Holidays at Roselands by Martha Finley
"Hail, Holy Day! the blessing from above Brightens thy presence like a smile of love, Smoothing, like oil upon a stormy sea, The roughest waves of human destiny-- Cheering the good, and to the poor oppresse'd Bearing the promise of their heavenly rest." MRS. HALE'S PRIME OF LIFE.
When Chloe came in to dress her young charge the next morning, she found her already up and sitting with her Bible in her hand.
"Don't make a noise, mammy," she whispered; "Sophy is still asleep."
Chloe nodded acquiescence, and moving softly about, got through the business of washing and dressing her nursling, and brushing her curls, without disturbing the sleeper. Then they both quietly left the room, and Elsie, with her Bible in her hand, rapped gently at her father's door.
He opened it, and giving her a kiss and a "Good-morning, darling," led her across the room to where he had been sitting by a window looking into the garden. Then taking her on his knee, and stroking her hair fondly, he said with a smile, "My little girl looks very bright this morning, and as if she had had a good night's rest. I think she obeyed me, and did not lie awake talking."
"No, papa, I did not, though I wanted to very much," she answered with a slight blush.
"We did not have our chapter together last night," he said, opening the Bible, "but I hope we will not miss it very often."
Their plan was to read verse about, Elsie asking questions about anything she did not understand, and her father explaining and making remarks, he having read it first in the original, and generally consulted a commentator also. Then Elsie usually had one or two texts to recite, which she had learned while Chloe was dressing her; after that they knelt down and Mr. Dinsmore prayed. They never read more than a few verses, and his prayer was always short, so that there was no room for weariness, and Elsie always enjoyed it very much. They had still a little time to talk together before the breakfast-bell rang, of which Elsie was very glad, for she had a great deal to say to her father.
"It is such a sweet, sweet Sabbath-day, papa," she said, "is it not? and this is such a nice place, almost as pretty as our own dear home; and are they not pleasant people? I think they seem so kind to one another, and to everybody."
"Which must mean you and me, I suppose; there is no one else here," he answered smilingly.
"Oh! the servants, you know, papa, and the people at the hotel: but don't you think they are kind?"
"Yes, dear, they certainly seem to be, and I have no doubt they are."
"And the baby, papa! isn't it pretty, and oh, papa, don't you like Miss Rose?"
"I hardly know her yet, daughter, but I think she is very sweet looking, and seems to be gentle and amiable."
"I am glad you like her, papa; and I knew you would," Elsie said in a tone of great satisfaction.
The church the Allisons attended was within easy walking distance of Elmgrove, and service was held in it twice a day; the whole family, with the exception of the very little children and one servant, who stayed at home to take care of them, went both morning and afternoon, and Mr. Dinsmore and Elsie accompanied them.
The interval between dinner and afternoon service Elsie spent in her father's room, sitting on a stool at his feet quietly reading. When they had returned from church Miss Allison gathered all the little ones in the nursery and showed them pictures, and told them Bible stories, until the tea-bell rang; after which the whole family, including children and servants, were called together into the sitting-room to be catechized by Mr. Allison; that was succeeded by family worship, and then they sang hymns until it was time for the children to go to bed.
As Elsie laid her head on her pillow that night, she said to herself that it had been a very pleasant day, and she could be quite willing to live at Elmgrove, were it not for the thought of her own dear home in the "sunny South."
The next morning her father told her they would be there for several weeks, and that he would expect her to practise an hour every morning--Miss Rose having kindly offered the use of her piano--and every afternoon to read for an hour with him; but all the rest of the day she might have to herself, to spend just as she pleased; only, of course, she must manage to take sufficient exercise, and not get into any mischief.
Elsie was delighted with the arrangement, and ran off at once to tell Sophy the good news.
"Oh! I am ever so glad you are going to stay!" exclaimed Sophy joyfully. "But why need your papa make you say lessons at all? I think he might just as well let you play all the time."
"No," replied Elsie, "papa says I will enjoy my play a great deal better for doing a little work first, and I know it is so. Indeed, I always find papa knows best."
"Oh, Elsie!" Sophy exclaimed, as if struck with a bright thought, "I'll tell you what we can do! let us learn some duets together."
"Yes, that's a good thought," said Elsie; "so we will."
"And perhaps Sophy would like to join us in our reading, too," said Mr. Dinsmore's voice behind them.
Both little girls turned round with an exclamation of surprise, and Elsie, taking hold of his hand, looked up lovingly into his face, saying, "Oh, thank you, papa; that will be so pleasant."
He held out his other hand to Sophy, asking, with a smile, "Will you come, my dear?"
"If you won't ask me any questions," she answered a little bashfully.
"Sophy is afraid of you, papa," whispered Elsie with an arch glance at her friend's blushing face.
