Chapter Ninth
 
   "Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God
    hath commanded thee."
                                 --Deut. v. 12.

                         "She is mine own;
    And I as rich in having such a jewel
    As twenty seas, if all their sand were pearl,
    The water nectar, and the rocks pure gold."
                    --SHAKESPEARE, Two Gentlemen of Verona.

And now happy days had come to the little Elsie. Her father treated her with the tenderest affection, and kept her with him almost constantly, seeming scarcely willing to have her out of his sight for an hour. He took her with him wherever he went in his rides and walks and visits to the neighboring planters.

She was much admired for her beauty and sweetness of disposition, much caressed and flattered, but, through it all, lost none of her native modesty, but was ever the same meek, gentle little girl. She felt grateful for all the kindness she received, and liked to visit with her papa; but her happiest days were spent at home on those rare occasions when they were free from visitors, and she could sit for hours on his knee, or by his side, talking or reading to him, or working at her embroidery, or knitting and listening while he read. He helped her with all her studies, taught her something of botany and geology in their walks, helped her to see and correct the faults of her drawings, sang with her when she played, bought her quantities of new music, and engaged the best masters to instruct her--in short, took a lively interest in all her pursuits and pleasures, gave her every indulgence, and lavished upon her the tenderest caresses. He was very proud of her beauty, her sweetness, her intelligence, and talent; and nothing pleased him better than to hear them spoken of by others in terms of praise.

And Elsie was very happy; the soft eyes grew bright with happiness, and the little face lost its pensive expression, and became as round, rosy and merry as Enna's.

Miss Day went North, expecting to be absent several months, and Elsie's papa took her traveling, spending some time at different watering-places. It was her first journey since she had been old enough to care for such things, and she enjoyed it exceedingly. They left home in July, and did not return until September, so that the little girl had time to rest and recruit, both mentally and physically, and was ready to begin her studies again with zeal and energy; yet it was so pleasant to be her papa's constant companion, and she had so enjoyed her freedom from the restraints of the school-room, that she was not at all sorry to learn, on their arrival at Roselands, that the governess would still be absent for some weeks.

"How bright and happy the child looks!" was Adelaide's remark on the day of their return, as, from the opposite side of the room, she watched the speaking countenance of the little girl, who was giving Enna and the boys an animated description of her journey.

"Yes," said Lora, "and how entirely she seems to have overcome her fear of her father!" for at that instant Elsie suddenly left the little group, and running to him, leaned confidingly on his knee, while apparently urging some request, which he answered with a smile and a nod of acquiescence; when she left the room, and presently returned carrying a richly bound book of engravings.

Yes, Elsie had lost her fear of her father, and could now talk to him, and tell him her feelings and wishes, as freely as ever Enna did; and no wonder, for in all these weeks he had never given her one harsh word or look; but indeed he had had no occasion to do so, for she was always docile and obedient.

It was Sabbath afternoon--the first Sabbath after their return-- and Elsie was in her own room alone with the books she loved best --her Bible, hymnbook, and "Pilgrim's Progress."

She had spent a very happy hour in self-examination, reading and prayer, and was singing to herself in a low tone her favorite hymn,

    "I lay my sins on Jesus,"

while turning over the leaves of her Bible to find the story of Elijah, which she had promised to read to Chloe that afternoon, when a child's footsteps were heard coming down the hall, the handle of the door was turned hastily, and then, as it refused to yield, Enna's voice called out in a fretful, imperious tone, "Open this door, Elsie Dinsmore. I want in, I say."

Elsie sighed, as she thought, "There is an end to my nice afternoon," but she rose at once, and quickly crossing the room, opened the door, asking pleasantly, "What do you want, Enna?"

"I told you I wanted to come in," replied Enna, saucily, "and now you've got to tell me a story to amuse me; mamma says so, because you know I've got a cold, and she won't let me go out."

"Well, Enna," said Elsie, patiently, "I am going to read a very beautiful story to mammy, and you are quite welcome to sit here and listen."

"I sha'n't have it read! I said you were to tell it. I don't like to hear reading," replied Enna in her imperious way, at the same time taking quiet possession of Elsie's little rosewood rocking-chair--a late present from her papa, and highly prized by the little girl on that account--and beginning to scratch with her thumb nail upon the arm.

