Chapter XV.
 
"Wide flush the fields; the softening air is balm;
Echo the mountains round; the forest smiles;
And every sense, and every heart, is joy."

THOMSON.

It was spring again; early in April; the air was filled with the melody of birds, and balmy with the breath of flowers. All nature was awaking to renewed life and vigor; but not so with our little friend. She had never fully recovered her strength, and as the season advanced, and the weather became warmer she seemed to grow more languid.

Her father was very anxious about her, and sending for Dr. Barton one morning, held a long consultation with him, the result of which was a determination on Mr. Dinsmore's part that he would take his little girl travelling for some months. They would go North immediately; for the doctor said it was the best thing that could be done; in fact the only thing that would be likely to benefit her.

When the doctor had gone, Mr. Dinsmore went into Elsie's little sitting-room, where she was busily engaged with her lessons.

"I am not quite ready yet, papa," she said, looking up as he entered; "isn't it a little before the time?"

"Yes, a little," he replied, consulting his watch, "but you needn't mind that lesson, daughter; I'm afraid I have been working you too hard."

"Oh, no, papa! and if you please, I would rather finish the lesson."

"Very well, then, I will wait for you," he said, taking up a book.

She came to him in a few moments, saying that she was quite ready now, and when he had heard her recitations, and praised her for their excellence, he bade her put her books away and come and sit on his knee, for he had something to tell her.

"Is it good news, papa?" she asked, as he lifted her to her accustomed seat.

"Yes, I hope you will think so: it is that you and I, and mammy, and John are about to set out upon our travels. I am going to take you North to spend the summer, as the doctor thinks that is the best thing that can be done to bring back your health and strength."

Elsie's eyes were dancing with joy. "Oh, how delightful that will be!" she exclaimed. "And will you take me to see Miss Rose, papa?"

"Yes, anywhere that you would like to go. Suppose we make out a list of the places we would like to visit," he said, taking out pencil and paper.

"Oh, yes, papa," she answered eagerly; "I would like to go to Washington, to see the Capitol, and the President's house, and then to Philadelphia to see Independence Hall, where they signed the Declaration, you know, and then to New York, and then to Boston; for I want to see Bunker Hill, and Faneuil Hall, and all the places that we read so much about in the history of the Revolution, and--but, papa, may I really go wherever I want to?" she asked, interrupting herself in the midst of her rapid enumeration, to which he was listening with an amused expression.

"I said so, did I not?" he replied, smiling at her eagerness.

"Well, then, papa, I want to see Lakes Champlain and Ontario; yes, and all those great lakes--and Niagara Fails; and to sail up or down the Hudson River and the Connecticut, and I would like to visit the White Mountains, and--I don't know where else I would like to go, but--"

"That will do pretty well for a beginning, I think," he said, laughing, "and by the time we are through with all those, if you are not ready to return home, you may be able to think of some more. Now for the time of starting. This is Wednesday--I think we will leave next Tuesday morning."

"I am glad it is so soon," Elsie said, with a look of great satisfaction, "for I am in such a hurry to see Miss Rose. Must I go on with lessons this week, papa?"

"With your music and drawing; but that will be all, except that we will read history together for an hour every day. I know a little regular employment will make the time pass much more quickly and pleasantly to you."

Elsie could now talk of very little but her expected journey, and thought that time moved much more slowly than usual; yet when Monday evening came and she and her father walked over the grounds, taking leave of all her favorite haunts, everything was looking so lovely that she half regretted the necessity of leaving her beautiful home even for a few months.

They started very early in the morning, before the sun was up, travelling to the city in their own carriage, and then taking the cars.

They visited Baltimore and Washington, staying just long enough in each place to see all that was worth seeing; then went on to Philadelphia, where they expected to remain several weeks, as it was there Miss Rose resided. Mr. Allison was a prosperous merchant, with a fine establishment in the city, and a very elegant country-seat a few miles out of it.

On reaching the city Elsie was in such haste to see her friend, that she entreated her father to go directly to Mr. Allison's, saying she was certain that Miss Rose would wish them to do so.

But Mr. Dinsmore would not consent. "It would never do," he said, "to rush in upon our friends in that way, without giving them any warning; we might put them to great inconvenience."