"And are not you, too?" he asked, pinching her cheek.
"Not a bit, papa, except when I've been naughty," she said, laying her cheek lovingly against his hand.
He bent down and kissed her with a very gratified look. Then patting Sophy's head, said pleasantly, "You needn't be afraid of the questions, Sophy; I will make Elsie answer them all."
Elsie and her papa stayed for nearly two months at Elmgrove, and her life there agreed so well with the little girl that she became as strong, healthy and rosy as she had ever been. She and Sophy and Harold spent the greater part of almost every day in the open air--working in the garden, racing about the grounds, taking long walks in search of wild flowers, hunting eggs in the barn, or building baby-houses and making tea-parties in the shade of the trees down by the brook.
There was a district school-house not very far from Elmgrove, and in their rambles the children had made acquaintance with two or three of the scholars--nice, quiet little girls--who, after a while, got into the habit of bringing their dinner-baskets to the rendezvous by the brook-side, and spending their noon-recess with Elsie and Sophy; the dinner hour at Mr. Allison's being somewhat later in the day.
Sophy and Elsie were sitting under the trees one warm June morning dressing their dolls. Fred and May were rolling marbles, and Harold lay on the grass with a book in his hand.
"There come Hetty Allen and Maggie Wilson," said Sophy, raising her head. "See how earnestly they are talking together! I wonder what it is all about. What's the matter, girls?" she asked, as they drew near.
"Oh, nothing's the matter," replied Hetty, "but we are getting up a party to go strawberrying. We've heard of a field only two miles from here--or at least not much over two miles from the school-house--where the berries are very thick. We are going to-morrow, because it's Saturday, and there's no school, and we've come to ask if you and Elsie and Harold won't go along."
"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Sophy, clapping her hands; "it will be such fun, and I'm sure mamma will let us go."
"Oh, that's a first-rate idea!" cried Harold, throwing aside his book; "to be sure we must all go."
"Will you go, Elsie?" asked Maggie; adding, "we want you so very much."
"Oh, yes, if papa will let me, and I think he will, for he allows me to run about here all day, which I should think was pretty much the same thing, only there will be more fun and frolic with so many of us together, and the berries to pick, too; oh, I should like to go very much indeed!"
Hetty and Maggie had seated themselves on the grass, and now the whole plan was eagerly discussed. The children were all to meet at the school-house at nine o'clock, and proceed in a body to the field, taking their dinners along so as to be able to stay all day if they chose.
The more the plan was discussed, the more attractive it seemed to our little friends, and the stronger grew their desire to be permitted to go.
"I wish I knew for certain that mamma would say yes," said Sophy. "Suppose we go up to the house now and ask."
"No," objected Harold, "mamma will be busy now, and less likely to say yes, than after dinner. So we had better wait."
"Well, then, you all ask leave when you go up to dinner, and we will call here on our way home from school to know whether you are going or not," said Hetty, as she and Maggie rose to go.
Harold and Sophy agreed, but Elsie said that she could not know then, because her father had gone to the city and would not be back until near tea-time.
"Oh, well, never mind! he'll be sure to say yes if mamma does," said Harold, hopefully. And then, as Hetty and Maggie walked away, he began consulting with Sophy on the best plan for approaching their mother on the subject. They resolved to wait until after dinner, and then, when she had settled down to her sewing, to present their request.
Mrs. Allison raised several objections; the weather was very warm, the road would be very dusty, and she was sure they would get overheated and fatigued, and heartily wish themselves at home long before the day was over.
"Well, then, mamma, we can come home; there is nothing to prevent us," said Harold.
"Oh, mamma, do let us go just this once," urged Sophy; "and if we find it as disagreeable as you think, you know we won't ask again."
And so at last Mrs. Allison gave a rather reluctant consent, but only on condition that Mr. Dinsmore would allow Elsie to go, as she said it would be very rude indeed for them to go and leave their little guest at home alone.
This conversation had taken place in Mrs. Allison's dressing-room, and Elsie was waiting in the hall to learn the result of their application.
"Mamma says we may go if your papa says yes," cried Sophy, rushing out and throwing her arms round Elsie's neck. "Oh, aren't you glad? Now, Elsie, coax him hard and make him let you go."
"I wouldn't dare to do it; I should only get punished if I did, for papa never allows me to coax or tease, nor even to ask him a second time," Elsie said, with a little shake of her head.
"Oh, nonsense!" exclaimed Sophy, "I often get what I want by teasing. I guess you never tried it."
"My papa is not at all like your father and mother," replied Elsie, "and it would be worse than useless to coax after he has once said no."
"Then coax him before he has a chance to say it," suggested Sophy, laughing.
