Elsie Dinsmore by Martha Finley
"With more capacity for love than earth Bestows on most of mortal mould and birth." --BYRON. "What are our hopes? Like garlands, on afflictions's forehead worn, Kissed in the morning, and at evening torn." --DAVENPORT'S King John and Matilda.
Such had been the state of affairs for about a week, when one morning Elsie and her father met at the breakfast-room door.
"Good morning, papa," she said timidly.
"Good morning, Elsie," he replied in an unusually pleasant tone.
Then, taking her by the hand, he led her in and seated her beside himself at the table.
Elsie's cheek glowed and her eyes sparkled with pleasure.
There were several guests present, and she waited patiently while they and the older members of the family were being helped. At length it was her turn.
"Elsie, will you have some meat?" asked her grandfather.
"No," said her father, answering for her; "once a day is as often as a child of her age ought to eat meat; she may have it at dinner, but never for breakfast or tea."
The elder Mr. Dinsmore laughed, saying, "Really, Horace, I had no idea you were so notionate. I always allowed you to eat whatever you pleased, and I never saw that it hurt you. But, of course, you must manage your own child in your own way."
"If you please, papa, I had rather have some of those hot cakes," said Elsie, timidly, as her father laid a slice of bread upon her plate.
"No," said he decidedly; "I don't approve of hot bread for children; you must eat the cold." Then to a servant who was setting down a cup of coffee beside the little girl's plate, "Take that away, Pomp, and bring Miss Elsie a tumbler of milk. Or would you prefer water, Elsie?"
"Milk, if you please, papa," she replied with a little sigh; for she was extremely fond of coffee, and it was something of a trial to give it up.
Her father put a spoonful of stewed fruit upon her plate, and as Pompey set down a tumbler of rich milk beside it, said, "Now you have your breakfast before you, Elsie. Children in England are not allowed to eat butter until they are ten or eleven years of age, and I think it an excellent plan, to make them grow up rosy and healthy. I have neglected my little girl too long, but I intend to begin to take good care of her now," he added, with a smile, and laying his hand for an instant upon her head.
The slight caress and the few kind words were quite enough to reconcile Elsie to the rather meagre fare, and she ate it with a happy heart. But the meagre fare became a constant thing, while the caresses and kind words were not; and though she submitted without a murmur, she could not help sometimes looking with longing eyes at the coffee and hot buttered rolls, of which she was very fond. But she tried to be contented, saying to herself, "Papa knows best, and I ought to be satisfied with whatever he gives me."
"Isn't it delightful to have your papa at home, Elsie?" Mr. Dinsmore one morning overheard Arthur saying to his little girl in a mocking tone. "It's very pleasant to live on bread and water, isn't it, eh?"
"I don't live on bread and water," Elsie replied, a little indignantly. "Papa always allows me to have as much good, rich milk, and cream, and fruit as I want, or I can have eggs, or cheese, or honey, or anything else, except meat and hot cakes, and butter, and coffee; and who wouldn't rather do without such things all their lives than not have a papa to love them? And besides, you know, Arthur, that I can have all the meat I want at dinner."
"Pooh! that's nothing; and Iwouldn't give much for all the love you get from him," said Arthur, scornfully.
There was something like a sob from Elsie; and as her father rose and went to the window, he just caught a glimpse of her white dress disappearing down the garden walk.
"What do you mean, sir, by teasing Elsie in that manner?" he exclaimed angrily to Arthur, who still stood where the little girl had left him, leaning against one of the pillars of the portico.
"I only wanted to have a little fun," returned the boy doggedly.
"Well, sir, I don't approve of such fun, and you will please to let the child alone in future," replied his brother as he returned to his newspaper again.
But somehow the paper had lost its interest. He seemed constantly to hear that little sob, and to see a little face all wet with tears of wounded feeling.
Just then the school-bell rang, and suddenly throwing down his paper, he took a card from his pocket, wrote a few words upon it, and calling a servant, said, "Take this to Miss Day."
Elsie was seated at her desk, beginning her morning's work, when the servant entered and handed the card to the governess.
Miss Day glanced at it and said:
"Elsie, your father wants you. You may go."
Elsie rose in some trepidation and left the room, wondering what her papa could want with her.
"Where is papa, Fanny?" she asked of the servant.
"In de drawin'-room, Miss Elsie," was the reply; and she hastened to seek him there.
He held out his hand as she entered, saying with a smile, "Come here, daughter."
It was the first time he had called her that, and it sent a thrill of joy to her heart.
She sprang to his side, and, taking her hand in one of his, and laying the other gently on her head, and bending it back a little, he looked keenly into her face. It was bright enough now, yet the traces of tears were very evident.
"You have been crying," he said, in a slightly reproving tone. "I am afraid you do a great deal more of that than is good for you. It is a very babyish habit, and you must try to break yourself of it."
The little face flushed painfully, and the eyes filled again.
"There," he said, stroking her hair, "don't begin it again. I am going to drive over to Ion, where your friend Mr. Travilla lives, to spend the day; would my little daughter like to go with me?"
"Oh! so very much, papa!" she answered eagerly.
"There are no little folks there," he said smiling, "nobody to see but Mr. Travilla and his mother. But I see you want to go; so run and ask Aunt Chloe to get you ready. Tell her I want you nicely dressed, and the carriage will be at the door in half an hour."
Elsie bounded away to do his bidding, her face radiant with happiness; and at the specified time came down again, looking so very lovely that her father gazed at her with proud delight, and could not refrain from giving her a kiss as he lifted her up to place her in the carriage.
Then, seating himself beside her, he took her hand in his; and, closing the door with the other, bade the coachman drive on.
"I suppose you have never been to Ion, Elsie?" he said, inquiringly.
"No, sir; but I have heard Aunt Adelaide say she thought it a very pretty place," replied the little girl.
"So it is--almost as pretty as Roselands," said her father. "Travilla and I have known each other from boyhood, and I spent many a happy day at Ion, and we had many a boyish frolic together, before I ever thought of you."
He smiled, and patted her cheek as he spoke.
Elsie's eyes sparkled. "O papa!" she said eagerly; "won't you tell me about those times? It seems so strange that you were ever a little boy and I was nowhere."
He laughed. Then said, musingly, "It seems but a very little while to me, Elsie, since I was no older than you are now."
He heaved a sigh, and relapsed into silence.
Elsie wished very much that he would grant her request, but did not dare to disturb him by speaking a word; and they rode on quietly for some time, until a squirrel darting up a tree caught her eye, and she uttered an exclamation. "O papa! did you see that squirrel? look at him now, perched up on that branch. There, we have passed the tree, and now he is out of sight."
This reminded Mr. Dinsmore of a day he had spent in those woods hunting squirrels, when quite a boy, and he gave Elsie an animated account of it. One of the incidents of the day had been the accidental discharge of the fowling-piece of one of his young companions, close at Horace Dinsmore's side, missing him by but a hair's breadth.
"I felt faint and sick when I knew how near I had been to death," he said, as he finished his narrative.
Elsie had been listening with breathless interest.
"Dear papa," she murmured, laying her little cheek against his hand, "how good God was to spare your life! If you had been killed I could never have had you for my papa."
"Perhaps you might have had a much better one, Elsie," he said gravely.
"Oh! no, papa, I wouldn't want any other," she replied earnestly, pressing his hand to her lips.
"Ah! here we are," exclaimed her father, as at that instant the carriage turned into a broad avenue, up which they drove quite rapidly, and the next moment they had stopped, the coachman had thrown open the carriage door, and Mr. Dinsmore, springing out, lifted his little girl in his arms and set her down on the steps of the veranda.