So John was sent for a carriage, and they drove to one of the first hotels in the city, where Mr. Dinsmore at once engaged rooms for himself, daughter, and servants.

"You are looking tired, my child," he said, as he led Elsie to her room and seated her upon a sofa; "and you are warm and dusty. But mammy must give you a bath, and put on your loose wrapper, and I will have your supper brought up here, and then you must go early to bed, and I hope you will feel quite bright again in the morning."

"Yes, papa, I hope so; and then you will take me to see Miss Rose, won't you?" she asked coaxingly.

"I will send them our cards to-night, my dear, since you feel in such haste," he replied in a pleasant tone, "and probably Miss Rose will be here in the morning if she is well, and cares to see us."

John and the porter were bringing up the trunks. They set them down and went out again, followed by Mr. Dinsmore, who did not return until half an hour afterwards, when he found Elsie lying on the sofa, seeming much refreshed by her bath and change of clothing. "You look better already, dearest," he said, stooping to press a kiss on her lips.

"And you, too, papa," she answered, smiling up at him. "I think it improves any one to get the dust washed off. Won't you take your tea up here with me? I should like it so much."

"I will, darling," he said kindly; "it is a great pleasure to me to gratify you in any harmless wish." And then he asked her what she would like for her supper, and told Chloe to ring for the waiter, that she might order it.

After their tea they had their reading and prayer together; then he bade her good-night and left her, telling Chloe to put her to bed immediately. Chloe obeyed, and the little girl rose the next morning, feeling quite rested, and looking very well and bright.

"How early do you think Miss Rose will come, papa?" was the first question she put to him on his entrance into her room.

"Indeed, my child, I do not know, but I certainly should not advise you to expect her before ten o'clock, at the very earliest."

"And it isn't eight yet," murmured Elsie, disconsolately. "Oh, papa, I wish you would take me to see her as soon as breakfast is over."

He shook his head. "You must not be so impatient, my little daughter," he said, drawing her towards him. "Shall I take you to Independence Hall to-day?"

"Not until Miss Rose has been here, if you please, papa; because I am so afraid of missing her."

"Very well, you may stay in this morning, if you wish," he replied in an indulgent tone, as he took her hand to lead her down to the breakfast-table.

So Elsie remained in her room all the morning, starting at every footstep, and turning her head eagerly every time the door opened: but no Miss Rose appeared, and she met her father at dinner-time with a very disconsolate face. He sympathized in her disappointment, and said all he could to raise her drooping spirits.

When dinner was over, he did not ask if he should take her out, but quietly bade her go to Chloe and get her bonnet put on. She obeyed, as she knew she must, without a word, but as he took her hand on her return, to lead her out, she asked, "Is there no danger that Miss Rose will come while we are gone, papa?"

"If she does, my dear, she will leave her card, and then we can go to see her; or very possibly she may wait until we return," he answered in a kind, cheerful tone. "But at any rate, you must have a walk this afternoon."

Elsie sighed a little, but said no more, and her father led her along, talking so kindly, and finding so many pretty things to show her, that after a little she almost forgot her anxiety and disappointment.

They were passing a confectioner's, where the display of sweetmeats in the window was unusually tempting. Elsie called his attention to it.

"See, papa, how very nice those candies look!"

He smiled a little, asking, "Which do you think looks the most inviting?"

"I don't know, papa, there is such a variety."

"I will indulge you for once--it isn't often I do," he said, leading her into the store; "so now choose what you want and I will pay for it."

"Thank you, papa!" and the smile that accompanied the words was a very bright one.

When they returned to their hotel Elsie eagerly inquired of Chloe if Miss Rose had been there, and was again sadly disappointed to learn that she had not.

"Oh, papa!" she said, bursting into tears, "what can be the reason she doesn't come?"

"I don't know, darling," he answered soothingly; "but never mind; she is probably away from home, and perhaps will return in a day or two."

The next morning Mr. Dinsmore would not hear of staying in to wait for a call that was so uncertain, but ordered a carriage immediately after breakfast, and had Elsie out sight-seeing and shopping all day. One of their visits--one which particularly pleased and interested the little girl--was to Independence Hall, where they were shown the bell which in Revolutionary days had, in accordance with its motto, "Proclaimed liberty throughout all the land, to all the inhabitants thereof."

