Part 2 out of 6
every day. And we might read some improving books together,--you and
Herbert, and I. He is worse again, poor fellow! so that some days he
hardly leaves his couch even to limp across the room, and it's partly
to cheer him up that we want you to come. There's nothing puts him
into better spirits than a sight of your face."
"You don't expect other company?"
"No, except on our birthday; but then we're going to have a little
party, just of our own set,--we boys and girls that have grown up--or
are growing up--together, as one may say. Oh, yes, I want to have
Carrie Howard, Mary Leslie, and Enna stay a day or two after the
party. Now coax your papa hard, for we must have you," she added,
rising to go.
"That would be a sure way to make him say no," said Elsie, smiling;
"he never allows me to coax or tease; at least, not after he has once
answered my request."
"Then don't think of it. Good-bye. No, don't waste time in coming to
see me off, but go back to your books like a good child. I mean to
have a little chat with your mamma before I go."
Elsie returned to her lessons with redoubled energy. She was longing
to become more intimately acquainted with Ellen Montgomery, but
resolutely denied herself even so much as a peep at the pages of the
fascinating story-book until her allotted tasks should be faithfully
These, with her regular daily exercise in the open air, filled up the
morning; there was a half hour before, and another after dinner, which
she could call her own; then two hours for needlework, music, and
drawing, and she was free to employ herself as she would till
That was very apt to be in reading, and if the weather was fine she
usually carried her book to an arbor at some distance from the house.
It was reached by a long shaded walk that led to it from the lawn, on
which the glass doors of her pretty boudoir opened. It was a cool,
breezy, quiet spot, on a terraced hillside, commanding a lovely view
of vale, river, and woodland, and from being so constantly frequented
by our heroine, had come to be called by her name,--"Elsie's Arbor."
Arthur, well acquainted with these tastes and habits, sought, and
found her here on the afternoon of this day--found her so deeply
absorbed in Miss Warner's sweet story that she was not aware of his
approach--so full of sympathy for little Ellen that her tears were
dropping upon the page as she read.
"What, crying, eh?" he said with a sneer, as he seated himself by her
side, and rudely pulled one of her curls, very much as he had been
used to do years ago. "Well, I needn't be surprised, for you always
were the greatest baby I ever saw."
"Please let my hair alone, Arthur; you are not very polite in either
speech or action," she answered, brushing away her tears and moving a
little farther from him.
"It's not worth while to waste politeness on you. What's that you're
"A new book Mr. Travilla gave me."
"Has no name, eh?"
"Yes, 'Wide, Wide World.'"
"Some namby-pamby girl's story, I s'pose, since you're allowed to read
it; or are you doing it on the sly?"
"No, I never do such things, and hope I never shall; papa gave me
"Oh; ah! then I haven't got you in my power: wish I had."
"Because I might turn it to good account. I know you are as afraid as
death of Horace."
"No, I am not!" dried Elsie indignantly, rich color rushing all over
her fair face and neck; "for I know that he loves me dearly and if I
had been disobeying or deceiving him I would far sooner throw myself
on his mercy than on yours."
"You would, eh? How mad you are; your face is as red as a beet. A
pretty sort of Christian you are, aren't you?"
"I am not perfect, Arthur; but you mustn't judge of religion by me."
"I shall, though. Don't you wish I'd go away?" he added teasingly,
again snatching at her curls.
But she eluded his grasp, and rising, stood before him with an air of
gentle dignity. "Yes," she said, "since you ask me, I'll own that I
do. I don't know why it is that, though your manners are polished when
you choose to make them so, you are always rude and ungentlemanly to
me when you find me alone. So I shall be very glad if you'll just go
away and leave me to solitude and the enjoyment of my book."
"I'll do so when I get ready; not a minute sooner. But you can get rid
of me just as soon as you like. I see you take. Yes, I want that money
I asked you for yesterday, and I am bound to have it."
"Arthur, my answer must be just the same that it was then; I can give
you no other."
"You're the meanest girl alive! To my certain knowledge you are worth
at least a million and a half, and yet you refuse to lend me the
pitiful sum of fifty dollars."
"Arthur, you know I have no choice in the matter. Papa has forbidden
me to lend you money without his knowledge and consent, and I cannot
"When did he forbid you?"
"A long while ago; and though he has said nothing about it lately, he
has told me again and again that his commands are always binding until
he revokes them."
"Fifteen years old, and not allowed to do as you please even with
your pocket money!" he said contemptuously. "Do you expect to be in
leading-strings all your life?"
"I shall of course have control of my own money matters on coming of
age; but I expect to obey my father as long as we both live," she
answered, with gentle but firm decision.
"Do you have to show your balance in hand when you give in your
"No; do you suppose papa cannot trust my word?" she answered, somewhat
"Then you could manage it just as easily as not. There's no occasion
for him to know whether your balance in hand is at that moment in your
possession or mine; as I told you before, I only want to borrow it for
two weeks. Come, let me have it. If you don't, the day will come when
you'll wish you had."
She repeated her refusal; he grew very angry and abusive, and at
length went so far as to strike her.
A quick step sounded on the gravel walk, a strong grasp was laid on
Arthur's arm, he felt himself suddenly jerked aside and flung upon
his knees, while a perfect rain of stinging, smarting blows descended
rapidly upon his back and shoulders.
"There, you unmitigated scoundrel, you mean, miserable caitiff; lay
your hand upon her again if you dare!" cried Mr. Travilla, finishing
the castigation by applying the toe of his boot to Arthur's nether
parts with a force that sent him reeling some distance down the walk,
to fall with a heavy thud upon the ground.
The lad rose, white with rage, and shook his fist at his antagonist.
"I'll strike her when I please," he said with an oath, "and not be
called to account by you for it either; she's my niece, and nothing to
"I'll defend her nevertheless, and see to it that you come to grief if
you attempt to harm her in any way whatever. Did he hurt you much, my
child?" And Mr. Travilla's tone changed to one of tender concern as he
turned and addressed Elsie, who had sunk pale and trembling upon the
rustic seat where Arthur had found her.
"No, sir, but I fear you have hurt him a good deal, in your kind zeal
for my defence," she answered, looking after Arthur, as he limped away
down the path.
"I have broken my cane, that is the worst of it," said her protector
coolly, looking regretfully down at the fragment he still held in his
"You must have struck very hard, and oh, Mr. Travilla, what if he
should take it into his head to challenge you?" and Elsie turned pale
"Never fear; he is too arrant a coward for that; he knows I am a good
shot, and that, as the challenged party, I would have the, right to
the choice of weapons."
"But you wouldn't fight, Mr. Travilla? you do not approve of
"So, no indeed, Elsie; both the laws of God and of the land are
against it, and I could not engage in it either as a good citizen or a
"Oh, I am so glad of that, and that you came to my rescue; for I was
really growing frightened, Arthur seemed in such a fury with me."
"What was it about?"
Elsie explained, then asked how he had happened to come to her aid.
"I had learned from the servants that your father and mother were both
out, so came here in search of you," he said. "As I drew near I saw
that Arthur was with you, and not wishing to overhear your talk, I
waited at a little distance up there on the bank, watching you through
the trees. I perceived at once that he was in a towering passion, and
fearing he would ill-treat you in some way, I held myself in readiness
to come to your rescue; and when I saw him strike you, such a fury
suddenly came over me that I could not possibly refrain from thrashing
him for it."
"Mr. Travilla, you will not tell papa?" she said entreatingly.
"My child, I am inclined to think he ought to hear of it."
"Oh, why need he? It would make him very angry with Arthur."
"Which Arthur richly deserves. I think your father should know, in
order that he may take measures for your protection. Still, if you
promise not to ride or walk out alone until Arthur has left the
neighborhood, it shall be as you wish. But you must try to recover
your composure, or your papa will be sure to ask the cause of your
agitation. You are trembling very much, and the color has quite
forsaken your cheeks."
"I'll try," She said, making a great effort to control herself, "and I
give you the promise."
"This is a very pleasant place to sit with book or work," he remarked,
"but I would advise you not even to come here alone again till Arthur
"Thank you, sir, I think I shall follow your advice. It will be only a
few weeks now till he and Walter both go North to college."
"I see you hate your book with you," he said, taking it up from the
seat where it lay. "How do you like it?"
"Oh, so much! How I pity poor Ellen for having such a father, so
different from my dear papa; and because she had to be separated from
her mamma, whom she loved so dearly. I can't read about her troubles
without crying, Mr. Travilla."
"Shall I tell you a secret," he said, smiling; "I shed some tear's
over it myself." Then he went on talking with her about the different
characters of the story, thus helping her to recover her composure by
turning her thoughts from herself and Arthur.
When, half an hour later, a servant came to summon her to the house,
with the announcement that her father had returned and was ready to
hear her recitations, all signs of agitation had disappeared; she had
ceased to tremble, and her fair face was as sweet, bright, and rosy as
She rose instantly on hearing the summons. "You'll excuse me, I know,
Mr. Travilla. But will you not go in with me? We are always glad to
have you with us. I have no need to tell you that, I am sure."
"Thank you," he said, "but I must return to Ion now. I shall walk to
the house with you though, if you will permit me," he added, thinking
that Arthur might be still lurking somewhere within the grounds.
She answered gayly that she would be very glad of his company. She had
lost none of her old liking for her father's friend, and was wont to
treat him with the easy and affectionate familiarity she might have
used had he been her uncle.