"Perhaps that might do if I can manage it," said Elsie, thoughtfully. "I wish he would come!" she added, walking to the window and looking out.
"He won't be here for an hour or two, at any rate, if he dined in the city," said Sophy. "Oh, how warm it is! let's go to our room, Elsie, and take off our dresses and have a nap. It will help to pass away the time until your papa comes."
Elsie agreed to the proposal, and before long they were both sound asleep, having tired themselves out with romping and running.
When Elsie awoke she found Chloe standing over her. "You's had a berry good nap, darlin', an' you's berry warm," she whispered, as she wiped the perspiration from the little girl's face. "Let your ole mammy take you up an' give you a bath an' dress you up nice an' clean, 'fore Miss Sophy gits her blue eyes open."
"Oh, yes, that will make me feel so much better," agreed the little girl, "and you must make me look very nice, mammy, to please papa. Has he come yet?"
"Yes, darlin'; master's been home dis hour, an' I 'specs he's in de parlor dis minute talkin' 'long of Miss Rose an' de rest."
"Then hurry, mammy, and dress me quickly, because I want to ask papa something," Elsie said in an eager whisper, as she stepped hastily off the bed.
Chloe did her best, and in half an hour Elsie, looking as sweet and fresh as a new-blown rose in her clean white frock and nicely brushed curls, entered the parlor where her father, Mrs. Allison, Miss Rose, and her elder brother were seated.
Mr. Dinsmore was talking with Edward Allison, but he turned his head as Elsie came in, and held out his hand to her with a proud, fond smile.
She sprang to his side, and, still going on with his conversation, he passed his arm around her waist and kissed her cheek, while she leaned against his knee, and with her eyes feed lovingly upon his face waited patiently for an opportunity to prefer her request.
Miss Rose was watching them, as she often did, with a look of intense satisfaction, for it rejoiced her heart to see how her little friend revelled in her father's affection.
The gentlemen were discussing some scientific question with great earnestness, and Elsie began to feel a little impatient as they talked on and on without seeming to come any nearer to a conclusion: but at last Edward rose and left the room in search of a book which he thought would throw some light on the subject; and then her father turned to her and asked, "How has my little girl enjoyed herself to-day?"
"Very much, thank you, papa; but I have something to ask you, and I want you to say yes. Please, papa, do! won't you?" she pleaded eagerly, but in a low tone only meant for his ears.
"You know I love to gratify you, daughter," he said kindly, "but I cannot possibly say yes until I know what you want."
"Well, papa," she replied, speaking very fast, as if she feared he would interrupt her, "a good many little girls and boys are going after strawberries to-morrow: they are to start from the school-house, at nine o'clock in the morning, and walk two miles to a field where the berries are very thick; and they've asked us to go--I mean Harold and Sophy and me--and we all want to go so much; we think it will be such fun, and Mrs. Allison says we may if you will only say yes. Oh, papa, do please let me go, won't you?"
Her tone was very coaxing, and her eyes pleaded as earnestly as her tongue.
He seemed to be considering for a moment, and she watched his face eagerly, trying to read in it what his answer would be.
At length it came, gently, but firmly spoken, "No, daughter, you cannot go. I do not at all approve of the plan."
Elsie did not utter another word, of remonstrance or entreaty, for she knew it would be useless; but the disappointment was very great, and two or three tears rolled quickly down her cheeks.
Her father looked at her a moment in some surprise, and then said, speaking in a low tone, and very gravely, "This will never do, my daughter. Go up to my room and stay there until you can be quite cheerful and pleasant; then you may come down again."
Elsie hurried out of the room, the tears coming thick and fast now, and almost ran against Edward in the hall.
"Why, what is the matter, my dear?" he asked in a tone of surprise and alarm, laying his hand on her shoulder to detain her.
"Please don't ask me, Mr. Edward. Please let me go," she sobbed, breaking away from him and rushing up the stairs.
He stood for an instant looking after her, then turning to go back to the parlor, encountered Rose, who was just coming out.
"What ails her?" he asked.
"I don't know. Something that passed between her and her father. I rather suspect he sent her upstairs as a punishment."
"Pshaw! I've no patience with him. The dear little thing! I don't believe she deserved it."
Rose made no reply, but glided up-stairs, and he returned to the parlor to finish the discussion with Mr. Dinsmore.
In the meantime Elsie had shut herself into her father's room, where she indulged for a few moments in a hearty cry, which seemed to do her a great deal of good. But presently she wiped away her tears, bathed her eyes, and sat down by the window.
"What a silly little girl I am," she said to herself, "to be crying just because I can't have my own way, when I know it will not alter papa's determination in the least; and when I know, too, that I have always found his way the best in the end! Oh, dear, I have quite disgraced myself before Miss Rose and her mother, and the rest, and vexed papa, too! I wish I could be good and then I might be down-stairs with the others, instead of alone up here. Well, papa said I might come down again as soon as I could be pleasant and cheerful, and I think I can now, and there is the tea-bell."
