Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley
"She had waited for their coming, She had kiss'd them o'er and o'er-- And they were so fondly treasured For the words of love they bore, Words that whispered in the silence, She had listened till his tone Seemed to linger in the echo 'Darling, thou art all mine own!'" --MRS. J. C. NEAL.
"Pray, what weighty matter is troubling your young brain, birdie?" asked Adelaide, laughingly laying her hand on Elsie's shoulder. "Judging from the exceeding gravity of your countenance, one might imagine that the affairs of the nation had been committed to your care."
"O auntie! can't you help me? won't you?" answered the little girl, looking up coaxingly into the bright, cheerful face bent over her.
"Help you in what? reading with your book upside down, eh?" asked Adelaide, pointing with a quizzical look at the volume of fairy tales in her little niece's lap.
"Oh!" cried Elsie, coloring and laughing in her turn, "I was not reading, and did not know that my book was wrong side up. But, Aunt Adelaide, you know Christmas is coming soon, and I want to give papa something, and I am quite puzzled about it. I thought of slippers, but he has a very handsome pair, and besides there would hardly be time to work them, as I have so many lessons; a purse won't do either, because I have given him one already, and I would like it to be something worth more than either slippers or purse. But you are so much wiser than I, can't you help me think?"
"So this is what has kept you so quiet and demure all day that I have scarcely once heard you laugh or sing; quite an unusual state of things of late," and Adelaide playfully pinched the round, rosy cheek. "Ahem! let me put on my thinking cap," assuming an air of comic gravity. "Ah! yes, I have it! your miniature, little one, of course; what could please him better?"
"Oh! yes," cried Elsie, clapping her hands, "that will do nicely; why didn't I think of it? Thank you, auntie. But then," she added, her countenance falling, "how can I get it taken without his knowledge? you know the surprise is half the fun."
"Never mind, my dear, I'll find a way to manage that," replied Adelaide, confidently; "so just run away with you now, and see how much money you can scrape together to spend on it."
"It won't take long to count it," Elsie said with a merry laugh. "But here is papa just coming in at the door; I hope he won't suspect what we have been talking about," and she bounded away to meet him and claim the kiss he never refused her now.
Once Adelaide would not have been surprised at Elsie's quietness. Patient and sweet tempered the little girl had always been, but more especially after her father's return from Europe--very quiet and timid, seeming to shrink from observation, with a constant dread of incurring reproof or punishment; but the last few happy months, during which her father had continued to lavish upon her every proof of the tenderest affection, had wrought a great change in her; her manner had lost its timidity, she moved about the house with a light and joyous step, and it was no unusual thing to hear her merry, silvery laugh ring out, or her sweet voice carolling like some wild bird of the wood--the natural outgushings of her joy and thankfulness; for the little heart that had so long been famishing for love, that had often grown so weary and sick in its hungering and thirsting for it, was now fully satisfied, and revelled in its new-found happiness.
"I have got it all arranged nicely, Elsie," Adelaide said, coming into the room with a very pleased face as the little girl was preparing for bed that evening. "Your papa is going away in a day or two to attend to some business matters connected with your property, and will be absent at least two weeks; so, unless he should take it into his head to carry you along, we can easily manage about the picture."
Elsie looked up with a countenance of blank dismay.
"Why," said Adelaide, laughing, "I thought you'd be delighted with my news, and instead of that, you look as if I had read you your death-warrant."
"O Aunt Adelaide! two whole weeks without seeing papa! just think how long."
"Pooh! nonsense, child! it will be gone before you know it. But now tell me, how much money have you?"
"I have saved my allowance for two months; that makes twenty dollars, you know, auntie, and I have a little change besides; do you think it will be enough?"
"Hardly, I'm afraid; but I can lend you some, if necessary."
"Thank you, auntie," Elsie answered gratefully, "you are very kind; but I couldn't take it, because papa has told me expressly that I must never borrow money, nor run into debt in any way."