"Ah! Dinsmore, how do you do? Glad to see you, and my little friend Elsie, too. Why this is really kind," cried Mr. Travilla, in his cheerful, hearty way, as, hurrying out to welcome them, he shook Mr. Dinsmore cordially by the hand, and kissed Elsie's cheek.
"Walk in, walk in," he continued, leading the way into the house, "my mother will be delighted to see you both; Miss Elsie especially, for she seems to have taken a very great fancy to her."
If Mrs. Travilla's greeting was less boisterous, it certainly was not lacking in cordiality, and she made Elsie feel at home at once; taking off her bonnet, smoothing her hair, and kissing her affectionately.
The gentlemen soon went out together, and Elsie spent the morning in Mrs. Travilla's room, chatting with her and assisting her with some coarse garments she was making for her servants.
Mrs. Travilla was an earnest Christian, and the lady and the little girl were not long in discovering the tie which existed between them.
Mrs. Travilla, being also a woman of great discernment, and having known Horace Dinsmore nearly all his life, had conceived a very correct idea of the trials and difficulties of Elsie's situation, and without alluding to them at all, gave her some most excellent advice, which the little girl received very thankfully.
They were still chatting together when Mr. Travilla came in, saying, "Come, Elsie, I want to take you out to see my garden, hot-house, etc. We will just have time before dinner. Will you go along, mother?"
"No; I have some little matters to attend to before dinner, and will leave you to do the honors," replied the lady; and taking the little girl's hand he led her out.
"Where is papa?" asked Elsie.
"Oh! he's in the library, looking over some new books," replied Mr. Travilla. "He always cared more for books than anything else. But what do you think of my flowers?"
"Oh! they are lovely! What a variety you have! what a splendid cape-jessamine that is, and there is a variety of cactus I never saw before! Oh! you have a great many more, and handsomer, I think, than we have at Roselands," exclaimed Elsie, as she passed admiringly from one to another.
Mr. Travilla was much pleased with the admiration she expressed, for he was very fond of his flowers, and took great pride in showing them.
But they were soon called in to dinner, where Elsie was seated by her father.
"I hope this little girl has not given you any trouble, Mrs. Travilla," said he, looking gravely at her.
"Oh! no," the lady hastened to say, "I have enjoyed her company very much indeed, and hope you will bring her to see me again very soon."
After dinner, as the day was very warm, they adjourned to the veranda, which was the coolest place to be found; it being on the shady side of the house, and also protected by thick trees, underneath which a beautiful fountain was playing.
But the conversation was upon some subject which did not interest Elsie, and she presently stole away to the library, and seating herself in a corner of the sofa, was soon lost to everything around her in the intense interest with which she was reading a book she had taken from the table.
"Ah! that is what you are about, Miss Elsie! a bookworm, just like your father, I see. I had been wondering what had become of you for the last two hours," exclaimed Mr. Travilla's pleasant voice; and sitting down beside her, he took the book from her hand, and putting it behind him, said, "Put it away now; you will have time enough to finish it, and I want you to talk to me."
"Oh! please let me have it," she pleaded. "I shall not have much time, for papa will soon be calling me to go home."
"No, no, he is not to take you away; I have made a bargain with him to let me keep you," said Mr. Travilla, very gravely. "We both think that there are children enough at Roselands without you; and so your papa has given you to me; and you are to be my little girl, and call me papa in future."
Elsie gazed earnestly in his face for an instant, saying in a half-frightened tone, "You are only joking, Mr. Travilla."
"Not a bit of it," said he; "can't you see that I'm in earnest?"
His tone and look were both so serious that for an instant Elsie believed he meant all that he was saying, and springing to her feet with a little cry of alarm, she hastily withdrew her hand which he had taken, and rushing out to the veranda, where her father still sat conversing with Mrs. Travilla, she flung herself into his arms, and clinging to him, hid her face on his breast, sobbing, "O papa, dear papa! don't give me away; please don't--I will be so good--I will do everything you bid me--I--"
"Why, Elsie, what does all this mean!" exclaimed Mr. Dinsmore in great surprise and perplexity; while Mr. Travilla stood in the doorway looking half amused, half sorry for what he had done.
"O papa!" sobbed the little girl, still clinging to him as though fearing she should be torn from his arms, "Mr. Travilla says you have given me to him. O papa! don't give me away."
"Pooh! nonsense, Elsie! I am ashamed of you! how can you be so very silly as to believe for one moment anything so perfectly absurd as that I should think of giving you away? Why, I would as soon think of parting with my eyes."
Elsie raised her head and gazed searchingly into his face; then with a deep-drawn sigh of relief, dropped it again, saying, "Oh! I am so glad."
"Really, Miss Elsie," said Travilla, coming up and patting her on the shoulder, "I can't say that I feel much complimented; and, indeed, I don't see why you need have been so very much distressed at the prospect before you; for I must say I have vanity enough to imagine that I should make the better--or at least the more indulgent--father of the two. Come, now, wouldn't you be willing to try me for a month, if your papa will give consent?"
Elsie shook her head.
"I will let you have your own way in everything," urged Travilla, coaxingly; "and I know that is more than he does."
"I don't want my own way, Mr. Travilla; I know it wouldn't always be a good way," replied Elsie, decidedly.
Her father laughed and passed his hand caressingly over her curls.
"I thought you liked me, little Elsie," said Travilla, in a tone of disappointment.
"So I do, Mr. Travilla; I like you very much," she replied.
"Well, don't you think I would make a good father?"
"I am sure you would be very kind, and that I should love you very much; but not so much as I love my own papa; because, you know, you are not my papa, and never can be, even if he should give me to you."
Mr. Dinsmore laughed heartily, saying, "I think you may as well give it up, Travilla; it seems I'll have to keep her whether or no, for she clings to me like a leech."
"Well, Elsie, you will at least come to the piano and play a little for me, will you not?" asked Travilla, smiling.
But Elsie still clung to her father, seeming loath to leave him, until he said, in his grave, decided way, "Go, Elsie; go at once, and do as you are requested."
Then she rose instantly to obey.
Travilla looked somewhat vexed. "I wish," he afterward remarked to his mother, "that Dinsmore was not quite so ready to second my requests with his commands. I want Elsie's compliance to be voluntary; else I think it worth very little."
Elsie played and sang until they were called to tea; after which she sat quietly by her father's side, listening to the conversation of her elders until the carriage was announced.
"Well, my daughter," said Mr. Dinsmore, when they were fairly upon their way to Roselands, "have you had a pleasant day?"
"Oh! very pleasant, papa, excepting--" She paused, looking a little embarrassed.
"Well, excepting what?" he asked, smiling down at her.
"Excepting when Mr. Travilla frightened me so, papa," she replied, moving closer to his side, blushing and casting down her eyes.
"And you do love your own papa best, and don't want to exchange him for another?" he said, inquiringly, as he passed his arm affectionately around her waist.
"Oh! no, dear papa, not for anybody else in all the world," she said earnestly.
He made no reply in words, but, looking highly gratified, bent down and kissed her cheek.
He did not speak again during their ride, but when the carriage stopped he lifted her out, and setting her gently down, bade her a kind good-night, saying it was time for mammy to put her to bed.
She ran lightly up-stairs, and springing into her nurse's arms, exclaimed, "O mammy, mammy! what a pleasant, pleasant day I have had! Papa has been so kind, and so were Mr. Travilla and his mother."
"I'se berry glad, darlin', an' I hope you gwine hab many more such days," replied Chloe, embracing her fondly and then proceeding to take off her bonnet and prepare her for bed, while Elsie gave her a minute account of all the occurrences of the day, not omitting the fright Mr. Travilla had given her, and how happily her fears had been relieved.
"You look berry happy, my darlin' pet," said Chloe, clasping her nursling again in her arms when her task was finished.
