Holidays at Roselands by Martha Finley
"The storm of grief bears hard upon her youth, And bends her, like a drooping flower, to earth." ROWE'S FAIR PENITENT.
"You are not looking quite well yet, Mr. Dinsmore," remarked a lady visitor, who called one day to see the family; "and your little daughter, I think, looks as if she, too, had been ill; she is very thin, and seems to have entirely lost her bright color."
Elsie had just left the room a moment before the remark was made.
Mr. Dinsmore started slightly.
"I believe she is a little pale," he replied in a tone of annoyance; "but as she makes no complaint, I do not think there can be anything seriously amiss."
"Perhaps not," said the lady indifferently; "but if she were my child I should be afraid she was going into a decline."
"Really, Mrs. Grey, I don't know what should put such a notion into your head!" exclaimed Mrs. Dinsmore, "for I assure you Elsie has always been a perfectly healthy child since I have known her."
"Ah! well; it was but the thought of a moment," replied Mrs. Grey, rising to take leave, "and I am glad to hear there is no ground for fear, for Elsie is certainly a very sweet little girl."
Mr. Dinsmore handed Mrs. Grey to her carriage, and re-entering the house went into the little back parlor where Elsie, the only other occupant of the room, sat reading, in the corner of the sofa.
He did not speak to her, but began pacing back and forth across the floor. Mrs. Grey's words had alarmed him; he could not forget them, and whenever in his walk his face was turned towards his child, he bent his eyes upon her with a keen, searching gaze; and he was surprised that he had not before noticed how thin, and pale, and careworn that little face had grown.
"Elsie," he said suddenly, pausing in his walk.
The child started and colored, as she raised her eyes from the book to his face, asking, in a half tremulous tone, "What, papa?"
"Put down your book and come to me," he replied, seating himself.
His tone lacked its usual harshness, yet the little girl came to him trembling so that she could scarcely stand.
It displeased him.
"Elsie," he said, as he took her hand and drew her in between his knees, "why do you always start and change color when I speak to you? and why are you trembling now as if you were venturing into the lion's jaws?--are you afraid of me?--speak!"
"Yes, papa," she replied, the tears rolling down her cheeks, "you always speak so sternly to me now, that I cannot help feeling frightened."
"Well, I didn't intend to be stern this time," he said more gently than he had spoken to her for a long while; "but tell me, my daughter, are you quite well?--you are growing very pale and thin, and I want to know if anything ails you."
"Nothing, papa, but--" the rest of her sentence was lost in a burst of tears.
"But what?" he asked almost kindly.
"Oh, papa! you know! I want your love. How can I live without it?"
"You need not, Elsie," he answered very gravely, "you have only to bow that stubborn will of yours, to have all the love and all the caresses you can ask for."
Wiping her eyes, she looked up beseechingly into his face, asking, in pleading tones, "Dear papa, won't you give me one kiss--just one? Think how long I have been without one."
"Elsie, say 'I am sorry, papa, that I refused to obey you on that Sabbath-day; will you please to forgive me? and I will always be obedient in future,' That is all I require. Say it, and you will be at once entirely restored to favor."
"I am very sorry, dear papa, for all the naughty things I have ever done, and I will always try to obey you, if you do not bid me break God's commandments," she answered in a low, tremulous tone.
"That will not do, Elsie; it is not what I bid you say. I will have no if in the matter; nothing but implicit, unconditional obedience," he said in a tone of severity.
He paused for a reply, but receiving none, continued: "I see you are still stubborn, and I shall be compelled to take severe measures to subdue you. I do not yet know what they will be, but one thing is certain--I will not keep a rebellious child in my sight; there are boarding-schools where children can be sent who are unworthy to enjoy the privileges and comforts of home."
"Oh, papa! dear, dear papa, don't send me away from you! I should die!" she cried in accents of terror and despair, throwing her arms around his neck and clinging to him with a convulsive grasp. "Punish me in any other way you choose; but oh! don't send me where I cannot see you."
He gently disengaged her arms, and without returning her caress, said gravely, and almost sadly, "Go now to your room. I have not yet decided what course to take, but you have only to submit, to escape all punishment."
Elsie retired, weeping bitterly, passing Adelaide as she went out.
"What is the matter now?" asked Adelaide of her brother, who was striding impatiently up and down the room.
