Chapter Fifth
 
   "Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice
    Triumphs."
                                 --LONGFELLOW'S Evangeline.

                      "How disappointment tracks
    The steps of hope!"
                                 --MISS LANDON.

One afternoon, the next week after the Carringtons had left, the younger members of the family, Arthur, Elsie, Walter and Enna, were setting out to take a walk, when Elsie, seeing a gold chain depending from the pocket of Arthur's jacket, exclaimed:

"O Arthur! how could you take grandpa's watch? Do put it away, for you will be almost sure to injure it."

"Hold your tongue, Elsie; I'll do as I please," was the polite rejoinder.

"But, Arthur, you know that grandpa would never let you take it. I have often heard him say that it was very valuable, for it was seldom that so good a one could be had at any price; and I know that he paid a great deal for it."

"Well, if he prizes it so, he needn't have left it lying on his table, and so I'll just teach him a lesson; it's about time he learnt to be careful."

"O Arthur! do put it away," pleaded Elsie, "if anything should happen to it, what will grandpa say? I know he will be very angry, and ask us all who did it; and you know I cannot tell a lie, and if he asks me if it was you, I cannot say no."

"Yes, I'll trust you for telling tales," replied Arthur, sneeringly; "but if you do, I'll pay you for it."

He ran down the avenue as he spoke, Walter and Enna following, and Elsie slowly bringing up the rear, looking the picture of distress, for she knew not what to do, seeing that Arthur would not listen to her remonstrances, and, as often happened, all the older members of the family were out, and thus there was no authority that could be appealed to in time to prevent the mischief which she had every reason to fear would be done. Once she thought of turning back, that she might escape the necessity of being a witness in the case; but, remembering that her father told her she must walk with the others that afternoon, and also that, as she had already seen the watch in Arthur's possession, her testimony would be sufficient to convict him even if she saw no more, she gave up the idea, and hurried on, with the faint hope that she might be able to induce Arthur to refrain from indulging in such sports as would be likely to endanger the watch; or else to give it into her charge. At any other time she would have trembled at the thought of touching it; but now she felt so sure it would be safer with her than with him, that she would gladly have taken the responsibility.

The walk was far from being a pleasure that afternoon; the boys ran so fast that it quite put her out of breath to keep up with them; and then every little while Arthur would cut some caper that made her tremble for the watch; answering her entreaties that he would either give it into her care or walk along quietly, with sneers and taunts, and declarations of his determination to do just exactly as he pleased, and not be ruled by her.

But at length, while he was in the act of climbing a tree, the watch dropped from his pocket and fell to the ground, striking with considerable force.

Elsie uttered a scream, and Arthur, now thoroughly frightened himself, jumped down and picked it up.

The crystal was broken, the back dented, and how much the works were injured they could not tell; but it had ceased to run.

"O Arthur! see what you've done!" exclaimed Walter.

"What will papa say?" said Enna; while Elsie stood pale and trembling, not speaking a word.

"You hush!" exclaimed Arthur fiercely. "I'll tell you what, if any of you dare to tell of me, I'll make you sorry for it to the last day of your life. Do you hear?"

The question was addressed to Elsie in a tone of defiance.

"Arthur," said she, "grandpa will know that somebody did it, and surely you would not wish an innocent person to be punished for your fault."

"I don't care who gets punished, so that papa does not find out that I did it," said he furiously; "and if you dare to tell of me, I'll pay you for it."

"I shall say nothing, unless it becomes necessary to save the innocent, or I am forced to speak; but in that case I shall tell the truth," replied Elsie, firmly.

Arthur doubled up his fist, and made a plunge at her as if he meant to knock her down; but Elsie sprang behind the tree, and then ran so fleetly toward the house that he was not able to overtake her until his passion had had time to cool.

When they reached the house, Arthur replaced the watch on his father's table, whence he had taken it, and then they all awaited his return with what courage they might.

"I say, Wally," said Arthur, drawing his little brother aside and speaking in a low tone, having first sent a cautious glance around to assure himself that no one else was within hearing; "I say, what would you give me for that new riding whip of mine?"

"O Arthur! anything I've got," exclaimed the little boy eagerly. "But you wouldn't give it up, I know, and you're only trying to tease me."