"Dear me!" exclaimed Adelaide, a little impatiently; "Horace certainly is the most absurdly strict person I ever met with. But never mind, I think we can manage it somehow," she added, in a livelier tone, as she stooped to kiss her little niece good-night.
Elsie's gentle rap was heard very early at her papa's door the next morning.
He opened it immediately, and springing into his arms, she asked, almost tearfully, "Are you going away, papa?"
"Yes, darling," he said, caressing her fondly. "I must leave home for a few weeks; and though I at first thought of taking you with me, upon further consideration I have decided that it will be better to leave you here; yet, if you desire it very much, my pet, I will take you along. Shall I?"
"You know I would always rather be with you than anywhere else, papa," she answered, laying her head on his shoulder; "but you know best, and I am quite willing to do whatever you say."
"That is right, daughter; my little Elsie is a good, obedient child," he said, pressing her closer to him.
"When are you going papa?" she asked, her voice trembling a little.
"To-morrow, directly after dinner, daughter."
"So soon," she sighed.
"The sooner I leave you the sooner I shall return, you know, darling," he said, patting her cheek, and smiling kindly on her.
"Yes, papa; but two weeks seems such a long, long time."
He smiled. "At your age I suppose it does, but when you are as old as I am, you will think it very short. But to make it pass more quickly, you may write me a little letter every day, and I will send you one just as often."
"Oh! thank you, papa; that will be so pleasant," she answered, with a brightening countenance. "I do so love to get letters, and I would rather have one from you than from anybody else."
"Ah? then I think you ought to be willing to spare me for two weeks. I have been thinking my little girl might perhaps be glad of a little extra pocket-money for buying Christmas gifts," he said, taking out his purse. "Would you?"
"Yes, papa; oh! very much, indeed."
He laughed at her eager tone, and putting a fifty-dollar note into her hand, asked, "Will that be enough?"
Elsie's eyes opened wide with astonishment.
"I never before had half so much as this," she exclaimed. "May I spend it all, papa?"
"Provided you don't throw it away," he answered gravely; "but don't forget that I require a strict account of all your expenditure."
"Must I tell you every thing I buy?" she asked, her countenance falling considerably.
"Yes, my child, you must; not until after Christmas, however, if you would rather not."
"I will not mind it so much then," she answered, looking quite relieved; "but indeed, papa, it is a great deal of trouble."
"Ah! my little girl must not be lazy," he said, shaking his head gravely.
This was Elsie's first parting from her father since they had learned to know and love each other; and when the time came to say good-by, she clung to him, and seemed so loath to let him go, that he quite repented of his determination to leave her at home.
"O papa, papa! I cannot bear to have you go, and leave me behind," she sobbed. "I feel as if you were never coming back."
"Why, my own darling," he said, kissing her again and again, "why do you talk so? I shall certainly be at home again in a fortnight; but if I had thought you would feel so badly, I would have made arrangements to take you with me. It is too late now, however, and you must let me go, dearest. Be a good girl while I am gone, and when I return I will bring you some handsome presents."
So saying, he embraced her once more, then putting her gently from him, sprang into the carriage and was driven rapidly away.
Elsie stood watching until it was out of sight, and then ran away to her own room to put her arms round her nurse's neck and hide her tears on her bosom.
"Dere, dere, darlin'! dat will do now. Massa Horace he be back 'fore long, and ole Chloe don' like for to see her chile 'stressin' herself so," and the large, dusky hand was passed lovingly over the bright curls, and tenderly wiped away the falling tears.
"But, O mammy! I'm afraid he will never come back. I'm afraid the steamboat boiler will burst, or the cars will run off the track, or----"
"Hush, hush, darlin'! dat's wicked; you must jes' trust de Lord to take care of Massa Horace; He's jes' as able to do it one place as in tudder; an ef you an' your ole mammy keep prayin' for Massa, I'se sure he'll come back safe, kase don't you remember what de good book says, 'If any two of you agree----'"
"Oh! yes, dear mammy, thank you for remembering it," exclaimed the little girl, lifting her head and smiling through her tears. "I won't cry any more now, but will just try to keep thinking how glad I will be when papa comes home again."