"Yes, mammy, I am happy, oh! so happy, because I do believe that papa is beginning to love me a little, and I hope that perhaps, after a while, he will love me very much."
The tears gathered in her eyes as she spoke.
The next afternoon, as Elsie was returning from her walk, she met her father.
"Elsie," said he, in a reproving tone, "I have forbidden you to walk out alone; are you disobeying me?"
"No, papa," she replied meekly, raising her eyes to his face, "I was not alone until about five minutes ago, when Aunt Adelaide and Louise left me. They said it did not matter, as I was so near home; and they were going to make a call, and did not want me along."
"Very well," he said, taking hold of her hand and making her walk by his side. "How far have you been?"
"We went down the river bank to the big spring, papa. I believe it is a little more than a mile that way; but when we came home, we made it shorter by coming across some of the fields and through the meadow."
"Through the meadow?" said Mr. Dinsmore; "don't you go there again, Elsie, unless I give you express permission."
"Why, papa?" she asked, looking up at him in some surprise.
"Because I forbid it," he replied sternly; "that is quite enough for you to know; all you have to do is to obey, and you need never ask me why, when I give you an order."
Elsie's eyes filled, and a big tear rolled quickly down her cheek.
"I did not mean to be naughty, papa," she said, struggling to keep down a sob, "and I will try never to ask why again."
"There is another thing," said he. "You cry quite too easily; it is entirely too babyish for a girl of your age; you must quit it."
"I will try, papa," said the little girl, wiping her eyes, and making a great effort to control her feelings.
They had entered the avenue while this conversation was going on, and were now drawing near the house; and just at this moment a little girl about Elsie's age came running to meet them, exclaiming, "O Elsie! I'm glad you've come at last. We've been here a whole hour--mamma, and Herbert, and I--and I've been looking for you all this time."
"How do you do, Miss Lucy Carrington? I see you can talk as fast as ever," said Mr. Dinsmore, laughing, and holding out his hand.
Lucy took it, saying with a little pout, "To be sure, Mr. Dinsmore, it isn't more than two or three weeks since you were at our house, and I wouldn't forget how to talk in that time." Then, looking at Elsie, she went on, "We've come to stay a week; won't we have a fine time?" and, catching her friend round the waist, she gave her a hearty squeeze.
"I hope so," said Elsie, returning the embrace. "I am glad you have come."
"Is your papa here, Miss Lucy?" asked Mr. Dinsmore.
"Yes, sir; but he's going home again to-night, and then he'll come back for us next week."
"I must go in and speak to him," said Mr. Dinsmore. "Elsie, do you entertain Lucy."
"Yes, sir, I will," said Elsie. "Come with me to my room, won't you, Lucy?"
"Yes; but won't you speak to mamma first? and Herbert, too; you are such a favorite with both of them; and they still are in the dressing-room, for mamma is not very well, and was quite fatigued with her ride."
Lucy led the way to her mamma's room, as she spoke, Elsie following.
"Ah! Elsie dear, how do you do? I'm delighted to see you," said Mrs. Carrington, rising from the sofa as they entered.
Then, drawing the little girl closer to her, she passed her arm affectionately around her waist, and kissed her several times.
"I suppose you are very happy now that your papa has come home at last?" she said, looking searchingly into Elsie's face. "I remember you used to be looking forward so to his return; constantly talking of it and longing for it."
Poor Elsie, conscious that her father's presence had not brought with it the happiness she had anticipated, and yet unwilling either to acknowledge that fact or tell an untruth, was at a loss what to say.
But she was relieved from the necessity of replying by Herbert, Lucy's twin brother, a pale, sickly-looking boy, who had for several years been a sufferer from hip complaint.
"O Elsie!" he exclaimed, catching hold of her hand and squeezing it between both of his, "I'm ever so glad to see you again."
"Yes," said Mrs. Carrington, "Herbert always says nobody can tell him such beautiful stories as Elsie; and nobody but his mother and his old mammy was half so kind to run and wait on him when he was laid on his back for so many weeks. He missed you very much when we went home, and often wished he was at Roselands again."
"How is your hip now, Herbert?" asked Elsie, looking pityingly at the boy's pale face.
"Oh! a great deal better, thank you. I can take quite long walks sometimes now, though I still limp, and cannot run and leap like other boys."
They chatted a few moments longer, and then Elsie went to her room to have her hat taken off, and her hair made smooth before the tea-bell should ring.
The two little girls were seated together at the table, Elsie's papa being on her other side.
"How nice these muffins are! Don't you like them, Elsie?" asked Lucy, as she helped herself to a third or fourth.
"Yes, very much," said Elsie, cheerfully.
"Then what are you eating that cold bread for? and you haven't got any butter, either. Pompey, why don't hand Miss Elsie the butter?"
"No, Lucy, I mustn't have it. Papa does not allow me to eat hot cakes or butter," said Elsie, in the same cheerful tone in which she had spoken before.
Lucy opened her eyes very wide, and drew in her breath.
"Well," she exclaimed, "I guess if my papa should try that on me, I'd make such a fuss he'd have to let me eat just whatever I wanted."
"Elsie knows better than to do that," said Mr. Dinsmore, who had overheard the conversation; "she would only get sent away from the table and punished for her naughtiness."
"I wouldn't do it anyhow, papa," said Elsie, raising her eyes beseechingly to his face.
"No, daughter, I don't believe you would," he replied in an unsually kind tone, and Elsie's face flushed with pleasure.
Several days passed away very pleasantly, Lucy sharing Elsie's studies in the mornings, while Herbert remained with his mamma; and then in the afternoon all walking or riding out together, unless the weather was too warm, when they spent the afternoon playing in the veranda, on the shady side of the house, and took their ride or walk after the sun was down.
Arthur and Walter paid but little attention to Herbert, as his lameness prevented him from sharing in the active sports which they preferred; for they had never been taught to yield their wishes to others, and were consequently extremely selfish and overbearing; but Elsie was very kind, and did all in her power to interest and amuse him.
One afternoon they all walked out together, attended by Jim; but Arthur and Walter, unwilling to accommodate their pace to Herbert's slow movements, were soon far in advance, Jim following close at their heels.
"They're quite out of sight," said Herbert presently. "and I'm very tired. Let's sit down on this bank, girls; I want to try my new bow, and you may run and pick up my arrows for me."
"Thank you, sir," said Lucy, laughing; "Elsie may do it if she likes, but as for me, I mean to take a nap; this nice, soft grass will make an elegant couch;" and throwing herself down, she soon was, or pretended to be, in a sound slumber; while Herbert, seating himself with his back against a tree, amused himself with shooting his arrows here and there, Elsie running for them and bringing them to him, until she was quite heated and out of breath.
"Now I must rest a little, Herbert," she said at length, sitting down beside him. "Shall I tell you a story?"
"Oh! yes, do; I like your stories, and I don't mind leaving off shooting till you're done," said he, laying down his bow.
Elsie's story lasted about ten minutes, and when she had finished, Herbert took up his bow again, saying, "I guess you're rested now, Elsie," and sent an arrow over into the meadow.
"There! just see how far I sent that! do run and bring it to me, Elsie!" he cried, "and let me see if I can't hit that tree next time; I've but just missed it."
"I'm tired, Herbert; but I'll run and bring it to you this once," replied Elsie, forgetting entirely her father's prohibition; "but then you must try to wait until Jim comes back before you shoot any more."
So saying, she darted away, and came back in a moment with the arrow in her hand. But a sudden recollection had come over her just as she left the meadow, and throwing down the arrow at the boy's feet, she exclaimed in an agitated tone, "O Herbert! I must go home just as quickly as I can; I had forgotten--oh! how could I forget! oh! what will papa say!"
"Why, what's the matter?" asked Herbert in alarm.
