Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley
"Thy injuries would teach patience to blaspheme, Yet still thou art a dove." --BEAUMONT'S Double Marriage. "When forced to part from those we love, Though sure to meet to-morrow; We yet a kind of anguish prove And feel a touch of sorrow. But oh! what words can paint the fears When from these friends we sever, Perhaps to part for months--for years-- Perhaps to part forever." --ANON.
When Miss Allison had gone, and Elsie found herself once more quite alone, she rose from her chair, and kneeling down with the open Bible before her, she poured out her story of sins and sorrows, in simple, child-like words, into the ears of the dear Saviour whom she loved so well; confessing that when she had done well and suffered for it, she had not taken it patiently, and earnestly pleading that she might be made like unto the meek and lowly Jesus. Low sobs burst from her burdened heart, and the tears of penitence fell upon the pages of the holy book. But when she rose from her knees, her load of sin and sorrow was all gone, and her heart made light and happy with a sweet sense of peace and pardon. Once again, as often before, the little Elsie was made to experience the blessedness of "the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."
She now set to work diligently at her studies, and ere the party returned was quite prepared to meet Miss Day, having attended faithfully to all she had required of her. The lesson was recited without the smallest mistake, every figure of the examples worked out correctly, and the page of the copy-book neatly and carefully written.
Miss Day had been in a very captious mood all day, and seemed really provoked that Elsie had not given her the smallest excuse for fault-finding. Handing the book back to her, she said, very coldly, "I see you can do your duties well enough when you choose."
Elsie felt keenly the injustice of the remark, and longed to say that she had tried quite as earnestly in the morning; but she resolutely crushed down the indignant feeling, and calling to mind the rash words that had cost her so many repentant tears, she replied meekly, "I am sorry I did not succeed better this morning, Miss Day, though I did really try; and I am still more sorry for the saucy answer I gave you; and I ask your pardon for it."
"You ought to be sorry," replied Miss Day, severely, "and I hope you are; for it was a very impertinent speech indeed, and deserving of a much more severe punishment than you received. Now go, and never let me hear anything of the kind from you again."
Poor little Elsie's eyes filled with tears at these ungracious words, accompanied by a still more ungracious manner; but she turned away without a word, and placing her books and slate carefully in her desk, left the room.
Rose Allison was sitting alone in her room that evening, thinking of her far-distant home, when hearing a gentle rap at her door, she rose and opened it to find Elsie standing there with her little Bible in her hand.
"Come in, darling," she said, stooping to give the little one a kiss; "I am very glad to see you."
"I may stay with you for half an hour, Miss Allison, if you like," said the child, seating herself on the low ottoman pointed out by Rose, "and then mammy is coming to put me to bed."
"It will be a very pleasant half-hour to both of us, I hope," replied Rose, opening her Bible.
They read a chapter together--Rose now and then pausing to make a few explanations--and then kneeling down, she offered up a prayer for the teachings of the Spirit, and for God's blessing on themselves and all their dear ones.
"Dear little Elsie," she said, folding the child in her arms, when they had risen from their knees, "how I love you already, and how very glad I am to find that there is one in this house beside myself who loves Jesus, and loves to study His word, and to call upon His name."
"Yes, dear Miss Allison; and there is more than one, for mammy loves Him, too, very dearly," replied the little girl, earnestly.
"Does she, darling? Then I must love her, too, for I cannot help loving all who love my Saviour."
Then Rose sat down, and drawing the little girl to a seat on her knee, they talked sweetly together of the race they were running, and the prize they hoped to obtain at the end of it; of the battle they were fighting, and the invisible foes with whom they were called to struggle--the armor that had been provided, and of Him who had promised to be the Captain of their salvation, and to bring them off more than conquerors. They were pilgrims in the same straight and narrow way, and it was very pleasant thus to walk a little while together. "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."
"That is mammy coming for me," said Elsie, as a low knock was heard at the door.
"Come in," said Rose, and the door opened, and a very nice colored woman of middle age, looking beautifully neat in her snow-white apron and turban, entered with a low courtesy, asking, "Is my little missus ready for bed now?"
"Yes," said Elsie, jumping off Rose's lap; "but come here, mammy; I want to introduce you to Miss Allison."
"How do you do, Aunt Chloe? I am very glad to know you, since Elsie tells me you are a servant of the same blessed Master whom I love and try to serve," said Rose, putting her small white hand cordially into Chloe's dusky one.