She ran down just in time to take her place with the others. She raised her eyes to her father's face as he drew her chair up closer to the table. The look seemed to ask forgiveness and reconciliation, and the answering smile told that it was granted; and the little heart bounded lightly once more, and the sweet little face was wreathed in smiles.
Sophy and Harold were watching her from the other side of the table, and their hopes rose high, for they very naturally concluded from her beaming countenance that she had carried her point, and they would all be allowed to go to the strawberry party next day.
Their disappointment was proportionally great, when, after supper, Elsie told them what her father's answer had really been.
"How provoking!" they both exclaimed; "why, you looked so pleased we were sure he had said yes; and we had quite set our hearts on it."
"What is the matter?" asked Richard, who had just come up to them.
"Ah! so that was what you were crying about this afternoon, eh?" he said, pinching Elsie's cheek.
"Did you really, Elsie?" asked Sophy, in surprise.
Elsie blushed deeply, and Richard said, "Oh, never mind; I dare say we've all cried about more trifling things than that in our day. Let's have a good game of romps out here on the lawn. Come, what shall it be, Elsie?"
"I don't care," she replied, struggling to keep down an inclination to cry again.
"Puss wants a corner," suggested Harold; "trees for corners."
"Here goes, then!" cried Richard. "Sophy, you stand here; Elsie, you take that tree yonder. Here, Fred and May, you can play, too. One here and another there: and now I'll be the puss."
So the game commenced, and very soon every disappointment seemed to be forgotten, and they were all in the wildest spirits.
But after a while, as one romping game succeeded another, Elsie began to grow weary, and seeing that her father was sitting alone upon the piazza, she stole softly to his side, and putting her arm round his neck, laid her cheek to his.
He passed his arm around her waist and drew her to his knee.
"Which was my little daughter doubting this afternoon," he asked gently, as he laid her head against his breast; "papa's wisdom or his love?"
"I don't know, papa; please don't ask me. I'm very sorry and ashamed," she said, hanging her head and blushing deeply.
"I should be very happy," he said, "if my little girl could learn to trust me so entirely that she would always be satisfied with my decisions--always believe that my reasons for refusing to gratify her are good and sufficient, even without having them explained."
"I do believe it, papa, and I am quite satisfied now," she murmured. "I don't want to go at all. Please forgive me, dear papa."
"I will, daughter; and now listen to me. I know that you are not very strong, and I think that a walk of two miles or more in this hot June sun, to say nothing of stooping for hours afterwards picking berries, exposed to its rays, would be more than you could bear without injury; and if you want strawberries to eat, you may buy just as many as you please, and indeed you can get much finer ones in that way than you could find in any field. You need not tell me it is the fun you want, and not the berries," he said, as she seemed about to interrupt him, "I understand that perfectly; but I know it would not be enough to pay you for the trouble and fatigue.
"And now to show you that your father does not take pleasure in thwarting you, but really loves to see you happy, I will tell you what we have been planning. Miss Rose and her brothers tell me there is a very pretty place a few miles from here where strawberries and cream can be had; and we are going to make up a family party to-morrow, if the weather is favorable, and set out quite early in the morning in carriages. Mrs. Allison will provide a collation for us to carry along--to which we will add the berries and cream after we get there--and we will take books to read, and the ladies will have their work, and the little girls their dolls, and we will spend the day in the woods. Will not that be quite as pleasant as going with the school-children?"
The little arm had been stealing round his neck again while he was telling her all this, and now hugging him tighter and tighter, she whispered: "Dear papa, you are very kind to me, and it makes me feel so ashamed of my naughtiness. I always find in the end that your way is best, and then I think I will never want my own way again, but the very next time it is just the same thing over. Oh, papa, you will not get out of patience with me, and quit loving me, and doing what is best for me, because I am foolish enough to wish for what is not?"
"No, darling, never. I shall always do what seems to me to be for your good, even in spite of yourself. I who have so often been guilty of murmuring against the will of my heavenly Father, who, I well know, is infinite in wisdom and goodness, ought to be very patient with your distrust of a fallible, short-sighted earthly parent. But come, darling, we will go up-stairs; we have just time for a few moments together before you go to bed."
On going to their bedroom after leaving her father, Elsie found Sophie already there, impatiently waiting to tell her of the plan for the morrow, which she had just learned from Richard.
She was a little disappointed to find that it was no news to Elsie, but soon got over that, and was full of lively talk about the pleasure they would have.
"It will be so much pleasanter," she said, "than going berrying with those school-children, for I dare say we would have found it hot and tiresome walking all that distance in the sun; so I'm right glad now that your father said no, instead of yes. Aren't you, Elsie?"