"Never mind," said Elsie, sobbing. "There are the boys coming; they will take care of you, and I must go home. Good-bye."
And she ran quickly up the road, Herbert following her retreating form with wondering eyes.
Elsie sped onward, crying bitterly as she went.
"Where is papa!" she inquired of a servant whom she met in the avenue.
"Dunno, Miss Elsie, but I reckon Massa Horace am in de house, kase his horse am in de stable."
Elsie hardly waited for the answer, but hurrying into the house, went from room to room, looking and asking in vain for her father. He was not in the drawing-room, or the library, or his own apartments. She had just come out of this, and meeting a chamber- maid in the hall, she exclaimed, "O Fanny! where is papa? can't you tell me? for I must see him."
"Here I am, Elsie; what do you want with me?" called out her father's voice from the veranda, where she had neglected to look.
"What do you want?" he repeated, as his little girl appeared before him with her flushed and tearful face. Elsie moved slowly toward him, with a timid air and downcast eyes.
"I wanted to tell you something, papa," she said in a low, tremulous tone.
"Well, I am listening," said he, taking hold of her hand and drawing her to his side. "What is it? are you sick or hurt?"
"No, papa, not either; but--but, O papa! I have been a very naughty girl," she exclaimed, bursting into tears, and sobbing violently. "I disobeyed you, papa. I--I have been in the meadow."
"Is it possible! Would you dare to do so when I so positively forbade it only the other day?" he said in his sternest tone, while a dark frown gathered on his brow. "Elsie, I shall have to punish you."
"I did not intend to disobey you, papa," she sobbed; "I quite forgot that you had forbidden me to go there."
"That is no excuse, no excuse at all," said he severely; "You must remember my commands; and if your memory is so poor I shall find means to strengthen it."
He paused a moment, still looking sternly at the little, trembling, sobbing girl at his side; then asked, "What were you doing in the meadow? tell me the whole story, that I may understand just how severely I ought to punish you."
Elsie gave him all the particulars; and when, upon questioning her closely, he perceived how entirely voluntary her confession had been, his tone and manner became less stern, and he said quite mildly, "Well, Elsie, I shall not be very severe with you this time, as you seem to be very penitent, and have made so full and frank a confession; but beware how you disobey me again, for you will not escape so easily another time; and remember I will not take forgetfulness as any excuse. Go now to Aunt Chloe, and tell her from me that she is to put you immediately to bed."
"It is only the middle of the afternoon, papa," said Elsie, deprecatingly.
"If it were much earlier, Elsie, it would make no difference; you must go at once to your bed, and stay there until to-morrow morning."
"What will Lucy and Herbert think when they come in and can't find me, papa?" she said, weeping afresh,
"You should have thought of that before you disobeyed me," he answered very gravely. "If you are hungry," he added, "you may ask Chloe to get you a slice of bread or a cracker for your supper, but you can have nothing else."
Elsie lingered, looking timidly up into his face as though wanting to say something, but afraid to venture.
"Speak, Elsie, if you have anything more to say," he said encouragingly.
"Dear papa, I am so sorry I have been so naughty," she murmured, leaning her head against the arm of his chair, while the tears rolled fast down her cheeks; "won't you please forgive me, papa? it seems to me I can't go to sleep to-night if you are angry with me."
He seemed quite touched by her penitence. "Yes, Elsie," he said, "I do forgive you. I am not at all angry with you now, and you may go to sleep in peace. Good night, my little daughter," and he bent down and pressed his lips to her brow.
Elsie held up her face for another, and he kissed her lips.
"Good night, dear papa," she said, "I hope I shall never be such a naughty girl again." And she went to her room, made almost happy by that kiss of forgiveness.
Elsie was up quite early the next morning and had learned all her lessons before breakfast. As she came down the stairs she saw, through the open door, her papa standing with some of the men- servants, apparently gazing at some object lying on the ground. She ran out and stood on the steps of the portico, looking at them and wondering what they were doing.
Presently her father turned round, and seeing her, held out his hand, calling, "Come here, Elsie."
She sprang quickly down the steps, and running to him, put her hand in his, saying, "Good morning, papa."
"Good morning, daughter," said he, "I have something to show you."
And leading her forward a few paces, he pointed to a large rattlesnake lying there.
"O papa!" she cried, starting back and clinging to him.
"It will not hurt you now" he said; "it is dead; the men killed it this morning in the meadow. Do you see now why I forbade you to go there?"
"O papa!" she murmured, in a low tone of deep feeling, laying her cheek affectionately against his hand, "I might have lost my life by my disobedience. How good God was to take care of me! Oh! I hope I shall never be so naughty again."
"I hope not," said he gravely, but not unkindly; "and I hope that you will always, after this, believe that your father has some good reason for his commands, even although he may not choose to explain it to you."
"Yes, papa, I think I will," she answered, humbly.
The breakfast-bell had rung, and he now led her in and seated her at the table.
Lucy Carrington looked curiously at her, and soon took an opportunity to whisper, "Where were you last night, Elsie? I couldn't find you, and your papa wouldn't say what had become of you, though I am quite sure he knew."
"I'll tell you after breakfast," replied Elsie, blushing deeply.
Lucy waited rather impatiently until all had risen from the table, and then, putting her arm round Elsie's waist, she drew her out on to the veranda, saying, "now, Elsie, tell me; you know you promised."
"I was in bed," replied Elsie, dropping her eyes, while the color mounted to her very hair.
"In bed! before five o'clock!" exclaimed Lucy in a tone of astonishment. "Why, what was that for?"
"Papa sent me," replied Elsie, with an effort. "I had been naughty, and disobeyed him."
"Why, how strange! Do tell me what you had done!" exclaimed Lucy, with a face full of curiosity.
"Papa had forbidden me to go into the meadow, I forgot all about it, and ran in there to get Herbert's arrow for him," replied Elsie, looking very much ashamed.
"Was that all? why my papa wouldn't have punished me for that," said Lucy. "He might have scolded me a little if I had done it on purpose, but if I had told him I had forgotten, he would only have said, 'You must remember better next time.'"
"Papa says that forgetfulness is no excuse; that I am to remember his commands, and if I forget, he will have to punish me, to make me remember better next time," said Elsie.
"He must be very strict indeed; I'm glad he is not my papa," replied Lucy, in a tone of great satisfaction.
"Come, little girls, make haste and get ready; we are to start in half an hour," said Adelaide Dinsmore, calling to them from the hall door.
The whole family, old and young, including visitors, were on that day to go on a picnic up the river, taking their dinner along, and spending the day in the woods. They had been planning this excursion for several days, and the children especially had been looking forward to it with a great deal of pleasure.
"Am I to go, Aunt Adelaide? did papa say so?" asked Elsie anxiously, as she and Lucy hastened to obey the summons.
"I presume you are to go of course, Elsie; we have been discussing the matter for the last three days, always taking it for granted that you were to make one of the party, and he has never said you should not," replied Adelaide, good-naturedly; "so make haste, or you will be too late. But here comes your papa now." she added, as the library door opened, and Mr. Dinsmore stepped out into the hall where they were standing.
"Horace, Elsie is to go of course?"
"I do not see the of course, Adelaide," said he dryly. "No; Elsie is not to go; she must stay at home and attend to her lessons as usual."
A look of keen disappointment came over Elsie's face, but she turned away without a word and went upstairs; while Lucy, casting a look of wrathful indignation at Mr. Dinsmore, ran after her, and following her into her room, she put her arm round her neck, saying, "Never mind, Elsie; it's too bad, and I wouldn't bear it. I'd go in spite of him."
"No, no, Lucy, I must obey my father; God says so; and besides, I couldn't do that if I wanted to, for papa is stronger than I am, and would punish me severely if I were to attempt such a thing," replied Elsie hastily, brushing away a tear that would come into her eye.
