into an agony of tears and sobs, and hiding her face on his breast. "I do love you very much, papa, and I can't bear to think I've grieved you," she sobbed. "I know I am very naughty, and deserve to be punished--but I didn't mean to disobey, only the book was so interesting I didn't know at all how the time went."

He sighed, but said nothing; only drew her closer to him, pulling his arm around her, and stroking her hair in a gentle, caressing way.

There was no sound for some moments but Elsie's sobs.

Then she asked in a half whisper, "Are you going to punish me, papa?"

"I shall take the book from you for a few days; I hope that will be punishment enough to make you pay better attention to my commands in future," he said very gravely.

"Dear papa how kind you are! I am sure I deserve a great deal worse punishment than that," she exclaimed, raising her head and looking up gratefully and lovingly into his face, "but I am very, very sorry for my disobedience; will you please forgive me?"

"I will, daughter," and he bent down and kissed her lips.

"Now go," he said, "and get your cloak and hood. I think we will still have time for a little stroll through the grounds before dark."

Elsie had very little to say during their walk, but moved silently along by her father's side, with her hand clasped in his; and he, too, seemed unusually abstracted.

It was quite dusk when they entered the house again, and when the little girl returned to the study, after Chloe had taken off her wrappings, she found her father seated in an easy-chair, drawn up on one side of a bright wood fire that was blazing and crackling on the hearth.

Elsie dearly loved the twilight hour, and it was one of her greatest pleasures to climb upon her father's knee and sit there talking or singing, or perhaps, oftener, just laying her head down on his breast and watching the play of the fire-light on the carpet, or the leaping of the flame hither and thither.

Mr. Dinsmore sat leaning back in his chair, apparently in deep thought, and did not hear Elsie's light step.

She paused for one instant in the doorway, casting a wistful, longing look at him, then, with a little sigh, walked softly to the other side of the fire-place, and seated herself in her little rocking-chair.

For several minutes she sat very quietly gazing into the fire, her little face wearing a very sober, thoughtful look. But she was startled out of her reverie by the sound of her father's voice.

"Why am I not to have my little girl on my knee to-night?" he was asking.

She rose instantly, in a quick, eager way, and ran to him.

"If you prefer the rocking-chair, stay there, by all means," he said.

But she had already climbed to her accustomed seat, and, twining her arms around his neck, she laid her cheek to his, saying, "No, indeed, papa; you know I don't like the rocking-chair half so well as your knee; so please let me stay here."

"Why did you not come at first, then?" he asked in a playful tone.

"Because I was afraid, papa," she whispered,

"Afraid!" he repeated, with an accent of surprise, and looking as if he felt a little hurt.

"Yes, papa," she answered in a low tone, "because I have been so very naughty this afternoon that I know I don't deserve to come."

"Did you not hear me say I forgave you?" he asked.

"Yes, papa."

"Very well, then, if you are forgiven you are taken back into favor, just as if you had not transgressed; and if you had quite believed me, you would have come to me at once, and claimed a daughter's privilege, as usual," he said very gravely.

"I do believe you, papa; I know you always speak the truth and mean just what you say," she replied in half-tearful tones, "but I know I don't deserve a place on your knee to-night."

"What you deserve is not the question at present; we are talking about what you can have, whether you deserve it or not.

"Ah!" he continued in a low, musing tone, more as if thinking aloud than speaking to her, "just so it is with us all in reference to our Heavenly Father's forgiveness; when he offers us a full and free pardon of all our offences, and adoption into his family, we don't more than half believe him, but still go about groaning under the burden of our sins, and afraid to claim the privileges of children.

"It hurts and displeases me when my child doubts my word, and yet how often I dishonor my Father by doubting his. 'He that believeth not God, maketh him a liar.' 'Without faith it is impossible to please him.'"

He relapsed into silence, and for some moments neither of them spoke.

He was passing his hand caressingly over her hair, and she resting in his arms and gazing thoughtfully into the fire.

"What is my little one thinking of?" he asked at last.

"I was thinking what a very naughty girl I have been this afternoon, and what a dear, kind papa I have," she said, looking up lovingly into his face. "You were so kind, papa, not to punish me as I deserved. I was afraid you would send me directly to bed, and I should miss my pleasant evening with you."

"I hope, my darling," he answered gently, "that you do not think, when I punish you, it is from anything like a feeling of revenge, or because I take pleasure in giving you pain? Not at all. I do it for your own good--and in this instance, as I thought you were sorry enough for having grieved and displeased me to keep you from repeating the offence, I did not consider any further punishment necessary. But perhaps I was mistaken, and it was only fear of punishment that caused your tears," he added, looking keenly at her.