"Nothing but the old story," he replied; "she is the most stubborn child I ever saw. Strange!" he added musingly, "I once thought her rather too yielding. Adelaide," he said, sitting down by his sister, and leaning his head upon his hand, with a deep-drawn sigh, "I am terribly perplexed! This estrangement is killing us both. Have you noticed how thin and pale she is growing? It distresses me to see it; but what can I do?--give up to her I cannot; it is not once to be thought of. I am sorry I ever began the struggle, but since it is begun she must and shall submit; and it has really become a serious question with me, whether it would not be the truest kindness just to conquer her thoroughly and at once, by an appeal to the rod."
"Oh no, Horace, don't! don't think of such a thing, I beg of you!" exclaimed Adelaide, with tears in her eyes; "such a delicate, sensitive little creature as she is, I do believe it would quite break her heart to be subjected to so ignominious a punishment; surely you could adopt some other measure less revolting to one's feelings, and yet perhaps quite as effectual. I couldn't bear to have you do it. I would try everything else first."
"I assure you, Adelaide, it would be exceedingly painful to my feelings," he said, "and yet so anxious am I to subdue Elsie, and end this trying state of affairs, that were I certain of gaining my point, even by great severity, I would not hesitate a moment, but I am very doubtful whether she could be conquered in that way, and I would not like to undertake it unless I could carry it through. I hinted at a boarding-school, which seemed to alarm her very much; but I shall not try it, at least not yet, for she is my only child, and I still love her too well to give her up to the tender mercies of strangers. Ah! you don't know how strongly I was tempted to give her a kiss, just now, when she begged so hard for it. But what shall I do with her, Adelaide?--have you no suggestion to make?"
"Indeed, I don't know what to say, Horace; I shouldn't like to give up to her, if I were you; it does seem as if you ought to conquer her, and if you don't do it now, I do not believe you ever will."
"Yes, that is just it," he said. "I have sometimes felt sorry for having begun the struggle, and yet perhaps it is just as well, since it must have come sooner or later. Ten years hence I shall want to take her occasionally to the theatre or opera, or perhaps now and then to a ball, and unless I can eradicate these ridiculously strict notions she has got into her head, she will be sure to rebel then, when she will be rather too old to punish, at least in the same way in which I might punish her now."
"A thought has just struck me, Horace," said Adelaide suddenly.
"Well, what is it?" he asked.
Adelaide hesitated. She felt some little sympathy for Elsie, and did not quite like to propose a measure which she knew would give her great pain; but at length she said, in a half-regretful tone--
"I think, Horace, that Aunt Chloe upholds Elsie in her obstinacy, and makes her think herself a martyr to principle, for you know she has the same strange notions, which they both learned from the old housekeeper, Mrs. Murray, who was an old-fashioned Presbyterian, of the strictest sort; and now, as Elsie is still so young, it seems to me it might be possible to change her views, if she were entirely removed from all such influences. But take notice, Horace, I do not advise it, for I know it would wellnigh break both their hearts."
For a moment Mr. Dinsmore seemed lost in thought. Then he spoke:
"That is a wise suggestion, Adelaide. I thank you for it, and shall certainly take it into consideration. Yet it is a measure I feel loth to adopt, for Chloe has been a most faithful creature. I feel that I owe her a debt of gratitude for the excellent care she has taken of Elsie, and of her mother before her, and as you say, I fear it would wellnigh break both their hearts. But if less severe measures fail, I shall feel compelled to try it, for I am more anxious than I can tell you to bring Elsie to unconditional obedience."
"Here is a letter for you, Elsie," said her grandfather, the next morning, at the breakfast-table. "Here, Pomp"--to the servant--"hand this to Miss Elsie."
The child's eyes sparkled with pleasure, and she held out her hand eagerly to take it.
But her father interfered.
"No, Pomp," he said, "bring it to me; and remember, in future, that I am to receive all Miss Elsie's letters."
Elsie relinquished it instantly, without a word of remonstrance, but her heart was so full that she could not eat another morsel; and in spite of all her efforts the tears would come into her eyes, as she saw her father deliberately open and read the letter, and then refold and put it into his pocket. He looked at her as he did so, and seeing the tears rolling down her cheeks, sternly bade her leave the room,
She obeyed, feeling more angry and rebellious toward him than she ever had before. It seemed so cruel and unjust to deprive her of her own letters; one of Miss Rose's--as she knew it must be, for she had no other correspondent--which never contained anything but what was good, and kind, and comforting. They were always a great treat to the little girl, and she had been longer than usual without one, and had been looking longingly for it every day for several weeks past; for sad and lonely as her days now were, she felt very keenly the need of her friend's sympathy and love; and now to have this letter taken from her just as she laid her hand upon it, seemed a disappointment almost too great to be endured. She had a hard struggle with herself before she could put away entirely her feelings of anger and impatience.