"'Deed I hope I is, missus," replied Chloe, pressing it fervently in both of hers. "I's only a poor old black sinner, but de good Lord Jesus, He loves me jes de same as if I was white, an' I love Him an' all His chillen with all my heart."
"Yes, Aunt Chloe," said Rose, "He is our peace, and hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; so that we are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow- citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone."
"Yes, missus, dat's it for sure; ole Chloe knows dat's in de Bible; an' if we be built on dat bressed corner-stone, we's safe ebery one; I'se heard it many's de time, an' it fills dis ole heart with joy an' peace in believing," she exclaimed, raising her tearful eyes and clasping her hands. "But good night, missus; I must put my chile to bed," she added, taking Elsie's hand.
"Good-night, Aunt Chloe; come in again," said Rose. "And good- night to you, too, dear little Elsie," folding the little girl again in her arms.
"Ain't dat a bressed young lady, darlin'!" exclaimed Chloe, earnestly, as she began the business of preparing her young charge for bed.
"O mammy, I love her so much! she's so good and kind," replied the child, "and she loves Jesus, and loves to talk about Him."
"She reminds me of your dear mamma, Miss Elsie, but she's not so handsome," replied the nurse, with a tear in her eye; "ole Chloe tinks dere's nebber any lady so beautiful as her dear young missus was."
Elsie drew out the miniature and kissed it, murmuring, "Dear, darling mamma," then put it back in her bosom again, for she always wore it day and night. She was standing in her white night- dress, the tiny white feet just peeping from under it, while Chloe brushed back her curls and put on her night-cap.
"Dere now, darlin', you's ready for bed," she exclaimed, giving the child a hug and a kiss.
"No, mammy, not quite," replied the little girl, and gliding away to the side of the bed, she knelt down and offered up her evening prayer. Then, coming back to the toilet table, she opened her little Bible, saying, "Now, mammy, I will read you a chapter while you are getting ready for bed."
The room was large and airy, and Aunt Chloe, who was never willing to leave her nursling, but watched over her night and day with the most devoted affection, slept in a cot bed in one corner.
"Tank you, my dear young missus, you's berry good," she said, beginning the preparations for the night by taking off her turban and replacing it by a thick night-cap.
When the chapter was finished Elsie got into bed, saying, "Now, mammy, you may put out the light as soon as you please; and be sure to call me early in the morning, for I have a lesson to learn before breakfast."
"That I will, darlin'," replied the old woman, spreading the cover carefully over her. "Good-night, my pet, your ole mammy hopes her chile will have pleasant dreams."
Rose Allison was an early riser, and as the breakfast hour at Roselands was eight o'clock, she always had an hour or two for reading before it was time to join the family circle. She had asked Elsie to come to her at half-past seven, and punctually at the hour the little girl's gentle rap was heard at her door.
"Come in," said Rose, and Elsie entered, looking as bright and fresh and rosy as the morning. She had her little Bible under her arm, and a bouquet of fresh flowers in her hand. "Good-morning, dear Miss Allison," she said, dropping a graceful courtesy as she presented it. "I have come to read, and I have just been out to gather these for you, because I know you love flowers."
"Thank you, darling, they are very lovely," said Rose, accepting the gift and bestowing a caress upon the giver. "You are quite punctual," she added, "and now we can have our half-hour together before breakfast."
The time was spent profitably and pleasantly, and passed so quickly that both were surprised when the breakfast bell rang.
Miss Allison spent the whole fall and winter at Roselands; and it was very seldom during all that time that she and Elsie failed to have their morning and evening reading and prayer together. Rose was often made to wonder at the depth of the little girl's piety and the knowledge of divine things she possessed. But Elsie had had the best of teaching. Chloe, though entirely uneducated, was a simple-minded, earnest Christian, and with a heart full of love to Jesus, had, as we have seen, early endeavored to lead the little one to Him, and Mrs. Murray--the housekeeper whom Adelaide had mentioned, and who had assisted Chloe in the care of the child from the time of her birth until a few months before Rose's coming, when she had suddenly been summoned home to Scotland--had proved a very faithful friend. She was an intelligent woman and devotedly pious, and had carefully instructed this lonely little one, for whom she felt almost a parent's affection, and her efforts to bring her to a saving knowledge of Christ had been signally owned and blessed of God; and in answer to her earnest prayers, the Holy Spirit had vouchsafed His teachings, without which all human instruction must ever be in vain. And young as Elsie was, she had already a very lovely and well-developed Christian character. Though not a remarkably precocious child in other respects, she seemed to have very clear and correct views on almost every subject connected with her duty to God and her neighbor; was very truthful both in word and deed, very strict in her observance of the Sabbath--though the rest of the family were by no means particular in that respect--very diligent in her studies, respectful to superiors, and kind to inferiors and equals; and she was gentle, sweet-tempered, patient, and forgiving to a remarkable degree. Rose became strongly attached to her, and the little girl fully returned her affection.