"Then I'd coax him," said Lucy. "Come, I'll go with you, and we will both try."
"No," replied Elsie, with a hopeless shake of the head, "I have found out already that my papa never breaks his word; and nothing could induce him to let me go, now that he has once said I should not. But you will have to leave me, Lucy, or you will be too late."
"Good-bye, then," said Lucy, turning to go; "but I think it is a great shame, and I shan't half enjoy myself without you."
"Well now, Horace, I think you might let the child go," was Adelaide's somewhat indignant rejoinder to her brother, as the two little girls disappeared; "I can't conceive what reason you can have for keeping her at home, and she looks so terribly disappointed. Indeed, Horace, I am sometimes half inclined to think you take pleasure in thwarting that child."
"You had better call me a tyrant at once, Adelaide," said he angrily, and turning very red; "but I must beg to be permitted to manage my own child in my own way; and I cannot see that I am under any obligation to give my reasons either to you or to any one else."
"Well, if you did not intend to let her go, I think you might have said so at first, and not left the poor child to build her hopes upon it, only to be disappointed. I must say I think it was cruel."
"Until this morning, Adelaide," he replied, "I did intend to let her go, for I expected to go myself; but I find I shall not be able to do so, as I must meet a gentleman on business; and as I know that accidents frequently occur to such pleasure parties, I don't feel willing to let Elsie go, unless I could be there myself to take care of her. Whether you believe it or not, it is really regard for my child's safety, and not cruelty, that leads me to refuse her this gratification."
"You are full of notions about that child, Horace," said Adelaide, a little impatiently. "I'm sure some of the rest of us could take care of her."
"No; in case of accident you would all have enough to do to take care of yourselves, and I shall not think of trusting Elsie in the company, since I cannot be there myself," he answered decidedly; and Adelaide, seeing he was not to be moved from his determination, gave up the attempt, and left the room to prepare for her ride.
It was a great disappointment to Elsie, and for a few moments her heart rose up in rebellion against her father. She tried to put away the feeling, but it would come back; for she could not imagine any reason for his refusal to let her go, excepting the disobedience of the day before, and it seemed hard and unjust to punish her twice for the same fault, especially as he would have known nothing about it but for her own frank and voluntary confession. It was a great pity she had not heard the reasons he gave her Aunt Adelaide, for then she would have been quite submissive and content. It is indeed true that she ought to have been as it was; but our little Elsie, though sincerely desirous to do right, was not yet perfect, and had already strangely forgotten the lesson of the morning.
She watched from the veranda the departure of the pleasure- seekers, all apparently in the gayest spirits. She was surprised to see that her father was not with them, and it half reconciled her to staying at home, although she hardly expected to see much of him; but there was something pleasant in the thought that he wanted her at home because he was to be there himself; it looked as though he really had some affection for her, and even a selfish love was better than none. I do not mean that these were Elsie's thoughts; no, she never would have dreamed of calling her father selfish; but the undefined feeling was there, as she watched him hand the ladies into the carriage, and then turn and reenter the house as they drove off.
But Miss Day's bell rang, and Elsie gathered up her books and hastened to the school-room. Her patience and endurance were sorely tried that morning, for Miss Day was in an exceedingly bad humor, being greatly mortified and also highly indignant that she had not been invited to make one of the picnic party; and Elsie had never found her more unreasonable and difficult to please; and her incessant fault-finding and scolding were almost more than the little girl could bear in addition to her own sad disappointment. But at last the morning, which had seldom seemed so long, was over, and Elsie dismissed from the school-room for the day.
At dinner, instead of the usual large party, there were only her father and the gentleman with whom he was transacting business, Miss Day, and herself.
The gentleman was not one of those who care to notice children, but continued to discuss business and politics with Mr. Dinsmore, without seeming to be in the least aware of the presence of the little girl, who sat in perfect silence, eating whatever her father saw fit to put upon her plate; and Elsie was very glad indeed when at length Miss Day rose to leave the table, and her papa told her she might go too.
He called her back though, before she had gone across the room, to say that he had intended to ride with her that afternoon, but found he should not be able to do so, and she must take Jim for a protector, as he did not wish her either to miss her ride or to go entirely alone.
He spoke very kindly; Elsie thought with remorse of the rebellious feelings of the morning, and, had she been alone with her father, would certainly have confessed them, expressing her sorrow and asking forgiveness; but she could not do so before a third person, more especially a stranger; and merely saying, "Yes, papa, I will," she turned away and left the room. Jim was bringing up her horse as she passed the open door; and she hastened up-stairs to prepare for her ride.
"O mammy!" she suddenly exclaimed, as Chloe was trying on her hat, "is Pomp going to the city to-day?"
"Yes, darlin', he gwine start directly," said Chloe, arranging her nursling's curls to better advantage, and finishing her work with a fond caress.
"Oh! then, mammy, take some money out of my purse, and tell him to buy me a pound of the very nicest candy he can find," said the little girl, eagerly. "I haven't had any for a long time, and I feel hungry for it to-day. What they had bought for the picnic looked so good, but you know I didn't get any of it."
The picnic party returned just before tea-time, and Lucy Carrington rushed into Elsie's room eager to tell her what a delightful day they had had. She gave a very glowing account of their sports and entertainment, interrupting herself every now and then to lament over Elsie's absence, assuring her again and again that it had been the only drawback upon her own pleasure, and that she thought that Elsie's papa was very unkind indeed to refuse her permission to go. As Elsie listened the morning's feelings of vexation and disappointment returned in full force; and though she said nothing, she allowed her friend to accuse her father of cruelty and injustice without offering any remonstrance.
In the midst of their talk the tea-bell rang, and they hurried down to take their places at the table, where Lucy went on with her narrative, though in a rather subdued tone, Elsie now and then asking a question, until Mr. Dinsmore turned to his daughter, saying, in his stern way, "Be quiet, Elsie; you are talking entirely too much for a child of your age; don't let me hear you speak again until you have left the table."
Elsie's face flushed, and her eyes fell, under the rebuke; and during the rest of the meal not a sound escaped her lips.
"Come, Elsie, let us go into the garden and finish our talk," said Lucy, putting her arm affectionately around her friend's waist as they left the table; "your papa can't hear us there, and we'll have a good time."
"Papa only stopped us because we were talking too much at the table," said Elsie, apologetically; "I'm sure he is willing you should tell me all about what a nice time you all had. But, Lucy," she added, lowering her voice, "please don't say again that you think papa was unkind to keep me at home to-day. I'm sure he knows best, and I ought not to have listened to a word of that kind about him."
"O! well, never mind, I won't talk so any more," said Lucy, good- naturedly, as they skipped down the walk together; "but I do think he's cross, and I wish you were my sister, that you might have my kind, good papa for yours too," she added, drawing her arm more closely about her friend's waist.
"Thank you, Lucy," said Elsie, with a little sigh, "I would like to be your sister, but indeed I would not like to give up my own dear papa, for I love him, oh! so much."
"Why, how funny, when he's so cross to you!" exclaimed Lucy, laughing.
Elsie put her hand over her friend's mouth, and Lucy pushed it away, saying, "Excuse me; I forgot; but I'll try not to say it again."
While the little girls were enjoying their talk in the garden, a servant with a small bundle in her hand came out on the veranda, where Mr. Horace Dinsmore was sitting smoking a cigar, and, casting an inquiring glance around, asked if he knew where Miss Elsie was?
"What do you want with her?" he asked.
"Only to give her dis bundle, massa, dat Pomp jus brought from de city."
"Give it to me," he said, extending his hand to receive it.
A few moments afterward Elsie and her friend returned to the house, and meeting Pomp, she asked him if he had brought her candy.