"Oh! this is not honoring papa," she said to herself; "he may have good reasons for what he has done; and as I belong to him, he certainly has a sort of right to everything that is mine. I will try to be submissive, and wait patiently until he sees fit to give me my letter, as perhaps he will, some time."
All the morning the thought of her letter was scarcely out of her mind, and as soon as she was released from school duties, and dressed for dinner, she went down to the drawing-room, hoping that her father might be there, and that he would give it to her.
But he was not in, and when he came, brought a number of strangers with him, who remained until after tea; so that all the afternoon passed away without affording her an opportunity to speak to him. But, to her great joy, the visitors all left early in the evening, excepting a very mild, pleasant-looking, elderly gentleman, who had settled himself in the portico, with Enna on his knees.
Elsie was watching her fathers movements, and was not sorry to see him, after the departure of his guests, return to the drawing-room, and take up the evening paper.
No one else was at that end of the room, so now, at last, she might speak to him without fear of being overheard. She was glad, too, that his back was towards her, for she had grown very timid about approaching him of late. She stole softly up to the back of his chair, and stood there for some moments without speaking; her heart beat so fast with mingled hope and fear, that it seemed impossible to command her voice.
But at last, coming to his side, she said, in a tone so low and tremulous as to be almost inaudible, "Papa."
"Well, Elsie, what do you want?" he asked, with his eyes still on the paper.
"Dear papa, I do so want to see Miss Rose's letter; won't you please give it to me?"
She waited a moment for a reply; then asked again, "May I not have it, papa?"
"Yes, Elsie, you may have that, and everything else you want, just as soon as you show yourself a submissive, obedient child."
Tears gathered in Elsie's eyes, but she resolutely forced them back, and made one more appeal. "Dear papa," she said, in pleading, tearful tones, "you don't know how I have looked and longed for that letter; and I do want it so very much; won't you let me see it just for a few moments?"
"You have your answer, Elsie," he said coldly; "and it is the only one I have to give you."
Elsie turned and walked away, silently crying as she went.
But ere she had reached the door he called her back, and looking sternly at her, as she again stood trembling and weeping at his side, "Remember," he said, "that from this time forth, I forbid you to write or receive any letters which do not pass through my hands, and I shall not allow you to correspond with Miss Allison, or any one else, indeed, until you become a more dutiful child."
"Oh, papa! what will Miss Allison think if I don't answer her letter?" exclaimed Elsie, weeping bitterly.
"I shall wait a few weeks," he said, "to see if you are going to be a better girl, and then, if you remain stubborn, I shall write to her myself, and tell her that I have stopped the correspondence, and my reasons for doing so."
"Oh, papa! dear papa! please don't do that!" cried the little girl in great distress. "I am afraid if you do she will never love me any more, for she will think me such a very bad child."
"If she does, she will only have a just opinion of you," replied her father coldly; "and all your friends will soon cease to love you, if you continue to show such a wilful temper; my patience is almost worn out, Elsie, and I shall try some very severe measures before long, unless you see proper to submit. Go now to your own room; I do not wish to see you again to-night."
"Good-night, papa," sobbed the little girl, as she turned to obey him.
"Elsie, my daughter," he said, suddenly seizing her hand, and drawing her to his side, "why will you not give up this strange wilfulness, and let your papa have his own darling again? I love you dearly, my child, and it pains me more than I can express to see you so unhappy," he added, gently pushing back the curls from the little tear-stained face upturned to his.
His tone had all the old fondness, and Elsie's heart thrilled at the very sound; his look, too, was tender and affectionate, and throwing down his paper he lifted her to his knee, and passed his arm around her waist.
Elsie laid her head against his breast, as was her wont before their unhappy estrangement, while he passed his hand caressingly over her curls.
"Speak, my daughter," he said in a low tone, full of tenderness; "speak, and tell papa that he has his own dutiful little daughter again. His heart aches to receive her; must he do without her still?"