"No, indeed, Wal; I mean to give it to you if you'll only be a good fellow and do as I tell you."

"What?" he asked, with intense interest.

"Tell papa that Jim broke the watch."

"But he didn't" replied the child, opening his eyes wide with astonishment.

"Well, what of that, you little goose?" exclaimed Arthur impatiently; "papa doesn't know that."

"But Jim will get punished," said Walter, "and I don't want to tell such a big story either."

"Very well, sir, then you'll not get the whip; and, besides, if you don't do as I wish, I'm certain you'll see a ghost one of these nights; for there's one comes to see me sometimes, and I'll send him right off to you."

"Oh! don't, Arthur, don't; I'd die of fright," cried the little boy, who was very timid, glancing nervously around, as if he expected the ghost to appear immediately.

"I tell you I will, though, if you don't do as I say; he'll come this very night and carry you off, and never bring you back."

"O Arthur! don't let him come, and I'll say anything you want me to," cried the little fellow in great terror.

"That's a good boy; I knew you would," said Arthur, smiling triumphantly. And turning away from Walter, he next sought out Enna, and tried his threats and persuasions upon her with even better success.

Elsie had gone directly to her own room, where she sat trembling every time a footstep approached her door, lest it should be a messenger from her grandfather. No one came, however, and at last the tea-bell rang, and on going down she found to her relief that her grandfather and his wife had not yet returned.

"You look pale, Elsie," said her father, giving her a scrutinizing glance as she took her seat by his side. "Are you well?"

"Yes, papa, quite well," she replied.

He looked at her again a little anxiously, but said no more; and as soon as the meal was concluded, Elsie hastened away to her own room again.

It was still early in the evening when Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore returned--for once, bringing no company with them; and he had not been many minutes in the house ere he took up his watch, and of course instantly discovered the injury it had sustained.

His suspicions at once fell upon Arthur, whose character for mischief was well established; and burning with rage, watch in hand, he repaired to the drawing-room, which he entered, asking, in tones tremulous with passion, "Where is Arthur! Young rascal! this is some of his work," he added, holding up the injured article.

"My dear, how can you say so? have you any proof?" asked his wife, deprecatingly adding in her softest tones, "my poor boy seems to get the blame of everything that goes wrong."

"He gets no more than he deserves," replied her husband angrily. "Arthur! Arthur, I say, where are you?"

"He is in the garden, sir, I think. I saw him walking in the shrubbery a moment since," said Mr. Horace Dinsmore.

The father instantly despatched a servant to bring him in; sending a second in search of the overseer; while a third was ordered to assemble all the house-servants. "I will sift this matter to the bottom, and child or servant, the guilty one shall suffer for it," exclaimed the old gentleman, pacing angrily up and down the room. "Arthur," said he sternly, as the boy made his appearance, looking somewhat pale and alarmed, "how dared you meddle with my watch?"

"I didn't, sir; I never touched it," he replied boldly, yet avoiding his father's eye as he uttered the deliberate falsehood.

"There, my dear, I told you so," exclaimed his mother, triumphantly.

"I don't believe you," said his father; "and if you are guilty, as I strongly suspect, you had better confess it at once, before I find it out in some other way."

"I didn't do it, sir. It was Jim, and I can prove it by Walter and Enna; we all saw it fall from his pocket when he was up in a tree; and he cried like anything when he found it was broken, and said he didn't mean to do it any harm; he was only going to wear it a little while, and then put it back all safe; but now master would be dreadfully angry, and have him flogged."

"That I will, if it is true," exclaimed the old gentleman, passionately; "he shall be well whipped and sent out to work on the plantation. I'll keep no such meddlers about my house."

He looked at Enna. "What do you know of this?" he asked.

"It is true, papa, I saw him do it," she replied, with a slight blush, and sending an uneasy glance around the room.

"Did you see it, too, Walter?" asked his father.

"Yes, sir," replied the little fellow, in a low, reluctant tone; "but please, papa, don't punish him. I'm sure he didn't mean to break it."

"Hold your tongue! he shall be punished as he deserves," cried the old gentleman, furiously. "Here, sir," turning to the overseer, and pointing to Jim, "take the fellow out, and give him such a flogging as he will remember."