"A very sensible resolution, my dear," said Adelaide, putting her head in at the door; "so come, dry your eyes, and let mammy put on your bonnet and cloak as fast as possible, for I have begged a holiday for you, and am going to carry you off to the city to do some shopping, et cetera."
"Ah! I think I know what that et cetera means, auntie, don't I?" laughed Elsie, as she hastened to obey.
"Dear me! how very wise some people are," said her aunt, smiling and nodding good-naturedly. "But make haste, my dear, for the carriage is at the door."
When Elsie laid her head upon her pillow that night she acknowledged to herself, that in spite of her father's absence-- and she had, at times, missed him sadly--the day had been a very short and pleasant one to her, owing to her Aunt Adelaide's thoughtful kindness in taking her out into new scenes, and giving agreeable occupation to her thoughts.
She rose at her usual early hour the next morning, and though feeling lonely, comforted herself with the hope of receiving the promised letter; and her face was full of eager expectation, as her grandfather, in his usual leisurely manner, opened the bag and distributed its contents.
"Two letters for Elsie!" he said, in a tone of surprise, just as she was beginning to despair of her turn coming at all. "Ah; one is from Horace, I see; and the other from Miss Allison, no doubt."
Elsie could hardly restrain her eagerness while he held them in his hand, examining and commenting upon the address, postmark, etc.
But at length he tossed them to her, remarking, "There! if you are done your breakfast, you had better run away and read them."
"Oh! thank you, grandpa," she said, gladly availing herself of his permission.
"Elsie is fortunate to-day," observed Lora looking after her. "I wonder which she will read first."
"Her father's, of course," replied Adelaide. "He is more to her than all the rest of the world put together."
"A matter of small concern to the rest of the world, I opine," remarked Mrs. Dinsmore, dryly.
"Perhaps so, mamma," said Adelaide, quietly; "yet I think there are some who prize Elsie's affection."
Yes, Adelaide was right. Miss Rose's letter was neglected and almost forgotten, while Elsie read and reread her papa's with the greatest delight.
It gave an amusing account of the day's journey; but what constituted its chief charm for the little girl was that it was filled with expressions of the tenderest affection for her.
Then came the pleasant task of answering, which occupied almost all her spare time, for letter-writing was still, to her, a rather new and difficult business, Miss Allison having hitherto been her only correspondent. And this was a pleasure which was renewed every day, for her papa faithfully kept his promise, each morning bringing her a letter, until at length one came announcing the speedy return of the writer.
Elsie was almost wild with delight.
"Aunt Adelaide," she cried, running to her to communicate the glad tidings, "papa says he will be here this very afternoon."
"Well, my dear, as we have already attended to all the business that needed to be kept secret from him, I am very glad to hear it, especially for your sake," replied Adelaide, looking up for a moment from the book she was reading, and then returning to it again, while her little niece danced out of the room, with her papa's letter still in her hand, and a face beaming with happiness.
She met Mrs. Dinsmore in the hall.
"Why are you skipping about in that mad fashion, Elsie?" she asked, severely; "I believe you will never learn to move and act like a lady."
"I will try, madam, indeed," Elsie answered, subsiding into a slow and steady gait which would not have disgraced a woman of any age; "but I was so glad that papa is coming home to-day, that I could not help skipping."
"Indeed!" and with a scornful toss of the head, Mrs. Dinsmore sailed past her and entered the drawing-room.
Elsie had once, on her first arrival at Roselands, addressed Mrs. Dinsmore, in the innocence of her heart, as "grandma," but that lady's horrified look, and indignant repudiation of the ancient title, had made a deep impression on the little girl's memory, and effectually prevented any repetition of the offence.