"I am so glad to have seen it, papa," Elsie said. "I have always felt so interested in its story, and shall never forget it so long as I live."

"Yes," he said, with a pleased smile, "I was sure you would enjoy seeing it; for I know my little girl is very patriotic."

Other historical scenes were visited after that, and thus several days passed very pleasantly. Still there were no tidings of Miss Allison, and at last Elsie gave up expecting her; for her father said it must certainly be that the family had left the city for the summer, although it was so early in the season; so he decided that they would go on and visit Boston, and the White Mountains; and perhaps go up the Hudson River, too, and to Niagara Falls, and the lakes, stopping in Philadelphia again on their return; when their friends would probably be in the city again.

It was on Saturday morning that he announced this decision to Elsie, adding that they would remain where they were over the Sabbath, and leave for New York early Monday morning.

Elsie sighed at the thought of giving up for so long a time all hope of seeing Miss Rose, and looked very sober for a little while, though she said nothing.

"Well, I believe we have seen all the sights in this city of Brotherly Love, so what shall we do with ourselves to-day?" her father asked gayly, as he drew her towards him, and playfully patted her cheek.

"I should like to go back to the Academy of Fine Arts, if you will take me, papa; there are several pictures there which I want very much to see again."

"Then get your bonnet, my pet, and we will go at once," he said; and Elsie hastened to do his bidding.

There were very few other visitors in the Academy when Mr. Dinsmore and his little girl entered. They spent several hours there, almost too much absorbed in studying the different paintings to notice who were coming or going, or what might be passing about them. They themselves, however, were by no means unobserved, and more than once the remark might have been heard from some one whose eyes were turned in that direction, "What a very fine-looking gentleman!" or, "What a lovely little girl!"

One young lady and gentleman watched them for some time.

"What a very handsome and distinguished-looking man he is," remarked the lady in an undertone, "His face looks familiar, too, and yet I surely cannot have met him before."

"Yes, he is a fine, gentlemanly looking fellow," replied her companion in the same low tone, "but it is the little girl that attracts my attention. She is perfectly lovely! his sister, I presume. There, Rose, now you can see her face," he added, as at that moment Elsie turned toward them.

"Oh, it is a dear little face! But can it be? no, surely it is impossible! yes, yes, it is, my own little Elsie!"

For at that instant their eyes met, and uttering a joyful exclamation, the little girl darted across the room, and threw herself into the lady's arms, crying, "Oh, Miss Rose! dear, dear Miss Rose, how glad I am!"

"Elsie! darling! why, where did you come from?" and Rose's arms were clasped about the little girl's waist, and she was showering kisses upon the sweet little face.

"I did not even know you were in the North," she said presently, releasing her from her embrace, but still keeping fast hold of her hand, and looking down lovingly into her face. "When did you come? and who is with you? but I need scarcely ask, for it must be your papa, of course."

"Yes, ma'am," replied Elsie, looking round, "there he is, and see! he is coming toward us. Papa, this is Miss Rose."

Rose held out her hand with one of her sweetest smiles. "I am very glad to see you, Mr. Dinsmore, especially as you have brought my dear little friend with you. This is my brother Edward," she added, turning to her companion. "Mr. Dinsmore, Edward, and little Elsie, of whom you have so often heard me speak."

There was a cordial greeting all around; then questions were asked and answered until everything had been explained; Mr. Dinsmore learning that Mr. Allison's family were out of the city, passing the summer at their country-seat, and had never received his cards; but that to-day, Rose and her brother had come in to do a little shopping, and finding that they had an hour to spare, had fortunately decided to pay a visit to the Academy.

When these explanations had been made, Edward and Rose urged Mr. Dinsmore to return with them to their home and pay them a long visit, saying that they knew nothing else would at all satisfy their parents, and at length he consented to do so, on condition that they first dined with him at his hotel, to which they finally agreed.

Elsie was delighted with the arrangement, and looked happier, her father laughingly affirmed, than she had done for a week.