Elsie was very sensitive and affectionate, and felt keenly the want of sympathy and love, for which, at the time of Rose's coming, she had no one to look to but poor old Chloe, who loved her with all her heart.
It is true, Adelaide sometimes treated her almost affectionately, and Lora, who had a very strong sense of justice, occasionally interfered and took her part when she was very unjustly accused, but no one seemed really to care for her, and she often felt sad and lonely. Mr. Dinsmore, though her own grandfather, treated her with entire neglect, seemed to have not the slightest affection for her, and usually spoke of her as "old Crayson's grandchild." Mrs. Dinsmore really disliked her, because she looked upon her as the child of a stepson for whom she had never felt any affection, and also as the future rival of her own children; while the governess and the younger members of the family, following the example of their elders, treated her with neglect, and occasionally even with abuse. Miss Day, knowing that she was in no danger of incurring the displeasure of her superiors by so doing, vented upon her all the spite she dared not show to her other pupils; and continually she was made to give up her toys and pleasures to Enna, and even sometimes to Arthur and Walter. It often cost her a struggle, and had she possessed less of the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, her life had been wretched indeed.
But in spite of all her trials and vexations, little Elsie was the happiest person in the family; for she had in her heart that peace which the world can neither give nor take away; that joy which the Saviour gives to His own, and no man taketh from them. She constantly carried all her sorrows and troubles to Him, and the coldness and neglect of others seemed but to drive her nearer to that Heavenly Friend, until she felt that while possessed of His love, she could not be unhappy, though treated with scorn and abuse by all the world.
"The good are better made by ill, As odors crushed are sweeter still;"
And even so it seemed to be with little Elsie; her trials seemed to have only the effect of purifying and making more lovely her naturally amiable character.
Elsie talked much and thought more of her absent and unknown father, and longed with an intensity of desire for his return home. It was her dream, by day and by night, that he had come, that he had taken her to his heart, calling her "his own darling child, his precious little Elsie;" for such were the loving epithets she often heard lavished upon Enna, and which she longed to hear addressed to herself. But from month to month, and year to year, that longed-for return had been delayed until the little heart had grown sick with hope deferred, and was often weary with its almost hopeless waiting. But to return.
"Elsie," said Adelaide, as Miss Allison and the little girl entered the breakfast-room on the morning after Elsie's disappointment, "the fair is not over yet, and Miss Allison and I are going to ride out there this afternoon; so, if you are a good girl in school, you may go with us."
"Oh! thank you, dear Aunt Adelaide," exclaimed the little girl, clapping her hands with delight; "how kind you are! and I shall be so glad."
Miss Day frowned, and looked as if she wanted to reprove her for her noisy demonstrations of delight, but, standing somewhat in awe of Adelaide, said nothing.
But Elsie suddenly relapsed into silence, for at that moment Mrs. Dinsmore entered the room, and it was seldom that she could utter a word in her presence without being reproved and told that "children should be seen and not heard," though her own were allowed to talk as much as they pleased.
Miss Day seemed cross, Mrs. Dinsmore was moody and taciturn, complaining of headache, and Mr. Dinsmore occupied with the morning paper; and so the meal passed off in almost unbroken silence. Elsie was glad when it was over, and hastening to the school-room, she began her tasks without waiting for the arrival of the regular hour for study.
She had the room entirely to herself, and had been busily engaged for half an hour in working out her examples, when the opening of the door caused her to look up, and, to her dismay, Arthur entered. He did not, however, as she feared, begin his customary course of teasing and tormenting, but seated himself at his desk, leaning his head upon his hand in an attitude of dejection.