As the hour drew near when her father might reasonably be expected, Elsie took her station at one of the drawing-room windows overlooking the avenue, and the moment the carriage appeared in sight, she ran out and stood waiting for him on the steps of the portico.
Mr. Dinsmore put out his head as they drove up the avenue, and the first object that caught his eye was the fairy-like form of his little daughter, in her blue merino dress, and the golden brown curls waving in the wind. He sprang out and caught her in his arms the instant the carriage stopped.
"My darling, darling child," he cried, kissing her over and over again, and pressing her fondly to his heart, "how glad I am to have you in my arms again!"
"Papa, papa, my own dear, dear papa!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms around his neck, "I'm so happy, now that you have come home safe and well."
"Are you, darling? but I must not keep you out in this wind, for it is quite chilly."
He set her down, and leaving the servant to attend lo his baggage, led her into the hall.
"Will you come into the drawing-room, papa?" she said; "there is a bright, warm fire there."
"Is there not one in my dressing-room?" he asked.
"Yes, papa, a very good one."
"Then we will go there. I dare say the rest of the family are in no great hurry to see me, and I want my little girl to myself for half an hour," he said, leading the way up-stairs as he spoke.
They found, as Elsie had reported, a very bright fire in the dressing-room. A large easy chair was drawn up near it, and a handsome dressing-gown and slippers were placed ready for use; all the work of Elsie's loving little hands.
He saw it all at a glance, and with a pleased smile, stooped and kissed her again, saying, "My dear little daughter is very thoughtful for her papa's comfort."
Then exchanging his warm out-door apparel and heavy boots for the dressing-gown and slippers, he seated himself in the chair and took her on his knee.
"Well, daughter," he said, passing his hand caressingly over her curls, "papa has brought you a present; will you have it now, or shall it be kept for Christmas?"
"Keep it for Christmas, papa," she answered gayly. "Christmas is almost here, and besides, I don't want to look at anything but you to-night."
"Very well, look at me as much as you like," was his laughing rejoinder. "And now tell me, have you been a good girl in my absence?"
"As good as I ever am, I believe, papa. I tried very hard; but you can ask Miss Day."
"No, I am entirely satisfied with your report, for I know my little daughter is quite truthful."
Elsie colored with pleasure, then calling to mind the time when he had for a moment suspected her of falsehood, she heaved a deep sigh, dropping her head upon his breast.
He seemed to understand her thoughts, for, pressing his lips to her forehead, he said gently and kindly, "I think I shall never again doubt my little daughter's truth."
She looked up with a grateful smile.
"Miss Day has gone away to stay until after New Year's day, papa," she said, "and so our holidays have begun."
"Ah! I am very well satisfied," said he. "I think you have earned a holiday, and I hope you will enjoy it. But I don't know that I shall let you play all the time," he added with a smile; "I have some notion of giving you a lesson now and then, myself."
"Dear papa, how pleasant!" she exclaimed delightedly; "I do so love to say lessons to you."
"Well, then, we will spend an hour together every morning. But are you not to have some company?"
"Oh! yes, papa, quite a house full," she said with a slight sigh. "The Percys, and the Howards, and all the Carringtons, and some others too, I believe."
"Why do you sigh, daughter?" he asked; "do you not expect to enjoy their company?"
"Yes, sir, I hope so," she answered, rather dubiously; "but when there are so many, and they stay so long, they are apt to disagree, and that, you know, is not pleasant. I am sure I shall enjoy the hour with you better than anything else; it is so sweet to be quite alone with my own darling papa," and the little arm stole softly round his neck again, and the rosy lips touched his cheek.
"Well, when are the little plagues coming?" he asked, returning her caress.
"Some of them to-morrow, papa; no, Monday--to-morrow is Sabbath day."
"Shall I bring in de trunks now, massa?" asked Mr. Dinsmore's servant, putting his head in at the door.
