Holidays at Roselands by Martha Finley
"I'll do whate'er thou wilt, I'll be silent; But oh! a reined tongue, and a bursting heart, Are hard at once to bear." JOANNA BAILLIE'S BASIL.
Mr. Dinsmore's recovery was not very rapid. It was several weeks after he was pronounced out of danger ere he was able to leave his room; and then he came down looking so altered, so pale, and thin, and weak, that it almost broke his little daughter's heart to look at him.
Very sad and lonely weeks those had been to her, poor child! She was never once permitted to see him, and the whole family treated her with marked coldness and neglect. She had returned to her duties in the school-room--her father having sent her a command to that effect, as soon as he was sufficiently recovered to think of her--and she tried to attend faithfully to her studies, but more than once Miss Day had seen the tears dropping upon her book or slate, and reproved her sharply for not giving her mind to her lessons, and for indulging in what she called her "babyish propensities."
Mr. Dinsmore made his first appearance in the family circle one morning at breakfast, a servant assisting him down stairs and seating him in an easy-chair at the table, just as the others were taking their places.
Warm congratulations were showered upon him from all sides. Enna ran up to him, exclaiming, "I'm so glad to see you down again, brother Horace;" and was rewarded with a smile and a kiss; while poor little Elsie, who had been directed, she knew not why, to take her old seat opposite to his, was unable to utter a word, but stood with one hand on the back of her chair, pale and trembling with emotion, watching him with eyes so blinded by tears that she could scarcely see. But no one seemed to notice her, and her father did not once turn his eyes that way.
She thought of the morning when she had first met him there, her poor little heart hungering so for his love; and it seemed as if she had gone back again to that time; and yet it was worse; for now she had learned to love him with an intensity of affection she had then never known, and having tasted the sweetness of his love, her sense of suffering at its loss was proportionally great; and utterly unable to control her feelings, she silently left the room to seek some place where she might give her bursting heart the relief of tears, with none to observe or reprove her.
Elsie had a rare plant, the gift of a friend, which she had long been tending with great care, and which had blossomed that morning for the first time.
The flower was beautiful and very fragrant, and as the little girl stood gazing upon it with delighted eyes, while awaiting the summons to breakfast, she had said to Chloe, "Oh! how I should like papa to see it! He is so fond of flowers, and has been, so anxious for this one to bloom."
But a deep sigh followed as she thought what a long, long time it was likely to be before her father would again enter her room, or permit her to go into his. He had not, however, forbidden her to speak to him, and the thought struck her that, if he should be able to leave his room before the flower had faded, so that she could see and speak to him, she might pluck it off and present it to him.
She thought of it again, while weeping alone in her room, and a faint hope sprang up in her heart that the little gift might open the way for a reconciliation. But she must wait and watch for an opportunity to see him alone; for she could not, in the present state of affairs, think of addressing him before a third person.
The opportunity came almost sooner than she had dared to hope, for, on passing the library door just after the morning lessons were over, she saw him sitting there alone; and trembling between hope and fear, she hurried at once to her room, plucked the beautiful blossom from its stem, and with it in her hand hastened to the library.
She moved noiselessly across the thickly carpeted floor, and her papa, who was reading, did not seem to be aware of her approach, until she was close at his side. He then raised his head and looked at her with an expression of surprise on his countenance.
"Dear papa," said the little girl, in faltering accents, as she presented the flower, "my plant is bloomed at last; will you accept this first blossom as a token of affection from your little daughter?"
Her pleading eyes were fixed upon his face, and ere she had finished her sentence, she was trembling violently at the dark frown she saw gathering There.
"Elsie," said he, in the cold, stern tone she so much dreaded, "I am sorry you have broken your flower. I cannot divine your motive--affection for me it cannot be; for that such a feeling exists in the breast of a little girl, who not only could refuse her sick father the very small favor of reading to him, but would rather see him die than give up her own self-will, I cannot believe. No, Elsie, take it away; I can receive no gifts nor tokens of affection from a rebellious, disobedient child."
The flower had fallen upon the floor, and Elsie stood in an attitude of utter despair, her head bent down upon her breast, and her hands hanging listlessly at her side. For an instant she stood thus, and then, with a sudden revulsion of feeling, she sank down on her knees beside her father's chair, and seizing his hand in both of hers, pressed it to her heart, and then to her lips, covering it with kisses and tears, while great bursting sobs shook her whole frame.
"Oh, papa! dear, dear papa! I do love you! indeed, indeed I do. Oh, how could you say such cruel words to me?" she sobbed.
"Hush!" he said, withdrawing his hand. "I will have nothing but the truth from you, and 'actions speak louder than words.' Get up immediately, and dry your tears. Miss Day tells me that you are ruining your eyes by continual crying; and if I hear any more such complaints, I shall punish you severely. I will not allow it at all, for you have nothing whatever to make you unhappy but your own misconduct. Just as soon as you are ready to submit to my authority, you will find yourself treated with the same indulgence and affection as formerly; but remember, not till then!"
His words were like daggers to the affectionate, sensitive child. Had he stabbed her to the heart he could not have hurt her more.
"Oh, papa!" she murmured in heart-broken accents, as in obedience to his command she rose to her feet, struggling hard to keep back the tears he had forbidden her to shed.
But her emotion did not seem to move him. Her conduct during his severe illness had been so misrepresented to him, that at times he was wellnigh convinced that her seeming affection was all hypocrisy, and that she really regarded him only in the light of a tyrant, from whose authority she would be glad to escape in any way.
"Pick up your flower and leave the room," he said. "I have no desire for your company until you can learn to obey as you ought."
Silently and mechanically Elsie obeyed him, and hastening to her own room again, threw herself into her nurse's arms, weeping as though she would weep her very life away.
Chloe asked no questions as to the cause of her emotion--which the flower in her hand, and the remembrance of the morning's conversation, sufficiently explained--but tried in every way to soothe and encourage her to hope for future reconciliation.
For some moments her efforts seemed to be quite unavailing; but suddenly Elsie raised her head, and wiping away her tears, said, with a convulsive sob, "Oh! I am doing wrong again, for papa has forbidden me to cry so much, and I must try to obey him. But, oh!" she exclaimed, dropping her head on her nurse's shoulder, with a fresh burst of tears, "how can I help it, when my heart is bursting?"
"Jesus will help you, darlin'," replied Chloe, tenderly. "He always helps his chillens to bear all dere troubles an' do all dere duties, an' never leaves nor forsakes dem. But you must try, darlin', to mind Massa Horace, kase he is your own papa; an' de Bible says, 'Chillen, obey your parents.'"
"Yes, mammy, I know I ought, and I will try," said the little girl, raising her head and wiping her eyes; "but, mammy, you must pray for me, for it will be very, very difficult."
Elsie had never been an eye-servant, but had always conscientiously obeyed her father, whether present or absent, and henceforward she constantly struggled to restrain her feelings, and even in solitude denied her bursting heart the relief of tears; though it was not always she could do this, for she was but young in the school of affliction, and often, in spite of every effort, grief would have its way, and she was ready to sink beneath her heavy weight of sorrow. Elsie had learned from God's holy word, that "affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;" and she soon set herself diligently to work to find out why this bitter trial had been sent her.
Her little Bible had never been suffered to lie a single day unused, nor had morning or evening ever failed to find her in her closet; she had neglected none of the forms of religion, and her devotions had been far from heartless; yet she discovered with pain that she had of late spent less time, and found less of her enjoyment in these duties than formerly; that she had been, too much engrossed by an earthly love, and needed this trial to bring her nearer to her Saviour, and teach her again to seek all her happiness in "looking unto him." And now the hours that she had been wont to pass in her father's society were usually spent in her own room, alone with her Bible and her God, and there she found that sweet peace and joy which the world can neither give nor take away; and thus she gathered strength to bear her troubles and crosses with heavenly meekness and patience; and she had indeed great need of a strength not her own, for every day, and almost every hour brought with it its own peculiar trial.
No one but the servants--who still loved her dearly--treated her with kindness; but coldness and neglect were the least she had to bear. She was constantly reminded, even by Walter and Enna, that she was stubborn and disobedient, and there was so little pleasure in her walks and rides, either when taken alone or in company with them, that she gradually gave them up almost entirely--until one day, her father's attention being called to it, by a remark of Mrs. Dinsmore's, "that it was no wonder the child was growing thin and pale, for she did not take exercise enough to keep her in health," he called her to him, reprimanded her severely, and laid his commands upon her "to take a walk and ride every day, when the weather would at all permit, but never dare to go alone farther than into the garden."
Elsie answered with meek submission, promising obedience; and then turned quickly away to hide the emotion that was swelling in her breast.
The change in her father was the bitterest part of her trial; she had so revelled in his affection, and now it seemed to be all withdrawn from her; and from the fond, indulgent parent, Mr. Dinsmore seemed suddenly to have changed to the cold, pitiless tyrant. He now seldom took any notice of his little daughter, and never addressed her unless it were to utter a rebuke, a threat, a prohibition, or command, in tones of harshness and severity.
Elsie bore it with all the meekness and patience of a martyr, but ere long her health began to suffer; she grew weak and nervous, and would start and tremble, and change color at the very sound of her father's step or voice--those sounds which she had once so loved to hear--and the little face became thin and pale, and an expression of deep and touching sadness settled down upon it.
Love was as necessary to Elsie's health and happiness as sunshine to the flowers, and even as the keen winds and biting frosts of winter wilt and wither the tender blossoms, so did all this coldness and severity, the gentle, sensitive spirit of the little child.
Mr. Travilla had called several times during the early part of Mr. Dinsmore's illness, while Elsie had been his nurse, and she sometimes wondered that she had seen nothing of him during all these sorrowful weeks; but the truth was, Mr. Travilla had been absent from home, and knew nothing of all that had been going on at Roselands. As soon, however, as he returned, and heard how ill his friend had been, he called to express his sympathy, and congratulate him on his recovery.
He found Mr. Dinsmore seated in an easy-chair in the library, still looking weak and ill, and more depressed in spirits than he had ever seen him.
"Ah! Dinsmore, my dear fellow, I hear you have been very ill; and, indeed, I must say you are looking far from well yet," Travilla exclaimed in his cheerful, hearty way, shaking his friend's hand warmly. "I think my little friend, Elsie, has deserted her post almost too soon; but I suppose you have sent her back to her lessons again," he remarked, glancing around as if in search of her.
"I have no need of nursing now," replied Mr. Dinsmore, with a sad sort of smile. "I am able to ride, and even to walk out, and shall, I hope, soon be quite myself again."
He then introduced another topic of conversation, and they chatted for some time.
At length Mr. Travilla drew out his watch.
"I see it is past school-hours," he said; "might I see my little friend? I have brought a little gift for her, and should like to present it in person."
Mr. Dinsmore had become quite animated and cheerful during their previous conversation, but a great change came over his face while Mr. Travilla was making his request, and the expression of his countenance was very cold and stern, as he replied, "I thank you, Travilla, on her behalf; but, if you please, I would much prefer your not giving her anything at present, for, I am sorry to say, Elsie has been very stubborn and rebellious of late, and is quite undeserving of any indulgence."
Mr. Travilla looked exceedingly astonished. "Is it possible!" he exclaimed. "Really, I have had such an exalted opinion of Elsie's goodness, that I could not have credited such a charge from any one but her father."
"No, nor could I," replied Mr. Dinsmore, leaning his head upon his hand with a heavy sigh; "but it is as I tell you, and you see now that I have some cause for the depression of spirits upon which you have been rallying me. Travilla, I love that child as I have never loved another earthly thing except her mother, and it cuts me to the quick to have her rebel as she has been doing for the last five weeks; it is almost more than I can bear in my present weak state. I thought she loved me devotedly, but it seems I was mistaken, for surely obedience is the best test of love, and she refuses me that."
He paused for a moment, apparently quite overcome by his feelings, then went on; "I have been compelled to banish her from my presence, but, alas! I find I cannot tear her from my heart, and I miss her every moment."
Mr. Travilla looked very much concerned. "I am sorry, indeed," he said, "to hear such an account of my little friend; but her love for you I cannot doubt, and we will hope that she will soon return to her duty."
"Thank you, Travilla; I am always sure of your sympathy in any kind of trouble," replied Mr. Dinsmore, trying to speak cheerfully; "but we will leave this disagreeable subject, and talk of something else."
In a few moments Mr. Travilla rose to take leave, declining Mr. Dinsmore's urgent invitation to remain to dinner, but promising to come again before long and stay a day or two. His kind heart was really pained to learn that there was again a misunderstanding between his little friend--as he had been in the habit of calling Elsie--and her father; and as he rode home silently pondering the matter, he determined that he would very soon fulfil his promise of paying a longer visit, for he could not refrain from indulging a faint hope that he might be able to accomplish something as mediator between them.
A few days after this, Elsie was passing down the hall. The doors and windows were all open, for it was a warm spring day, and as she passed the drawing-room door, she paused a moment and looked in. Her father sat reading near one of the windows, and her eyes were riveted upon his face. He was still pale from his recent illness; and his face had a troubled, care-worn look, very different from its usual expression.
Oh! what a longing desire came over the little girl at that sight, to go to him and say that she was sorry for all the past, and that in the future she would be and do everything that he asked. She burst into tears and turned hastily away. She was hurrying out to the garden, but at the door she encountered her aunt Adelaide.
"What is the matter, Elsie?" she asked, putting her hand on the child's shoulder and forcibly detaining her.
"Oh! Aunt Adelaide," sobbed the little girl, "papa looks so ill and sad."
"And no wonder, Elsie," replied her aunt severely; "you are quite enough to make him sad, and ill, too, with your perverse, obstinate ways. You have yourself to thank for it all, for it is just that, and nothing else, that ails him."
She turned away as she spoke, and poor Elsie, wringing her hands in an agony of grief, darted down the garden-walk to her favorite arbor.
Her eyes were so blinded by tears that she did not see that Mr. Travilla was sitting there, until she was close beside him.
She turned then, and would have run away again, but he caught her by the dress, and drawing her gently toward him, said in a mild, soothing tone--
"Don't run away from me, my poor little friend, but tell me the cause of your sorrow, and who knows but I may be able to assist you."
Elsie shook her head mournfully, but allowed him, to set her on his knee, and put his arm around her.
"My poor child! my poor, dear little girl!" he said, wiping away her tears, and kissing her very much as her father had been in the habit of doing.
It reminded her of him and his lost love, and caused a fresh burst of tears and sobs.
"Poor child!" said Mr. Travilla again, "is there nothing I can do for you? Will you not tell me the cause of your grief?"
"Oh, Mr. Travilla!" she sobbed, "papa is very much displeased with me, and he looks so sad and ill, it almost breaks my heart."
"And why is he displeased with you, my dear? If you have done wrong and are sorry for your fault, I am sure you have only to confess it, and ask forgiveness, and all will be right again," he said kindly, drawing her head down upon his breast, and smoothing back the curls from her flushed and tear-stained face.
Elsie made no reply, and he went on--
"When we have done wrong, my dear little girl--as we do all sometimes--it is much more noble to acknowledge it and ask pardon, than to try to hide our faults; and you know, dear little Elsie," he added in a graver tone, "that the Bible teaches us that children must obey their parents."
"Yes, Mr. Travilla," she answered, "I know that the Bible says: 'He that covereth his sins shall not prosper,' and I know it tells me to obey my father; and I do think I am willing to confess my faults, and I do try to obey papa in everything that is right; but sometimes he bids me disobey God; and you know the Bible says: 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'"
"I am afraid, my dear," said Mr. Travilla gently, "that you are perhaps a little too much inclined to judge for yourself about right and wrong. You must remember that you are but a very little girl yet, and that your father is very much older and wiser; and therefore I should say it would be much safer to leave it to him to decide these matters. Besides, if he bids you do thus and so, I think all the responsibility of the wrong--supposing there is any--will rest with him, and he, not you, will have to account for it."
"Oh! no, Mr. Travilla," replied the little girl earnestly, "my Bible teaches me better than that; for it says: 'Every one of us shall give account of himself to God;' and in another place: 'The soul that sinneth it shall die.' So I know that I, and not papa, nor any one else, will have to give account for my sins."
"I see it will never do for me to try to quote Scripture to you," he remarked, looking rather discomfited; "for you know a great deal more about it than I do. But I am very anxious to see you and your father friends again, for I cannot bear to see you both looking so unhappy.
"You have a good father, Elsie, and one that you may well be proud of--for a more high-minded, honorable gentleman cannot be found anywhere; and I am quite sure he would never require you to do anything very wrong. Have you any objection, my dear, to telling me what it is?"
"He bade me read to him, one Sabbath-day, a book which was only fit for week-day reading, because it had nothing at all in it about God, or being good--and I could not do that; and now he says I must say I am sorry I refused to obey him that time, and promise always to do exactly as he bids me in future," replied Elsie, weeping; "and oh! Mr. Travilla, I cannot do that. I cannot say I am sorry I did not disobey God, nor that I will disobey him in future, if papa bids me."
"But if that was a sin, Elsie, it was surely a very little one; I don't think God would be very angry with you for anything so small as that," he said very gravely.
"Mr. Travilla," Elsie replied in a tone of deep solemnity, "it is written, 'Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them;' that is in the Bible; and the catechism says: 'Every sin deserveth the wrath and curse of God!' And oh! Mr. Travilla," she added in a tone of anguish, "if you knew how hard it is for me to keep from giving up, and doing what my conscience says is wrong, you wouldn't try to persuade me to do it."
Mr. Travilla knew not what to say; he was both perplexed and distressed.
But just at that moment a step was heard coming down the path. Elsie recognized it instantly, and began to tremble, and the next moment her father entered the arbor.
Mr. Dinsmore felt a pang of jealousy at seeing his little girl in Travilla's arms, which he would have been ashamed to acknowledge to himself, but it caused his tone to be even more than usually stern and severe as he hastily inquired, "What are you doing here, Elsie--crying again, after all I have said to you? Go to your room this moment, and stay there until you can show a cheerful face!"
Mr. Travilla set her down, and she obeyed without a word, not even daring to look at her father.
There was a moment of embarrassing silence after she had gone.
Then Travilla said, "It seems Elsie stumbled upon me here quite unexpectedly, and I detained her somewhat against her will, I believe, and have been doing my best to persuade her that she ought to be entirely submissive to you."
Mr. Dinsmore looked interested, but replied with a sigh, "I fear you did not succeed; she is sadly obstinate, and I begin to fear I shall have to use great severity before I can conquer her."
Mr. Travilla hesitated a moment, then said, "I am afraid, Dinsmore, that she has the right of it; she quoted Scripture to me till I really had no more to say."
Mr. Dinsmore looked displeased.
"I should think," he said almost haughtily, "that the fifth commandment would be answer enough to any argument she could bring to excuse her disobedience."
"We do not all see alike, Dinsmore," remarked his friend, "and though I do not say that you are wrong, I must acknowledge that were I in your place, I should do differently, because I should fear that the child was acting from principle rather than self-will or obstinacy."
"Give up to her, Travilla? never! It astonishes me that you could suggest such a thing!" exclaimed Mr. Dinsmore with almost fierce determination. "No, I will conquer her! I will break her will, though in doing so I break my own heart."
"And hers, too," murmured Travilla in a low, sad tone, more as if thinking aloud than answering his friend.
Mr. Dinsmore started. "No, no," he said hurriedly, "there is no danger of that; else she would certainly have given up long ago."
Travilla shook his head, but made no reply; and presently Mr. Dinsmore rose and led the way to the house.