"Oh! don't scratch my pretty new chair, Enna!" Elsie entreated; "it is papa's present, and I wouldn't have it spoiled for a great deal."

"I will; who cares for your old chair?" was the reply in a scornful tone, as she gave another and harder dig with her nail. "You're a little old maid--so particular with all your things-- that's what mamma says you are. Now tell me that story."

"I will tell you a story if you will stop scratching my chair, Enna," said Elsie, almost with tears in her eyes, "I will tell you about Elijah on Mount Carmel or Beishazzar's feast, or the children in the fiery furnace, or----"

"I sha'n't hear any of those! I don't want any of your old Bible stories," interrupted Enna, insolently, "You must tell me that pretty fairy tale Herbert Carrington is so fond of."

"No, Enna; I cannot tell you that to-day," replied Elsie, speaking gently, but very firmly.

"I say you shall!" screamed Enna, springing to her feet. "I'll just go and tell mamma, and she'll make you do it."

"Stay, Enna," said Elsie, catching her hand to detain her; "I will tell you any story I know that is suitable for the Sabbath; but I cannot tell the fairy tale to-day, because you know it would be wrong. I will tell it to you to-morrow, though, if you will wait."

"You're a bad girl, and I'll just tell mamma of you," exclaimed Enna, passionately, jerking her hand away and darting from the room.

"Oh! if papa was only at home," sighed Elsie, sinking into her rocking-chair, pale and trembling; but she knew that he had gone out riding, and would probably not return for some time; he had invited her to accompany him, but she had begged to be allowed to stay at home, and he had let her have her wish.

As she feared, she was immediately summoned to Mrs. Dinsmore's presence.

"Elsie," said that lady, severely, "are you not ashamed of yourself, to refuse Enna such a small favor especially when the poor child is not well. I must say you are the most selfish, disobliging child I ever saw."

"I offered to tell her a Bible story, or anything suitable for the Sabbath day," replied Elsie, meekly, "but I cannot tell the fairy tale, because it would be wrong."

"Nonsense! there's no harm at all in telling fairy tales to-day, any more than any other day; that is just an excuse, Elsie," said Mrs. Dinsmore, angrily.

"I don't want her old Bible stories. I won't have them. I want that pretty fairy tale," sobbed Enna passionately; "make her tell it, mamma."

"Come, come, what is all this fuss about?" asked the elder Mr. Dinsmore, coming in from an adjoining room.

"Nothing," said his wife, "except that Enna is not well enough to go out, and wants a fairy story to pass away the time, which Elsie alone is acquainted with, but is too lazy or too self-willed to relate."

He turned angrily to his little granddaughter.

"Ah! indeed, is that it? Well, there is an old saying. 'A bird that can sing, and won't sing, must be made to sing.'"

Elsie was opening her lips to speak, but Mrs. Dinsmore bade her be silent, and then went on. "She pretends it is all on account of conscientious scruples. 'It isn't fit for the Sabbath,' she says. Now I say it is a great piece of impertinence for a child of her years to set up her opinion against yours and mine; and I know very well it is nothing but an excuse, because she doesn't choose to be obliging."

"Of course it is; nothing in the world but an excuse," responded Mr. Dinsmore, hotly.

Elsie's face flushed, and she answered a little indignantly,

"No, grandpa, indeed it is not merely an excuse, but--"

"Do you dare to contradict me, you impertinent little hussy?" cried the old gentleman, interrupting her in the middle of her sentence; and catching her by the arm, he shook her violently; then picking her up and setting her down hard upon a chair, he said, "Now, miss, sit you there until your father comes home, then we will see what he thinks of such impertinence; and if he doesn't give you the complete whipping you deserve, I miss my guess."

"Please, grandpa, I--"

"Hold your tongue! don't dare to speak another word until your father comes home," said he, threateningly. "If you don't choose to say what you're wanted to, you shall not talk at all."

Then, going to the door, he called a servant and bade him tell "Mr. Horace," as soon as he returned, that he wished to see him.

For the next half-hour--and a very long one it seemed to her-- Elsie sat there wishing for, and yet dreading her father's coming. Would he inflict upon her the punishment which her grandfather evidently wished her to receive, without pausing to inquire into the merits of the case? or would he listen patiently to her story? And even if he did, might he not still think her deserving of punishment? She could not answer these questions to her own satisfaction. A few months ago she would have been certain of a very severe chastisement, and even now she trembled with fear; for though she knew beyond a doubt that he loved her dearly, she knew also that he was a strict and severe disciplinarian, and never excused her faults.