"Yes, John, certainly."
"Why, you brought back a new one, papa, didn't you?" asked Elsie, as John carried in one she was sure she had never seen before, and in obedience to a motion of her father's hand, set it down quite near them.
"Yes, my dear, it is yours. There, John, unlock it," tossing him the key. "And now, daughter, get down and see what you can find in it worth having."
Elsie needed no second bidding, but in an instant was on her knees beside the trunk, eager to examine its contents.
"Take the lid off the band-box first, and see what is there," said her father.
"O papa, how very pretty!" she cried, as she lifted out a beautiful little velvet hat adorned with a couple of ostrich feathers.
"I am very glad it pleases you, my darling," he said, putting it on her head, and gazing at her with proud delight in her rare beauty. "There! it fits exactly, and is very becoming."
Then taking it off, he returned it to the box, and bade her look further.
"I am reserving the present for Christmas," he said, in answer to her inquiring look.
Elsie turned to the trunk again.
"Dear papa, how good you are to me!" she said, looking up at him almost with tears of pleasure in her eyes, as she lifted out, one after another, a number of costly toys, which she examined with exclamations of delight, and then several handsome dresses, some of the finest, softest merino, and others of thick rich silk, all ready made in fashionable style, and doing credit to his taste and judgment; and lastly a beautiful velvet pelisse, trimmed with costly fur, just the thing to wear with her pretty new hat.
He laughed and patted her cheek.
"We must have these dresses tried on," he said, "at least one of them; for as they were all cut by the same pattern--one of your old dresses which I took with me--I presume they will all fit alike. There, take this one to mammy, and tell her to put it on you, and then come back to me."
"Oh! I wondered how you could get them the right size, papa," Elsie answered, as she skipped gayly out of the room.
She was back again in a very few moments, arrayed in the pretty silk he had selected.
"Ah! it seems to be a perfect fit," said he, turning her round and round, with a very gratified look.
"Mammy must dress you to-morrow in one of these new frocks, and your pretty hat and pelisse."
Elsie looked troubled.
"Well, what is it?" he asked.
"I am afraid I shall be thinking of them in church, papa, if I wear them then for the first time."
"Pooh! nonsense! what harm if you do? This squeamishness, Elsie, is the one thing about you that displeases me very much. But there! don't look so distressed, my pet. I dare say you will get over it by-and-by, and be all I wish; indeed I sometimes think you have improved a little already, in that respect."
Oh! what a pang these words sent to her heart! was it indeed true that she was losing her tenderness of conscience? that she was becoming less afraid of displeasing and dishonoring her Saviour than in former days? The very thought was anguish.
Her head drooped upon her bosom, and the small white hands were clasped convulsively together, while a bitter, repenting cry, a silent earnest prayer for pardon and help went up to Him whose ear is ever open to the cry of His children.
Her father looked at her in astonishment.
"What is it, darling?" he asked, drawing her tenderly toward him, and pushing back the curls from her face; "why do you look so pained? what did I say that could have hurt you so? I did not mean to be harsh and severe, for it was a very trifling fault."
She hid her face on his shoulder and burst into an agony of tears.
"It was not that, papa, but--but----"
"But what, my darling? don't be afraid to tell me," he answered, soothingly.
"O papa! I--I am afraid I don't--love Jesus--as much as I did," she faltered out between her sobs.
"Ah! that is it, eh? Well, well, you needn't cry any more. I think you are a very good little girl, though rather a silly one, I am afraid, and quite too morbidly conscientious."
He took her on his knee as he spoke, wiped away her tears, and then began talking in a lively strain of something else.
Elsie listened, and answered him cheerfully, but all the evening he noticed that whenever she was quiet, an unusual expression of sadness would steal over her face.
"What a strange child she is!" he said to himself, as he sat musing over the fire, after sending her to bed. "I cannot understand her; it is very odd how often I wound, when I intend to please her."