She was seated by Miss Rose at dinner, and also in the carriage during their ride, which was a beautiful one, and just long enough to be pleasant.

They had passed a number of very handsome residences, which Rose had pointed out to Elsie, generally giving the name of the occupant, and asking how she liked the place. "Now, Elsie, we are coming to another," she said, laying her hand on the little girl's arm, "and I want you to tell me what you think of it. See! that large, old-fashioned house built of gray stone; there, beyond the avenue of elms."

"Oh, I like it so much! better than any of the others! I think I should like to live there."

"I am very glad it pleases you," Rose answered with a smile, "and I hope you will live there, at least for some weeks or months."

"Oh, it is your home? how glad I am!" exclaimed the little girl as the carriage turned into the avenue.

"This is a very fine old place, Miss Allison," remarked Mr. Dinsmore, turning toward her; "I think one might well be content to spend his days here."

Rose looked gratified, and pointed out several improvements her father had been making. "I am very proud of my home," she said, "but I do not think it more lovely than Roselands."

"Ah! Miss Rose, but you ought to see the Oaks--papa's new place," said Elsie, eagerly. "It is much handsomer than Roselands, I think. Miss Rose must visit us next time, papa, must she not?"

"If she will, daughter, Miss Allison, or any other member of her father's family, will always find a warm welcome at my house."

Rose had only time to say "Thank you," before the carriage had stopped, and Edward, springing out, was ready to assist the others to alight.

Mr. Dinsmore and Elsie were left standing upon the piazza, looking about them, while Edward was engaged for a moment in giving some directions to the coachman, and Rose was speaking to a servant who had come out on their approach.

"Mamma is lying down with a bad headache, Mr. Dinsmore, and papa has not yet returned from the city," said Rose, turning to her guests; "but I hope you will excuse them, and Edward will show you to your room, and try to make you feel at home."

Mr. Dinsmore politely expressed his regret at Mrs. Allison's illness, and his hope that their arrival would not be allowed to disturb her.

Miss Allison then left him to her brother's care, and taking Elsie's hand, led her to her own room. It was a large, airy apartment, very prettily furnished, with another a little smaller opening into it.

"This is my room, Elsie," said Miss Rose, "and that is Sophy's. You will sleep with her, and so I can take care of you both, for though Chloe can attend you morning and evening as usual, she will have to sleep in one of the servants' rooms in the attic."

She had been taking off Elsie's bonnet, and smoothing her hair as she spoke, and now removing her own, she sat down on a low seat, and taking the little girl on her lap, folded her in her arms, and kissed her over and over again, saying softly, "My darling, darling child! I cannot tell you how glad and thankful I am to have you in my arms once more. I love you very dearly, little Elsie."

Elsie was almost too glad to speak, but presently she whispered, "Not better than I love you, dear Miss Rose. I love you next to papa."

"And you are very happy now?"

"Very, very happy. Do you like my papa, Miss Rose?"

"Very much, dear, so far," Rose replied with simple truthfulness; "he seems to be a very polished gentleman, and I think is extremely handsome; but what is best of all, I can see he is a very fond father," she added, bestowing another kiss upon the little rosy cheek.

"I am so glad!" exclaimed the little girl, her eyes sparkling with pleasure. Then she added, in a deprecating tone, "But he doesn't spoil me, Miss Rose; indeed he does not. I always know I must obey, and promptly and cheerfully, too."

"No, dearest, I did not think you had been spoiled; indeed, I doubt if it would be possible to spoil you," Rose answered in a tone of fondness.

"Ah! you don't know me, Miss Rose," said Elsie, shaking her head. "If papa were not very firm and decided with me, I know I should be very wilful sometimes, and he knows it, too; but he is too really kind to indulge me in naughtiness. My dear, dear papa! Miss Rose, I love him so much."

"I am so glad for you, my poor little one," murmured Rose, drawing the little girl closer to her. "It seemed so sad and lonely for you, with neither father nor mother to love you. And you were very ill last summer, darling? and very unhappy before that? Your Aunt Adelaide wrote me all about it, and my heart ached for my poor darling; oh, how I longed to comfort her!"