At last her ear caught the sound of his step in the hall, and her heart beat fast and faster as it drew nearer, until he entered, and addressing his father, asked, "Did you wish to see me, sir?"

"Yes, Horace, I want you to attend to this girl," replied the old gentleman, with a motion of the head toward Elsie. "She has been very impertinent to me."

"What! Elsie impertinent! is it possible? I certainly expected better things of her."

His tone expressed great surprise, and turning to his little daughter, he regarded her with a grave, sad look that brought the tears to her eyes; dearly as she loved him, it seemed almost harder to bear than the old expression of stern severity.

"It is hard to believe," he said, "that my little Elsie would be guilty of such conduct; but if she has been, of course she must be punished, for I cannot allow anything of the kind. Go. Elsie, to my dressing-room and remain there until I come to you."

"Papa--" she began, bursting into tears.

"Hush!" he said, with something of the old sternness; "not a word; but obey me instantly."

Then, as Elsie went sobbing from the room, he seated himself, and turning to his father, said, "Now, sir, if you please, I should like to hear the whole story; precisely what Elsie has done and said, and what was the provocation; for that must also be taken into the account, in order that I may be able to do her justice."

"If you do her justice, you will whip her well," remarked his father in a tone of asperity.

Horace colored violently, for nothing aroused his ire sooner than any interference between him and his child; but controlling himself, he replied quite calmly, "If I find her deserving of punishment, I will not spare her; but I should be sorry indeed to punish her unjustly. Will you be so good as to tell me what she has done?"

Mr. Dinsmore referred him to his wife for the commencement of the trouble, and she made out as bad a case against Elsie as possible; but even then there seemed to her father to be very little to condemn; and when Mrs. Dinsmore was obliged to acknowledge that it was Elsie's refusal to humor Enna in her desire for a particular story which Elsie thought it not best to relate on the Sabbath, he bit his lip with vexation, and told her in a haughty tone, that though he did not approve of Elsie's strict notions regarding such matters, yet he wished her to understand that his daughter was not to be made a slave to Enna's whims. If she chose to tell her a story, or to do anything else for her amusement, he had no objection, but she was never to be forced to do it against her inclination, and Enna must understand that it was done as a favor, and not at all as her right.

"You are right enough there, Horace," remarked his father, "but that does not excuse Elsie for her impertinence to me. In the first place, I must say I agree with my wife in thinking it quite a piece of impertinence for a child of her years to set up her opinion against mine; and besides, she contradicted me flatly."

He then went on to repeat what he had said, and Elsie's denial of the charge, using her exact words, but quite a different tone, and suppressing the fact that he had interrupted her before she had finished her sentence.

Elsie's tone, though slightly indignant, had still been respectful, but from her grandfather's rehearsal of the scene her father received the impression that she had been exceedingly saucy, and he left the room with the intention of giving her almost as severe a punishment as her grandfather would have prescribed.

On the way up to his room, however, his anger had a little time to cool, and it occurred to him that it would be no more than just to hear her side of the story ere he condemned her.

Elsie was seated on a couch at the far side of the room, and as he entered she turned on him a tearful, pleading look, that went straight to his heart.

His face was grave and sad, but there was very little sternness in it, as he sat down and took her in his arms.

For a moment he held her without speaking, while she lifted her eyes timidly to his face. Then he said, as he gently stroked the hair back from her forehead, "I am very sorry, very sorry indeed, to hear so bad an account of my little daughter. I am afraid I shall have to punish her, and I don't like to do it."

She answered not a word, but burst into tears, and hiding her face on his breast, sobbed aloud.

"I will not condemn you unheard, Elsie," he said after a moment's pause; "tell me how you came to be so impertinent to your grandfather."

"I did not mean to be saucy, papa, indeed I did not," she sobbed.

"Stop crying then, daughter," he said kindly, "and tell me all about it. I know there was some trouble between you and Enna, and I want you to tell me all that occurred, and every word spoken by either of you, as well as all that passed between Mrs. Dinsmore, your grandfather, and yourself. I am very glad that I can trust my little girl to speak the truth. I am quite sure she would not tell a falsehood even to save herself from punishment," he added tenderly.