As for Elsie, she scarcely thought of her new finery, so troubled was her tender conscience, so pained her little heart to think that she had been wandering from her dear Saviour.
But Elsie had learned that "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," and to Him she went with her sin and sorrow; she applied anew to the pardoning, peace- speaking blood of Christ--that "blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel;" and thus the sting of conscience was taken away and her peace restored, and she was soon resting quietly on her pillow, for, "so He giveth His beloved sleep."
Even her father's keen, searching glance, when she came to him in the morning, could discover no trace of sadness in her face; very quiet and sober it was, but entirely peaceful and happy, and so it remained all through the day. Her new clothes did not trouble her; she was hardly conscious of wearing them, and quite able to give her usual solemn and fixed attention to the services of the sanctuary.
"Where are you going, daughter?" Mr. Dinsmore asked, as Elsie gently withdrew her hand from his on leaving the dining-room.
"To my room, papa," she replied.
"Come with me," he said; "I want you."
"What do you want me for, papa?" she asked, as he sat down and took her on his knee.
"What for? why to keep, to love, and to look at," he said laughing. "I have been away from my little girl so long, that now I want her close by my side, or on my knee, all the time. Do you not like to be with me?"
"Dearly well, my own darling papa," she answered, flinging her little arms around his neck, and laying her head on his breast.
He fondled her, and chatted with her for some time, then, still keeping her on his knee, took up a book and began to read.
Elsie saw with pain that it was a novel and longed to beg him to put it away, and spend the precious hours of the holy Sabbath in the study of God's word, or some of the lesser helps to Zion's pilgrims which the saints of our own or other ages have prepared. But she knew that it would be quite out of place for a little child like her to attempt to counsel or reprove her father; and that, tenderly as he loved and cherished her, he would never for one moment allow her to forget their relative positions.
At length she ventured to ask softly, "Papa, may I go to my own room now?"
"What for?" he asked; "are you tired of my company?"
"No, sir, oh! no; but I want--" she hesitated and hung her head for an instant, while the rich color mounted to cheek and brow; then raising it again, she said fearlessly, "I always want to spend a little while with my best Friend on Sabbath afternoon, papa."
He looked puzzled, and also somewhat displeased.
"I don't understand you, Elsie," he said; "you surely can have no better friend than your own father; and can it be possible that you love any one else better than you love me?"
Again the little arms were round his neck, and hugging him close and closer, she whispered, "It was Jesus I meant, papa; you know He loves me even better than you do, and I must love Him best of all; but there is no one else that I love half so much as I love you, my own dear, dear precious father."
"Well, you may go; but only for a little while, mind," he answered, giving her a kiss, and setting her down. "Nay," he added hastily, "stay as long as you like; if you feel it a punishment to be kept here with me, I would rather do without you."
"Oh! no, no, papa," she said beseechingly, and with tears in her eyes; "I do so love to be with you. Please don't be angry; please let me come back soon."
"No, darling, I am not angry," he answered, smoothing her hair and smiling kindly on her; "come back just when you like, and the sooner the better."
Elsie did not stay away very long; in less than an hour she returned, bringing her Bible and "Pilgrim's Progress" with her.
Her father welcomed her with a smile, and then turned to his novel again, while she drew a stool to his side, and, sitting down, leaned her head against his knee, and read until the short winter day began to close in, and Mr. Dinsmore, whose hand had been every now and then laid caressingly upon her curls, said, "Put away your book now, daughter; it is growing too dark for you to read without straining your eyes."
"Please, papa, let me finish the paragraph first; may I?" she asked.
"No; you must always obey the instant I speak to you."
Elsie rose at once, and without another word laid her books upon the table; then coming back, claimed her accustomed place upon his knee, with her head resting on his shoulder.
He put his arm around her, and they sat silently thus for some moments. At length Elsie asked, "Papa, did you ever read 'Pilgrim's Progress!'"