"Yes, Miss Rose, that was a dreadful time; but papa only did what he thought was right, and you cannot think how kind he was when I was getting better." Elsie's eyes were full of tears.

"I know it, darling, and I pitied him, too, and often prayed for you both," said Rose. "But tell me, dearest, was Jesus near to you in your troubles?"

"Yes, Miss Rose, very near, and very precious; else how could I have borne it at all? for oh, Miss Rose, I thought sometimes my heart would break!"

"It was a bitter trial, dearest, I know; and certain I am that you must have had much more than your own strength to enable you to be so firm," said Rose, tenderly.

"Ah, there is Sophy!" she added quickly, as a mass of flaxen curls, accompanied by a pair of dancing blue eyes, appeared for an instant at the door, and then as suddenly vanished. "Sophy! Sophy, come here!" she called, and again the door opened and the owner of the blue eyes and flaxen ringlets--a little girl about Elsie's age, came in, and moved slowly towards them, looking at the stranger in her sister's lap with a mingled expression of fun, curiosity, and bashfulness.

"Come, Sophy, this is Elsie Dinsmore, whom you have so often wished to see," said Rose. "Elsie, this is my little sister Sophy. I want you to be friends, and learn to love one another dearly. There, Sophy, take her into your room, and show her all your toys and books, while I am changing my dress; that will be the way for you to get acquainted."

Sophy did as she was desired, and, as Rose had foreseen, the first feeling of bashfulness soon wore off, and in a few moments they were talking and laughing together as though they had been acquainted as many months. Sophy had brought out a number of dolls, and they were discussing their several claims to beauty in a very animated way when Rose called to them to come with her.

"I am going to carry you off to the nursery, Elsie, to see the little ones," she said, taking her young visitor's hand; "should you like to see them?"

"Oh, so much!" Elsie exclaimed eagerly; "if Sophy may go, too."

"Oh, yes, Sophy will come along, of course," Miss Rose said, leading the way as she spoke.

Elsie found the nursery, a beautiful, large room, fitted up with every comfort and convenience, and abounding in a variety of toys for the amusement of the children, of whom there were three--the baby crowing in its nurse's arms, little May, a merry, romping child of four, with flaxen curls and blue eyes like Sophy's, and Freddie, a boy of seven.

Harold, who was thirteen, sat by one of the windows busily engaged covering a ball for Fred, who with May stood intently watching the movements of his needle.

Elsie was introduced to them all, one after another.

Harold gave her a cordial shake of the hand, and a pleasant "Welcome to Elmgrove," and the little ones put up their faces to be kissed.

Elsie thought Harold a kind, pleasant-looking boy, not at all like Arthur, Fred and May, dear little things, and the baby perfectly charming, as she afterwards confided to her father.

"May I take the baby, Miss Rose?" she asked coaxingly.

Miss Rose said "Yes," and the nurse put it in her arms for a moment.

"Dear, pretty little thing!" she exclaimed, kissing it softly. "How old is it, Miss Rose? and what is its name?"

"She is nearly a year old, and we call her Daisy."

"I'm sure your arms must be getting tired, miss, for she's quite heavy," remarked the nurse presently, taking the child again.

Miss Rose now said it was time to go down-stairs, and left the room, followed by Elsie, Harold, and Sophy, the last-named putting her arm around Elsie's waist, saying what a delightful time they would have together, and that she hoped she would stay all summer.

They had not quite reached the end of the hall when Elsie saw her father come out of the door of another room, and hastily releasing herself from Sophy's arm, she ran to him, and catching hold of his hand, looked up eagerly into his face, saying, "Oh, papa, do come into the nursery and see the dear little children and the baby! it is so pretty."

He looked inquiringly at Miss Allison.

"If you care to see it, Mr. Dinsmore," she said, smiling, "there is no objection; we are very proud of our baby."

"Then I should like to go," he replied, "both to gratify Elsie and because I am fond of children."

Rose led the way and they all went back to the nursery, where Mr. Dinsmore kissed the little folks all round, patted their heads and talked kindly to them, then took the babe in his arms, praising its beauty, and tossing it up till he made it laugh and crow right merrily.

