Elsie's Girlhood by Martha Finley
She twin'd--and her mother's gaze brought back Each hue of her childhood's faded track. Oh! hush the song, and let her tears Flow to the dream of her early years! Holy and pure are the drops that fall When the young bride goes from her father's hall; She goes unto love yet untried and new-- She parts from love which hath still been true. --MRS. HEMANS' POEMS.
"How did it happen that Mr. Dinsmore was not of your party last night, Miss Stevens?" inquired one of the lady boarders the next morning at the breakfast-table.
"He had been riding all the morning with his little girl, and I presume was too much fatigued to go again in the evening," Miss Stevens coolly replied, as she broke an egg into her cup, and proceeded very deliberately to season it.
"It seems he was not too much fatigued to walk," returned the other, a little maliciously; "or to take a lady upon his arm."
Miss Stevens started, and looked up hastily.
"I would advise you to be on your guard, and play your cards well, or that quiet Miss Allison may prove a serious rival," the lady continued. "He certainly pays her a good deal of attention."
"It is easy to account for that," remarked Miss Stevens, with a scornful toss of the head; "he is very fond of his little girl, and takes her out walking or riding every day, and this Miss Allison--who is, I presume, a kind of governess--indeed, it is evident that she is, from the care she takes of the child--goes along as a matter of course; but if you think Horace Dinsmore would look at a governess, you are greatly mistaken, for he is as proud as Lucifer, as well as the rest of his family, though he does set up to be so very pious!"
"Excuse me, madam," observed a gentleman sitting near, "but you must be laboring under a misapprehension. I am well acquainted with the Allison family, and can assure you that the father is one of the wealthiest merchants in Philadelphia."
At this moment Mr. Dinsmore entered with Rose upon his arm, and leading Elsie with the other hand. They drew near the table; he handed Miss Allison to a seat and took his place beside her.
A slight murmur of surprise ran round the table, and all eyes were turned upon Rose, who, feeling uncomfortably conscious of the fact, cast down her own in modest embarrassment, while Elsie, with a face all smiles and dimples, sent a triumphant glance across the table at Annie Hart, who was whispering to her mother, "See, mamma, she has Mr. Dinsmore's ring!"
That lady immediately called Miss Stevens' attention to it, which was quite unnecessary, as she was already burning with rage at the sight.
"They walked out alone last evening, and that ring explains what they were about," said Mrs. Hart, in an undertone. "I am really sorry for you, Miss Stevens; for your prize has certainly slipped through your fingers."
"I am much obliged to you," she replied, with a toss of her head; "but there are as good fish in the sea as ever were caught."
The next moment she rose and left the table, Mrs. Hart following her into the public parlor, and continuing the conversation by remarking, "I would sue him for breach of promise if I were you, Miss Stevens. I understood you were engaged to him."
"I never said so; so what right had you to suppose it?" returned Miss Stevens snappishly.
And upon reflecting a moment, Mrs. Hart could not remember that she had ever said so in plain terms, although she had hinted it many times--talking a great deal of Mr. Dinsmore's splendid establishment, and frequently speaking of the changes she thought would be desirable in Elsie's dress, just as though she expected some day to have it under her control. Then, too, she had always treated Mr. Dinsmore with so much familiarity that it was perfectly natural strangers should suppose they were engaged, even though he never reciprocated it; for that might be only because he was naturally reserved and undemonstrative; as indeed Miss Stevens frequently averred, seeming to regret it very deeply.
Presently she burst out, "I don't know why people are always so ready to talk! I don't care for Horace Dinsmore, and never did! There was never anything serious between us, though I must say he has paid me marked attentions, and given me every reason to suppose he meant something by them. I never gave him any encouragement, however; and so he has been taken in by that artful creature. I thought he had more sense, and could see through her manoeuvers--coaxing and petting up the child to curry favor with the father! I thank my stars that I am above such mean tricks! I presume she thinks, now, she is making a splendid match; but if she doesn't repent of her bargain before she has been married a year, I miss my guess! She'll never have her own way--not a bit of it--I can tell her that. Everybody that knows him will tell you that he is high-tempered and tyrannical, and as obstinate as a mule."