"Yes; a good while ago, when I was quite a boy."
"And you did not like it, papa?"
"Yes, very much, though I have nearly forgotten the story now. Do you like it?"
"Very much, indeed, papa; I think it comes next to the Bible."
"Next to the Bible, eh? well, I believe you are the only little girl of my acquaintance who thinks that the most beautiful and interesting book in the world. But, let me see, what is this 'Pilgrim's Progress' about? some foolish story of a man with a great load on his back; is it not?"
"Foolish! papa; oh! I am sure you don't mean it; you couldn't think it foolish. Ah! I know by your smile that you are only saying it to tease me. It is a beautiful story, papa, about Christian: how he lived in the City of Destruction, and had a great burden on his back, which he tried in every way to get rid of, but all in vain, until he came to the Cross; but then it seemed suddenly to loosen of itself, and dropped from his back, and rolled away, and fell into the sepulchre, where it could not be seen any more."
"Well, and is not that a foolish story? can you see any sense or meaning in it?" he asked, with a slight smile, and a keen glance into the eager little face upturned to his.
"Ah! papa, I know what it means," she answered, in a half- sorrowful tone. "Christian, with the load on his back, is a person who has been convinced of sin by God's Holy Spirit, and feels his sins a heavy burden--too heavy for him to bear; and then he tries to get rid of them by leaving off his wicked ways, and by doing good deeds; but he soon finds he can't get rid of his load that way, for it only grows heavier and heavier, until at last he gives up trying to save himself, and just goes to the cross of Jesus Christ; and the moment he looks to Jesus and trusts in Him, his load of sin is all gone."
Mr. Dinsmore was surprised; as indeed he had often been at Elsie's knowledge of spiritual things.
"Who told you all that?" he asked.
"I read it in the Bible, papa; and besides, I know, because I have felt it."
He did not speak again for some moments; and then he said very gravely, "I am afraid you read too many of those dull books. I don't want you to read things that fill you with sad and gloomy thoughts, and make you unhappy. I want my little girl to be merry and happy as the day is long."
"Please don't forbid me to read them, papa," she pleaded with a look of apprehension, "for indeed they don't make me unhappy, and I love them so dearly."
"You need not be alarmed. I shall not do so unless I see that they do affect your spirits," he answered in a reassuring tone, and she thanked him with her own bright, sweet smile.
She was silent for a moment, then asked suddenly, "Papa, may I say some verses to you?"
"Some time," he said, "but not now, for there is the tea-bell;" and taking her hand, he led her down to the dining-room.
They went to the drawing-room after tea, but did not stay long. There were no visitors, and it was very dull and quiet there, no one seeming inclined for conversation. Old Mr. Dinsmore sat nodding in his chair, Louise was drumming on the piano, and the rest were reading or sitting listlessly, saying nothing, and Elsie and her papa soon slipped away to their old seat by his dressing- room fire.
"Sing something for me, my pet, some of those little hymns I often hear you singing to yourself," he said, as he took her on his knee; and Elsie gladly obeyed.
Some of the pieces she sang alone, but in others which were familiar to him, her father joined his deep bass notes to her sweet treble, at which she was greatly delighted. Then they read several chapters of the Bible together, and thus the evening passed so quickly and pleasantly that she was very much surprised when her papa, taking out his watch, told her it was her bed-time.
"O papa! it has been such a nice, nice evening!" she said, as she bade him good-night; "so like the dear old times I used to have with Miss Rose, only--"
She paused and colored deeply.
"Only what, darling?" he asked, drawing her caressingly to him.
"Only, papa, if you would pray with me, like she did," she whispered, winding her arms about his neck, and hiding her face on his shoulder.
"That I cannot do, my pet, I have never learned how; and so I fear you will have to do all the praying for yourself and me too," he said, with a vain effort to speak lightly, for both heart and conscience were touched.