The temptation to yield was very strong. She loved him, oh, how dearly! Could she bear to go on making him unhappy? And it was such rest--such joy--thus once more to feel herself folded to his heart, and hear his dear voice speaking to her in loving, tender tones. Can it be wondered at that for a moment Elsie wavered? On the one hand she saw her father's fond affection, indulgent kindness, and loving caresses; on the other, banishment from his love, perhaps from home, cold, stern, harsh words and looks; and what more might be meant by the very severe measures threatened, she trembled to think.
For a moment she was silent, for a mighty struggle was going on in her heart. It was hard, very hard, to give up her father's love. But the love of Jesus!--ah, that was more precious still!
The struggle was past.
"Papa," she said, raising an earnest, tearful little face to his, and speaking in tones tremulous with emotion, "dear, dear papa, I do love you so very, very much, and I do want to be to you a good, obedient child; but, papa, Jesus says, 'He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me,' and I must love Jesus best, and keep his commandments always. But you bid me say that I am sorry I refused to break them; and that I will yield implicit obedience to you, even though you should command me to disobey him. Oh, papa, I cannot do that, even though you should never love me again; even though you should put me to death."
The cold, stern expression had returned to his face before she had half finished, and putting her off his knee, he said, in his severest tone, "Go, disobedient, rebellious child! How often have I told you that you are too young to judge of such matters, and must leave all that to me, your father and natural guardian, whom the Bible itself commands you to obey. I will find means to conquer you yet, Elsie. If affection and mild measures will not do it, severity shall."
He rose and walked hastily up and down the floor, excited and angry, while poor Elsie went weeping from the room.
"Is that one of your sisters, my dear?" asked the old gentleman of Enna, as he saw the sobbing Elsie pass through the hall, on her way up-stairs.
"No; that is brother Horace's daughter," replied Enna scornfully; "she is a real naughty girl, and won't mind her papa at all."
"Ah!" said the old gentleman gravely, "I am sorry to hear it; but I hope you will always obey your papa."
"Indeed, my papa lets me do just as I please," said Enna, with a little toss of her head. "I don't have to mind anybody."
"Ah! then I consider you a very unfortunate child," remarked the old gentleman, still more gravely; "for it is by no means good for a little one like you to have too much of her own way."
Mr. Grier--for that was the old gentleman's name--had been much interested in the little Elsie's appearance. He had noticed the look of sadness on her fair young face, and conjectured, from something in the manner of the rest of the family toward her, that she was in disgrace; yet he was sure there was no stubbornness or self-will in the expression of that meek and gentle countenance. He began to suspect that some injustice had been done the little girl, and determined to watch and see if she were indeed the naughty child she was represented to be, and if he found her as good as he was inclined to believe, to try to gain her confidence, and see if he could help her out of her troubles.
But Elsie did not come down again that evening, and though he saw her at the breakfast-table the next morning, she slipped away so immediately after the conclusion of the meal, that he had no opportunity to speak to her; and at dinner it was just the same.
But in the afternoon, seeing her walk out alone, he put on his hat and followed at a little distance. She was going toward the quarter, and he presently saw her enter a cabin where, he had been told, a poor old colored woman was lying ill, perhaps on her death-bed.
Very quietly he drew near the door of the hut, and seating himself on a low bench on the outside, found that he could both see and hear all that was going on without himself being perceived, as Elsie had her back to the door, and poor old Dinah was blind.
"I have come to read to you again, Aunt Dinah," said the little girl, in her sweet, gentle tones.
"Tank you, my young missus; you is bery kind," replied the old woman feebly.
Elsie had already opened her little Bible, and in the same sweet, gentle voice in which she had spoken, she now read aloud the third chapter of St. John's gospel.
When she had finished reading the sixteenth verse--"God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,"--she paused and exclaimed, "Oh! Aunt Dinah, is not that beautiful? Does it not make you glad? You see it does not say whosoever is good and holy, or whosoever has not sinned, but it is whosoever believes in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. If it was only the good, Aunt Dinah, you and I could never hope to be saved, because we are both great sinners."
"Not you, Miss Elsie! not you, darlin'," interrupted the old woman; "ole Dinah's a great sinner, she knows dat well nuff--but you, darlin', you never did nuffin bad."