"Oh, no, papa! no indeed!" she exclaimed earnestly, the tears rushing into her eyes again; "it is worse than any punishment to know that I have grieved and displeased you, because I love you so very, very dearly!" and the little arm crept round his neck again, and the soft cheek was laid to his.

"I know it, darling," he said, "I fully believe that you would prefer any physical suffering to the pain of my displeasure."

"Papa," she said, after a few moments' silence, "I want to tell you something."

"Well, daughter, I am ready to listen," he answered pleasantly; "what is it?"

"I was looking in my desk to-day, papa, for a letter that I wrote to you the evening before I was taken sick, and I couldn't find it. Did Aunt Adelaide give it to you?"

"Yes, dear, I have it, and one of your curls," he said, pressing her closer to him.

"Yes, papa, that was what I wanted to tell you about. I am afraid I was very naughty to cut it off after all you said about it last Christmas; but everything was so strange that night--it seems like a dreadful dream to me now. I don't think I was quite in my right mind sometimes, and I thought I was going to die, and something seemed to tell me that you would want some of my hair when I was gone, and that nobody would save it for you; and so I cut it off myself. You do not mind about it, papa, dear, do you? You don't think it was very naughty in me?" she asked anxiously.

"No, darling, no; it was very right and kind, and much more than I deserved," he answered with emotion.

"I am glad you are not angry, papa," she said in a relieved tone, "and, indeed, I did not mean to be naughty or disobedient."

John was just bringing in the lights, and Mr. Dinsmore took a note from his pocket, saying, "I will read this to you, daughter, as it concerns you as well as myself."

It was an invitation from Mrs. Howard--the mother of Elsie's friend, Caroline--to Mr. Dinsmore and his little girl, to come and spend the Christmas holidays with them.

"Well, my pet, what do you say to it? would you like to go?" he asked, as he refolded the note and returned it to his pocket.

"I don't know, papa; it seems as if it would be pleasant, as we are both invited; but home is so sweet, and I am so happy just alone with you that I hardly want to go away; so if you please, papa, I would much rather just leave it all to you."

"Well, then, we will stay quietly at home," he said, with a gratified look; "and I think it will be much the better plan, for you are not strong enough yet for gayety, and it would be very little pleasure for you to be there while unable to join in the sports, and obliged always to keep early hours.

"But we might have a Christmas dinner at home, and invite a few friends to help us eat it. Whom would you like to have?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Travilla, and Aunt Adelaide, and Lora, if you please, papa, and anybody else you like," she replied, looking very much pleased. "I should like to have Carry Howard, but of course I can't--as she is going to have company of her own; and I believe nearly all the little girls I am acquainted with are to be there."

"Yes, I suppose so. Well, we will ask those you have mentioned, and I hope they will come. But there is the tea-bell, and I shall carry my dolly out to the dining-room," he said, rising with her in his arms.

"Papa," she said, when they had returned to their seats by the study fire, "may I give mammy a nice present this Christmas?"

"Yes," he replied kindly, "I supposed you would want to give some presents, and I have just been thinking how it might be managed, as you are not fit to shop for yourself. As you have not had any pocket-money for several months, I will allow you now to spend as much as you choose--provided you keep within tolerably reasonable bounds," he added, smiling; "so you may make out a list of all the articles you want, and I will purchase them for you. Will that do?"

"Oh, nicely, papa!" she cried, clapping her hands with delight, "it was very good of you to think of all that."

"De slippers is come, darlin'; Bill, he fotched 'em from de city dis afternoon," remarked Chloe, as she was preparing her little charge for bed that night.

"Oh, have they, mammy? let me see them!" was Elsie's eager exclamation.

Chloe went to her room and was back again in a moment with a bundle in her hand, which Elsie immediately seized and opened with eager haste.

"Oh, how pretty!" she cried, capering about with them in her hands, "aren't they, mammy? Won't papa be pleased?"

Then starting at the sound of his step in the adjoining room, she threw them into a drawer which Chloe had hastily opened for the purpose.

"Elsie," said her father, opening the door and putting in his head, "why are you not in bed, my daughter? you will take cold standing there half undressed. Go to bed immediately."

"Yes, papa, I will," she replied submissively; and he drew back his head again and shut the door.

"'Mighty narrow 'scape dat," remarked Chloe, laughing; "ef Massa had come jes a minute sooner, de cat been out de bag sure 'nough."

Elsie made out her list the next day, with the help of some suggestions from her father, and by Christmas eve all the purchases had been made, and one of the closets in her bed-room was quite filled with packages of various sizes and shapes.

The little girl was all excitement, and did not want to go to bed when the hour came.

"Please, papa, let me stay up a little longer," she pleaded coaxingly. "I am not a bit sleepy."