"The grapes are very sour, I think," whispered Mrs. Hart to her next neighbor, who nodded and laughed.
"There is Elsie out on the veranda, now," said Annie. "I mean to go and ask her what Miss Allison had her father's ring for; may I, mamma?"
"Yes; go, child, if you want to; I should like to hear what she will say; though, of course, everybody understands that there must be an engagement."
"Well, Elsie, what made you run away in such a hurry yesterday?" asked Annie, running up to our little friend. "Did you ask your papa about the new mamma?"
"I told him what you said, Annie, and it wasn't true," Elsie answered, with a glad look of joy. "I am going to have a new mother though, and papa said I might tell you; but it is Miss Allison instead of Miss Stevens, and I am very glad, because I love her dearly."
"Is she your governess?"
"No, indeed! what made you ask?"
"Miss Stevens said so," replied Annie, laughing and running away. And just then Elsie's papa called her, and bade her go upstairs and have her hat put on, as they were going out to walk.
Edward Allison had been talking with his sister in her room, and they came down together to the veranda, where Mr. Dinsmore and Elsie were waiting for them. Edward was looking very proud and happy, but Rose's face was half hidden by her veil. She took Mr. Dinsmore's offered arm and Elsie asked, "Aren't you going with us, Mr. Edward?"
"Not this time," he answered, smiling. "I have an engagement to play a game of chess with one of the ladies in the parlor yonder."
"Then I shall have papa's other hand," she said, taking possession of it.
She was very merry and talkative, but neither of her companions seemed much disposed to answer her remarks. They were following the same path they had taken the night before, and the thoughts of both were very busy with the past and the future.
At length they reached the rustic seat where they had sat while Mr. Dinsmore told his story, and he inquired of Rose if she would like to stop and rest.
She assented, recognizing the place with a smile and a blush, and they sat down.
"Papa," said Elsie, "I am not tired, mayn't I run on to the top of that hill yonder?"
"Yes, if you will not go out of sight or hearing, so that I can see that you are safe, and within call when I want you," he replied, and she bounded away.
Rose was sitting thoughtfully, with her eyes upon the ground, while those of her companion were following the graceful figure of his little girl, as she tripped lightly along the road.
"Mr. Dinsmore," Rose began.
"I beg pardon, but were you speaking to me?" he asked, turning to her with a half smile.
"Certainly," she replied, smiling in return; "there is no one else here."
"Well then, Rose, dear, please to remember that I don't answer to that name from your lips, at least not when we are alone. I am not Mr. Dinsmore to you, unless you mean to be Miss Allison to me," he added, taking her hand and gazing tenderly into her blushing face.
"Oh! no, no; I would not have you call me that!"
"Well then, dear Rose, I want you to call me Horace. I would almost as soon think of being Mr. Dinsmore to Elsie, as to you. And now, what were you going to say to me?"
"Only that I wish to set out on my homeward way to-night, with Edward. I think it would be best, more especially as mamma has written complaining of our long absence, and urging a speedy return."
"Of course your mother's wishes are the first to be consulted, until you have given me a prior right," he said, in a playful tone; "and so I suppose Elsie and I will be obliged to continue our journey by ourselves. But when may I claim you for my own indeed? Let it be as soon as possible, dearest, for I feel that I ought to return to my home ere long, and I am not willing to do so without my wife."
"I must have a few weeks to prepare; you know a lady's wardrobe cannot be got ready in a day. What would you say to six weeks? I am afraid mamma would think it entirely too short."
"Six weeks, dear Rose? why that would bring us to the middle of November. Surely a month will be long enough to keep me waiting for my happiness, and give the dressmakers sufficient time for their work. Let us say one month from to-day."