Elsie was sitting in her own room, trying to learn a lesson for the next day, but finding great difficulty in fixing her thoughts upon it, when she was startled by the sudden entrance of Aunt Chloe, who, with her apron to her eyes, was sobbing violently.

"O mammy, mammy! what's the matter? has anything happened to you?" inquired the little girl, in a tone of great alarm, starting to her feet, and dropping her book in her haste and fright.

"Why," sobbed Chloe, "Jim, he's been an' gone an' broke ole master's watch, an' he's gwine be whipped, an' old Aunt Phoebe she's cryin' fit to break her ole heart 'bout her boy, kase--"

Elsie waited to hear no more, but darting out into the hall, and encountering her father on his way to his room, she rushed up to him, pale and agitated, and seizing his hand, looked up eagerly into his face, exclaiming with a burst of tears and sobs, "O papa, papa! don't, oh! don't let them whip poor Jim."

Mr. Dinsmore's countenance was very grave, almost distressed.

"I am sorry it is necessary, daughter," he said, "but Jim has done very wrong, and deserves his punishment, and I cannot interfere."

"Oh! no, papa, he did not, indeed he did not break the watch. I know he didn't, for I was by and saw it all."

"Is it possible?" said he, in a tone of surprise; "then tell me who did do it. It could not have been you, Elsie?" and he looked searchingly into her face.

"Oh! no, papa, I would never have dared to touch it. But please don't make me tell tales; but I know it wasn't Jim. Oh! do stop them quickly, before they begin to whip him."

"Aunt Chloe," said Mr. Dinsmore, "go down to my father, and tell him it is my request that the punishment should be delayed a few moments until I come down."

Then taking Elsie's hand, he led her into her room again, and seating himself, drew her to his side, saying, with grave decision, "Now, my daughter, if you want to save Jim, it will be necessary for you to tell all you know about this affair."

"I don't like to tell tales, papa," pleaded the little girl; "I think it so very mean. Is it not enough for me to tell that I know Jim didn't do it?"

"No, Elsie; I have already said that it is quite necessary for you to tell all you know."

"O papa! don't make me; I don't like to do it," she urged, with tears in her eyes.

"I should be very much ashamed of you, and quite unwilling to own you as my child, if under any other circumstances you were willing to tell tales," he replied, in a tone of kindness that quite surprised Elsie, who always trembled at the very thought of opposing the slightest resistance to his will; "but," he added, firmly, "it is the only way to save Jim; if you do not now make a full disclosure of all you know, he will be severely whipped and sent away to work on the plantation, which will distress his poor old mother exceedingly. Elsie, I think you would be doing very wickedly to allow an innocent person to suffer when you can prevent it; and besides, I will add the weight of my authority, and say you must do it at once; and you well know, my daughter, that there can be no question as to the duty of obedience to your father."

He paused, gazing earnestly down into the little tearful, downcast, blushing face at his side.

"Have I not said enough to convince you of your duty?" he asked.

"Yes, papa; I will tell you all about it," she answered in a tremulous tone.

Her story was told with evident reluctance, but in a simple, straightforward manner, that attested its truthfulness.

Mr. Dinsmore listened in silence, but with an expression of indignation on his handsome features; and the moment she had finished he rose, and again taking her hand, led her from the room, saying, as he did so:

"You must repeat this story to your grandfather."

"O papa! must I? Won't you tell him? please don't make me do it," she pleaded tremblingly, and hanging back.

"My daughter, you must," he replied, so sternly that she dared not make any further resistance, but quietly submitted to be led into her grandfather's presence.

He was still in the drawing-room, walking about in a disturbed and angry manner, and now and then casting a suspicious glance upon Arthur, who sat pale and trembling in a corner, looking the picture of guilt and misery; for he had heard Chloe deliver his brother's message, and feared that exposure awaited him.

Walter had stolen away to cry over Jim's punishment, and wish that he had had the courage to tell the truth at first; but saying to himself that it was too late now, his father wouldn't believe him, and he would make it up to Jim somehow, even if it took all his pocket-money for a month.

None of the other members of the family had left the room, and all wore an anxious, expectant look, as Mr. Dinsmore entered, leading Elsie by the hand.

"I have brought you another witness, sir," he said, "for it seems Elsie was present when the mischief was done."