"Yes," Elsie said with a sigh.
Sophy was down on the floor, pulling off her shoes and stockings. "Why, what's the matter?" she asked, stopping with her shoe in her hand to look up into Elsie's face, which struck her as unusually grave.
"Nothing, only I'm so ashamed of crying when papa said I shouldn't go," Elsie answered, with a blush. "Dear papa! I always find he knows best, and yet I'm so often naughty about giving up."
"Never mind, it wasn't much. I wouldn't care about it," said Sophy, tossing away her shoe, and proceeding to pull off the stocking.
Chloe whispered in Elsie's ear, "Massa not vexed wid you, darlin'?"
Elsie smiled and shook her head. "No, mammy, not now."
The little girls were awake unusually early the next morning, and the first thing they did was to run to the window to ascertain the state of the weather. It was all they could desire; a little cooler than the day before, but without the slightest appearance of rain; so the young faces that surrounded the breakfast table were very bright and happy.
The carriages were at the door very soon after they left the table. It did not take many minutes to pack them, and then they set off all in high glee; more especially the little ones.
Everything passed off well; there was no accident, all were in good humor, the children on their best behavior, and they found the strawberries and cream very fine; so that when the day was over, it was unanimously voted a decided success.
A few days after this the children were again in their favorite spot down by the brook. They were sitting on the grass talking, for it was almost too warm to play.
"How nice and cool the water looks!" remarked Sophy, "Let's pull off our shoes and stockings, and hold up our dresses and wade about in it. It isn't at all deep, and I know it would feel so good and cool to our feet."
"Bravo! that's a capital idea!" cried Harold, beginning at once to divest himself of his shoos and stockings; then rolling his pantaloons up to his knees he stepped in, followed by Sophy, who had made her preparations with equal dispatch.
"Come, Elsie, aren't you going to get in, too?" she asked, for Elsie still sat on the bank making no movement towards following their example.
"I should like to, very much; but I don't know whether papa would approve of it."
"Why, what objection could he have? it can't do us any harm, for I'm sure we couldn't drown if we tried," said Harold. "Come now, Elsie, don't be so silly. I wouldn't ask you to do anything your papa had forbidden, but he never said you shouldn't wade in the brook, did he?"
"No, he never said anything about it," she answered, smiling, "for I never thought of doing such a thing before."
"Come, Elsie, do," urged Sophy; "it is such fun;" and at length Elsie yielded, and was soon enjoying the sport as keenly as the others.
But after a while they grew tired of wading, and began to amuse themselves by sailing bits of bark and leaves on the water. Then Harold proposed building a dam; and altogether they enjoyed themselves so thoroughly, that they quite forgot how time was passing until the lengthening shadows warned them that it was long past their usual hour for returning home.
"Oh, we must make haste home," exclaimed Harold suddenly; "it can't be very far from tea-time, and mamma won't like it if we are late."
They hurried out of the water, dried their feet as well as they could, put on their shoes and stockings, and started on a run for the house.
But they had not gone more than half-way when Elsie cried out that she had lost her rings.
"Those beautiful rings! Oh, dear! where did you lose them?" asked Sophy.
"I don't know at all; I just missed them this minute, and I am afraid they are in the brook;" and Elsie turned and ran back as fast as she could; followed by the others.
"We'll all hunt," said Harold, kindly, "and I guess we'll find them; so don't cry, Elsie;" for the little girl was looking much distressed.
"O Elsie, I'm afraid your papa will be very angry; and perhaps whip you very hard," exclaimed Sophy; "they were such pretty rings."
"No, he won't whip me; he never did in his life," replied Elsie quickly, "and he has often told me he would never punish me for an accident, even though it should cost the loss of something very valuable. But I am very sorry to lose my rings, because, besides being pretty, and worth a good deal of money, they were presents, one from papa, and the other from Mr. Travilla."
"But, Elsie, I thought your papa was awfully strict, and punished you for every little thing,"
"No; for disobedience, but not for accidents."
They searched for some time, looking all about the part of the stream where they had been playing, and all over the bank, but without finding the rings; and at last Elsie gave it up, saying it would not do to stay any longer, and they could look again to-morrow.
"O Elsie!" cried Sophy, as they were starting again for home, "you must have got your dress in the water, and then on the ground, for it is all muddy."
"Oh, dear!" sighed Elsie, examining it, "how very dirty and slovenly I must look; and that will vex papa, for he can't bear to see me untidy. Can't we get in the back way, Sophy? so that I can get a clean dress on before he sees me? I don't mean to deceive him. I will tell him all about it afterwards, but I know he wouldn't like to see me looking so."