"Thank you, dear papa, for saying that," said Elsie, raising her head and almost smiling through her tears. "I will try to tell it just as it happened."

She then told her story simply and truthfully, repeating, as he bade her, every word that had passed between Enna and herself, and between her and her grandparents. Her words to her grandfather sounded very different, repeated in her quiet, respectful tones; and when she added that if he would have allowed her, she was going on to explain that it was not any unwillingness to oblige Enna, but the fear of doing wrong, that led her to refuse her request, her father thought that after all she deserved very little blame.

"Do you think I was very saucy, papa?" she asked anxiously, when she had finished her story.

"So much depends upon the tone, Elsie," he said, "that I can hardly tell; if you used the same tone in speaking to your grandpa that you did in repeating your words to me just now, I don't think it was very impertinent; though the words themselves were not as respectful as they ought to have been. You must always treat my father quite as respectfully as you do me; and I think with him, too, that there is something quite impertinent in a little girl like you setting up her opinion against that of her elders. You must never try it with me, my daughter."

Elsie hung down her head in silence for a moment, then asked in a tremulous tone, "Are you going to punish me, papa?"

"Yes," he said, "but first I am going to take you down-stairs and make you beg your grandfather's pardon. I see you don't want to do it," he added, looking keenly into her face, "but you must, and I hope I shall not be obliged to enforce obedience to my commands."

"I will do whatever you bid me, papa," she sobbed, "but I did not mean to be saucy. Please, papa, tell me what to say."

"You must say, Grandpa, I did not intend to be impertinent to you, and I am very sorry for whatever may have seemed saucy in my words or tones; will you please to forgive me, and I will try always to be perfectly respectful in future. You can say all that with truth, I think?"

"Yes, papa, I am sorry, and I do intend to be respectful to grandpa always," she answered, brushing away her tears, and putting her hand in his.

He then led her into her grandfather's presence, saying: "Elsie has come to beg your pardon, sir."

"That is as it should be," replied the old gentleman, glancing triumphantly at his wife; "I told her you would not uphold her in any such impertinence."

"No," said his son, with some displeasure in his tone; "I will neither uphold her in wrongdoing, nor suffer her to be imposed upon. Speak, my daughter, and say what I bade you."

Elsie sobbed out the required words.

"Yes, I must forgive you, of course," replied her grandfather, coldly, "but I hope your father is not going to let you off without proper punishment."

"I will attend to that; I certainly intend to punish her as she deserves" said his son, laying a marked emphasis upon the concluding words of his sentence.

Elsie wholly misunderstood him, and so trembled with fear as he led her from the room, that she could scarcely walk; seeing which, he took her in his arms and carried her up-stairs, she sobbing on his shoulder.

He did not speak until he had locked the door, carried her across the room, and seated himself upon the couch again, with her upon his knee.

Then he said, in a soothing tone, as he wiped away her tears and kissed her kindly, "You need not tremble so, my daughter; I am not going to be severe with you."

She looked up in glad surprise.

"I said I would punish you as you deserve," he said, with a smile, "and I intend to keep you shut up here with me until bed- time, I shall not allow you to go down-stairs to tea, and besides, I am going to give you a long lesson to learn, which I shall require you to recite to me quite perfectly before you can go to bed."

Elsie grew frightened again at the mention of the lesson, for she feared it might be something which she could not conscientiously study on the Sabbath; but all her fear and trouble vanished as she saw her father take up a Bible that lay on the table, and turn over the leaves as though selecting a passage.

Presently he put it into her hands, and pointing to the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of John's Gospel, bade her carry the book to a low seat by the window, and sit there until she had learned them perfectly.

"O papa! what a nice lesson!" she exclaimed, looking up delightedly into his face; "but it won't be any punishment, because I love these chapters dearly, and have read them so often that I almost know every word already."

"Hush, hush!" he said, pretending to be very stern; "don't tell me that my punishments are no punishments, I don't allow you to talk so; just take the book and learn what I bid you; and if you know those two already, you may learn the next."

Elsie laughed, kissed his hand, and tripped away to her window, while he threw himself down on the couch and took up a newspaper, more as a screen to his face, however, than for the purpose of reading; for he lay there closely watching his little daughter, as she sat in the rich glow of the sunset, with her sweet, grave little face bending over the holy book.