Rose raised one objection after another, but he overruled them all and pleaded his cause so earnestly that he gained his point at last, and the wedding was fixed for that day month, provided the consent of her parents, to so sudden a parting with their daughter, could be obtained.
While Rose was at home making her preparations, Mr. Dinsmore and his daughter were visiting the great lakes, and travelling through Canada. He heard frequently from her, and there were always a few lines to Elsie, which her father allowed her to answer in a little note enclosed in his; and sometimes he read her a little of his own, or of Miss Rose's letter, which she always considered a very great treat.
New York City was their last halting place on their route, and there they spent nearly two weeks in shopping and sight-seeing. Mr. Dinsmore purchased an elegant set of furniture for his wife's boudoir, and sent it on to his home, with his orders to Mrs. Murray concerning its arrangement. To this he added a splendid set of diamonds as his wedding gift to his bride, while Elsie selected a pair of very costly bracelets as hers.
They arrived in Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon, the next morning being the time appointed for the wedding. Mr. Dinsmore himself went to his hotel, but sent Elsie and her nurse to Mr. Allison's, as he had been urgently requested to do, the family being now in occupation of their town residence.
Elsie found the whole house in a bustle of preparation. Sophy met her at the door and carried her off at once to her own room, eager to display what she called "her wedding dress." She was quite satisfied with the admiration Elsie expressed. "But I suppose you bought ever so many new dresses, and lots of other pretty things, in New York?" she said inquiringly.
"Yes; papa and I together. And don't you think, Sophy, he let me help him choose some of his clothes, and he says he thinks I have very good taste in ladies' and gentlemen's dress too."
"That was right kind of him, but isn't it odd, and real nice too, that he and Rose are going to get married? I was so surprised. Do you like it, Elsie? and shall you call her mamma?"
"Oh, yes, of course. I should be quite wretched if papa were going to marry any one else; but I love Miss Rose dearly, and I am very glad she is coming to us. I think it is very good of her, and papa thinks so too."
"Yes," replied Sophy honestly, "and so do I; for I am sure I shouldn't like to leave papa and mamma and go away off there to live, though I do like you very much, Elsie, and your papa too. Only think! he is going to be my brother; and then won't you be some sort of relation too? I guess I'll be your aunt, won't I?"
"I don't know; I haven't thought about it," said Elsie; while at the same instant Harold put his head in at the half-open door, saying, "Of course you will; and I'll be her uncle."
The little girls were quite startled at first, but seeing who it was, Elsie ran towards him, holding out her hand.
"How do you do, Harold?" she said; "I am glad to see you."
He had his satchel of books on his arm. "Thank you, how are you? I am rejoiced to see you looking so well, but, as for me, I am quite sick--of lessons," he replied in a melancholy tone, and putting on a comically doleful expression.
Elsie laughed and shook her head. "I thought you ware a good boy and quite fond of your books."
"Commonly, I believe I am, but not in these wedding times. It's quite too bad of your father, Elsie, to be carrying off Rose, when he won't let us have you. But never mind, I'll be even with him some of these days;" and he gave her a meaning look.
"Come in Harold, and put your books down," said Sophy; "you can afford to spend a few minutes talking to Elsie, can't you?"
"I think I will!" he replied, accepting her invitation.
They chatted for some time, and then Adelaide came in. Elsie had heard that she was coming on to be first bridesmaid. "Elsie, dear, how glad I am to see you! and how well and happy you are looking!" she exclaimed, folding her little niece in her arms, and kissing her fondly. "But come," she added, taking her by the hand and leading her into the next room, "Miss Rose came in from her shopping only a few minutes ago, and she wants to see you."
Rose was standing by the toilet-table, gazing intently, with a blush and a smile, at something she held in her hand. She laid it down as they came in, and embracing the little girl affectionately, said how very glad she was to see her.
Then, turning to the table again, she took up what she had been looking at--which proved to be a miniature of Mr. Dinsmore--and handed it to Adelaide, saying, "Is it not excellent? and so kind and thoughtful of him to give it to me."