Elsie wondered what ailed him, his conduct was so unusual, and she could not help every now and then sending an inquiring glance toward him, and at length she asked, "What is the matter, Arthur?"
"Nothing much," said he, gruffly, turning his back to her.
Thus repulsed, she said no more, but gave her undivided attention to her employment; and so diligent was she, that Miss Day had no excuse whatever for fault-finding this morning. Her tasks were all completed within the required time, and she enjoyed her promised ride with her aunt and Miss Allison, and her visit to the fair, very much indeed.
It was still early when they returned; and finding that she had nearly an hour to dispose of before tea-time, Elsie thought she would finish a drawing which she had left in her desk in the school-room. While searching for it and her pencil, she heard Lora's and Arthur's voices on the veranda.
She did not notice what they were saying, until her own name struck her ear.
"Elsie is the only person," Lora was saying, "who can, and probably will, help you; for she has plenty of money, and she is so kind and generous; but, if I were you, I should be ashamed to ask her, after the way you acted toward her."
"I wish I hadn't teased her so yesterday," replied Arthur, disconsolately, "but it's such fun, I can't help it sometimes."
"Well, I know I wouldn't ask a favor of anybody I had treated so," said Lora, walking away.
Elsie sat still a few moments, working at her drawing and wondering all the time what it was Arthur wanted, and thinking how glad she would be of an opportunity of returning him good for evil. She did not like, though, to seek his confidence, but presently hearing him heave a deep sigh, she rose and went out on the veranda.
He was leaning on the railing in an attitude of dejection, his head bent down and his eyes fixed on the floor. She went up to him, and laying her hand softly on his shoulder, said, in the sweet, gentle tones natural to her. "What ails you, Arthur? Can I do anything for you? I will be very glad if I can."
"No--yes--" he answered hesitatingly; "I wouldn't like to ask you after--after--"
"Oh! never mind," said Elsie, quickly; "I do not care anything about that now. I had the ride to-day, and that was better still, because I went with Aunt Adelaide and Miss Allison. Tell me what you want."
Thus encouraged, Arthur replied, "I saw a beautiful little ship yesterday when I was in the city; it was only five dollars, and I've set my heart on having it, but my pocket money's all gone, and papa won't give me a cent until next month's allowance is due; and by that time the ship will be gone, for it's such a beauty somebody'll be sure to buy it."
"Won't your mamma buy it for you?" asked Elsie.
"No, she says she hasn't the money to spare just now. You know it's near the end of the month, and they've all spent their allowances except Louise, and she says she'll not lend her money to such a spendthrift as I am."
Elsie drew out her purse, and seemed just about to put it into his hand; but, apparently changing her mind, she hesitated a moment, and then returning it to her pocket, said, with a half smile, "I don't know, Arthur; five dollars is a good deal for a little girl like me to lay out at once. I must think about it a little."
"I don't ask you to give it," he replied scornfully; "I'll pay it back in two weeks."
"Well, I will see by to-morrow morning," she said, darting away, while he sent an angry glance after her, muttering the word "stingy" between his teeth.
Elsie ran down to the kitchen, asking of one and another of the servants as she passed, "Where's Pompey?" The last time she put the question to Phoebe, the cook, but was answered by Pompey himself. "Here am Pomp, Miss Elsie; what does little missy want wid dis chile?"
"Are you going to the city to-night, Pompey?"
"Yes, Miss Elsie, I'se got some arrants to do for missus an' de family in ginral, an' I ben gwine start in 'bout ten minutes. Little missy wants sumpin', eh?"
Elsie motioned to him to come close to her, and then putting her purse into his hands, she told him in a whisper of Arthur's wish, and directed him to purchase the coveted toy, and bring it to her, if possible, without letting any one else know anything about it. "And keep half a dollar for yourself, Pompey, to pay you for your trouble," she added in conclusion.
"Tank you, little missy," he replied, with a broad grin of satisfaction; "dat be berry good pay, and Pomp am de man to do dis business up for you 'bout right."
The tea-bell rang, and Elsie hastened away to answer the summons. She looked across the table at Arthur with a pleasant smile on her countenance, but he averted his eyes with an angry scowl; and with a slight sigh she turned away her head, and did not look at him again during the meal.
Pompey executed his commission faithfully; and when Elsie returned to her own room after her evening hour with Miss Rose, Chloe pointed out the little ship standing on the mantel.