They continued their talk till they had reached the lawn at the side
of the house on which her apartments were; then he turned to bid her
"I'm much obliged!" she said, taking his offered hand, and looking up
brightly into his face.
"Welcome, fair lady; but am I to be dismissed without any reward for
my poor services?"
"I have none to offer, sir knight, but you may help yourself if you
choose," she said, laughing and blushing, for she knew very well what
He stooped and snatched a kiss from her ruby lips, then walked away
sighing softly to himself, "Ah, little Elsie, if I were but ten years
She tripped across the lawn, and entering the open door of her
boudoir, found herself in her father's arms. He had witnessed the
little scene just enacted between Mr. Travilla and herself, had
noticed something in his friend's look and manner that had never
struck him before. He folded his child close to his heart for an
instant then held her off a little, gazing fondly into her face.
"You are mine; you belong to me; no other earthly creature has the
least shadow of a right or title in you; do you know that?"
"Yes, papa, and rejoice to know it," she murmured, putting her arms
about his neck and laying her head against his breast.
"Ah!" he said, sighing, "you will not always be able to say that, I
fear. One of these days you will--" He broke off abruptly, without
finishing his sentence.
She looked up inquiringly into his face.
He answered her look with a smile and a tender caress. "I had better
not put the nonsense into your head: it will get there soon enough
without my help. Come now, let us have the lessons. I expect to find
them well prepared, as usual."
"I hope so, papa," she answered, bringing her books and seating
herself on a stool at his feet, he having taken possession of an
The recitations seemed a source of keen enjoyment to both; the one
loving to impart, and the other to receive, knowledge.
Mr. Dinsmore gave the deserved meed of warm praise for the faithful
preparation of each allotted task, prescribed those for the coming
day, and the books were laid aside.
"Come here, daughter," he said, as she closed her desk upon them, "I
have something to say to you."
"What is it, papa?" she asked, seating herself upon his knee. "How
very grave you look." But there was not a touch of the old fear in her
face or voice, as there had been none in his of the old sternness.
"Yes, for I am about to speak of a serious matter," he answered,
gently smoothing back the clustering curls from her fair brow, while
he looked earnestly into the soft brown eyes. "You have not been
lending money to Arthur, Elsie?"
The abrupt, unexpected question startled her, and a crimson tide
rushed over her face and neck; but she returned her father's gaze
steadily: "No, papa; how could you think I would disobey so?"
"I did not, darling, and yet I felt that I must ask the question
and repeat my warning, my command to you--never to do so without my
knowledge and consent. Your grandfather and I are much troubled about
"I am so sorry, papa; I hope he has not been doing anything very bad."
"He seems to have sufficient cunning to hide many of his evil deeds,"
Mr. Dinsmore said, with a sigh; "yet enough has come to light to
convince us that he is very likely to become a shame and disgrace to
his family. We know that he is profane, and to some extent, at
least, intemperate and a gambler. A sad, sad beginning for a boy of
seventeen. And to furnish, him with money, Elsie, would be only to
assist him in his downward course."
"Yes, papa, I see that. Poor grandpa, I'm so sorry for him! But, papa,
God can change Arthur's heart, and make him all we could wish."
"Yes, daughter, and we will agree together to ask Him to do this great
work, so impossible to any human power; shall we not?"
"Yes, papa." They were silent a moment; then she turned to him again,
told of Lucy Carrington's call and its object, and asked if she might
accept the invitation.
He considered a moment. "Yes," he said kindly, "you may if you wish.
You quite deserve a holiday, and I think perhaps would really be the
better of a week's rest from study. Go and enjoy yourself as much as
you can, my darling."
"Thank you, you dearest, kindest, and best of papas," she said, giving
him a hug and kiss. "But I think you look a little bit sorry. You
would rather I should stay at home, if I could content myself to do
so, and it would be a strange thing if I could not."
"No, my pet, I shall miss you, I know; the house always seems lonely
without you; but I can spare you for a week, and would rather have you
go, because I think the change will do you good. Besides, I am willing
to lend my treasure for a few days to our friends at Ashlands. I
would gladly do more than that, if I could, for that poor suffering
How many pleasant faces shed their light on every side.
"Remember it is for only one week; you must be back again next
Wednesday by ten o'clock; I can't spare you an hour longer," Mr.
Dinsmore said, as the next morning, shortly after breakfast, he
assisted his daughter to mount her pony.
"Ten o'clock at night, papa?" asked Elsie in a gay, jesting tone, as
she settled herself in the saddle, and took a little gold-mounted
riding whip from his hand.
"No, ten A.M., precisely."
"But what if it should be storming, sir?"
"Then come as soon as the storm is over."
"Yes, sir; and may I come sooner if I get homesick?"
"Just as soon as you please. Now, good-bye, my darling. Don't go into
any danger. I know I need not remind you to do nothing your father
"I hope not, papa," she said, with a loving look into the eyes that
were gazing so fondly upon her. Then kissing her hand to him and her
mamma and little Horace, who stood on the veranda to see her off, she
turned her horse's head and cantered merrily away, taking the road to
Ashlands on passing out at the gate.
It was a bright, breezy morning, and her heart felt so light and
gay that a snatch of glad song rose to her lips. She warbled a few
bird-like notes, then fell to humming softly to herself.
At a little distance down the road a light wagon was rumbling along,
driven by one of the man-servants from the Oaks, and carrying Aunt
Chloe and her young mistress' trunks.
"Come, Jim," said Elsie, glancing over her shoulder at her attendant
satellite, "we must pass them. Glossy and I are in haste to-day. Ah,
mammy, are you enjoying your ride?" she called to her old nurse as she
cantered swiftly by.
"Yes, dat I is, honey!" returned the old woman. Then sending a loving,
admiring look after the retreating form so full of symmetry and grace,
"My bressed chile!" she murmured, "you's beautiful as de mornin', your
ole mammy tinks, an' sweet as de finest rose in de garden; bright an'
happy as de day am long, too."
"De beautifullest in all de country, an' de finest," chimed in her
The young people at Ashlands were all out on the veranda enjoying the
fresh morning air--Herbert lying on a lounge with a book in his hand;
Harry and Lucy seated on opposite sides of a small round table and
deep in a game of chess; two little fellows of six and eight--John and
Archie by name--were spinning a top.
"There she is! I had almost given her up; for I didn't believe that
old father of hers would let her come," cried Lucy, catching sight of
Glossy and her rider just entering the avenue; and she sprang up in
such haste as to upset half the men upon the board.
"Hollo! see what you've done!" exclaimed Harry. "Why, it's Elsie, sure
enough!" and he hastily followed in the wake of his sister, who had
already flown to meet and welcome her friend; while Herbert started up
to a sitting posture, and looked enviously after them.
"Archie, John," he called, "one of you please be good enough to hand
me my crutch and cane. Dear me, what a thing it is to be a cripple!"
"I'll get 'em, Herbie, this minute! Don't you try to step without
'em," said Archie, jumping up to hand them.
But Elsie had already alighted from her horse with Harry's assistance,
and shaken hands with him, returned Lucy's rapturous embrace as warmly
as it was given, and stepped upon the veranda with her before Herbert
was fairly upon his feet. As she caught sight of him she hurried
forward, her sweet face full of tender pity.
"Oh, don't try to come to meet me, Herbert," she said, holding out her
little gloved hand; "I know your poor limb is worse than usual, and
you, must not exert yourself for an old friend like me."
"Ah," he said, taking the offered hand, and looking at its owner with
a glad light in his eyes, "How like you that is, Elsie! You always
were more thoughtful of others than any one else I ever knew. Yes, my
limb is pretty bad just now; but the doctor thinks he'll conquer the
disease yet; at least so far as to relieve me of the pain I suffer."
"I hope so, indeed. How patiently you have borne it all these long
years," she answered with earnest sympathy of tone and look.
"So he has; he deserves the greatest amount of credit for it," said
Lucy, as John and Archie in turn claimed Elsie's attention for a
moment. "But come now, let me take you to mamma and grandma, and then
to your own room. Aunt Chloe and your luggage will be along presently,
"Yes, they are coming up the avenue now."
Lucy led the way to a large pleasant, airy apartment in one of the
wings of the building, where they found Mrs. Carrington busily
occupied in cutting out garments for her servants, her parents Mr. and
Mrs. Norris with her, the one reading a newspaper, the other knitting.
All three gave the young guest a very warm welcome. She was evidently
a great favorite with the whole family.
These greetings and the usual mutual inquiries in regard to the health
of friends and relatives having been exchanged, Elsie was next carried
off by Lucy to the room prepared for her special use during her stay
at Ashlands. It also was large, airy, and cheerful, on the second
floor--opening upon a veranda on one side, on the other into a similar
apartment occupied by Lucy herself. Pine India matting, furniture of
some kind of yellow grained wood, snowy counterpanes, curtains and
toilet covers gave them both an air of coolness and simple elegance,
while vases of fresh flowers upon the mantels shed around a slight but
Of course the two girls were full of lively, innocent chat. In the
midst of it Elsie exclaimed, "Oh, Lucy! I have just the loveliest book
you ever read! a present from Mr. Travilla the other day, and I've
brought it along. Papa had begun it, but he is so kind he insisted I
should bring it with me; and so I did."
"Oh, I'm glad! we haven't had anything new in the story-book line for
some time. Have you read it yourself?"
"Partly; but it is worth reading several times; and I thought we would
enjoy it all together--one reading aloud."
"Oh, 'tis just the thing! I'm going to help mamma to-day with the
sewing, and a nice book read aloud will make it quite enjoyable. We'll
have you for reader, Elsie, if you are agreed."
"Suppose we take turns sewing and reading? I'd like to help your
"Thank you; well, we'll see. Herbert's a good reader, and I daresay
will be glad to take his turn at it too. Ah, here comes your baggage
and Aunt Chloe following it. Here, Bob and Jack," to the two stalwart
black fellows who were carrying the trunk, "set it in this corner. How
d'ye do, Aunt Chloe?"
"Berry well, tank you, missy," replied the old nurse, dropping a
courtesy. "I'se berry glad to see you lookin' so bright dis here
"Thank you. Now make yourself at home and take good care of your young
"Dat I will, missy; best I knows how. Trus' dis chile for dat."
Elsie's riding habit was quickly exchanged for a house dress, her
hair made smooth and shining as its wont, and securing her book she
returned with Lucy to the lower veranda, where they found Herbert
still extended upon his sofa.
His face brightened at sight of Elsie. He had laid aside his book, and
was at work with his knife upon a bit of soft pine wood. He whiled
away many a tedious hour by fashioning in this manner little boxes,
whistles, sets of baby-house furniture, etc., etc., for one and
another of his small friends. Books, magazines, and newspapers filled
up the larger portion of his time, but could not occupy it all, for,
as he said, he must digest his mental food, and he liked to have
employment for his fingers while doing so.
"Please be good enough to sit where I can look at you without too
great an effort, won't you?" he said, smiling up into Elsie's face.
"Yes, if that will afford you any pleasure," she answered lightly, as
Lucy beckoned to a colored girl, who stepped forward and placed a low
rocking chair at the side of the couch.
"There, that is just right. I can have a full view of your face by
merely raising my eyes," Herbert said with satisfaction, as Elsie
seated herself in it. "What, you have brought a book?"
"Yes," and while Elsie went on to repeat the substance of what she
had told Lucy, the latter slipped away to her mamma's room to make
arrangements about the work, and ask if they would not all like to
come and listen to the reading.
"Is it the kind of book to interest an old body like me?" asked Mrs.
"I don't know, grandma; but Elsie says Mr. Travilla and her papa were
both delighted with it. Mr. Dinsmore, though, had not read the whole
"Suppose we go and try it for a while then," said Mr. Morris, laying
down his paper. "If our little Elsie is to be the reader, I for one am
pretty sure to enjoy listening, her voice is so sweet-toned and her
enunciation so clear and distinct."
"That's you, grandpa!" cried Lucy, clapping her hands in applause.
"Yes, you'd better all come, Elsie is to be the reader at the start;
she says she does not mind beginning the story over again."
Mrs. Carrington began gathering up her work, laying the garments
already cut out in a large basket, which was then carried by her maid
to the veranda. In a few moments Elsie had quite an audience gathered
about her, ere long a deeply interested one; scissors or needle had
now and again to be dropped to wipe away a falling tear, and the voice
of the reader needed steadying more than once or twice. Then Herbert
took his turn at the book, Elsie hers with the needle, Mrs. Carrington
half reluctantly yielding to her urgent request to be allowed to
So the morning, and much of the afternoon also, passed most
pleasantly, and not unprofitably either. A walk toward sundown, and
afterward a delightful moonlight ride with Harry Carrington and
Winthrop Lansing, the son of a neighboring planter, finished the
day, and Elsie retired to her own room at her usual early hour. Lucy
followed and kept her chatting quite a while, for which Elsie's tender
conscience reproached her somewhat; yet she was not long in falling
asleep after her head had once touched her pillow.
The next day was passed in a similar manner, still more time being
given to the reading, as they were able to begin it earlier: yet the
book was not finished; but on the morning of the next day, which was
Friday, Lucy proposed that, if the plan was agreeable to Elsie, they
should spend an hour or two in a new amusement; which was no other
than going into the dominions of Aunt Viney, the cook, and assisting
in beating eggs and making cake.
Elsie was charmed with the idea, and it was immediately carried out,
to the great astonishment of Chloe, Aunt Viney, and all her sable
"Sho, Miss Lucy! what fo' you go for to fotch de company right yere
into dis yere ole dirty kitchen?" cried Aunt Viney, dropping a hasty
courtesy to Elsie, then hurrying hither and thither in the vain effort
to set everything to rights in a moment of time. "Clar out o' yere,
you, Han an' Scip," she cried, addressing two small urchins of dusky
hue and driving them before her as she spoke, "dere aint no room yere
fo' you, an' kitchens aint no place for darkies o' your size or sect.
I'll fling de dishcloth at yo' brack faces ef yo' comes in agin fo'
you sent for. I 'clare Miss Elsie, an' Miss Lucy, dose dirty niggahs
make sich a muss in yere, dere aint a char fit for you to set down
in," she continued, hastily cleaning two, and wiping them with her
apron. "I'se glad to see you, ladies, but ef I'd knowed you was
a-comin' dis kitchen shu'd had a cleanin' up fo' shuah."
"You see, Aunt Viney, you ought to keep it in order, and then you
would be ready for visitors whenever they happened to come," said Lucy
laughingly. "Why, you're really quite out of breath with whisking
about so fast. We've come to help you."
The fat old negress, still panting from her unwonted exertions,
straightened herself, pushed back her turban, and gazed in round-eyed
wonder upon her young mistress.
"What! Missy help ole Aunt Viney wid dose lily-white hands? Oh, go
'long! you's jokin' dis time fo' shuah."
"No indeed; we want the fun of helping to make some of the cake for
to-morrow. You know we want ever so many kinds to celebrate our two
"Two birthdays, Miss Lucy? yo's and Massa Herbert's? Yes, dat's it; I
don't disremember de day, but I do disremember de age."
"Sixteen; and now we're going to have a nice party to celebrate the
day, and you must see that the refreshments are got up in your very
"So I will, Miss Lucy, an' no 'casion for you and Miss Elsie to
trouble yo' young heads 'bout de makin' ob de cakes an' jellies an'
custards an' sich. Ole Aunt Viney can 'tend to it all."
"But we want the fun of it," persisted Lucy; "we want to try our hands
at beating eggs, rolling sugar, sifting flour, etc., etc. I've got a
grand new receipt book here, and we'll read out the recipes to you,
and measure and weigh the materials, and you can do the mixing and
"Yes, missy, you' lily hands no' hab strength to stir, an' de fire
spoil yo' buful 'plexions for shuah."
"I've brought mamma's keys," said Lucy; "come along with us to the
store-room, Aunt Viney, and I'll deal out the sugar, spices, and
whatever else you want."
"Yes, Miss Lucy; but 'deed I don't need no help. You's berry kind, but
ole Viney kin do it all, an' she'll have eberything fus'-rate fo' de
young gemmen an' ladies."
"But that isn't the thing, auntie; you don't seem to understand. Miss
Elsie and I want the fun, and to learn to cook, too. Who knows but we
may some day have to do our own work?"
"Bress de Lord, Miss Lucy, how you talk, honey!" cried the old
negress, rolling up her eyes in horror at the thought.
"Take care; Miss Elsie will think you very wicked if you use such
exclamations as that."
"Dat wrong, you t'ink, missy?" asked Aunt Viney, turning to the young
visitor, who had gone with them to the store-room, and was assisting
Lucy in the work of measuring and weighing the needed articles.
"I think it is," she answered gently; "we should be very careful
not to use the sacred name lightly. To do so is to break the third
"Den, missy, dis ole gal won't neber do it no more."
Chloe had been an excellent cook in her young days, and had not
forgotten or lost her former skill in the preparation of toothsome
dainties. She, too, came with offers of assistance, and the four were
soon deep in the mysteries of pastry, sweetmeats, and confections.
Novelty gave it an especial charm to the young ladies, and they grew
very merry and talkative, while their ignorance of the business in
hand, the odd mistakes they fell into in consequence, and the comical
questions they asked, gave much secret amusement to the two old
"What's this pound cake to be mixed up in, Aunt Viney?" asked Lucy.
"In dis yere tin pan, missy."
"Is it clean?"
"Yes, missy, it's clean; but maybe 'taint suffishently clean, I'll
wash it agin."
"How many kinds of cake shall we make?" asked Elsie.
"Every kind that Chloe and Aunt Viney can think of and know how
to make well. Let me see--delicate cake, gold, silver and clove,
fruitcake, sponge, and what else?"
"Mammy makes delicious jumbles."
"Will you make us some, Aunt Chloe?"
Chloe signified her readiness to do whatever was desired, and began at
once to collect her implements.
"Got a rollin' pin, Aunt Viney?" she asked.
"Yes, to be shuah, a revoltin' roller, de very bes' kind. No, Miss
Elsie, don' mix de eggs dat way, you spile 'em ef you mix de yaller
all up wid de whites. An' Miss Lucy, butter an' sugar mus' be worked
up togedder fus', till de butter resolve de sugah, 'fore we puts de
udder gredinents in."
"Ah, I see we have a good deal to learn before we can hope to rival
you as cooks, Aunt Viney," laughed Lucy.
"I spec' so, missy; you throw all de gredinents in togedder, an'
tumble your flouah in all at once, an' you nebber get your cake nice
They had nearly reached the end of their labors when sounds as of
scuffling, mingled with loud boyish laughter, and cries of "That's it,
Scip, hit him again! Pitch into him, Han, and pay him off well for
it!" drew them all in haste to the window and door.
The two little darkies who had been ejected from the kitchen, were
tussling in the yard, while their young masters, John and Archie,
looked on, shaking with laughter, and clapping their hands in noisy
"What's all this racket about?" asked Grandpa Norris, coming out upon
the veranda, newspaper in hand, Herbert limping along by his side.
"The old feud between Roman and Carthaginian, sir," replied John.
"Why, what do you mean, child?"
"Hannah Ball waging a war on Skipio, you know, sir."
"History repeating itself, eh?" laughed Herbert.
"Ah, that's an old joke, Archie," said his grandfather. "And you're
too big a rogue to set them at such work. Han and Scip, stop that at
"All your attempts
Shall fall on me like brittle shafts on armor."
Lucy came into Elsie's room early the next morning to show her
birthday gifts, of which she had received one or more from every
member of her family. They consisted of articles of jewelry, toilet
ornaments, and handsomely-bound books.
They learned on meeting Herbert at breakfast that he had fared quite
as well as his sister. Elsie slipped a valuable ring on Lucy's finger
and laid a gold pencil-case beside Herbert's plate.
"Oh, charming! a thousand thanks, mon ami!" cried Lucy, her eyes
sparkling with pleasure.
"Thank you, I shall value it most highly; especially for the giver's
sake," said Herbert, examining his with a pleased look, then turning
to her with a blush and joyous smile, "I am so much better this
morning that I am going out for a drive. Won't you and Lucy give me
the added pleasure of your company?"
"Thank you, I can answer for myself that I'll be very happy to do so."
"I, too," said Lucy. "It's a lovely morning for a ride. We'll make up
a party and go, but we must be home again in good season; for Carrie
and Enna promised to come to dinner. So I'm glad we finished the book
yesterday, though we were all so sorry to part from little Ellen."
They turned out quite a strong party; Herbert and the ladies filling
up the family carriage, while Harry on horseback, and John and Archie
each mounted upon a pony, accompanied it, now riding alongside, now
speeding on ahead, or perchance dropping behind for a time as suited
They travelled some miles, and alighting in a beautiful grove, partook
of a delicate lunch they had brought with them. Then, while Herbert
rested upon the grass the others wandered hither and thither until it
was time to return. They reached home just in season to receive their
Carrie Howard was growing up very pretty and graceful; womanly in her
ways, yet quite unassuming in manner, frank and sweet in disposition,
she was a general favorite with old and young, and could already boast
of several suitors for her hand.
Enna Dinsmore, now in her fourteenth year, though by some considered
even prettier, was far less pleasing--pert, forward, and conceited as
she had been in her early childhood; she was tall for her age, and
with her perfect self-possession and grown-up air and manner, might
be easily mistaken for seventeen. She had already more worldly wisdom
than her sweet, fair niece would ever be able to attain, and was, in
her own estimation at least, a very stylish and fashionable young
lady. She assumed very superior airs toward Elsie when her brother
Horace was not by, reproving, exhorting, or directing her; and was
very proud of being usually taken by strangers for the elder of the
two. Some day she would not think that a feather in her cap.
Elsie had lost none of the childlike simplicity of five years ago;
it still showed itself in the sweet, gentle countenance, the quiet
graceful carriage, equally removed from forwardness on the one hand,
and timid self-consciousness on the other. She did not consider
herself a personage of importance, yet was not troubled by her
supposed insignificance; in fact seldom thought of self at all, so
engaged was she in adding to the happiness of others.
The four girls were gathered in Lucy's room. She had been showing her
birthday presents to Carrie and Enna.
"How do you like this style of arranging the hair, girls?" asked the
latter, standing before a mirror, smoothing and patting, and pulling
out her puffs and braids. "It's the newest thing out. Isabel Carleton
just brought it from New York. I saw her with hers dressed so, and
sent Delia over to learn how."
Delia was Miss Enna's maid, and had been brought along to Ashlands
that she might dress her young lady's hair in this new style for the
"It's pretty," said Lucy. "I think I'll have Minerva dress mine so for
to-night, and see how it becomes me."
"Delia can show her how," said Enna. "Don't you like it, Carrie?"
"Pretty well, but if you'll excuse me for saying so, it strikes me as
rather grown up for a young lady of thirteen," answered Carrie in a
good-naturedly bantering tone.
Enna colored and looked vexed. "I'm nearly fourteen," she replied with
a slight toss of the head; "and I overheard Mrs. Carleton saying to
mamma the other day, that with my height and finished manners I might
pass anywhere for seventeen."
"Perhaps so; of course, knowing your age, I can't judge so well how it
would strike a stranger."
"I see you have gone back to the old childish way of arranging your
hair. What's that for?" asked Enna, turning to Elsie; "I should
think it was about time you were beginning to be a little womanly in
"Yes, but not in dress or the arrangement of my hair. So papa says,
and of course I know he is right."
"He would not let you have it up in a comb?"
"No," Elsie answered with a quiet smile.
"Why do you smile? Did he say anything funny when you showed yourself
"Oh, Elsie, have you tried putting up your hair?" asked Carrie; while
Lucy exclaimed, "Try it again to-night, Elsie, I should like to see
how you would look."
"Yes," said Elsie, answering Carrie's query first. "Enna persuaded me
one day to have mammy do it up in young-lady fashion. I liked it right
well for a change, and that was just what mamma said when I went into
the drawing-room and showed myself to her. But when papa came in, he
looked at me with a comical sort of surprise in his face, and said.
'Come here; what have you been doing to yourself?' I went to him and
he pulled out my comb, and ordered me off to mammy to have my hair
arranged again in the usual way, saying, 'I'm not going to have you
aping the woman already; don't alter the style of wearing your hair
again, till I give you permission.'
"And you walked off as meek as Moses, and did his bidding," said Enna
sarcastically. "No man shall ever rule me so. If papa should undertake
to give me such an order, I'd just inform him that my hair was my own,
and I should arrange it as suited my own fancy."
"I think you are making yourself out worse than you really are,
Enna," said Elsie gravely. "I am sure you could never say anything so
extremely impertinent as that to grandpa."
"Impertinent! Well, if you believe it necessary to be so very
respectful, consistency should lead you to refrain from reproving your
"I did not exactly mean to reprove you, Enna, and you are younger than
"Nobody would think it," remarked Enna superciliously and with a
second toss of her head, as she turned from the glass; "you are so
extremely childish in every way, while, as mamma says, I grow more
womanly in appearance and manner every day."
"Elsie's manners are quite perfect, I think," said Carrie; "and her
hair is so beautiful, I don't believe any other style of arrangement
could improve its appearance in the least."
"But it's so childish, so absurdly childish! just that great mass of
ringlets hanging about her neck and shoulders. Come, Elsie, I want you
to have it dressed in this new style for to-night."
"No, Enna, I am perfectly satisfied to wear it in this childish
fashion; and if I were not, still I could not disobey papa."
Enna turned away with a contemptuous sniff, and Lucy proposed that
they should go down to the drawing-room, and try some new music she
had just received, until it should be time to dress for the evening.
Herbert lay on a sofa listening to their playing. "Lucy," he said in
one of the pauses, "what amusements are we to have to-night?--anything
beside the harp, piano, and conversation?"
"Dancing, of course. Cad's fiddle will provide as good music as any
one need care for, and this room is large enough for all who will be
here. Our party is not to be very large, you know."
"And Elsie, for one, is too pious to dance," sneered Enna.
Elsie colored, but remained silent.
"Oh! I did not think of that!" cried Lucy. "Elsie, do you really think
it is a sinful amusement?"
"I think it wrong to go to balls; at least that it would be wrong for
me, a professed Christian, Lucy."
"But this will not be a ball, and we'll have nothing but quiet country
dances, or something of that sort, no waltzing or anything at all
objectionable. What harm can there be in jumping about in that way
more than in another?"
"None that I know of," answered Elsie, smiling. "And I certainly shall
not object to others doing as they like, provided I am not asked to
take part in it."
"But why not take part, if it is not wrong?" asked Harry, coming in
from the veranda.
"Why, don't you know she never does anything without asking the
permission of papa?" queried Enna tauntingly. "But where's the use of
consulting her wishes in the matter, or urging her to take part in the
wicked amusement?--she'll have to go to bed at nine o'clock, like any
other well-trained child, and we'll have time enough for our dancing
"Oh, Elsie, must you?--must you really leave us at that early hour?
Why, that's entirely too bad!" cried the others in excited chorus.
"I shall stay up till ten," answered Elsie quietly, while a deep flush
suffused her cheek.
"That is better, but we shall not know how to spare you even that
soon," said Harry. "Couldn't you make it eleven?--that would not be so
very late just for once."
"No, for she can't break her rules, or disobey orders. If she did,
papa would be sure to find it out and punish her when she gets home."
"For shame, Enna! that's quite too bad!" cried Carrie and Lucy in a
Elsie's color deepened, and there was a flash of anger and scorn in
her eyes as she turned for an instant upon Enna. Then she replied
firmly, though with a slight tremble of indignation in her tones: "I
am not ashamed to own that I do find it both a duty and a pleasure to
obey my father, whether he be present or absent. I have confidence,
too, in both his wisdom and his love for me. He thinks early hours of
great importance, especially to those who are young and growing, and
therefore he made it a rule that I shall retire to my room and begin
my preparations for bed by nine o'clock. But he gave me leave to stay
up an hour later to-night, and I intend to do so."
"I think you are a very good girl, and feel just right about it," said
"I wish he had said eleven, I think he might this once," remarked
Lucy. "Why, don't you remember he let you stay up till ten Christmas
Eve that time we all spent the holidays at Roselands, which was five
"Yes," said Elsie, "but this is Saturday night, and as to-morrow is
the Sabbath, I should not feel it to be right to stay up later, even
if I had permission."
"Why not? it isn't Sunday till twelve," said Herbert.
"No, but I should be apt to oversleep myself, and be dull and drowsy
in church next morning."
"Quite a saint!" muttered Enna, shrugging her shoulders and marching
off to the other side of the room.
"Suppose we go and select some flowers for our hair," said Lucy,
looking at her watch. "'Twill be tea-time presently, and we'll want to
dress directly after."
"You always were such a dear good girl," whispered Carrie Howard,
putting her arm about Elsie's waist as they left the room.
Enna was quite gorgeous that evening, in a bright-colored silk,
trimmed with multitudinous flounces and many yards of ribbon and gimp.
The young damsel had a decidedly gay taste, and glanced somewhat
contemptuously at Elsie's dress of simple white, albeit 'twas of the
finest India muslin and trimmed with costly lace. She wore her pearl
necklace and bracelets, a broad sash of rich white ribbon; no other
ornaments save a half-blown moss rosebud at her bosom, and another
amid the glossy ringlets of her hair, their green leaves the only bit
of color about her.
"You look like a bride," said Herbert, gazing admiringly upon her.
"Do I?" she answered smiling, as she turned and tripped lightly away;
for Lucy was calling to her from the next room.
Herbert's eyes followed her with a wistful, longing look in them, and
he sighed sadly to himself as she disappeared from his view.
Most of the guests came early; among them, Walter and Arthur Dinsmore;
Elsie had not seen the latter since his encounter with Mr. Travilla.
He gave her a sullen nod on entering the room, but took no further
notice of her.
Chit-chat, promenading and the music of the piano and harp were
the order of the evening for a time; then games were proposed, and
"Consequences," "How do you like it?" and "Genteel lady, always
genteel," afforded much amusement. Herbert could join in these, and
did with much spirit. But dancing was a favorite pastime with the
young people of the neighborhood, and the clock had hardly struck nine
when Cadmus and his fiddle were summoned to their aid, chairs and
tables were put out of the way, and sets began to form.
Elsie was in great request; the young gentlemen flocked about her,
with urgent entreaties that she would join in the amusement, each
claiming the honor of her hand in one or more sets, but she steadily
A glad smile lighted up Herbert's countenance, as he saw one and
another turn and walk away with a look of chagrin and disappointment.
"Since my misfortune compels me to act the part of a wallflower, I am
selfish enough, I own, to rejoice in your decision to be one also," he
said gleefully. "Will you take a seat with me on this sofa? I presume
your conscience does not forbid you to watch the dancers?"
"No, not at all," she answered, accepting his invitation.
Elsie's eyes followed with eager interest the swiftly moving forms,
but Herbert's were often turned admiringly upon her. At length he
asked if she did not find the room rather warm and close, and proposed
that they should go out upon the veranda. She gave a willing assent
and they passed quietly out and sat down side by side on a rustic
The full moon shone upon them from a beautiful blue sky, while a
refreshing breeze, fragrant with the odor of flowers and pines, gently
fanned their cheeks and played among the rich masses of Elsie's hair.
They found a good deal to talk about; they always did, for they were
kindred spirits. Their chat was now grave, now gay--generally the
latter; for Cad's music was inspiriting; but whatever the theme of
their discourse, Herbert's eyes were constantly seeking the face of
"How beautiful you are, Elsie!" he exclaimed at length, in a tone of
such earnest sincerity that it made her laugh, the words seemed to
rush spontaneously from his lips. "You are always lovely, but to-night
"It's the moonlight, Herbert; there's a sort of witchery about it,
that lends beauty to many an object which can boast none of itself."
"Ah, but broad daylight never robs you of yours; you always wear it
wherever you are, and however dressed. You look like a bride to-night;
I wish you were, and that I were the groom."
Elsie laughed again, this time more merrily than before. "Ah, what
nonsense we are talking--we two children," she said. Then starting to
her feet as the clock struck ten--"There, it is my bed-time, and I
must bid you good-night, pleasant dreams, and a happy awaking."
"Oh, don't go yet!" he cried, but she was already gone, the skirt of
her white dress just disappearing through the open hall door.
She encountered Mrs. Carrington at the foot of the stairs. "My dear
child, you are not leaving us already?" she cried.
"Yes, madam; the clock has struck ten."
"Why, you are a second Cinderella."
"I hope not," replied Elsie, laughing. "See, my dress has not changed
in the least, but is quite as fresh and nice as ever."
"Ah, true enough! there the resemblance fails entirely. But, my dear
child, the refreshments are just coming in, and you must have your
share. I had ordered them an hour earlier, but the servants were slow
and dilatory, and then the dancing began. Come, can you not wait long
enough to partake with us? Surely, ten o'clock is not late."
"No, madam; not for another night of the week, but to-morrow's the
Sabbath, you know, and if I should stay up late to-night I would be
likely to find myself unfitted for its duties. Besides, papa bade me
retire at this hour; and he does not approve of my eating at night; he
thinks it is apt to cause dyspepsia."
"Ah, that is too bad! Well, I shall see that something is set away for
you, and hope you will enjoy it to-morrow. Good-night, dear; I must
hurry away now to see the rest of my guests, and will not detain you
longer," she added, drawing the fair girl toward her and kissing her
affectionately, then hastening away to the supper-room.
Elsie tripped up the stairs and entered her room. A lamp burned low on
the toilet table, she went to it, turned up the wick, and as she did
so a slight noise on the veranda without startled her. The windows
reached to the floor and were wide open.
"Who's there?" she asked.
"I," was answered, in a rough, surly tone, and Arthur stepped in.
"Is it you?" she asked in surprise and indignation. "Why do you come
here? it is not fit you should, especially at this hour."
"It is not fit you should set yourself up to reprove and instruct your
uncle, I've come for that money you are going to lend me."
"I am not going to lend you any money."
"Give it then; that will be all the better for my pocket.
"I have none to give you either, Arthur; papa has positively forbidden
me to supply you with money."
"How much have you here?"
"That is a question you have no right to ask."
"Well, I know you are never without a pretty good supply of the
needful, and I'm needy. So hand it over without any more ado;
otherwise I shall be very apt to help myself."
"No, you will not," she said, with dignity. "If you attempt to rob me,
I shall call for assistance."
"And disgrace the family by giving the tattlers a precious bit of
scandal to retail in regard to us."
"If you care for the family credit you will go away at once and leave
me in peace."
"I will, eh? I'll go when I get what I came for, and not before."
Elsie moved toward the bell rope, but anticipating her intention, he
stepped before it, saying with a jeering laugh, "No, you don't!"
"Arthur," she said, drawing herself up, and speaking with great
firmness and dignity, "leave this room; I wish to be alone."
"Hoity-toity, Miss Dinsmore! do you suppose I'm to be ordered about by
you? No, indeed! And I've an old score to pay off. One of these days
I'll be revenged on you and old Travilla, too; nobody shall insult and
abuse me with impunity. Now hand over that cash!"
"Leave this room!" she repeated.
"None of your ---- impudence!" he cried fiercely, catching her by the
arm with a grasp that wrung from her a low, half-smothered cry of
But footsteps and voices were heard on the stairs, and he hastily
withdrew by the window through which he had entered.
Elsie pulled up her sleeve and looked at her arm. Each finger of
Arthur's hand had left its mark. "Oh, how angry papa would be!" she
murmured to herself, hastily drawing down her sleeve again as the door
opened and Chloe came in, followed by another servant bearing a small
silver waiter loaded with dainties.
"Missus tole me fetch 'em up with her compliments, an' hopes de young
lady'll try to eat some," she said, setting it down on a table.
"Mrs. Carrington is very kind. Please return her my thanks, Minerva,"
said Elsie, making a strong effort to steady her voice.
The girl, taken up with the excitement of what was going on
downstairs, failed to notice the slight tremble in its tones. But
not so with Chloe. As the other hurried from the room, she took her
nursling in her arms, and gazing into the sweet face with earnest,
loving scrutiny; asked, "What de matter, darlin'? what hab resturbed
you so, honey?"
"You mustn't leave me alone, to-night, mammy," Elsie whispered,
clinging to her, and half hiding her face on her breast. "Don't go out
of the room at all, unless it is to step on the veranda."
Chloe was much surprised, for Elsie had never been cowardly.
"'Deed I won't, darling" she answered, caressing the shining hair, and
softly rounded cheek. "But what my bressed chile 'fraid of?"
"Mr. Arthur, mammy," Elsie answered scarcely above her breath. "He was
in here a moment since, and if I were alone again he might come back."
"An' what Marse Arthur doin' yer dis time ob night, I like ter
know?--what he want frightenin' my chile like dis?"
"Money, mammy, and papa has forbidden me to let him have any, because
he makes a bad use of it." Elsie knew to whom she spoke. Chloe was no
ordinary servant, and could be trusted.
"Dear, dear, it's drefful that Marse Arthur takes to dem bad ways! But
don't go for to fret, honey; we'll 'gree together to ask de Lord to
turn him to de right."
"Yes, mammy, you must help me to pray for him. But now I must get
ready for bed; I have stayed up longer than papa said I might."
"Won't you take some of de 'freshments fust, honey?"
Elsie shook her head. "Eat what you want of them, mammy. I know I am
There's not a look, a word of thine
My soul hath e'er forgot;
Thou ne'er hast bid a ringlet shine,
Nor given thy locks one graceful twine,
Which I remember not.
The clock on the stairway was just striking nine, as some one tapped
lightly on the door of Elsie's room, leading into the hall. Chloe rose
and opened it. "Dat you, Scip?"
"Yes, Aunt Chloe; de missis say breakop's is ready, an' will Miss
Dinsmore please for to come if she's ready. We don't ring de bell fear
wakin' up de odder young ladies an' gemmen."
Elsie had been up and dressed for the last hour, which she had spent
in reading her Bible; a book not less dear and beautiful in her esteem
now than it was in the days of her childhood. She rose and followed
Scip to the dining-room, where she found the older members of the
family already assembled, and about to sit down to the table.
"Ah, my dear, good-morning," said Mrs. Carrington; "I was sure you
would be up and dressed: but the others were so late getting to bed
that I mean they shall be allowed to sleep as long as they will. Ah!
and here comes Herbert, too. We have quite a party after all."
"I should think you would need a long nap this morning more than any
one else," Elsie said, addressing Herbert.
"No," he answered, coloring. "I took advantage of my semi-invalidism,
and retired very shortly after you left us."
"You must not think it is usual for us to be quite so late on Sunday
morning, Elsie," observed Mr. Carrington as he sent her her plate,
"though I'm afraid we are hardly as early risers, even on ordinary
occasions, as you are at the Oaks. I don't think it's a good plan to
have Saturday-night parties," he added, looking across the table at
"No," she said lightly; "but we must blame it all on the birthday, for
coming when it did. And though we are late, we shall still be in time
to get to church. Elsie, will you go with us?"
"In the carriage with mother and me?" added Herbert.
Elsie, had she consulted her own inclination merely, would have
greatly preferred to ride her pony, but seeing the eager look in
Herbert's eyes, she answered smilingly that she should accept the
invitation with pleasure, if there was a seat in the carriage which no
one else cared to occupy.
"There will be plenty of room, my dear," said Mr. Carrington; "father
and mother always go by themselves, driving an ancient mare we call
old Bess, who is so very quiet and slow that no one else can bear to
ride behind her; and the boys and I either walk or ride our horses."
It was time to set out almost immediately upon leaving the table. They
had a quiet drive through beautiful pine woods, heard an excellent
gospel sermon, and returned by another and equally beautiful route.
Elsie's mind was full of the truth to which she had been listening,
and she had very little to say. Mrs. Carrington and Herbert, too, were
unusually silent; the latter feeling it enjoyment enough just to sit
by Elsie's side. He had known and loved her from their very early
childhood; with a love that had grown and strengthened year by year.
"You seem much fatigued, Herbert," his mother said to him, as a
servant assisted him from the carriage, and up the steps of the
veranda. "I am almost sorry you went."
"Oh, no, mother, I'm not at all sorry," he answered cheerfully; "I
shall have to spend the rest of the day on my couch, but that sermon
was enough to repay me for the exertion it cost me to go to hear it."
Then he added in an undertone to Elsie, who stood near, looking at him
with pitying eyes, "I shan't mind having to lie still if you will give
me your company for even a part of the time."
"Certainly you shall have it, if it will be any comfort to you," she
answered, with her own sweet smile.
"You must not be too exacting towards Elsie, my son," said his mother,
shaking up his pillows for him, and settling him comfortably on them;
"she is always so ready to sacrifice herself for others that she would
not, I fear, refuse such a request, however much it might cost her to
grant it. And no doubt she will want to be with the other girls."
"Yes, it was just like my selfishness to ask it, Elsie, and never
think how distasteful it might be to you. I take it all back," he
said, blushing, but with a wistful look in his eyes that she could
never have withstood, had she wished to do so.
"It's too late for that, since I have already accepted," she said with
an arch look as she turned away. "But don't worry yourself about me; I
shall follow my own inclination in regard to the length of my visit,
making it very short if I find your society irksome or disagreeable."
The other girls were promenading on the upper veranda in full dinner
Carrie hailed Elsie in a lively tone. "So you've been to church, like
a good Christian, leaving us three lazy sinners taking our ease at
home. We took our breakfasts in bed, and have only just finished our
"Well, and why shouldn't we?" said Enna; "we don't profess to be
"No, I just said we were sinners. But don't think too ill of us,
Elsie, it was so late--or rather early--well on into the small
hours--when we retired, that a long morning nap became a necessity."
"I don't pretend to judge you, Carrie," Elsie answered gently, "it
is not for me to do so; and I acknowledge that though I retired much
earlier than you, I slept a full hour past my usual time for rising."
"You'll surely have to do penance for that," sneered Enna.
"No, she shan't," said Lucy, putting her arm around her friend's
slender waist. "Come, promenade with me till the dinner-bell rings,
the exercise will do you good."
The lively chat of the girls seemed to our heroine so unsuited to
the sacredness of the day that she rejoiced in the excuse Herbert's
invitation gave her for withdrawing herself from their society for the
greater part of the afternoon. She found him alone, lying on his sofa,
apparently asleep; but at the sound of her light footstep he opened
his eyes and looked up with a joyous smile. "I'm so glad to see you!
how good of you to come!" he cried delightedly. "It's abominably
selfish of me, though. Don't let me keep you from having a good time
with the rest."
"The Sabbath is hardly the day for what people usually mean by a good
time, is it?" she said, taking possession of a low rocking-chair that
stood by the side of his couch.
"No, but it is the day of days for real good, happy times; everything
is so quiet and still that it is easier than on other days to lift
one's thoughts to God and Heaven. Oh, Elsie, I owe you a great debt of
gratitude, that I can never repay."
"For what, Herbert?"
"Ah, don't you know it was you who first taught me the sweetness of
carrying all my trials and troubles to Jesus? Years ago, when we were
very little children, you told me what comfort and happiness you found
in so doing, and begged me to try it for myself."
"And you did?"
"Yes, and have continued to do so ever since."
"And that is what enables you to be so patient and uncomplaining."
"If I am. But ah! you don't know the dreadfully rebellious feelings
that sometimes will take possession of me, especially when, after
the disease has seemed almost eradicated from my system, it suddenly
returns to make me as helpless and full of pain as ever. Nobody knows
how hard it is to endure it; how weary I grow of life; how unendurably
heavy my burden seems."
"Yes, He knows," she murmured softly. "In all their afflictions He was
afflicted; and the angel of His presence saved them."
"Yes, He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Oh, how sweet
and comforting it is!"
They were silent for a moment; then turning to her, he asked, "Are
you ever afraid that your troubles and cares are too trifling for
His notice? that you will weary and disgust Him with your continual
"I asked papa about that once, and I shall never forget the tender,
loving look he gave me as he said: 'Daughter, do I ever seem to feel
that anything which affects your comfort or happiness one way or the
other, is too trifling to interest and concern me?' 'Oh, no, no,
papa,' I said; 'you have often told me you would be glad to know that
I had not a thought or feeling concealed from you; and you always seem
to like to have me come to you with every little thing that makes me
either glad or sorry.' 'I am, my darling,' he answered, 'just because
you are so very near and dear to me; and what does the Bible tell us?
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that
"Yes," said Herbert, musingly. "Then that text somewhere in Isaiah
about His love being greater than a mother's for her little helpless
"And what Jesus said: 'Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and
not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father. But the
very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye
are of more value than many sparrows.' And then the command: 'In
everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your
requests be made known unto God.' Papa reminded me, too, of God's
infinite wisdom and power, of the great worlds, countless in number,
that He keeps in motion--the sun and planets of many solar systems
besides our own--and then the myriads upon myriads of tiny insects
that crowd earth, air, and water; God's care and providence ever over
them all. Oh, one does not know how to take it in! one cannot realize
the half of it. God does not know the distinctions that we do between
great and small, and it costs Him no effort to attend at one and the
same time, to all His creatures and all their affairs."
"No, that is true. Oh, how great and how good He is! and how sweet
to know of His goodness and love; to feel that he hears and answers
prayer! I would not give that up for perfect health and vigor, and all
the wealth of the world beside."
"I think I would give up everything else first; and oh, I am so glad
for you, Herbert," she said softly.
Then they opened their Bibles and read several chapters together,
verse about, pausing now and then to compare notes, as to their
understanding of the exact meaning of some particular passage, or to
look out a reference, or consult a commentary.
"I'm excessively tired of the house; do let's take a walk," said Enna,
as they stood or sat about the veranda after tea.
"Do you second the motion, Miss Howard?" asked Harry.
"Yes," she said, rising and taking his offered arm. "Elsie, you'll go
"Oh, there's no use in asking her!" cried Enna. "She is much too good
to do anything pleasant on Sunday."
"Indeed! I was not aware of that." And Harry shrugged his shoulders,
and threw a comical look at Elsie. "What is your objection to pleasant
things, Miss Dinsmore? To be quite consistent you should object to
Elsie smiled. "Enna must excuse me for saying that she makes a slight
mistake; for while it is true my conscience would not permit me to go
pleasuring on the Sabbath, yet it does not object to many things that
I find very pleasant."
"Such as saying your prayers, reading the Bible, and going to church?"
"Yes. Enna; those are real pleasures to me."
"But to come to the point, will you walk with us?" asked Lucy.
"Thank you, no; not to-night. But please don't mind me. I have no
right, and don't presume to decide such questions for anyone but
"Then, if you'll excuse us, we'll leave mamma and Herbert to entertain
you for a short time."
The short time proved to be two hours or more, and long before the
return of the little party, Mrs. Carrington went into the house,
leaving the two on the veranda alone.
They sang hymns together for a while, then fell to silent musing.
Herbert was the first to speak. He still lay upon his sofa; Elsie
sitting near, her face at that moment upturned to the sky, where the
full moon was shining, and looking wondrous sweet and fair in the
soft silvery light. Her thoughts seemed far away, and she started and
turned quickly toward him as he softly breathed her name.
"Oh, Elsie, this has been such a happy day to me! What joy, what
bliss, if we could be always together!"
"If you were only my brother! I wish you were, Herbert."
"No, no, I do not; for I would be something much nearer and dearer.
Oh, Elsie, if you only would!" he went on, speaking very fast and
excitedly. "You thought I was joking last night, but I was not, I was
in earnest; never more so in my life. Oh, do you think you could like
"Why, yes, Herbert; I do, and always have ever since we first became
"No, I didn't mean like, I meant love. Elsie, could you love me--love
me well enough to marry me?"
"Why, Herbert; what an idea!" she stammered, her face flushing visibly
in the moonlight. "You don't know how you surprise me; surely we are
both too young to be thinking of such things. Papa says I am not even
to consider myself a young lady for three or four years yet. I'm
nothing but a child. And you, Herbert, are not much older."
"Six months; but that's quite enough difference. And your father
needn't object on the score of our youth. You are as old now as I've
been told your mother was when he married her, and another year will
make me as old as he was. And your Aunts Louisa and Lora were both
engaged before they were sixteen. It's not at all uncommon for girls
in this part of the country to marry before they are that old. But I
know I'm not half good enough for you, Elsie. A king might be proud to
win you for his bride, and I'm only a poor, good-for-nothing cripple,
not worth anybody's acceptance." And he turned away his face, with
something that sounded very like a sob.
Elsie's kind heart was touched. "No, Herbert, you must not talk so.
You are a dear, good, noble fellow, worthy of any lady in the land,"
she said, half playfully, half tenderly and laying her little soft
white hand over his mouth.
He caught it in his and pressed it passionately to his lips, there
holding it fast. "Oh, Elsie, if it were only mine to keep!" he cried,
"I'd be the happiest fellow in the world."
She looked at his pale, thin face, worn with suffering, into his eyes
so full of passionate entreaty; thought what a dear lovable fellow he
had always been, and forgot herself entirely--forgot everything but
the desire to relieve and comfort him, and make him happy.
"Only tell me that you care for me, darling, and that you are willing
some day to belong to me! only give me a little hope; I shall die if
"I do care for you, Herbert; I would do anything in my power to make
"Then I may call you my own! Oh, darling, God bless you for your
But the clock was striking nine, and with the sound, a sudden
recollection came to Elsie. "It is my bed-time, and--and, Herbert, it
will all have to be just as papa says. I belong to him, and cannot
give myself away without his permission. Good-night." She hastily
withdrew the hand he still held, and was gone ere he had time to
"What had she done--something of which papa would highly disapprove?
Would he be very much vexed with her?" Elsie asked herself
half-tremblingly, as she sat passively under her old mammy's hands;
for her father's displeasure was the one thing she dreaded above all
She was just ready for bed when a light tap on the door was followed
by the entrance of Mrs. Carrington.
"I wish to see your young mistress alone for a few moments, Aunt
Chloe," she said, and the faithful creature went from the room at
Mrs. Carrington threw her arms around Elsie, folded her in close,
loving embrace, and kissed her fondly again and again, "My dear child,
how happy you have made me!" she whispered at last. "Herbert has told
me all. Dear boy, he could not keep such good news from his mother.
I know of nothing that could have brought me deeper joy and
thankfulness, for I have always had a mother's love for you."
Elsie felt bewildered, almost stunned. "I--I'm afraid you--he has
misunderstood me; it--it must be as papa says," she stammered; "I
cannot decide it for myself, I have no right."
"Certainly, my dear, that is all very right, very proper; parents
should always be consulted in these matters. But your papa loves
you too well to raise any objection when he sees that your heart is
interested. And Herbert is worthy of you, though his mother says it;
he is a noble, true-hearted fellow, well-educated, handsome, talented,
polished in manners, indeed all that anybody could ask, if he were but
well; and we do not despair of seeing him eventually quite restored
to health. But I am keeping you up, and I know that your papa is
very strict and particular about your observance of his rules; so
good-night." And, with another caress, she left her.
Thought was very busy in Elsie's brain as she laid her head upon her
pillow. It was delightful to have given such joy and happiness to
Herbert and his mother. Lucy, too, she felt sure would be very glad
to learn that they were to be sisters. But her own papa, how would be
feel--what would he say? Only the other day he had reminded her how
entirely she belonged to him--that no other had the slightest claim
upon her, and as he spoke, the clasp of his arms seemed to say that he
would defy the whole world to take her from him. No, he would never
give her up; and somehow she was not at all miserable at the thought;
but on the contrary it sent a thrill of joy to her heart; it was so
sweet to be so loved and cherished by him, "her own dear, dear papa!"
But then another thing came to her remembrance; his pity for poor
suffering Herbert; his expressed willingness to do anything he could
to make him happy--and again she doubted whether he would accept or
reject the boy's suit for her hand.
Carrie and Enna were to leave at an early hour on Monday morning.
They came into Elsie's room for a parting chat while waiting for the
ringing of the breakfast bell; so the three went down together to
answer its summons, and thus she was spared the necessity of entering
the dining room alone--an ordeal she had really dreaded; a strange and
painful shyness toward the whole family at Ashlands having suddenly
come over her. She managed to conceal it pretty well, but carefully
avoided meeting Herbert's eye, or those of his parents.
The girls left directly on the conclusion of the meal, and having seen
them off, Elsie slipped away to her own room. But Lucy followed her
almost immediately, fairly wild with delight at the news Herbert had
just been giving her.
"Oh, you darling!" she cried, hugging her friend with all her might.
"I never was so glad in all my life! To think that I'm to have you for
a sister! I could just eat you up!"
"I hope you won't," said Elsie, laughing and blushing, as she returned
the embrace as heartily as it was given. "But we must not be too sure;
I'm not at all certain of papa's consent."
"No, I just expect he'll object to Herbie on account of his lameness,
and his ill health. I don't think we ought to blame him if he does
either." And Lucy suddenly sobered down to more than her ordinary
gravity. "Ah, I forgot," she said, a moment after; "Herbert begs that
you will come down and let him talk with you a little if you are not
Elsie answering that she had nothing to do, her time was quite at
his disposal, the two tripped downstairs, each with an arm about
the other's waist, as they had done so often in the days of their
They found Herbert on the veranda, not lying down, but seated on his
sofa. "You are better this morning?" Elsie said with a glad look up
into his face, as he rose, leaning on his crutch, and gave her the
"Yes, thank you, much better. Joy has proved so great a cordial that I
begin to hope it may work a complete cure." He drew her to a seat by
his side, and Lucy considerately went away and left them alone.
"You have not changed your mind, Elsie?" His tone was low and half
tremulous in its eagerness.
"No, Herbert; but it all rests with papa, you know."
"I hardly dare ask him for you, it seems like such presumption in a--a
cripple like me."
"Don't say that, Herbert. Would you love me less if I should become
lame or ill?"
"No, no, never! but I couldn't bear to have any such calamity come
upon you. I can hardly bear that you should have a lame husband. The
thought of it makes my trial harder to bear than ever."
"It is God's will, and we must not fight against it," she said softly.
They conversed for some time longer. He was very anxious to gain Mr.
Dinsmore's consent to their engagement, yet shrank from asking it,
fearing an indignant refusal; most of all, he dreaded a personal
interview; and, but ill able to take the ride to the Oaks, it was
finally decided between them that he should make his application by
letter, doing so at once.
A servant was summoned to bring him his writing materials, and Elsie
left him to his trying task, while she and Lucy and Harry mounted
their horses and were away for a brisk, delightful ride through the
woods and over the hills.
"It's gone, Elsie," Herbert whispered, when she came down dressed for
dinner. "I wrote it twice; it didn't suit me then, but my strength was
quite exhausted, so it had to go. I hope the answer will come soon,
but oh, I shall be almost afraid to open it."
"Don't feel so; papa is very good and kind. He pities you so much,
too," and she repeated what he had said about being willing to do
anything he could for him.
Herbert's face grew bright with hope as he listened. "And do you think
he'll answer at once?" he asked.
"Yes, papa is always very prompt and decided; never keeps one long in
Mr. Carrington met our heroine at the dinner-table with such a bright,
glad smile, and treated her in so kind and fatherly a manner that she
felt sure he knew all, and was much pleased with the prospect before
them. But she was afraid Harry did not like it--did not want her for a
sister. He was usually very gay and talkative, full of fun and frolic.
He had been so during their ride, but now his manner seemed strangely
altered; he was moody and taciturn, almost cross.
Keen are the pangs
Of hapless love and passion unapproved.
Hardly anything could have been more distasteful to Horace Dinsmore
than the state of affairs revealed to him by Herbert Carrington's
note. He was greatly vexed, not at the lad's manner of preferring his
request, but that it should have been made at all. He was not ready,
yet to listen to such a proposal coming from any person, however
eligible, much less from one so sadly afflicted as poor Herbert. He
sought his wife's presence with the missive in his hand.
"What is the matter, my dear?" she asked; "I have seldom seen you so
"The most absurd nonsense! the most ridiculously provoking affair!
Herbert Carrington asking me to give him my daughter! I don't wonder
at your astonished look, Rose; a couple of silly children. I should
have given either of them credit for more sense."
"It has certainly taken me very much by surprise," said Rose, smiling.
"I cannot realize that Elsie is grown up enough to be beginning with
such things; yet you know she has passed her fifteenth birthday,
and that half the girls about here become engaged before they are
"But Elsie shall not. I'll have no nonsense of the kind for years to
come. She shall not marry a day before she is twenty-one, I had nearly
said twenty-five; and I don't think I'll allow it before then."
Rose laughed. "My dear, do you know what my age was when you married
"Twenty-one, you told me."
"Don't you think my father ought then to have kept us waiting four
"No," he answered, stooping to stroke her hair, and snatch a kiss from
her rich red lips.
She looked up smilingly into his face. "Ah, consistency is a jewel!
and pray how old were you when you married the first time? and what
was then the age of Elsie's mother?"
"Your arguments are not unanswerable, Mrs. Dinsmore. Your father could
spare you, having several other daughters; I have but one, and can't
spare her. Elsie's mother was not older when I married her, it is
true, than Elsie is now, but was much more mature, and had neither the
happy home nor the doting father her daughter has. And as for myself,
though much too young to marry, I was a year older than this Herbert
Carrington; and I was in sound and vigorous health, while he, poor
fellow, is sadly crippled, and likely always to be an invalid, and
very unlikely to live to so much as see his majority. Do you think I
ought for a moment to contemplate allowing Elsie to sacrifice herself
"It would seem a terrible sacrifice; and yet after all it will depend
very much upon the state of her own feelings."
"If she were five or six years older, I should say yes to that; but
girls of her age are not fit to choose a companion for life; taste
and judgment are not matured, and the man who pleases them now may be
utterly repugnant to them in after years. Is not that so?"
"Yes; and I think your decision is wise and kind. Still, I am sorry
for the poor boy, and hope you will deal very gently and kindly with
"I shall certainly try to do so. I pity him, and cannot blame him for
fancying my lovely daughter--I really don't see how he or any young
fellow can help it, but he can't have her, and of course I must tell
him so. I must see Elsie first however, and have already sent her a
note ordering her home immediately."
"Come into my room for a little, dear," Mrs. Norris whispered to
Elsie as they rose from the dinner table. "Herbert must not expect to
monopolize all your time."
It turned out that all the old lady wanted was an opportunity to
express her delight in the prospect of some day claiming Elsie as her
granddaughter, and to pet and fondle her a little. Mr. Norris did his
share of that also, and when at length they let her go she encountered
Mr. Carrington in the hall, and had to submit to some thing more of
the same sort from him.
"We are all heartily rejoiced, little Elsie," he said, "all of us who
know the secret; it is to be kept from the children, of course, till
your father's consent has made all certain. But there is Lucy looking
for you; Herbert has sent her, I daresay. No doubt he grudges every
moment that you are out of his sight."
That was true, and his glad look, as she took her accustomed place by
the side of his couch, was pleasant to see. But he was not selfish in
his happiness, and seemed well satisfied to share Elsie's society with
The three were making very merry together, when a servant from the
Oaks was seen riding leisurely up the avenue. He had some small white
object in his hand which he began waving about his head the moment he
saw that he had attracted their attention.
"It's a letter!" exclaimed Lucy. "Han, Scip," to the two little blacks
who, as usual, were tumbling over each other on the grass near by,
"run, one of you and get it, quick now!"
"What--who--Miss Lucy?" they cried, jumping up.
"Yonder; don't you see Mr. Dinsmore's man with a letter? Run and get
"Yes'm!" and both scampered off in the direction of the horseman, who,
suddenly urging on his steed, was now rapidly nearing the house.
"Hollo! dar now, you ole Jim!" shouted Scip, making a dash at the
horse, "who dat lettah fur? You gub um to me."
A contemptuous sniff was the only answer, and dashing by them, Jim
drew rein close to the veranda. "Massa he send dis for you, Miss
Elsie," he said, holding out the letter to her.
She sprang forward, took it from his hand and hastily tore open the
envelope, the rich color coming and going in her cheek. A glance was
sufficient, and turning her flushed face to the anxious, expectant
Herbert: "Papa has sent for me to return home immediately," she said;
"I must go."
"Oh, Elsie, must you indeed? and is there no word for me--none at
"Yes, he says you shall hear from him to-day or to-morrow."
She had gone close to him and was speaking in a low tone that the
servants might not hear. Herbert took both her hands in his. "Oh, I am
so sorry! You were to have stayed two days longer. I fear this sudden
recall does not argue well for me. Is he angry, do you think?"
"I don't know, I can't tell. The note is simply an order for me to
come home at once and the message to you that I have given; nothing
more at all. Jim is to see me safely to the Oaks." Then turning to the
messenger, "Go and saddle Glossy, and bring her round at once, Jim,"
"Yes, Miss Elsie, hab her roun' in less dan no time."
"Go with Jim to the stables, Han," said Herbert, sighing as he spoke.
"Elsie, I can't bear to have you leave us so suddenly," cried Lucy;
"it does seem too bad of your father, after giving you permission to
stay a whole week, to go and dock off two days."
"But papa has a right, and I can't complain. I've nothing to do but
obey. I'll go up and have my riding-habit put on, while Glossy is
"Miss Elsie," said Jim, leisurely dismounting, "massa say de wagon be
here in 'bout an hour for de trunk, an' Aunt Chloe mus' hab 'em ready
by dat time; herself too."
"Very well, she shall do so," and with another whispered word to
Herbert, Elsie went into the house, Lucy going with her.
"Why, my dear, this is very sudden, is it not?" exclaimed Mrs.
Carrington, meeting her young guest as she came down dressed for her
ride. "I thought you were to stay a week, and hoped you were enjoying
your visit as much as we were."
"Thank you, dear Mrs. Carrington; I have had a delightful time, but
papa has sent for me."
"And like a good child, you obey at once."
"My father's daughter would never dare to do otherwise," replied
Elsie, smiling; "though I hope I should not, if I did dare."
"You'll come again soon--often, till I can get strength to go to you?"
Herbert said entreatingly, as he held her hand in parting. "And we'll
correspond, won't we? I should like to write and receive a note every
day when we do not meet."
"I don't know; I can promise nothing till I have asked permission of
"But if he allows it?"
"If he allows it, yes; good-bye."
Dearly as Elsie loved her father, she more than half dreaded the
meeting with him now; so entirely uncertain was she how he would feel
in regard to this matter.
He was on the veranda, watching for her. Lifting her from her horse,
he led her into his study. Then putting an arm about her waist, his
other hand under her chin so that her blushing, downcast face was
fully exposed to his gaze, "What does all this mean?" he asked. "Look
up into my face and tell me if it is really true that you want me to
give you away? if it is possible that you love that boy better than
She lifted her eyes as he bade her, but dropped them again instantly;
then as he finished his sentence, "Oh, no, no, papa! not half so well;
how could you think it?" she cried, throwing her arms about his neck,
and hiding her face on his breast.
"Ah, is that so?" he said, with a low, gleeful laugh, as he held her
close to his heart. "But he says you accepted him on condition that
papa would give consent, that you owned you cared for him."
"And so I do, papa; I've always loved him as if he were my brother;
and I'm so sorry for all he suffers, that I would do anything I could
to make him happy."
"Even to sacrificing yourself? It is well indeed for you that you have
a father to take care of you."
"Are you going to say 'No' to him, papa?" she asked, looking up half
"Indeed I am."
"Ah, papa, he said it would kill him if you did."
"I don't believe it; people don't die so easily. And I have several
reasons for my refusal, each one of which would be quite sufficient of
itself. But you just acknowledged to me that you don't love him at all
as you ought. Why, my child, when you meet the right person you will
find that your love for him is far greater than what you feel for me."
"Papa, I don't think that could be possible," she said, clinging
closer to him than before.
"But you'll be convinced when the time comes, though I hope that
will not be for many a long year yet. Then Herbert's ill health and
lameness are two insuperable objections. Lastly, you are both entirely
too young to be thinking of such matters."
"He didn't mean to ask you to give me to him now, papa; not for a year
or two at the very least."
"But I won't have you engaging yourself while you are such a mere
child. I don't approve of long engagements, or intend to let you
marry for six or seven years to come. So you may as well dismiss all
thoughts on the subject; and if any other boy or man attempts to talk
to you as Herbert has, just tell him that your father utterly forbids
you to listen to anything of the kind. What! crying! I hope these are
not rebellious tears?"
"No, papa; please don't be angry. It is only that I feel so sorry for
poor Herbert; he suffers so, and is so patient and good."
"I am sorry for him too, but it cannot be helped. I must take care of
you first, and not allow anything which I think will interfere with
your happiness or well being."
"Papa, he wants to correspond with me."
"I shall not allow it."
"May we see each other often?"
"No; not at all for some time. He must get over this foolish fancy
first, it cannot be anything more; and there is great danger that he
will not unless you are kept entirely apart."
Elsie sighed softly, but said not a word. There was no appeal from her
father's decisions, no argument or entreaty allowed after they were
Little feet were heard running down the hall; then there was the sound
of a tiny fist thumping on the door, and the voice of little Horace
calling, "Elsie, Elsie, turn out! me wants to see you!"
"There, you may go now," her father said, releasing her with a kiss,
"and leave me to write that note. Well, what is it?" for she lingered,