"No, my daughter; you must go at once," he said; "early hours are of great importance in your present state of health, and you must try to put away all exciting thoughts, and go to sleep as soon as you can. You will try to obey me in this?"

"Yes, papa; I am sure I ought to be very good when you are so kind and indulgent to me," she replied, as she put up her face for the usual good-night kiss.

"God bless and keep my little one, and give her many happy returns of this Christmas eve," said Mr. Dinsmore, folding her to his heart.

Elsie had intended to stay awake until her father should be in bed and asleep, and then to steal softly into his room and take away the slippers he usually wore, replacing them with the new ones which she had worked. But now she engaged Chloe to do this for her, and in obedience to his directions endeavored to put away all exciting thoughts and go to sleep, in which she succeeded much sooner than she could have believed possible.

She was up and dressed, and saying "Merry Christmas!" at her papa's door, quite early the next morning.

"Come in," said he, "and tell me what fairy has been here, changing my old slippers to new ones."

"No fairy at all, papa; but just dear old mammy," she cried, springing into his arms with a merry, ringing laugh.

"Ah, but I know very well it wasn't Aunt Chloe's fingers that worked them," he said, kissing her first on one cheek, then on the other. "I wish you a very merry Christmas, and a very happy New Year, my darling. Thank you for your gift; I like it very much, indeed; and now see what papa has for you."

And opening a pretty little box that stood on his dressing-table, he took from it a beautiful pearl necklace and bracelets, and clasped them round her neck and arms.

"Oh, how beautiful! dear papa, thank you very much," she exclaimed, delighted.

"Your Aunt Adelaide thought you didn't care much for ornaments," he remarked, looking much pleased.

"I do when you give them to me, papa," she answered, raising her eyes to his face with one of her sweet, loving smiles.

"I am very glad my present pleases you," he said, "but for fear it should not, I have provided another," and he placed in her hand a very handsomely bound volume of Scott's poems.

"I don't deserve it, papa," she said, coloring deeply, and dropping her eyes on the carpet.

"You shall have it, at any rate," he replied, laying his hand gently on her drooping head; "and now you can finish the 'Lady of the Lake' this afternoon, if you like. His prose works I may perhaps give you at some future day; but I do not choose you should read them for some years to come. But now we will lay this book aside for the present, and have our morning chapter together."

They had finished their devotions, and she was sitting on his knee, waiting for the breakfast-bell to ring.

"When did you find an opportunity to work these without letting me into the secret?" he asked, extending his foot, and turning it from side to side to look at his slipper. "It puzzles me to understand it, since I know that for weeks past you have scarcely been an hour out of my sight during the day--not since you were well enough to sew," he said, smiling down at her.

There was an expression of deep gravity, almost amounting to sadness, on Elsie's little face, that surprised her father a good deal.

"All, papa!" she murmured, "it makes me feel sad, and glad, too, to look at those slippers."

"Why, darling?" he asked in a tender tone.

"Because, papa, I worked almost the whole of them last summer, in those sorrowful days when I was all alone. I thought I was going to die, papa, for I was sure I could not live very long without you to love me, and I wanted to make something for you that would remind you of your little girl when she was gone, and perhaps convince you that she did really love you, although she seemed so naughty and rebellious,"

The tears were streaming down her cheeks, and there was a momentary struggle to keep down a rising sob; and then she added--

"I finished them since I came here, papa, a little at a time, whenever you were not with me."

He was deeply moved. "My poor darling!" he sighed, drawing her closer to him, and caressing her tenderly, "those were sad days to us both, and though I then persuaded myself that I was doing my duty toward you, if you had been taken away from me I could never have forgiven myself, or known another happy moment. But God has treated me with undeserved mercy."

After breakfast the house-servants were all called in to family worship, as usual; and when that had been attended to, Elsie uncovered a large basket which stood on a side-table, and with a face beaming with delight, distributed the Christmas gifts--a nice new calico dress, or a bright-colored hand-kerchief to each, accompanied by a paper of confectionery.

They were received with bows and courtesies, broad grins of satisfaction, and many repetitions of "Tank you, Miss Elsie! dese berry handsome--berry nice, jes de ting for dis chile."

Mr. Dinsmore stood looking on highly gratified, and coming in for a share of the thanks.

An hour or two later, Elsie's little pony, and her father's larger but equally beautiful steed, were brought up to the door, and they rode down to the quarter, followed by Jim and Bill, each carrying a good-sized basket; and there a very similar scene was gone through with--Elsie finishing up the business by showering sugar-plums into the outstretched aprons of the little ones, laughing merrily at their eagerness, and highly enjoying their delight.

She half wished for an instant, as she turned her horse's head to ride away again, that she was one of them, so much did she want a share of the candy, which her father refused to let her taste, saying it was not fit for her when she was well, and much less now while she had yet hardly recovered from severe illness.