"Yes, Dinah," said the little voice in saddened tones, "I have a very wicked heart, and have been a sinner all my life; but I know that Jesus died to save sinners, and that whosoever believes in him shall have eternal life, and I do believe, and I want you to believe, and then you, too, will be saved."
"Did de good Lord Jesus die for poor ole Dinah, Miss Elsie?" she asked eagerly.
"Yes, Aunt Dinah, if you will believe in him; it says for whosoever believeth."
"Ole Dinah dunno how to believe, chile; can't do it nohow."
"You must ask God to teach you, Dinah," replied the little girl earnestly, "for the Bible says 'faith'--that means believing--'is the gift of God.'"
"You don't mean dat, Miss Elsie! You don't mean dat God will save poor ole Dinah, an' gib her hebben, an' all for nuffin?" she inquired, raising herself on her elbow in her eagerness.
"Yes, Dinah; God says without money and without price; can't you believe him? Suppose I should come and put a hundred dollars in your hand, saying, 'Here, Aunt Dinah, I give you this; you are old, and sick, and poor, and I know you can do nothing to earn it, but it is a free gift, just take it and it is yours;' wouldn't you believe me, and take it?"
"'Deed I would, Miss Elsie, kase you nebber tole nuffin but de truff."
"Well, then, can't you believe God when he says that he will save you? Can't you believe Jesus when he says, 'I give unto them eternal life'?"
"Yes, yes, Miss Elsie! I do b'lieve; read de blessed words again, darlin'."
Elsie read the verse again, and then finished the Chapter. Then closing the book, she asked softly,
"Shall we pray, now, Aunt Dinah?"
Dinah gave an eager assent; and Elsie, kneeling down by the bedside, prayed in simple, childlike words that Jesus would reveal himself to poor old Dinah, as her Saviour; that the Holy Spirit would be her sanctifier and comforter, working faith in her, and thereby uniting her to Christ; that God would adopt her into his family, and be her God and portion forever; and that Jesus would be her shepherd, so that she need fear no evil, even though called to pass through the dark valley of the shadow of death.
"Amen!" was Dinah's fervent response to each of the petitions.
"De good Lord bless you, darlin'," she said, taking Elsie's little white hand in hers, and pressing it to her lips; "de good Lord bless an' keep you, an' nebber let trouble come near you. You knows nuffin 'bout trouble now, for you's young, an' handsome, an' rich, an' good; an' Massa Horace, he doats on you; no, you knows nuffin 'bout trouble, but ole Dinah does, kase she's ole, an' sick, an' full ob aches and pains."
"Yes, Aunt Dinah, and I am very sorry for you; but remember, if you believe in Jesus, you will soon go to heaven, where you will never be sick or in pain any more. But, Dinah,"--and the little voice grew very mournful--"we cannot always know when others are in trouble; and I want you to pray for me that I may always have strength to do right."
"I will, darlin', 'deed I will," said Dinah earnestly, kissing the little hand again ere she released it.
As Elsie ceased speaking, Mr. Grier slipped quietly away, and continued his walk. From what he had just seen and heard, he felt fully convinced that Elsie was not the wicked, disobedient child Enna had represented her to be; yet he knew that Enna was not alone in her opinion, since it was very evident that Elsie was in disgrace with the whole family--her father especially--and that she was very unhappy. He felt his heart drawn out in sympathy for the child, and longed to be able to assist her in regaining her father's favor, yet he knew not how to do it, for how was he to learn the facts in the case without seeming to pry into the family secrets of his kind entertainers? But there was one comfort he could do for her--what she had so earnestly asked of Dinah--and he would. As he came to this resolution he turned about and began to retrace his steps toward the house. To his surprise and pleasure, upon turning around a thicket, he came suddenly upon Elsie herself, seated upon a bench under a tree, bending over her little Bible, which lay open on her lap, and upon which her quiet tears were dropping, one by one.
She did not seem aware of his presence, and he stood a moment gazing compassionately upon her, ere he spoke.
"My dear little girl, what is the matter?" he asked in a gentle tone, full of sympathy and kindness, seating himself by her side.
Elsie started, and raising her head, hastily brushed away her tears.
"Good evening, sir," she said, blushing painfully, "I did not know you were here."
"You must excuse my seeming intrusion," replied the old gentleman, taking her hand in his. "I came upon you unawares, not knowing you were here; but now that we have met, will you not tell me the cause of your grief? Perhaps I may be able to assist you."