"Oh! it's a little beauty," cried Elsie, clapping her hands and dancing up and down with delight; "how Arthur will be pleased! Now, mammy, can you take it to the school-room, and put it on Master Arthur's desk, without anybody seeing you?"
"Ole Chloe'll try, darlin," she said, taking it in her hands.
"Oh! wait one moment," exclaimed Elsie, and taking a card, she wrote on it, "A present to Arthur, from his niece Elsie." Then laying it on the deck of the little vessel. "There, mammy," she said, "I think that will do; but please look out first to see whether any one is in the hall."
"Coast all clear, darlin'," replied Chloe, after a careful survey; "all de chillens am in bed before dis time, I spec." And taking a candle in one hand and the little ship in the other, she started for the school-room. She soon returned with a broad grin of satisfaction on her black face, saying, "All right, darlin', I put him on Massa Arthur's desk, an' nobody de wiser."
So Elsie went to bed very happy in the thought of the pleasure Arthur would have in receiving her present.
She was hurrying down to the breakfast-room the next morning, a little in advance of Miss Rose, who had stopped to speak to Adelaide, when Arthur came running up behind her, having just come in by a side door from the garden, and seizing her round the waist, he said, "Thank you, Elsie; you're a real good girl! She sails beautifully. I've been trying her on the pond. But it mustn't be a present; you must let me pay you back when I get my allowance."
"Oh! no, Arthur, that would spoil it all," she answered quickly; "you are entirely welcome, and you know my allowance is so large that half the time I have more money than I know how to spend."
"I should like to see the time that would be the case with me," said he, laughing. Then in a lower tone, "Elsie, I'm sorry I teased you so. I'll not do it again soon."
Elsie answered him with a grateful look, as she stepped past him and quietly took her place at the table.
Arthur kept his word, and for many weeks entirely refrained from teasing Elsie, and while freed from that annoyance she was always able to have her tasks thoroughly prepared; and though her governess was often unreasonable and exacting, and there was scarcely a day in which she was not called upon to yield her own wishes or pleasures, or in some way to inconvenience herself to please Walter or Enna, or occasionally the older members of the family, yet it was an unusually happy winter to her, for Rose Allison's love and uniform kindness shed sunshine on her path. She had learned to yield readily to others, and when fretted or saddened by unjust or unkind treatment, a few moments alone with her precious Bible and her loved Saviour made all right again, and she would come from those sweet communings looking as serenely happy as if she had never known an annoyance. She was a wonder to all the family. Her grandfather would sometimes look at her as, without a frown or a pout, she would give up her own wishes to Enna, and shaking his head, say, "She's no Dinsmore, or she would know how to stand up for her own rights better than that. I don't like such tame-spirited people. She's not Horace's child; it never was an easy matter to impose upon or conquer him. He was a boy of spirit."
"What a strange child Elsie is?" Adelaide remarked to her friend one day. "I am often surprised to see how sweetly she gives up to all of us; really she has a lovely temper. I quite envy her; it was always hard for me to give up my own way."
"I do not believe it was easy for her at first," said Rose. "I think her sweet disposition is the fruit of a work of grace in her heart. It is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which God alone can bestow."
"I wish I had it, then," said Adelaide, sighing.
"You have only to go to the right source to obtain it, dear Adelaide," replied her friend, gently.
"And yet," said Adelaide, "I must say I sometimes think that, as papa says, there is something mean-spirited and cowardly in always giving up to other people."
"It would indeed be cowardly and wrong to give up principle," replied Rose, "but surely it is noble and generous to give up our own wishes to another, where no principle is involved."
"Certainly, you are right," said Adelaide, musingly. "And now I recollect that, readily as Elsie gives up her own wishes to others on ordinary occasions, I have never known her to sacrifice principle; but, on the contrary, she has several times made mamma excessively angry by refusing to romp and play with Enna on the Sabbath, or to deceive papa when questioned with regard to some of Arthur's misdeeds; yet she has often borne the blame of his faults, when she might have escaped by telling of him. Elsie is certainly very different from any of the rest of us, and if it is piety that makes her what she is, I think piety is a very lovely thing."