"The darling!" he murmured to himself; "she is lovely as an angel, and she is mine, mine only, mine own precious one; and loves me with her whole soul. Ah! how can I ever find it in my heart to be stern to her? Ah! if I were but half as good and pure as she is, I should be a better man than I am." And he heaved a deep sigh.

Half an hour had passed, and still Elsie bent over her book. The tea-bell rang, and Mr. Dinsmore started up, and crossing the room, bent down and stroked her hair.

"Do you know it, darling?" he asked.

"Almost, papa," and she looked up into his face with a bright, sweet smile, full of affection.

With a sudden impulse he caught her in his arms, and kissing her again and again, said with emotion, "Elsie, my darling, I love you too well; I could never bear to lose you."

"You must love Jesus better, my own precious papa," she replied, clasping her little arms around his neck, and returning his caresses.

He held her a moment, and then putting her down, said, "I shall send you up some supper, and I want you to eat it; don't behave as you did about the bread and water once, a good while ago."

"Will it be bread and water this time, papa?" she asked, with a smile.

"You will see," he said, laughingly, and quitted the room.

Elsie turned to her book again, but in a few moments was interrupted by the entrance of a servant carrying on a silver waiter a plate of hot, buttered muffins, a cup of jelly, another of hot coffee, and a piece of broiled chicken. Elsie was all astonishment.

"Why, Pomp," she asked, "did papa send it?"

"Yes, Miss Elsie, 'deed he did," replied the servant, with a grin of satisfaction, as he set down his burden. "I reckon you been berry nice gal dis day; or else Marster Horace tink you little bit sick."

"Papa is very good; and I am much obliged to you too, Pomp," said the little girl, laying aside her book, and seating herself before the waiter.

"Jes ring de bell, Miss Elsie, ef you want more, and dis chile fotch 'em up; Marster Horace say so hisself." And the grinning negro bowed himself out, chuckling with delight, for Elsie had always been a great favorite with him.

"Dear papa," Elsie said, when he came in again and smilingly asked if she had eaten her prison fare, "what a good supper you sent me! But I thought you didn't allow me such things!"

"Don't you know," said he playfully, laying his hand upon her head, "that I am absolute monarch of this small kingdom, and you are not to question my doings or decrees?"

Then in a more serious tone, "No, daughter, I do not allow it as a regular thing, because I do not think it for your good; but for once, I thought it would not hurt you. I know you are not one to presume upon favors, and I wanted to indulge you a little, because I fear my little girl has been made to suffer perhaps more than she quite deserved this afternoon."

His voice had a very tender tone as he uttered the concluding words, and stooping, he pressed his lips to her forehead.

"Don't think, though," he added the next moment, "that I am excusing you for impertinence, not at all; but it was what you have had to suffer from Enna's insolence. I shall put a stop to that, for I will not have it."

"I don't mind it much, papa," said Elsie gently, "I am quite used to it, for Enna has always treated me so."

"And why did I never hear of it before?" he asked, half angrily. "It is abominable! not to be endured!" he exclaimed, "and I shall see that Miss Enna is made to understand that my daughter is fully her equal in every respect, and always to be treated as such."

He paused; but, Elsie, half frightened at his vehemence, made no reply; and he went on: "I have no doubt your grandfather and his wife would have been better pleased had I forced you to yield to Enna's whim; but I had no idea of such a thing; you shall use your own pleasure whenever she is concerned; but: if I had bidden you to tell her that story it would have been a very different matter; you need never set up your will, or your opinion of right and wrong, against mine, Elsie, for I shall not allow it. I don't altogether like some of those strict notions you have got into your head, and I give you fair warning, that should they ever come into collision with my wishes and commands, they will have to be given up. But don't look so alarmed, daughter; I hope it may never happen; and we will say no more about it to-night," he added, kindly, for she had grown very pale and trembled visibly.

"O papa, dear papa! don't ever bid me do anything wrong; it would break my heart," she said, laying her head on his shoulder as he sat down and drew her to his side.

"I never intend to bid you do wrong, but, on the contrary, wish you always to do right. But then, daughter, I must be the judge of what is wrong or right for you; you must remember that you are only a very little girl, and not yet capable of judging for yourself, and all you have to do is to obey your father without murmuring or hesitation, and then there will be no trouble."