"Ah!" exclaimed the old gentlemen; "then I may hope to get at the truth. Elsie, who broke my watch?"

"It was not Jim, grandpa, indeed, indeed, it was not; but oh! please don't make me say who it was," replied the little girl, beseechingly.

"Elsie!" exclaimed her father, in a tone of stern reproof.

"O papa! how can I?" she sobbed, trembling and clinging to his hand as she caught a threatening look from Arthur.

"Come, come, child, you must tell us all you know about it," said her grandfather, "or else I can't let Jim off."

Mr. Dinsmore was looking down at his little girl, and, following the direction of her glance, perceived the cause of her terror. "Don't be afraid to speak out and tell all you know, daughter, for I will protect you," he said, pressing the little trembling hand in his, and at the same time giving Arthur a meaning look.

"Yes, yes, speak out, child; speak out at once; no one shall hurt you for telling the truth," exclaimed her grandfather, impatiently.

"I will, grandpa," she said, trembling and weeping; "but please don't be very angry with Arthur; if you will forgive him this time, I think he will never meddle any more; and I am quite sure he did not mean to break it."

"So it was you, after all, you young rascal! I knew it from the first!" cried the old gentleman, striding across the room, seizing the boy by the shoulder and shaking him roughly.

"But go on, Elsie, let us have the whole story," he added, turning to her again, but still keeping his hold upon Arthur. "You young dog!" he added, when she had finished. "Yes, I'll forgive you when you've had a good, sound flogging, and a week's solitary confinement on bread and water, but not before."

So saying, he was about to lead him from the room, when Elsie suddenly sprang forward, and with clasped hands, and flushed, eager face, she pleaded earnestly, beseechingly, "O grandpa! don't whip him, don't punish him! He will never be so naughty again. Will you, Arthur? Let me pay for the watch, grandpa, and don't punish him. I would so like to do it."

"It isn't the moneyed value of the watch I care for, child," replied the old gentleman, contemptuously; "and besides, where would you get so much money?"

"I am rich, grandpa, am I not? Didn't my mamma leave me a great deal of money?" asked the little girl, casting down her eyes and blushing painfully.

"No, Elsie," said her father, very gently, as he took her hand and led her back to the side of his chair again, "you have nothing but what I choose to give you, until you come of age, which will not be for a great many years yet."

"But you will give me the money to pay for the watch papa, won't you?" she asked, pleadingly.

"No, I certainly shall not, for I think Arthur should be left to suffer the penalty of his own misdeeds," he replied in a very decided tone; "and, besides," he added, "your grandfather has already told you that it is not the pecuniary loss he cares for."

"No; but I will teach this young rascal to let my property alone," said the elder gentleman with almost fierce determination, as he tightened his grasp upon the boy's arm and dragged him from the room.

Arthur cast a look of hatred and defiance at Elsie as he went out, that made her grow pale with fear and tremble so that she could scarcely stand.

Her father saw both the look and its effect, and drawing the little trembler closer to him, he put his arm around her, and stroking her hair, said in a low, soothing tone: "Don't be frightened, daughter; I will protect you."

She answered him with a grateful look and a long sigh of relief, and he was just about to take her on his knee when visitors were announced, and, changing his mind, he dismissed her to her room, and she saw no more of him that evening.

"Oh! if they only hadn't come just now," thought the sorely disappointed child, as she went out with slow, reluctant steps. "I'm sure they wouldn't, if they had only known. I'm sure, quite sure papa was going to take me on his knee, and they prevented him. Oh! will be ever think of doing it again! Dear, dear papa, if you could only know how I long to sit there!" But Mrs. Dinsmore, who had hastily retired on the exit of Arthur and his father from the drawing-room, was now sailing majestically down the hall, on her return thither; and Elsie, catching sight of her, and being naturally anxious to avoid a meeting just then, at once quickened her pace very considerably, almost running up the stairs to her own room, where she found old Aunt Phoebe, Jim's mother, waiting to speak with her.

The poor old creature was overflowing with gratitude, and her fervent outpouring of thanks and blessings almost made Elsie forget her disappointment for the time.