Elsie's mornings were spent in the school-room; in the afternoon she walked, or rode out, sometimes in company with her young uncles and aunts, and sometimes alone, a negro boy following at a respectful distance, as a protector. In the evening there was almost always company in the parlor, and she found it pleasanter to sit beside the bright wood-fire in her own room, with her fond old nurse for a companion, than to stay there, or with the younger ones in the sitting-room or nursery. If she had no lesson to learn, she usually read aloud to Chloe, as she sat knitting by the fire, and the Bible was the book generally preferred by both; and then when she grew weary of reading, she would often take a stool, and sitting down close to Chloe, put her head in her lap, saying, "Now, mammy, tell me about mamma."
And then for the hundredth time or more the old woman would go over the story of the life and death of her "dear young missus," as she always called her; telling of her beauty, her goodness, and of her sorrows and sufferings during the last year of her short life.
It was a story which never lost its charm for Elsie; a story which the one never wearied of telling, nor the other of hearing. Elsie would sit listening, with her mother's miniature in her hand, gazing at it with tearful eyes, then press it to her lips, murmuring, "My own mamma; poor, dear mamma." And when Chloe had finished that story she would usually say, "Now, mammy, tell me all about papa."
But upon this subject Chloe had very little information to give. She knew him only as a gay, handsome young stranger, whom she had seen occasionally during a few months, and who had stolen all the sunshine from her beloved young mistress' life, and left her to die alone; yet she did not blame him when speaking to his child, for the young wife had told her that he had not forsaken her of his own free choice; and though she could not quite banish from her own mind the idea that he had not been altogether innocent in the matter, she breathed no hint of it to Elsie; for Chloe was a sensible woman, and knew that to lead the little one to think ill of her only remaining parent would but tend to make her unhappy.
Sometimes Elsie would ask very earnestly, "Do you thing papa loves Jesus, mammy?" And Chloe would reply with a doubtful shake of the head, "Dunno, darlin'; but ole Chloe prays for him ebery day."
"And so do I," Elsie would answer; "dear, dear papa, how I wish he would come home!"
And so the winter glided away, and spring came, and Miss Allison must soon return home. It was now the last day of March, and her departure had been fixed for the second of April. For a number of weeks Elsie had been engaged, during all her spare moments, in knitting a purse for Rose, wishing to give her something which was the work of her own hands, knowing that as such it would be more prized by her friend than a costlier gift. She had just returned from her afternoon ride, and taking out her work she sat down to finish it. She was in her own room, with no companion but Chloe, who sat beside her knitting as usual.
Elsie worked on silently for some time, then suddenly holding up her purse, she exclaimed, "See, mammy, it is all done but putting on the tassel! Isn't it pretty? and won't dear Miss Allison be pleased with it?"
It really was very pretty indeed, of crimson and gold, and beautifully knit, and Chloe, looking at it with admiring eyes, said, "I spec she will, darlin'. I tink it's berry handsome."
At this moment Enna opened the door and came in.
Elsie hastily attempted to conceal the purse by thrusting it into her pocket, but it was too late, for Enna had seen it, and running toward her, cried out, "Now, Elsie, just give that to me!"
"No, Enna," replied Elsie, mildly, "I cannot let you have it, because it is for Miss Rose."
"I will have it," exclaimed the child, resolutely, "and if you don't give it to me at once I shall just go and tell mamma."
"I will let you take it in your hand a few moments to look at it, if you will be careful not to soil it, Enna," said Elsie, in the same gentle tone; "and if you wish, I will get some more silk and beads, and make you one just like it; but I cannot give you this, because I would not have time to make another for Miss Rose."
"No, I shall just have that one; and I shall have it to keep," said Enna, attempting to snatch it out of Elsie's hand.
But Elsie held it up out of her reach, and after trying several times in vain to get it, Enna left the room, crying and screaming with passion.
Chloe locked the door, saying, "Great pity, darlin', we forgot to do dat 'fore Miss Enna came. I'se 'fraid she gwine bring missus for make you gib um up."
Elsie sat down to her work again, but she was very pale, and her little hands trembled with agitation, and her soft eyes were full of tears.
Chloe's fears were but too well founded; for the next moment hasty steps were heard in the passage, and the handle of the door was laid hold of with no very gentle grasp; and then, as it refused to yield to her touch, Mrs. Dinsmore's voice was heard in an angry tone giving the command, "Open this door instantly."
Chloe looked at her young mistress.