The only reply was a tightening of the clasp of the little arms about his neck, and a half-suppressed sob; then two trembling lips touched his, a warm tear fell on his cheek, and she turned away and ran quickly from the room.
Oh! how earnest and importunate were Elsie's pleadings at a throne of grace that night, that her "dear, dear papa might soon be taught to love Jesus, and how to pray to Him." Tears fell fast while she prayed, but she rose from her knees feeling a joyful assurance that her petitions had been heard, and would be granted in God's own good time.
She had hardly laid her head upon her pillow, when her father came in, and saying, "I have come to sit beside my little girl till she falls asleep," placed himself in a chair close by her side, taking her hand in his and holding it, as she loved so to have him do.
"I am so glad you have come, papa," she said, her whole face lighting up with pleased surprise.
"Are you?" he answered with a smile. "I'm afraid I am spoiling you; but I can't help it to-night. I think you forget your wish to repeat some verses to me?"
"Oh! yes, papa!" she said, "but may I say them now?"
He nodded assent, and she went on. "They are some Miss Rose sent me in one of her letters. She cut them out of a newspaper, she said, and sent them to me because she liked them so much; and I too think they are very sweet. The piece is headed:
"'THE PILGRIM'S WANTS.' "'I want a sweet sense of Thy pardoning love, That my manifold sins are forgiven; That Christ, as my Advocate, pleadeth above, That my name is recorded in heaven. "'I want every moment to feel That thy Spirit resides in my heart-- That his power is present to cleanse and to heal, And newness of life to impart. "'I want--oh! I want to attain Some likeness, my Saviour, to thee! That longed for resemblance once more to regain, Thy comeliness put upon me. "'I want to be marked for thine own-- Thy seal on my forehead to wear; To receive that new name on the mystic white stone Which none but thyself can declare. "'I want so in thee to abide As to bring forth some fruit to thy praise; The branch which thou prunest, though feeble and dried, May languish, but never decays. "'I want thine own hand to unbind Each tie to terrestrial things, Too tenderly cherished, too closely entwined, Where my heart so tenaciously clings. "'I want, by my aspect serene, My actions and words, to declare That my treasure is placed in a country unseen, That my heart's best affections are there. "'I want as a trav'ller to haste Straight onward, nor pause on my way; Nor forethought in anxious contrivance to waste On the tent only pitched for a day. "'I want--and this sums up my prayer-- To glorify thee till I die; Then calmly to yield up my soul to thy care, And breathe out in faith my last sigh.'"
[Footnote: These beautiful words are not mine, nor do I know either the name of the author or where they were originally published.]
He was silent for a moment after she had repeated the last verse, then laying his hand softly on her head, and looking searchingly into her eyes, he asked, "And does my little one really wish all that those words express?"
"Yes, papa, for myself and for you too," she answered. "O papa! I do want to be all that Jesus would have me! just like Him; so like Him that everybody who knows me will see the likeness and know that I belong to Him."
"Nay, you belong to me," he said, leaning over her and patting her cheek. "Hush! not a syllable from your lips. I will have no gainsaying of my words," he added, with a mixture of authority and playfulness, as she seemed about to reply. "Now shut your eyes and go to sleep; I will have no more talking to-night."
She obeyed at once; the white lids gently closed over the sweet eyes, the long, dark lashes rested quietly on the fair, round cheek, and soon her soft regular breathing told that she had passed into the land of dreams.
Her father sat, still holding the little hand, and still gazing tenderly upon the sweet young face, till, something in its expression reminding him of words she had just repeated,
"I want to be marked for thine own-- Thy seal on my forehead to wear,"
he laid it gently down, rose, and bent over her with a troubled look.
"Ah, my darling, that prayer is granted already!" he murmured; "for, ah me! you seem almost too good and pure for earth. But oh, God forbid that you should be taken from me to that place where I can see that your heart is even now. How desolate should I be!" and he turned away with a shiver and a heavy sigh, and hastily quitted the room.