"It is indeed a most perfect likeness," Adelaide replied. "Horace is very thoughtful about these little matters. I hope he will make you very happy, dear Rose. I cannot tell you how glad I was when I heard you were to be my sister."
"You have seemed like a sister to me ever since the winter I spent with you," said Rose. And then she began questioning Elsie about her journey asking if she were not fatigued, and would not like to lie down and rest a little before tea.
"No thank you," Elsie said; "you know it is only a short trip from New York, and I am not at all tired."
Just then the tea-bell rang, and Rose laughed and said it was well Elsie had not accepted her invitation.
On going down to tea they found Mr. Dinsmore and Mr. Travilla there. Elsie was delighted to meet her old friend, and it was evident that he had already made himself a favorite with all the children, from Harold down to little May.
The wedding was a really brilliant affair. The bride and her attendants were beautifully dressed and, as every one remarked, looked very charming. At an early hour in the morning carriages were in waiting to convey the bridal party and the family to the church where the ceremony was to be performed. When it was over they returned to the house, where an elegant breakfast was provided for a large number of guests; after which there was a grand reception for several hours. Then, when the last guest had departed, Rose retired to her own room, appearing shortly afterwards at the family dinner-table in her pretty travelling dress, looking very sweet and engaging, but sober and thoughtful, as were also her father and brothers; while Mrs. Allison's eyes were constantly filling with tears at the thought of losing her daughter.
There was very little eating done, and the conversation flagged several times in spite of the efforts of the gentlemen to keep it up. At length all rose from the table, and gathered in the parlor for a few moments. Then came the parting, and they were gone; and Mrs. Allison, feeling almost as if she had buried her daughter, tried to forget her loss by setting herself vigorously to work overseeing the business of putting her house in order.
Rose's feelings were mingled. She wept for a time, but the soothing tenderness of her husband's manner, and Elsie's winning caresses, soon restored her to herself, and smiles chased away the tears.
They had a very pleasant journey, without accident or detention, and arrived in due time at their own home, where they were welcomed with every demonstration of delight.
Rose was charmed with the Oaks, thought it even more lovely than either Roselands or Elingrove, and Mr. Dinsmore and Elsie intensely enjoyed her pleasure and admiration.
Then came a round of parties, which Elsie thought extremely tiresome, as she could have no share in them, and was thus deprived of the company of her papa and mamma almost every evening for several weeks. But at last that too was over, and they settled down into a quiet, home life, that suited them all much better, for neither Mr. Dinsmore nor Rose was very fond of gayety.
And now Elsie resumed her studies regularly, reciting as before to her father; while Rose undertook to instruct her in the more feminine branches of housekeeping and needlework, and a master came from the city several times a week to give her lessons in music and drawing. She had been so long without regular employment that she found it very difficult at first to give her mind to her studies, as she had done in former days; but her father, though kind and considerate, was very firm with her, and she soon fell into the traces and worked as diligently as ever.
Elsie did not find that her father's marriage brought any uncomfortable change to her. There was no lessening of his love or care; she saw as much of him as before, had full possession of her seat upon his knee, and was caressed and fondled quite as often and as tenderly as ever.
And added to all this were Rose's love and sweet companionship, which were ever grateful to the little girl, whether they were alone or with her father. Elsie loved her new mamma dearly and was as respectful and obedient to her as to her father, though Rose never assumed any authority; which, however, was entirely unnecessary, as a wish or request from her was sure to be attended to as if it had been a command.
And Rose was very happy in her new home. Mr. Dinsmore's family were pleased with the match and treated her most kindly, while he was always affectionate, thoughtful, and attentive; not less devoted as a husband than as a father. They were well suited in taste and disposition; seldom had the slightest disagreement on any subject, and neither had ever cause to regret the step they had taken, for each day they lived together seemed but to increase their love for each other, and for their little daughter, as Mr. Dinsmore delighted to call her, always giving Rose a share in the ownership.