"I often wish I had seen my baby," he remarked to Rose, as he returned it to the nurse. Then laying his hand on Elsie's head, "Do you know, Miss Allison," he asked, "that I never saw my little girl until she was nearly eight years old?"

"Yes," she replied, "I knew her before you did, and sympathized strongly in her longing for a father's love."

"Ah! we both lost a good deal in those years, and if I could live them over again it should be very different," he said, with a loving glance at his daughter's face; "nothing should keep me from my child. Though no doubt it has all been for the best," he added, with a slight sigh, as he thought of the worldly wisdom he would have taught her.

They all now went down to the parlor, where Mr. Dinsmore and Elsie were introduced to Richard Allison, a wild boy full of fun and frolic, between Rose and Harold in age.

Edward was the eldest of the family, and quite sober and sedate.

Richard took a great fancy to Elsie from the first moment, and very soon had coaxed her out to the lawn, where he presently engaged her in a merry game of romps with Sophy, Harold, and himself, which was finally brought to a conclusion by the arrival of the elder Mr. Allison, almost immediately followed by the call to supper.

Mr. Allison had a pleasant face, and was a younger looking man than might have been expected in the father of such a family. He welcomed his guests with the greatest cordiality, expressing the hope that they intended paying a long visit to Elmgrove, which he said they owed him in return for Rose's lengthened sojourn at Roselands.

Mrs. Allison also made her appearance at the tea-table, saying that she had nearly recovered from her headache; although she still looked pale and languid.

She had a kind, motherly look, and a gentle, winning address that quite took Elsie's fancy; and was evidently pleased at their arrival, and anxious to entertain them in the most hospitable manner.

Mr. Dinsmore and his little girl were the only guests, and all the children, excepting the baby, were allowed to come to the table.

They seemed to be well-bred children, behaved in a quiet, orderly way, and asked politely for what they wanted, but were rather too much indulged, Mr. Dinsmore thought, as he observed that they all ate and drank whatever they fancied, without any remonstrance from their parents.

Elsie was seated between her father and Miss Rose.

"Will your little girl take tea or coffee, Mr. Dinsmore?" asked Mrs. Allison.

"Neither, thank you, madam: she will take a glass of milk if you have it; if not, cold water will do very well,"

"Why, Elsie, I thought I remembered that you were very fond of coffee," Rose remarked, as she filled a tumbler with milk and set it down beside the little girl's plate.

"Elsie is a good child, and eats and drinks just whatever her father thinks best for her, Miss Allison," said Mr. Dinsmore, preventing Elsie's reply. "No, no; not any of those, if you please," for Rose was putting hot, buttered waffles upon Elsie's plate; "I don't allow her to eat hot cakes, especially at night."

"Excuse me, Mr. Dinsmore, but are you not eating them yourself?" asked Rose, with an arch smile.

"Yes, Miss Rose; and so may she when she is my age," he answered in a pleasant tone, accompanied by an affectionate glance and smile bestowed upon his little daughter.

"I think you are quite right, Mr. Dinsmore," remarked Mrs. Allison. "I know we pamper our children's appetites entirely too much, as I have often said to their father; but he does not agree with me, and I have not sufficient firmness to carry out the reform by myself."

"No, I like to see them enjoy themselves, and whatever I have, I want my children to have, too," said Mr. Allison, bluntly.

"It would seem the kindest treatment at first sight, but I don't think it is in the end," replied Mr. Dinsmore. "To buy present enjoyment at the expense of an enfeebled constitution is paying much too dear for it, I think."

"Ah! young people are full of notions," said the elder gentleman, shaking his head wisely, "and are very apt to be much more strict with the first child than with any of the rest. You are bringing this one up by rule, I see; but mark my words: if you live to be the father of as many as I have, you will grow less and less strict with each one, until you will be ready to spoil the youngest completely."

"I hope not, sir; I am very sure I could not possibly love another better than I do this," Mr. Dinsmore said with a smile, and coloring slightly, too; then adroitly changed the subject by a remark addressed to Edward.

Immediately after tea the whole family adjourned to the sitting-room, the servants were called in, and Mr. Allison read a portion of Scripture and prayed; afterwards remarking to Mr. Dinsmore that it was his custom to attend to this duty early in the evening, that the younger children might have the benefit of it without being kept up too late.