"Yes, to be sure," Sophy said in reply; "we can go in at the side door, and run up the back stairs."
"And we may be in time for tea yet, if papa is as late getting home as he is sometimes," remarked Harold; "so let us run."
Mr. Allison was late that evening, as Harold had hoped, and tea was still waiting for him, as they learned from a servant whom they met in passing through the grounds: but when they reached the porch upon which the side door opened, they found, much to their surprise and chagrin, that the ladies were seated there with their work, and Mr. Dinsmore was reading to them.
He looked up from his book as they approached, and catching sight of his little girl's soiled dress, "Why, Elsie," he exclaimed, in a mortified tone, "can that be you? such a figure as you are! Where have you been, child, to get yourself in such a plight?"
"I was playing in the brook, papa," she answered in a low voice, and casting down her eyes, while the color mounted to her hair.
"Playing in the brook! that is a new business for you, I think. Well, run up to Aunt Chloe, and tell her I want you made decent with all possible haste or you will be too late for tea. But stay," he added as she was turning to go, "you have been crying; what is the matter?"
"I have lost my rings, papa," she said, bursting into tears.
"Ah! I am sorry, more particularly because it distresses you, though. But where did you lose them, daughter?"
"I don't know, papa, but I am afraid it was in the brook."
"Ah, yes! that comes of playing in the water. I think you had better keep out of it in the future: but run up and get dressed, and don't cry any more; it is not worth while to waste tears over them."
Elsie hurried upstairs, delivered her father's message, and Chloe immediately set to work, and exerting herself to the utmost, soon had her nursling looking as neat as usual.
Rose had followed the little girls upstairs, and was helping Sophy to dress.
"Dere now, darlin'; now I tink you'll do," said Chloe, giving the glossy hair a final smooth. "But what's de matter? what my chile been cryin' 'bout?"
"Because, mammy, I lost my rings in the brook, and I'm afraid I will never find them again."
"No such ting, honey! here dey is safe an' sound," and Chloe opened a little jewel-box that stood on the toilet-table, and picking up the rings, slipped them upon the finger of the astonished and delighted child; explaining as she did so, that she had found them on the bureau where Elsie must have laid them before going out, having probably taken them off to wash her hands after eating her dinner.
Elsie tripped joyfully downstairs. "See, papa! see!" she cried holding up her hand before him, "they were not lost, after all. Oh, I am so glad! aren't you, papa?"
"Yes, my dear, and now I hope you will be more careful in future."
"I will try, papa; but must I never play in the brook any more? I like it so much."
"No, I don't like to forbid it entirely, because I remember how much I used to enjoy such things myself at your age. But you must not stay in too long, and must be careful not to go in when you are heated with running, and always remember to dip your hands in first. And another thing, you must not stay out so late again, or you may give trouble. You must always be ready at the usual hour, or I shall have to say you must sup on bread and water."
"Oh! I think that would be rather too hard, Mr. Dinsmore," interposed Mrs. Allison, "and I hope you will not compel me to be so inhospitable."
"I hope there is not much danger that I shall ever have to put my threat into execution, Mrs. Allison, for it is not often that Elsie is twice guilty of the same fault; one talking generally does her," he answered with an affectionate glance at his little daughter.
"Then I call her a very good child," remarked the lady emphatically; "it is no unusual thing for mine to require telling half a dozen times. But walk in to tea," she added, folding up her work. "Ah! Sophy, I am glad to see you looking neat again. I think you were in no better plight than Elsie when you came in."
For some time after this, the young people were very careful to come in from their play in good season; but one afternoon they had taken a longer walk than usual, going farther down their little brook, and establishing themselves in a new spot where they imagined the grass was greener, and the shade deeper. The day was cloudy, and they could not judge of the time so well as when they could see the sun, and so it happened that they stayed much later than they should have done.
Elsie was feeling a little anxious, and had once or twice proposed going home, but was always overruled by Harold and Sophy, who insisted that it was not at all late. But at length Elsie rose with an air of determination, saying she was sure it must be getting late, and if they would not go with her, she must go alone.
"Well, then, we will go, and I guess it's about time," said Harold; "so come along, Soph, or we'll, leave you behind."
Elsie hurried along with nervous haste, and the others had to exert themselves to keep up with her, but just as they reached the door the tea-bell rang.
The children exchanged glances of fright and mortification.
"What shall we do?" whispered Elsie.
"Dear! if we were only dressed!" said Sophy. "Let's go in just as we are; maybe no one will notice."
"No," replied Elsie, shaking her head, "that would never do for me; papa would see it in a moment and send me away from the table. It would be worse than waiting to dress."
"Then we will all go upstairs and make ourselves decent, and afterwards take the scolding as well as we can," said Harold, leading the way.