He replied that he had got some that was very nice indeed, and he thought that Fanny had carried it to her; and seeing Fanny near, he called to her to know what she had done with it.
"Why, Pomp, Massa Horace he told me to give it to him," said the girl.
Elsie turned away with a very disappointed look.
"You'll go and ask him for it, won't you?" asked Lucy, who was anxious to enjoy a share of the candy as well as to see Elsie gratified.
"No," said Elsie, sighing, "I had rather do without it."
Lucy coaxed for a little while, but finding it impossible to persuade Elsie to approach her father on the subject, finally volunteered to do the errand herself.
Elsie readily consented, and Lucy, trembling a little in spite of her boast that she was not afraid of him, walked out on to the veranda where Mr. Dinsmore was still sitting, and putting on an air of great confidence, said:
"Mr. Dinsmore, will you please to give me Elsie's candy? she wants it."
"Did Elsie send you?" he asked in a cold, grave tone.
"Yes, sir," replied Lucy, somewhat frightened.
"Then, if you please, Miss Lucy, you may tell Elsie to come directly to me."
Lucy ran back to her friend, and Elsie received the message in some trepidation, but as no choice was now left her, she went immediately to her father.
"Did you want me, papa?" she asked timidly.
"Yes, Elsie; I wish to know why you send another person to me for what you want, instead of coming yourself. It displeases me very much, and you may rest assured that you will never get anything that you ask for in that way."
Elsie hung her head in silence.
"Are you going to answer me?" he asked, in his severe tone. "Why did you send Lucy instead of coming yourself?"
"I was afraid, papa," she whispered, almost under her breath.
"Afraid! afraid of what?" he asked, with increasing displeasure.
"Of you, papa," she replied, in a tone so low that he could scarcely catch the words, although he bent down his ear to receive her reply.
"If I were a drunken brute, in the habit of knocking you about, beating and abusing you, there might be some reason for your fear, Elsie," he said, coloring with anger; "but, as it is, I see no excuse for it at all and I am both hurt and displeased by it."
"I am very sorry, papa; I won't do so again," she said, tremblingly.
There was a moment's pause, and then she asked in a timid hesitating way, "Papa, may I have my candy, if you please?"
"No, you may not," he said decidedly; "and understand and remember that I positively forbid you either to buy or eat anything of the kind again without my express permission."
Elsie's eyes filled, and she had a hard struggle to keep down a rising sob as she turned away and went slowly back to the place where she had left her friend.
"Have you got it?" asked Lucy, eagerly.
Elsie shook her head.
"What a shame!" exclaimed Lucy, indignantly. "he's just as cross as he can be. He's a tyrant, so he is! just a hateful old tyrant, and I wouldn't care a cent for him, if I were you, Elsie. I'm glad he is not my father, so I am."
"I'm afraid he doesn't love me much," sighed Elsie in low, tearful tones, "for he hardly ever lets me have anything, or go anywhere that I want to."
"Well, never mind, I'll send and buy a good lot tomorrow, and we'll have a regular feast," said Lucy, soothingly, as she passed her arm around her friend's waist and drew her down to a seat on the portico step.
"Thank you, Lucy; you can buy for yourself if you like, but not for me, for papa has forbidden me to eat anything of the sort."
"Oh! of course we'll not let him know anything about it," said Lucy.
But Elsie shook her head sadly, saying with a little sigh, "No, Lucy, you are very kind, but I cannot disobey papa, even if he should never know it, because that would be disobeying God, and He would know it."
"Dear me, how particular you are!" exclaimed Lucy a little pettishly.
"Elsie," said Mr. Dinsmore, speaking from the door, "what are you doing there? Did I not forbid you to be out in the evening air?"
"I did not know you meant the doorstep, papa. I thought I was only not to go down into the garden," replied the little girl, rising to go in.
"I see you intend to make as near an approach to disobedience as you dare," said her father. "Go immediately to your room, and tell mammy to put you to bed."
Elsie silently obeyed, and Lucy, casting an indignant glance at Mr. Dinsmore, was about to follow her, when he said, "I wish her to go alone, if you please, Miss Lucy;" and with a frown and a pout the little girl walked into the drawing-room and seated herself on the sofa beside her mamma.
Mr. Dinsmore walked out on to the portico, and stood there watching the moon which was just rising over the treetops.
"Horace," said Arthur, emerging from the shadow of a tree near by and approaching his brother, "Elsie thinks you're a tyrant. She says you never let her have anything, or go anywhere, and you're always punishing her. She and Lucy have had a fine time out here talking over your bad treatment of her, and planning to have some candy in spite of you."
"Arthur, I do not believe that Elsie would deliberately plan to disobey me; and whatever faults she may have, I am very sure she is above the meanness of telling tales," replied Mr. Dinsmore, in a tone of severity, as he turned and went into the house, while Arthur, looking sadly crestfallen, crept away out of sight.
When Elsie reached her room, she found that Chloe was not there; for, not expecting that her services would be required at so early an hour, she had gone down to the kitchen to have a little chat with her fellow-servants. Elsie rang for her, and then walking to the window, stood looking down into the garden in an attitude of thoughtfulness and dejection. She was mentally taking a review of the manner in which she had spent the day, as was her custom before retiring. The retrospect had seldom been so painful to the little girl. She had a very tender conscience, and it told her now that she had more than once during the day indulged in wrong feelings toward her father; that she had also allowed another to speak disrespectfully of him, giving by her silence a tacit approval of the sentiments uttered, and, more than that, had spoken complainingly of him herself.
"Oh!" she murmured half aloud as she covered her face with her hands, and the tears trickled through her fingers, "how soon I have forgotten the lesson papa taught me this morning, and my promise to trust him without knowing his reasons. I don't deserve that he should love me or be kind and indulgent, when I am so rebellious."
"What's de matter, darlin'?" asked Chloe's voice in pitiful tones, as she took her nursling in her arms and laid her little head against her bosom, passing her hand caressingly over the soft bright curls; "your ole mammy can't bear to see her pet cryin' like dat."
"O mammy, mammy! I've been such a wicked girl to-day! Oh! I'm afraid I shall never be good, never be like Jesus. I'm afraid He is angry with me, for I have disobeyed Him to-day," sobbed the child.
"Darlin'," said Chloe, earnestly, "didn't you read to your ole mammy dis very morning dese bressed words: 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,' an' de other: 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.' Go to de dear, bressed Lord Jesus, darlin', an' ax Him to forgive you, an' I knows He will."
"Yes, He will," replied the little girl, raising her head and dashing away her tears, "He will forgive my sins, and take away my wicked heart, and give me right thoughts and feelings. How glad I am you remembered those sweet texts, you dear old mammy," she added, twining her arms lovingly around her nurse's neck. And then she delivered her papa's message, and Chloe began at once to prepare her for bed.
Elsie's tears had ceased to flow, but they were still trembling in her eyes, and the little face wore a very sad and troubled expression as she stood patiently passive in her nurse's hands. Chloe had soon finished her labors, and then the little girl opened her Bible, and, as usual, read a few verses aloud, though her voice trembled, and once or twice a tear fell on the page; then closing the book she stole away to the side of the bed and knelt down.
She was a good while on her knees, and several times, as the sound of a low sob fell upon Chloe's ear, she sighed and murmured to herself: "Poor, darlin'! dear, bressed lamb, your ole mammy don't like to hear dat."
Then as the child rose from her kneeling posture she went to her, and taking her in her arms, folded her in a fond embrace, calling her by the most tender and endearing epithets, and telling her that her old mammy loved her better than life--better than anything in the wide world.
Elsie flung her arms around her nurse's neck, and laid her head upon her bosom, saying, "Yes, my dear old mammy, I know you love me, and I love you, too. But put me in bed now, or papa will be displeased."