Then Jim came to the door, asking to see Miss Elsie, and poured out his thanks amid many sobs and tears; for the poor fellow had been terribly frightened--indeed, so astounded by the unexpected charge, that he had not had a word to say in his own defence, beyond an earnest and reiterated assertion of his entire innocence; to which, however, his angry master had paid no attention.

But at length Phoebe remembered that she had some baking to do, and calling on Jim to come right along and split up some dry wood to heat her oven, she went down to the kitchen followed by her son, and Elsie was left alone with her nurse.

Chloe sat silently knitting, and the little girl, with her head leaning upon her hand and her eyes fixed thoughtfully upon the floor, was rehearsing again and again in her own mind all that had just passed between her papa and herself; dwelling with lingering delight upon everything approaching to a caress, every kind word, every soothing tone of his voice; and then picturing to herself all that he might have done and said if those unwelcome visitors had not come in and put an end to the interview; and half hoping that he would send for her when they had gone, she watched the clock and listened intently for every sound.

But her bedtime came and she dared not stay up any longer; for his orders had been peremptory that she should always retire precisely at that hour, unless she had his express permission to remain up longer.

She lay awake for some time, thinking of his unwonted kindness, and indulging fond hopes for the future, then fell asleep to dream that she was on her father's knee, and felt his arms folded lovingly about her, and his kisses warm upon her cheek.

Her heart beat quickly as she entered the breakfast-room the next morning.

The family were just taking their places at the table, and her half-eager, half-timid "Good morning, papa," was answered by a grave, absent "Good morning, Elsie," and turning to his father and entering into a conversation with him on some business matter, he took no further notice of his little daughter, excepting to see that her plate was well supplied with such articles of food as he allowed her to eat.

Elsie was sadly disappointed, and lingered about the room in the vain hope of obtaining a smile or caress; but presently her father went out, saying to the elder Mr. Dinsmore that he was going to ride over to Ion, and would probably not return before night; then, with a sigh, the little girl went back to her own room to prepare her morning lessons.

Elsie was now happily free from Arthur's persecutions for a time; for even after his release, he was too much afraid of his brother openly to offer her any very serious annoyance, though he plotted revenge in secret; yet the little girl's situation was far from comfortable, and her patience often severely tried, for Mrs. Dinsmore was excessively angry with her on Arthur's account, and whenever her father was not present, treated her in the most unkind manner; and from the same cause the rest of the family, with the exception of her grandpa and Aunt Adelaide, were unusually cold and distant; while her father, although careful to see that all her wants were attended to, seldom took any further notice of her; unless to reprove her for some childish fault which, however trifling, never escaped his eye.

"You seem," said Adelaide to him one day, as he sent Elsie from the room for some very slight fault, "to expect that child to be a great deal more perfect than any grown person I ever saw, and to understand all about the rules of etiquette."

"If you please, Adelaide," said he haughtily, "I should like to be allowed to manage my own child as I see proper, without any interference from others."

"Excuse me," replied his sister; "I had no intention of interfering; but really, Horace, I do think you have no idea how eagle-eyed you are for faults in her, nor how very stern is the tone in which you always reprove her. I have known Elsie a great deal longer than you have, and I feel very certain that a gentle reproof would do her quite as much good, and not wound her half so much."

"Enough, Adelaide!" exclaimed her brother, impatiently. "If I were ten years younger than yourself, instead of that much older, there might be some propriety in your advising and directing me thus; as it is, I must say I consider it simply impertinent." And he left the room with an angry stride, while Adelaide looked after him with the thought, "I am glad you have no authority over me."

All that Adelaide had said was true; yet Elsie never complained, never blamed her father, even in her heart; but, in her deep humility, thought it was all because she was "so very naughty or careless;" and she was continually making resolutions to be "oh! so careful always to do just right, and please dear papa, so that some day he might learn to love her."

But, alas! that hope was daily growing fainter and fainter; his cold and distant manner to her and his often repeated reproofs had so increased her natural timidity and sensitiveness that she was now very constrained in her approaches to him, and seldom ventured to move or speak in his presence; and he would not see that this timidity and embarrassment were the natural results of his treatment, but attributed it all to want of affection. He saw that she feared him, and to that feeling alone he gave credit for her uniform obedience to his commands, while he had no conception of the intense, but now almost despairing love for him that burned in that little heart, and made the young life one longing, earnest desire and effort to gain his affection.