But it was a lovely morning, the air pure and bracing, and everything else was speedily forgotten in the pleasure of a brisk ride with her father. They rode several miles, and on their return were overtaken by Mr. Travilla, who remarked that Elsie had quite a color, and was looking more like herself than he had seen her since her sickness. He was on horseback, and his mother arrived a little later in the carriage, having called at Roselands on the way, and picked up Adelaide. Lora did not come, as she had accepted an invitation to spend the holidays at Mr. Howard's, where a little girl about her own age, a cousin of Carry's, from the North, was spending the winter.

Mr. Travilla put a beautiful little pearl ring on Elsie's finger, which she gracefully thanked him for, and then showing it to her father, "See, papa," she said, "how nicely it matches the bracelets."

"Yes, daughter, it is very pretty," he replied, "and one of these days, when you are old enough to wear it, you shall have a pin to match."

Mrs. Travilla and Adelaide each gave her a handsome book--Adelaide's was a beautifully bound Bible--and Elsie was delighted with all her presents, and thought no little girl could be richer in Christmas gifts than herself.

The day passed very pleasantly, for they were quite like a family party, every one seeming to feel perfectly at home and at ease.

The negroes were to have a grand dinner at the quarter, and Elsie, who had been deeply interested in the preparations--cake-baking, etc.--was now very anxious to see them enjoying their feast; so about one o'clock she and her father invited their guests to walk down there with them to enjoy the sight.

"I, for one, would like nothing better," said Mr. Travilla, offering his arm to Adelaide, while Mr. Dinsmore took Mrs. Travilla, Elsie walking on the other side and keeping fast hold of his hand.

They found it a very merry scene; and the actors in it scarcely enjoyed it more than the spectators.

Their own dinner was served up somewhat later in the day, and with appetites rendered keen by their walk in the bracing air, they were ready to do it full justice.

Adelaide, at her brother's request, took the head of the table, and played the part of hostess very gracefully.

"Ah, Dinsmore," remarked Travilla, a little mischievously, glancing from one to the other, "you have a grand establishment here, but it still lacks its chief ornament. Miss Adelaide fills the place to-day, most gracefully, it is true; but then we all know she is only borrowed for the occasion."

Mr. Dinsmore colored a little and looked slightly annoyed.

"Elsie will supply that deficiency in a few years," he said, "and until then, I think I can depend upon the kindness of my sisters. Besides, Travilla," he added laughingly, "you must not forget the old proverb about people who live in glass houses."

"Ah," replied Travilla, looking affectionately at his mother, "I have a mistress for my establishment, and so can afford to wait for Elsie."

The child looked up quickly, with a slight flush on her face.

"You needn't, Mr. Travilla!" she said, "for I am never going to leave my father; and you know he promised not to give me away, so if you want a little girl you will have to look somewhere else."

"Ah! well, I will not despair yet," he replied laughingly, "for I have learned that ladies, both little and large, very often change their minds, and so I shall still live in hopes."

"You know I like you very much indeed, Mr. Travilla--next best to papa--but then I couldn't leave him for anybody, you see," Elsie said in a deprecating tone, and looking affectionately up into his face.

"No, my dear, that is quite right, and I don't feel at all hurt," he answered with a good-natured smile, which seemed to relieve her very much.

Tea was over, the guests had returned to their homes, and Mr. Dinsmore sat by the fire, as usual, with his little girl upon his knee.

"We have had a very pleasant day, papa, haven't we?" she remarked.

"Yes, darling, I have enjoyed it, and I hope you have, too."

"Very much indeed, papa; and I do like all my presents so much."

"If I should ask you to give me something of yours, would you be willing to do it?" he inquired in a grave tone.

"Why, papa!" she said, looking up quickly into his face, "doesn't everything I have belong to you?"

"In some sense it does, certainly," he replied, "and yet I like you to feel that you have some rights of property. But you did not answer my question."

"I can't think what it can be, papa; but I am sure there is nothing of mine that I wouldn't be very glad to give you, if you wanted it," she said earnestly.

"Well, then," said he, "your aunt gave you a new Bible to-day, and as you don't need two, will you give the old one to me?"

A slight shade had come over the little girl's face, and she sat for a moment apparently in deep thought; then, looking up lovingly into his face, she replied, "I love it very much, papa, and I don't know whether any other Bible could ever seem quite the same to me--it was mamma's, you know--and it has been with me in all my troubles, and I don't think I could be quite willing to give it to anybody else; but I am very glad to give it to you, my own dear, dear papa!" and she threw her arms around his neck.

"Thank you very much, my darling. I know it is a very strong proof of your affection, and I shall value it more than its weight in gold," he said, pressing her to his heart, and kissing her tenderly.