Chloe was in Sophy's room, waiting to attend to her child. She did not fret the little girl with lamentations over her tardiness, but set about adjusting her hair and dress as quickly as possible.
Elsie looked troubled and anxious.
"Papa will be very much vexed, and ashamed of me, too, I am afraid," she said with tears in her eyes. "And, Sophy, what will your mamma say? Oh! how I wish I had come in sooner!"
"Never mind," replied Sophy; "mamma won't be very angry, and we'll tell her the sun wouldn't shine, and so how were we to know the time."
Elsie was ready first, but waited a moment for Sophy, and they went down together. Her first sensation on entering the room and seeing that her father's chair was empty, was certainly one of relief. When her eye sought Mrs. Allison's face, it was quite as pleasant as usual.
"You are rather late, little girls," she said in a cheerful tone, "but as you are usually so punctual, we will have to excuse you this once. Come, take your places."
"It was cloudy, you know, mamma, and we couldn't see the sun," said Harold, who was already at the table.
"Very well, Harold, you must try to guess better next time. Rose, help Elsie to some of that omelet and a bit of the cold tongue."
"No, thank you, ma'am; papa does not allow me to eat meat at night," said the little girl resolutely, turning her eyes away from the tempting dish.
"Ah! I forgot, but you can eat the omelet, dear," Mrs. Allison said; "and help her to the honey, and a piece of that cheese, Rose, and put some butter on her plate."
It cost Elsie quite a struggle, for she was as fond of good things as other children, but she said firmly, "No, thank you, ma'am, I should like the omelet, and the honey and the cheese too, very much, but as I was late to-night, I can only have dry bread, because you know my papa said so."
Harold spoke up earnestly. "But, mamma, it wasn't her fault; she wanted to come home in time, and Sophy and I wouldn't."
"No, mamma, it wasn't her fault at all," said Sophy, eagerly, "and so she needn't have just bread, need she?"
"No, Elsie dear, I think not. Do, dear child, let me help you to something; here's a saucer of berries and cream; won't you take it? I feel quite sure your papa would not insist upon the bread and water if he were here, and I am sorry he and Edward happen to be away to tea."
"As it was not your fault, Elsie dear, I think you might venture," said Rose, kindly. "I wouldn't want you to disobey your papa, but under the circumstances, I don't think that it would be disobedience."
"You are very kind, Miss Rose, but you don't know papa as well as I do," Elsie replied, a little sadly. "He told me I must always be in in time to be ready for tea, and he says nothing excuses disobedience; and you know I could have come in without the others; so I feel quite sure I should get nothing but bread for my supper if he were here."
"Well, dear, I am very sorry, but if you think it is really your duty to sup on dry bread, we will all honor you for doing it," Mrs. Allison said.
And then the matter dropped, and Elsie quietly ate her slice of bread and drank a little cold water, then went out to play on the lawn with the others.
"Did you ever see such a perfectly conscientious child?" said Mrs. Allison to Rose. "Dear little thing! I could hardly stand it to see her eating that dry bread, when the rest were enjoying all the luxuries of the table."
"No, mamma, it fairly made my heart ache. I shall tell her father all about it when he comes in. Don't you think, mamma, he is rather too strict and particular with her?"
"I don't know, Rose, dear; I'm afraid she is much better trained than mine; and he certainly is very fond of her, and quite indulgent in some respects."
"Fond of her! yes, indeed he is, and she loves him with her whole heart. Ah! mamma, you don't know how glad it makes me to see it. The poor little thing seemed to be literally famishing for love when I first knew her."
When Elsie had done anything which she knew would displease her father, she never could rest satisfied until she had confessed it and been forgiven. Through all her play that evening she was conscious of a burden on her heart; and every now and then her eyes were turned wistfully in the direction from which she expected him to come. But the clock struck eight, and there were no signs of his approach, and soon it was half-past, and she found she must go to bed without seeing him. She sighed several times while Chloe was undressing her, and just as she was about leaving her, said, "If papa comes home before I go to sleep, mammy, please ask him to let me come to him for one minute."
"I will, darlin'; but don't you try for to stay awake; kase maybe massa ain't gwine be home till berry late, an' den he might be vexed wid you."
It was nearly ten o'clock when Mr. Dinsmore returned, and he was talking on the piazza with Mr. and Miss Allison for nearly half an hour afterwards; but Chloe was patiently waiting for him, and meeting him in the hall on the way to his room, presented Elsie's request.
"Yes," he said, "see if she is awake, but don't disturb her if she is not."
Chloe softly opened the door, and the little girl started up, asking in an eager whisper, "Did he say I might come, mammy?"
"Yes, darlin'," said Chloe, lifting her in her arms and setting her down on the floor. And then the little fairy-like figure in its white night-dress stole softly out into the hall, and ran with swift, noiseless steps across it, and into the open door of Mr. Dinsmore's room.