Mr. Dinsmore expressed his approval, adding that it was his plan also.

"Papa," whispered Elsie, who was close to him, "I am to sleep with Sophy."

"Ah! that will be very pleasant for you," he said, "but you must be a good girl, and not give any unnecessary trouble."

"I will try, papa. There, Sophy is calling me; may I go to her?"

"Certainly;" and he released her hand, which he had been holding in his.

"I want to show you my garden," said Sophy, whom Elsie found in the hall; and she led the way out through a back door which opened into a garden now gay with spring flowers and early roses.

Sophy pointed out the corner which was her especial property, and exhibited her plants and flowers with a great deal of honest pride.

"I planted every one of them myself," she said. "Harold dug up the ground for me, and I did all the rest, I work an hour every morning pulling up the weeds and watering the flowers."

"Oh? won't you let me help you while I am here?" asked Elsie, eagerly.

"Why, yes, if you like, and your papa won't mind I think it would be real fun. But he's very strict, isn't he, Elsie? I feel quite afraid of him."

"Yes, he is strict, but he is very kind, too."

"Let's go in now," said Sophy; "I've got a beautiful picture-book that I want to show you; and to-morrow's Sunday, you know, so if you don't see it to-night, you'll have to wait till Monday, because it isn't a Sunday book."

"What time is it?" asked Elsie. "I always have to go to bed at half-past eight."

"I don't know," said Sophy, "but we'll look at the clock in the dining-room," and she ran in, closely followed by her little guest.

"Just eight! we've only got half an hour; so come along. But won't your papa let you stay up longer?"

"No," Elsie answered in a very decided tone; and they hurried to the parlor, where they seated themselves in a corner, and were soon eagerly discussing the pictures in Sophy's book.

They had just finished, and Sophy was beginning a very animated description of a child's party she had attended a short time before, when Elsie, who had been anxiously watching her father for the last five minutes, saw him take out his watch and look at her.

"There, Sophy," she said, rising, "I know papa means it is time for me to go to bed."

"Oh, just wait one minute!"

But Elsie was already half way across the room.

"It is your bedtime, daughter," said Mr. Dinsmore, smiling affectionately on her.

"Yes, papa; good-night," and she held up her face for the accustomed kiss.

"Good-night, daughter," he replied, bestowing the caress. Then laying his hand gently on her head, he said softly, "God bless and keep my little one."

Rose, who was seated on the sofa beside him, drew Elsie to her, saying, "I must have a kiss, too, darling."

"Now go, daughter," said Mr. Dinsmore, as Rose released her from her embrace, "go to bed as soon as you can, and don't lie awake talking."

"Mayn't I talk at all, after I go to bed, papa?"

"No, not at all."

Seeing that Elsie was really going, Sophy had put away her book, and was now ready to accompany her. She was quite a talker, and rattled on very fast until she saw Elsie take out her Bible; but then became perfectly quiet until Elsie was through with her devotions, and Chloe had come to prepare her for bed. Then she began chatting again in her lively way, Elsie answering very pleasantly until she was just ready to step into bed, when she said gently, "Sophy, papa said, before I came up, that I must not talk at all after I got into bed, so please don't be vexed if I don't answer you, because you know I must obey my father."

"Pshaw! how provoking. I thought we were going to have such a good time, and I've got ever so much to say to you."

"I'm just as sorry as you are, Sophy, but I can't disobey papa."

"He'd never know it," suggested Sophy in a voice scarcely above a whisper.

Elsie started with astonishment to hear Miss Rose's sister speaking thus.

"Oh, Sophy! you can't mean to advise me to deceive and disobey my father?" she said. "God would know it, and papa would soon know it, too, for I could never look him in the face again until I had confessed it."

Sophy blushed deeply. "I didn't think about its being deceitful. But would your papa punish you for such a little thing?"

"Papa says disobedience is never a little thing, and he always punishes me when I disobey him; but I wouldn't care so much for that, as for knowing that I had grieved him so; because I love my papa very dearly. But I must not talk any more; so good-night;" and she climbed into bed, laid her head on the pillow, and in a very few moments was fast asleep.