"You will have to," said Elsie, tearfully, slipping her work into her pocket again, and lifting up her heart in prayer for patience and meekness, for she well knew she would have need of both.
Mrs. Dinsmore entered, leading the sobbing Enna by the hand; her face was flushed with passion, and addressing Elsie in tones of violent anger, she asked, "What is the meaning of all this, you good-for-nothing hussy? Why are you always tormenting this poor child? Where is that paltry trifle that all this fuss is about? let me see it this instant."
Elsie drew the purse from her pocket, saying in tearful, trembling tones, "It is a purse I was making for Miss Rose, ma'am; and I offered to make another just like it for Enna; but I cannot give her this one, because there would not be time to make another before Miss Rose goes away."
"You can not give it to her, indeed! You will not, you mean; but I say you shall; and I'll see if I'm not mistress in my own house. Give it to the child this instant; I'll not have her crying her eyes out that you may be humored in all your whims. There are plenty of handsomer ones to be had in the city, and if you are too mean to make her a present of it, I'll buy you another to-morrow."
"But that would not be my work, and this is," replied Elsie, still retaining the purse, loath to let it go.
"Nonsense! what difference will that make to Miss Rose?" said Mrs. Dinsmore; and snatching it out of her hand, she gave it to Enna, saying, "There, my pet, you shall have it. Elsie is a naughty, mean, stingy girl, but she shan't plague you while your mamma's about."
Enna cast a look of triumph at Elsie, and ran off with her prize, followed by her mother, while poor Elsie hid her face in Chloe's lap and cried bitterly.
It required all Chloe's religion to keep down her anger and indignation at this unjust and cruel treatment of her darling, and for a few moments she allowed her to sob and cry without a word, only soothing her with mute caresses, not daring to trust her voice, lest her anger should find vent in words. But at length, when her feelings had grown somewhat calmer, she said soothingly, "Nebber mind it, my poor darlin' chile. Just go to de city and buy de prettiest purse you can find, for Miss Rose."
But Elsie shook her head sadly. "I wanted it to be my own work," she sobbed, "and now there is no time."
"Oh! I'll tell you what, my pet," exclaimed Chloe suddenly, "dere's de purse you was aknittin' for your papa, an' dey wouldn't send it for you; you can get dat done for de lady, and knit another for your papa, 'fore he comes home."
Elsie raised her head with a look of relief, but her face clouded again, as she replied, "But it is not quite done, and I haven't the beads to finish it with, and Miss Rose goes day after to- morrow."
"Nebber mind dat, darlin'," said Chloe, jumping up; "Pomp he been gwine to de city dis berry afternoon, an' we'll tell him to buy de beads, an' den you can get de purse finished 'fore to-morrow night, an' de lady don't go till de next day, an' so it gwine all come right yet."
"Oh! yes, that will do; dear old mammy, I'm so glad you thought of it," said Elsie, joyfully. And rising, she went to her bureau, and unlocking a drawer, took from it a bead purse of blue and gold, quite as handsome as the one of which she had been so ruthlessly despoiled, and rolling it up in a piece of paper, she handed it to Chloe, saying: "There, mammy, please give it to Pomp, and tell him to match the beads and the silk exactly."
Chloe hastened in search of Pomp, but when she found him, he insisted that he should not have time to attend to Miss Elsie's commission and do his other errands; and Chloe, knowing that he, in common with all the other servants, was very fond of the little girl, felt satisfied that it was not merely an excuse, therefore did not urge her request. She stood a moment in great perplexity, then suddenly exclaimed, "I'll go myself. Miss Elsie will spare me, an' I'll go right long wid you, Pomp."
Chloe was entirely Elsie's servant, having no other business than to wait upon her and take care of her clothing and her room; and the little girl, of course, readily gave her permission to accompany Pomp and do the errand.
But it was quite late ere Chloe returned, and the little girl spent the evening alone in her own room. She was sadly disappointed that she could not even have her hour with Miss Rose, who was detained in the parlor with company whom she could not leave, and so the evening seemed very long and wore away very slowly.
But at last Chloe came, and in answer to her eager inquiries displayed her purchases with great satisfaction, saying, "Yes, darlin', I'se got de berry t'ings you wanted."
"Oh! yes," said Elsie, examining them with delight; "they are just right; and now I can finish it in a couple of hours."