His tone, though mild, and not unkind, was very firm and decided, and Elsie's heart sank; she seemed to feel herself in the shadow of some great trouble laid up in store for her in the future. But she strove, and ere long with success, to banish the foreboding of evil which oppressed her, and give herself up to the enjoyment of present blessings. Her father loved her dearly--she knew that--and he was not now requiring her to do aught against her conscience, and perhaps he never might; he had said so himself, and God could incline his heart to respect her scruples; or if, in His infinite wisdom, He saw that the dreaded trial was needed, He would give her strength to bear it; for had He not promised, "As thy day, so shall thy strength be"?

Her father's arm was around her, and she had been standing silently, with her face hidden on his shoulder, while these thoughts were passing through her mind, and the little heart going up in prayer to God for him and for herself.

"What is my little girl thinking of?" he asked presently.

"A good many things, papa," she said, raising her face, now quite peaceful and happy again. "I was thinking of what you had just been saying to me, and that I am so glad I know that you love me dearly; and I was asking God to help us both to do His will, and that I might always be able to do what you bid me, without disobeying Him," she added simply; and then asked, "May I say my lesson now, papa? I think I know it quite perfectly."

"Yes," he said, in an absent way; "bring me the book."

Elsie brought it, and putting it into his hands, drew up a stool and sat down at his feet, resting her arm on his knee, and looking up into his face; then in her sweet, low voice, she repeated slowly and feelingly, with true and beautiful emphasis, the chapters he had given her to learn; that most touching description of the Last Supper, and our Saviour's farewell address to His sorrowing disciples.

"Ah! papa, is it not beautiful?" she exclaimed, laying her head upon his knee, while the tears trembled in her eyes. "Is not that a sweet verse, 'Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end'? It seems so strange that He could be so thoughtful for them, so kind and loving, when all the time He knew what a dreadful death He was just going to die; and knew besides that they were all going to run away and leave Him alone with His cruel enemies. Oh! it is so sweet to know that Jesus is so loving, and that He loves me, and will always love me, even to the end, forever."

"How do you know that, Elsie?" he asked.

"I know that He loves me, papa, because I love Him, and He has said, 'I love them that love me;' and I know that He will love me always, because He has said, 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love,' and in another place, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.'"

"But do you think you are good enough, daughter, for Jesus to love you?"

"Ah! papa, I know I am not at all good. I have a very wicked heart, and often my thoughts and feelings are all wrong, and Jesus knows all about it, but it does not keep Him from loving me, for you know it was sinners He died to save. Ah! papa, how good and kind He was! Who could help loving Him? I used to feel so lonely and sad sometimes, papa, that I think my heart would have broken quite, and I should have died, if I had not had Jesus to love me."

"When were you so sad and lonely, darling?" he asked in a moved tone, as he laid his hand gently on her head, and stroked her hair caressingly.

"Sometimes when you were away, papa, and I had never seen you; but then I used to think of you, and my heart would long and ache so to see you, and hear you call me daughter, and to lay my head against your breast and feel your arms folding me close to your heart, as you do so often now."

She paused a moment, and struggled hard to keep down the rising sobs, as she added, "But when you came, papa, and I saw you did not love me, oh! papa, that was the worst. I thought I could never, never bear it. I thought my heart would break, and I wanted to die and go to Jesus, and to mamma."

The little frame shook with sobs.

"My poor darling! my poor little pet!" he said, taking her in his arms again, and caressing her with the greatest tenderness, "it was very hard, very cruel. I don't know how I could steel my heart so against my own little child; but I had been very much prejudiced, and led to suppose that you looked upon me with fear and dislike, as a hated tyrant."

Elsie lifted her eyes to his face with a look of extreme surprise.

"O papa!" she exclaimed, "how could you think that? I have always loved you, ever since I can remember."

When Elsie went to her room that evening she thought very seriously of all that had occurred during the afternoon, and all that her papa had said to her; and to her usual petitions was added a very fervent one that he might never bid her break any command of God; or if he did, that she might have strength given her according to her day.

A shadow had fallen on her pathway, faint, but perceptible; a light, fleecy cloud obscured the brightness of her sun; yet it was not for some weeks that even the most distant mutterings of the coming storm could be heard.