"What makes you so onrestless, darlin'?" asked Chloe, half an hour afterward; "can't you go to sleep no how?"
"O mammy! if I could only see papa just for one moment to tell him something. Do you think he would come to me?" sighed the little girl. "Please, mammy, go down and see if he is busy. Don't say a word if he is; but if not, ask him to come to me for just one minute."
Chloe left the room immediately, but returned the next moment, saying, "I jes looked into de parlor, darlin', an' Mass Horace he mighty busy playin' chess wid Miss Lucy's mamma, an' I didn't say nuffin' to him. Jes you go sleep, my pet, an' tell Mass Horace all 'bout it in de mornin'."
Elsie sighed deeply, and turning over on her pillow, cried herself to sleep.
Chloe was just putting the finishing touches to the little girl's dress the next morning, when Lucy Carrington rapped at the door.
"Good morning, Elsie," she said; "I was in a hurry to come to you, because it is my last day, you know. Wasn't it too bad of your father to send you off to bed so early last night?"
"No, Lucy, papa has a right to send me to bed whenever he pleases; and besides, I was naughty and deserved to be punished; and it was not much more than half an hour earlier than my usual bedtime."
"You naughty!" exclaimed Lucy, opening her eyes very wide. "Mamma often says she wishes I was half as good."
Elsie sighed, but made no answer. Her thoughts seemed far away. She was thinking of what she had been so anxious, the night before, to say to her father, and trying to gain courage to do it this morning. "If I could only get close to him when nobody was by, and he would look and speak kindly to me, I could do it then," she murmured to herself.
"Come, Aunt Chloe, aren't you done? I want to have a run in the garden before breakfast," said Lucy, somewhat impatiently, as Chloe tied and untied Elsie's sash several times.
"Well, Miss Lucy, I'se done now," she answered, passing her hand once more over her nursling's curls: "but Mass Horace he mighty pertickler 'bout Miss Elsie."
"Yes," said Elsie, "papa wants me always to look very nice and neat; and when I go down in the morning he just gives me one glance from head to foot, and if anything is wrong he is sure to see it and send me back immediately to have it made right. Now, mammy, please give me my hat and let us go."
"You's got plenty ob time, chillens; de bell won't go for to ring dis hour," remarked the old nurse, tying on Elsie's hat.
"My chile looks sweet an' fresh as a moss rosebud dis mornin'," she added, talking to herself, as she watched the two little girls tripping down-stairs hand in hand.
They skipped up and down the avenue several times, and ran all round the garden before it was time to go in. Then Elsie went up to Chloe to have her hair made smooth again. She was just descending for the second time to the hall, where she had left Lucy, when they saw a carriage drive up to the front door.
"There's papa!" cried Lucy, joyfully, as it stopped and a gentleman sprang out and came up the steps into the portico; and in an instant she was in his arms, receiving such kisses and caresses as Elsie had vainly longed for all her life.
Lucy had several brothers, but was an only daughter, and a very great pet, especially with her father.
Elsie watched them with a wistful look and a strange aching at her heart.
But presently Mr. Carrington set Lucy down and turning to her, gave her a shake of the hand, and then a kiss, saying, "How do you do this morning, my dear? I'm afraid you are hardly glad to see me, as I come to take Lucy away, for I suppose you have been having fine times together."
"Yes, sir, indeed we have; and I hope you will let her come again."
"Oh! yes, certainly; but the visits must not be all on one side. I shall talk to your papa about it, and perhaps persuade him to let us take you along this afternoon to spend a week at Ashlands."
"Oh! how delightful!" cried Lucy, clapping her hands. "Elsie, do you think he will let you go?"
"I don't know, I'm afraid not," replied the little girl doubtfully.
"You must coax him, as I do my papa," said Lucy.
But at this Elsie only shook her head, and just then the breakfast-bell rang.
Mr. Dinsmore was already in the breakfast-room, and Elsie, going up to him, said, "Good morning, papa."
"Good morning, Elsie," he replied, but his tone was so cold that even if no one else had been by, she could not have said another word.
He had not intended to be influenced by the information Arthur had so maliciously given him the night before; yet unconsciously he was, and his manner to his little daughter was many degrees colder than it had been for some time.
After breakfast Lucy reminded Elsie of a promise she had made to show her some beautiful shells which her father had collected in his travels, and Elsie led the way to the cabinet, a small room opening into the library, and filled with curiosities.
They had gone in alone, but were soon followed by Arthur, Walter and Enna.
Almost everything in the room belonged to Mr. Horace Dinsmore; and Elsie, knowing that many of the articles were rare and costly, and that he was very careful of them, begged Enna and the boys to go out, lest they should accidentally do some mischief.
"I won't," replied Arthur. "I've just as good a right to be here as you."
As he spoke he gave her a push, which almost knocked her over, and in catching at a table to save herself from falling, she threw down a beautiful vase of rare old china, which Mr. Dinsmore prized very highly. It fell with a loud crash, and lay scattered in fragments at their feet.
"There, see what you've done!" exclaimed Arthur, as the little group stood aghast at the mischief.
It happened that Mr. Dinsmore was just then in the library, and the noise soon brought him upon the scene of action.
"Who did this?" he asked, in a wrathful tone, looking from one to the other.
"Elsie," said Arthur; "she threw it down and broke it."
"Troublesome, careless child! I would not have taken a hundred dollars for that vase," he exclaimed. "Go to your room! go this instant, and stay there until I send for you; and remember, if you ever come in here again without permission I shall punish you."
He opened the door as he spoke, and Elsie flew across the hall, up the stairs, and into her own room, without once pausing or looking back.
"Now go out, every one of you, and don't come in here again; this is no place for children," said Mr. Dinsmore, turning the others into the hall, and shutting and locking the door upon them.
"You ought to be ashamed, Arthur Dinsmore," exclaimed Lucy indignantly; "it was all your own fault, and Elsie was not to blame at all, and you know it."
"I didn't touch the old vase, and I'm not going to take the blame of it, either, I can tell you, miss," replied Arthur, moving off, followed by Walter and Enna, while Lucy walked to the other end of the hall, and stood looking out of the window, debating in her own mind whether she had sufficient courage to face Mr. Dinsmore, and make him understand where the blame of the accident ought to lie.
At length she seemed to have solved the question; for turning about and moving noiselessly down the passage to the library door, she gave a timid little rap, which was immediately answered by Mr. Dinsmore's voice saying, "Come in."
Lucy opened the door and walked in, closing it after her.
Mr. Dinsmore sat at a table writing, and he looked up with an expression of mingled surprise and impatience.
"What do you want, Miss Lucy?" he said, "speak quickly, for I am very busy."
"I just wanted to tell you, sir," replied Lucy, speaking up quite boldly, "that Elsie was not at all to blame about the vase; for it was Arthur who pushed her and made her fall against the table, and that was the way the vase came to fall and break."
"What made him push her?" he asked.
"Just because Elsie asked him, and Walter, and Enna to go out, for fear they might do some mischief."
Mr. Dinsmore's pen was suspended over the paper for a moment, while he sat thinking with a somewhat clouded brow; but presently turning to the little girl, he said quite pleasantly, "Very well, Miss Lucy, I am much obliged to you for your information, for I should be very sorry to punish Elsie unjustly. And now will you do me the favor to go to her and tell her that her papa says she need not stay in her room any longer?"
"Yes, sir, I will," replied Lucy, her face sparkling with delight as she hurried off with great alacrity to do his bidding.
She found Elsie in her room crying violently, and throwing her arms around her neck she delivered Mr. Dinsmore's message, concluding with, "So now, Elsie, you see you needn't cry, nor feel sorry any more; but just dry your eyes and let us go down into the garden and have a good time."