"Time to get ready for bed now, ain't it, pet?" asked Chloe; but before the little girl had time to answer, a servant knocked at the door, and handed in a note for her. It was from Miss Allison, and, hastily tearing it open, she read:
"DEAR ELSIE--I am very sorry that we cannot have our reading together this evening; but be sure, darling, to come to me early in the morning; it will be our last opportunity, for, dear child, I have another disappointment for you. I had not expected to leave before day after to-morrow, but I have learned this evening that the vessel sails a day sooner than I had supposed, and therefore I shall be obliged to start on my journey to-morrow.
"Your friend, ROSE."
Elsie dropped the note on the floor and burst into tears.
"What de matter, darlin'?" asked Chloe, anxiously.
"Oh! Miss Rose, dear, dear Miss Rose is going tomorrow," she sobbed. Then hastily drying her eyes, she said: "But I have no time for crying. I must sit up and finish the purse to-night, because there will not be time to-morrow."
It was long past her usual hour for retiring when at last her task, or rather her labor of love, was completed. Yet she was up betimes, and at the usual hour her gentle rap was heard at Miss Allison's door.
Rose clasped her in her arms and kissed her tenderly.
"O Miss Rose! dear, dear Miss Rose, what shall I do without you?" sobbed the little girl. "I shall have nobody to love me now but mammy."
"You have another and a better friend, dear Elsie, who has said, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,'" whispered Rose, with another tender caress.
"Yes," said Elsie, wiping away her tears; "and He is your Friend, too; and don't you think, Miss Rose, He will bring us together again some day?"
"I hope so indeed, darling. We must keep very close to Him, dear Elsie; we must often commune with Him in secret; often study His word, and try always to do His will. Ah! dear child, if we can only have the assurance that that dear Friend is with us--that we have His presence and His love, we shall be supremely happy, though separated from all earthly friends. I know, dear little one, that you have peculiar trials, and that you often feel the want of sympathy and love; but you may always find them in Jesus. And now we will have our reading and prayer as usual."
She took the little girl in her lap, and opening the Bible, read aloud the fourteenth chapter of John, a part of that touching farewell of our Saviour to His sorrowing disciples; and then they knelt to pray. Elsie was only a listener, for her little heart was too full to allow her to be anything more.
"My poor darling!" Rose said, again taking her in her arms, "we will hope to meet again before very long. Who knows but your papa may come home, and some day bring you to see me. It seems not unlikely, as he is so fond of traveling."
Elsie looked up, smiling through her tears, "Oh! how delightful that would be," she said. "But it seems as though my papa would never come," she added, with a deep-drawn sigh.
"Well, darling, we can hope," Rose answered cheerfully. "And, dear child, though we must be separated in body for a time, we can still meet in spirit at the mercy-seat. Shall we not do so at this hour every morning?"
Elsie gave a joyful assent.
"And I shall write to you, darling," Rose said; "I will write on my journey, if I can, so that you will get the letter in a week from the time I leave; and then you must write to me; will you?"
"If you won't care for the mistakes, Miss Rose. But you know I am a very little girl, and I wouldn't like to let Miss Day read my letter to you, to correct it. But I shall be so very glad to get yours. I never had a letter in my life."
"I sha'n't care for mistakes at all, dear, and no one shall see your letters but myself," said Rose, kissing her. "I should be as sorry as you to have Miss Day look at them."
Elsie drew out the purse and put it in her friend's hand, saying: "It is all my own work, dear Miss Rose; I thought you would value it more for that."
"And indeed I shall, darling," replied Rose, with tears of pleasure in her eyes. "It is beautiful in itself, but I shall value it ten times more because it is your gift, and the work of your own dear little hands."
But the breakfast-bell now summoned them to join the rest of the family, and, in a few moments after they left the table, the carriage which was to take Rose to the city was at the door. Rose had endeared herself to all, old and young, and they were loath to part with her. One after another bade her an affectionate farewell. Elsie was the last. Rose pressed her tenderly to her bosom, and kissed her again and again, saying, in a voice half choked with grief, "God bless and keep you, my poor little darling; my dear, dear little Elsie!"
Elsie could not speak; and the moment the carriage had rolled away with her friend, she went to her own room, and locking herself in, cried long and bitterly. She had learned to love Rose very dearly, and to lean upon her very much; and now the parting from her, with no certainty of ever meeting her again in this world, was the severest trial the poor child had ever known.