"No, sir," she said, "you could not do anything for me; but I thank you very much for your kindness."
"I think," said he, after a moment's pause, "that I know something of your trouble; you have offended your father; is it not so, my dear?"
Elsie answered only by her tears, and he went on.
Laying his hand upon the Bible, "Submission to parents, my dear child," he said, "you know is enjoined in this blessed book; children are here commanded to honor and obey their father and mother; it is God's command, and if you love his holy word, you will obey its precepts. Surely your father will forgive, and receive you into favor, if you show yourself penitent and submissive?"
"I love my papa very, very dearly," replied Elsie, weeping, "and I do want to obey him; but he does not love Jesus, and sometimes he bids me break God's commandments, and then I cannot obey him."
"Is that it, my poor child?" said her friend pityingly. "Then you are right in not obeying; but be very sure that your father's commands are opposed to those of God, before you refuse obedience; and be very careful to obey him in all things in which you can conscientiously do so."
"I do try, sir," replied Elsie meekly.
"Then be comforted, my dear little girl. God has surely sent you this trial for some wise and kind purpose, and in his own good time he will remove it. Only be patient and submissive. He can change your father's heart, and for that you and I will both pray."
Elsie looked her thanks as they rose to return to the house, but her heart was too full for speech, and she walked silently along beside her new friend, who continued to speak words of comfort and encouragement to her, until they reached the door, where he bade her good-by, saying that he was sorry he was not likely to see her again, as he must leave Roselands that afternoon, but promising not to forget her in his prayers.
When Elsie reached her room, Chloe told her her father had sent word that she was to come to him as soon as she returned from her walk, and that she would find him in his dressing-room.
Chloe had taken off the little girl's hat and smoothed her hair ere she delivered the message, and with a beating heart Elsie proceeded immediately to obey it.
In answer to her timid knock, her father himself opened the door.
"Mammy told me that you wanted me, papa," she said in a tremulous voice, and looking up timidly into his face.
"Yes, I sent for you; come in," he replied; and taking her by the hand he led her forward to the arm-chair from which he had just risen, where he again seated himself, making her stand before him very much like a culprit in the presence of her judge.
There was a moment's pause, in which Elsie stood with her head bent down and her eyes upon the carpet, trembling with apprehension, and not knowing what new trial might be in store for her. Then she ventured to look at her father.
His face was sad and distressed, but very stern.
"Elsie," he began at length, speaking in slow, measured tones, "I told you last evening that should you still persist in your resistance to my authority, I should feel compelled to take severe measures with you. I have now decided what those measures are to be. Henceforth, so long as you continue rebellious, you are to be banished entirely from the family circle; your meals must be taken in your own apartment, and though I shall not reduce your fare to bread and water, it will be very plain--no sweetmeats--no luxuries of any kind. I shall also deprive you entirely of pocket-money, and of all books excepting your Bible and school-books, and forbid you either to pay or receive any visits, telling all who inquire for you, why you cannot be seen. You are also to understand that I forbid you to enter any apartment in the house excepting your own and the school-room--unless by my express permission--and never to go out at all, even to the garden, excepting to take your daily exercise, accompanied always and only by a servant. You are to go on with your studies as usual, but need not expect to be spoken to by any one but your teacher, as I shall request the others to hold no communication with you. This is your sentence. It goes into effect this very hour, but becomes null and void the moment you come to me with acknowledgments of penitence for the past, and promises of implicit obedience for the future."
Elsie stood like a statue; her hands clasped, and her eyes fixed upon the floor. She had grown very pale while her father was speaking, and there was a slight quivering of the eyelids and of the muscles of the mouth, but she showed no other sign of emotion.
"Did you hear me, Elsie?" he asked.
"Yes, papa," she murmured, in a tone so low it scarcely reached his ear.
"Well, have you anything to say for yourself before I send you back to your room?" he asked in a somewhat softened tone.
He felt a little alarmed at the child's unnatural calmness; but it was all gone in a moment. Sinking upon her knees she burst into a fit of passionate weeping. "Oh! papa, papa!" she sobbed, raising her streaming eyes to his face, "will you never, never love me any more?--must I never come near you, or speak to you again?"
He was much moved.