Elsie was very thankful to Lucy, and very glad that her papa now knew that she was not to blame; but she was still sorry for his loss, and his words had wounded her too deeply to be immediately forgotten; indeed it was some time before the sore spot they had made in her heart was entirely healed. But she tried to forget it all and enter heartily into the sports proposed by Lucy.
The Carringtons were not to leave until the afternoon, and the little girls spent nearly the whole morning in the garden, coming into the drawing-room a few moments before the dinner-bell rang.
Mrs. Carrington sat on a sofa engaged with some fancy work, while Herbert, who had not felt well enough to join the other children, had stretched himself out beside her, putting his head in her lap.
Mr. Carrington and Mr. Horace Dinsmore were conversing near by.
Lucy ran up to her papa and seated herself upon his knee with her arm around his neck; while Elsie stopped a moment to speak to Herbert, and then timidly approaching her father, with her eyes upon the floor, said in a low, half-frightened tone, that reached no ear but his, "I am very sorry about the vase, papa."
He took her hand, and drawing her close to him, pushed back the hair from her forehead with his other hand, and bending down to her, said almost in a whisper, "Never mind, daughter, we will forget all about it. I am sorry I spoke so harshly to you, since Lucy tells me you were not so much to blame."
Elsie's face flushed with pleasure, and she looked up gratefully; but before she had time to reply, Mrs. Carrington said, "Elsie, we want to take you home with us to spend a week; will you go?"
"I should like to, very much, indeed, ma'am, if papa will let me," replied the little girl, looking wistfully up into his face.
"Well, Mr. Dinsmore, what do you say? I hope you can have no objection," said Mrs. Carrington, looking inquiringly at him; while her husband added, "Oh! yes, Dinsmore, you must let her go by all means; you can certainly spare her for a week, and it need be no interruption to her lessons, as she can share with Lucy in the instructions of our governess, who is really a superior teacher."
Mr. Dinsmore was looking very grave, and Elsie knew from the expression of his countenance what his answer would be, before he spoke. He had noticed the indignant glance Lucy had once or twice bestowed upon him, and remembering Arthur's report of the conversation between the two little girls the night before, had decided in his own mind that the less Elsie saw of Lucy the better.
"I thank you both for your kind attention to my little girl," he replied courteously, "but while fully appreciating your kindness in extending the invitation, I must beg leave to decline it, as I am satisfied that home is the best place for her at present."
"Ah! no, I suppose we ought hardly to have expected you to spare her so soon after your return," said Mrs. Carrington; "but, really, I am very sorry to be refused, for Elsie is such a good child that I am always delighted to have Lucy and Herbert with her."
"Perhaps you think better of her than she deserves, Mrs. Carrington. I find that Elsie is sometimes naughty and in need of correction, as well as other children, and therefore, I think it best to keep her as much as possible under my own eye," replied Mr. Dinsmore, looking very gravely at his little daughter as he spoke.
Elsie's face flushed painfully, and she had hard work to keep from bursting into tears. It was a great relief to her that just at that moment the dinner-bell rang, and there was a general movement in the direction of the dining-room. Her look was touchingly humble as her father led her in and seated her at the table.
She was thinking, "Papa says I am naughty sometimes, but oh! how very naughty he would think me if he knew all the wicked feelings I had yesterday."
As soon as they had risen from the table, Mrs. Carrington bade Lucy go up to her maid to have her bonnet put on, as the carriage was already at the door.
Elsie would have gone with her, but her father had taken her hand again, and he held it fast.
She looked up inquiringly into his face.
"Stay here," he said. "Lucy will be down again in a moment."
And Elsie stood quietly at his side until Lucy returned.
But even then her father did not relinquish his hold of her hand, and all the talking the little girls could do must be done close at his side.
Yet, as he was engaged in earnest conversation with Mr. Carrington, and did not seem to be listening to them, Lucy ventured to whisper to Elsie, "I think it's real mean of him; he might let you go."
"No," replied Elsie, in the same low tone, "I'm sure papa knows best; and besides, I have been naughty, and don't deserve to go, though I should like to, dearly."
"Well, good-bye," said Lucy, giving her a kiss.
It was not until Mr. Carrington's carriage was fairly on its way down the avenue, that Mr. Dinsmore dropped his little girl's hand; and then he said, "I want you in the library, Elsie; come to me in half an hour."
"Yes, papa, I will," she replied, looking a little frightened.
"You need not be afraid," he said, in a tone of displeasure; "I am not going to hurt you."
Elsie blushed and hung her head, but made no reply, and he turned away and left her. She could not help wondering what he wanted with her, and though she tried not to feel afraid, it was impossible to keep from trembling a little as she knocked at the library door.
Her father's voice said, "Come in," and entering, she found him alone, seated at a table covered with papers and writing materials, while beside the account book in which he was writing lay a pile of money, in bank notes, and gold and silver.
"Here, Elsie," he said, laying down his pen, "I want to give you your month's allowance. Your grandfather has paid it to you heretofore, but of course, now that I am at home, I attend to everything that concerns you. You have been receiving eight dollars--I shall give you ten," and he counted out the money and laid it before her as he spoke; "but I shall require a strict account of all that you spend. I want you to learn to keep accounts, for if you live, you will some day have a great deal of money to take care of; and here is a blank book that I have prepared, so that you can do so very easily. Every time that you lay out or give away any money, you must set it down here as soon as you come home; be particular about that, lest you should forget something, because you must bring your book to me at the end of every month, and let me see how much you have spent, and what is the balance in hand; and if you are not able to make it come out square, and tell me what you have done with every penny, you will lose either the whole or a part of your allowance for the next month, according to the extent of your delinquency. Do you understand?"
"Very well. Let me see now how much you can remember of your last month's expenditures. Take the book and set down everything you can think of."
Elsie had a good memory, and was able to remember how she had spent almost every cent during the time specified; and she set down one item after another, and then added up the column without any mistake.
"That was very well done," said her father approvingly. And then running over the items half aloud, "Candy, half a dollar; remember, Elsie, there is to be no more money disposed of in that way; not as a matter of economy, by any means, but because I consider is very injurious. I am very anxious that you should grow up strong and healthy. I would not for anything have you a miserable dyspeptic."
Then suddenly closing the book and handing it to her, he said, inquiringly, "You were very anxious to go to Ashlands?"
"I would have liked to go, papa, if you had been willing," she replied meekly.
"I am afraid Lucy is not a suitable companion for you, Elsie. I think she puts bad notions into your head," he said very gravely.
Elsie flushed and trembled, and was just opening her lips to make her confession, when the door opened and her grandfather entered. She could not speak before him, and so remained silent.
"Does she not sometimes say naughty things to you?" asked her father, speaking so low that her grandfather could not have heard.
"Yes, sir," replied the little girl, almost under her breath.
"I thought so," said he, "and therefore I shall keep you apart as entirely as possible; and I hope there will be no murmuring on your part."
"No, papa, you know best," she answered, very humbly.
Then, putting the money into her hands, he dismissed her. When she had gone out he sat for a moment in deep thought. Elsie's list of articles bought with her last month's allowance consisted almost entirely of gifts for others, generally the servants. There were some beads and sewing-silk for making a purse, and a few drawing materials; but with the exception of the candy, she had bought nothing else for herself. This was what her father was thinking of.
"She is a dear, unselfish, generous little thing," he said to himself. "However, I may be mistaken; I must not allow myself to judge from only one month. She seems submissive, too,"--he had overheard what passed between her and Lucy at parting--"but perhaps that was for effect; she probably suspected I could hear her--and she thinks me a tyrant, and obeys from fear, not love."
This thought drove away all the tender feeling that had been creeping into his heart; and when he next met his little daughter, his manner was as cold and distant as ever, and Elsie found it impossible to approach him with sufficient freedom to tell him what was in her heart.