He caught her in his arms and kissed her several times with passionate fondness. Then sitting down with her on his knee, he asked tenderly, "What does my darling want with papa to-night?"
"I wanted to tell you that I was very naughty this afternoon, and didn't get home until just as the tea-bell rang."
"And you were very glad to find that papa was not here to make you sup upon bread and water, eh?"
"No, papa, I didn't eat anything else," she said in a hurt tone; "I wouldn't take such a mean advantage of your absence."
"No, dearest, I know you would not. I know my little girl is the soul of honor," he said, soothingly, pressing another kiss on her cheek; "and besides, I have just heard the whole story from Miss Rose and her mother."
"And you wouldn't have let me have anything but bread, papa, would you?" she asked, raising her head to look up in his face.
"No, dear, nothing else, for you know I must keep my word, however trying it may be to my feelings."
"Yes, papa; and I am so glad you do, because then I always know just what to expect. You are not angry with me now, papa?"
"No, darling, not in the very least; you are entirely forgiven. And now I want you to go back to your bed, and try to get a good night's sleep, and be ready to come to me in the morning. So good-night, my pet, my precious one. God bless and keep my darling. May He ever cause His face to shine upon you, and give you peace."
He held her to his heart a moment, then let her go: and she glided back to her room, and laid her head on her pillow to sleep sweetly, and dream happy dreams of her father's love and tenderness.
She was with him again the next morning, an hour before it was time for the breakfast-bell to ring, sitting on his knee beside the open window, chatting and laughing as gleefully as the birds were singing on the trees outside.
"What do you think of this?" he asked, laying an open jewel-case in her lap.
She looked down, and there, contrasting so prettily with the dark blue velvet lining, lay a beautiful gold chain and a tiny gold watch set with pearls all around its edge.
"Oh, papa!" she cried, "is it for me?"
"Yes, my pet. Do you like it?"
"Indeed I do, papa! it is just as lovely as it can be!" she said, taking it up and turning it about in her hands. "It looks like mamma's, only brighter, and newer; and this is a different kind of chain from hers."
"Yes, that is entirely new; but the watch is the one she wore. It is an excellent one, and I have had it put in order for her daughter to wear. I think you are old enough to need it now, and to take proper care of it."
"I shall try to, indeed. Dear, darling mamma! I would rather have her watch than any other," she murmured, a shade of tender sadness coming over her face for a moment. Then, looking up brightly, "Thank you, papa," she said, giving him a hug and a kiss; "it was so kind in you to do it. Was that what you went to the city for yesterday?"
"It was my principal errand there."
"And now how sorry and ashamed I should be if I had taken advantage of your absence to eat all sorts of good things."
"I think we are never sorry for doing our duty," her father said, softly stroking her hair, "and I think, too, that my little girl quite deserves the watch."
"And I'm so glad to have it!" she cried, holding it up, and gazing at it with a face full of delight. "I must run and show it to Sophy!"
She was getting down from his knee; but he drew her back. "Wait a little, daughter; I have something to tell you."
"We have paid our friends a very long visit, and I think it is time for us to go, if we would not have them grow weary of us: so I have decided to leave Elmgrove to-morrow."
"Have you, papa? I like to travel, but I shall be so sorry to leave Sophy, and Miss Rose, and all the rest; they are so kind, and I have had such a pleasant time with them."
"I have told you the bad news first," he said, smiling; "now I have some good. We are going to take a trip through New England and the State of New York; and Miss Rose and Mr. Edward have promised to accompany us: so you see you will not have to part with them just yet."
Elsie clapped her hands at this piece of good news.
"O papa, how pleasant it will be! Dear, dear Miss Rose; I am so glad she is going."
"And Mr. Edward?"
"Yes, papa, I like him too, but I love Miss Rose the best of all. Don't you, papa?"
Her father only smiled, and said "Miss Rose was very lovely, certainly."
The breakfast-bell rang, and she ran down, eager to show her watch. It was much admired by all; but there was great lamentation, especially amongst the younger members of the family, when it was announced that their guests were to leave them so soon.
"Why couldn't Elsie stay always?" they asked. "Why couldn't she live with them? they would only be too glad to have her."
Mr. Dinsmore laughed, and told them he could not possibly spare Elsie, for she was his only child, and he had no one else to share his home.
"But you may stay too, Mr. Dinsmore," said Sophy; "there's plenty of room, and mamma and Rose like to have you read to them."
Rose blushed, and shook her head at Sophy, and Mr. Dinsmore replied that it would be very pleasant to live at Elmgrove, but that Elsie and he had a home of their own to which they must soon return, and where she would be very glad to receive a visit from any or all of them.