"I did not say that, Elsie," he replied. "I hope most sincerely that you will come to me before long with the confessions and promises I require; and then, as I have told you so often, I will take you to my heart again, as fully as ever. Will you not do it at once, and spare me the painful necessity of putting my sentence into execution?" he asked, raising her gently, and drawing her to his side.
"Dear papa, you know I cannot," she sobbed.
"Then return at once to your room; my sentence must be enforced, though it break both your heart and mine, for I will be obeyed. Go!" he said, sternly putting her from him. And weeping and sobbing, feeling like a homeless, friendless outcast from society, Elsie went back to her room.
The next two or three weeks were very sad and dreary ones to the poor little girl. Her father's sentence was rigidly enforced; she scarcely ever saw him excepting at a distance, and when once or twice he passed her in going in and out, he neither looked at nor spoke to her. Miss Day treated her with all her former severity and injustice, and no one else but the servants ever addressed her.
She went out every day for an hour or two, in obedience to her father's command, but her walks and rides were sad and lonely; and during the rest of the day she felt like a prisoner, for she dared not venture even into the garden, where she had always been in the habit of passing the greater part of her leisure hours, in the summer season.
But debarred from all other pleasures, Elsie read her Bible more and more constantly, and with ever increasing delight; it was more than meat and drink to her; she there found consolation under every affliction, a solace for every sorrow. Her trial was a heavy one; her little heart often ached sadly with its intense longing for an earthly father's love and favor; yet in the midst of it all, she was conscious of a deep, abiding peace, flowing from a sweet sense of pardoned sin, and a consciousness of a Saviour's love.
At first Elsie greatly feared that she would not be allowed to attend church, as usual, on the Sabbath. But Mr. Dinsmore did not care to excite too much remark, and so, as Elsie had always been very regular in her attendance, to her great joy she was still permitted to go.
No one spoke to her, however, or seemed to take the least notice of her; but she sat by her father's side, as usual, both in the carriage and in the pew, and there was some pleasure even in that, though she scarcely dared even to lift her eyes to his face. Once during the sermon, on the third Sabbath after their last interview, she ventured to do so, and was so overcome by the sight of his pale, haggard looks, that utterly unable to control her emotion, she burst into tears, and almost sobbed aloud.
"Elsie," he said, bending down, and speaking in a stern whisper, "you must control yourself."
And with a mighty effort she swallowed down her tears and sobs.
He took no further notice of her until they were again at their own door, when, lifting her from the carriage, he took her by the hand and led her to his own room. Shutting the door, he said sternly, "Elsie, what did you mean by behaving so in church? I was ashamed of you."
"I could not help it, papa; indeed I could not," replied the little girl, again bursting into tears.
"What were you crying about? tell me at once," he said, sitting down and taking off her bonnet, while she stood trembling before him.
"Oh, papa! dear, dear papa!" she cried, suddenly throwing her arms round his neck, and laying her cheek to his; "I love you so much, that when I looked at you, and saw how pale and thin you were, I couldn't help crying."
"I do not understand, nor want such love, Elsie," he said gravely, putting her from him; "it is not the right kind, or it would lead you to be docile and obedient. You certainly deserve punishment for your behavior this morning, and I am much inclined to say that you shall not go to church again for some time."
"Please, papa, don't say that," she replied tearfully; "I will try never to do so again."
"Well," he replied, after a moment's reflection, "I shall punish you to-day by depriving you of your dinner, and if you repeat the offence I shall whip you."
Elsie's little face flushed crimson.
"I know it is an ignominious punishment, Elsie," said her father, "and I feel very loth to try it with you, but I greatly fear I shall be compelled to do so before I can subdue your rebellious spirit; it will be the very last resort, however. Go now to your room."
This last threat might almost be said to have given Elsie a new dread; for though his words on several former occasions had seemed to imply something of the sort, she had always put away the thought as that of something too dreadful to happen. But now he had spoken plainly, and the trial to her seemed inevitable, for she could never give the required promise, and she knew, too, that he prided himself on keeping his word, to the very letter.
Poor little girl! she felt very much like a martyr in prospect of torture or the stake. For a time she was in deep distress; but she carried this trouble, like all the rest, to her Saviour, and found relief; many precious, comforting texts being brought to her mind: "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." "My grace is sufficient for thee." "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." These, and others of a like import, came to her remembrance in this hour of fear and dread, and assured her that her heavenly Father would either save her from that trial, or give her strength to endure it; and she grew calm and peaceful again.
"The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe."