Part 5 out of 6
darling in her room.
"My poor little pet, you have been too long away from your father," he
said, taking her in his arms again. "I shall never forgive myself for
allowing it. But, daughter, why was this thing suffered to go on? Your
letters never spoke of this man in a way to lead me to suppose that
he was paying you serious attention; and indeed I did not intend to
permit that from any one yet."
"Papa, I did not deceive you intentionally, I did not mean to be
disobedient," she said imploringly. "Lottie and I were almost always
together, and I did not think of him as a lover till he spoke."
"Well, dearest, I am not chiding you; your father could never find
it in his heart to add one needless pang to what you are already
suffering." His tone was full of pitying tenderness.
She made no answer; only hid her face on his breast and wept silently.
"Papa," she murmured at length. "I--I do so want to break one of your
rules; oh, if you would only let me, just this once!"
"A strange request, my darling," he said, "but which of them is it?"
"That when you have once decided a matter I must never ask you to
reconsider. Oh, papa, do, do let me entreat you just this once!"
"I think it will be useless, daughter, only giving me the pain of
refusing, and you of being refused; but you may say on."
"Papa, it is, that I may write a little note to--to Mr. Egerton," she
said, speaking eagerly and rapidly, yet half trembling at her own
temerity the while, "just to tell him that I cannot do anything
against your will, and that he must not come near me or try to hold
any sort of intercourse with me till you give consent; but that I
have not lost my faith in him, and if he is innocent and unjustly
suspected, we need not be wretched and despairing; for God will surely
some day cause it to be made apparent. Oh, papa, may I not? Please,
please let me! I will bring it to you when written, and there shall
not be one word in it that you do not approve." She had lifted her
face, and the soft, beseeching eyes were looking pleadingly into his.
"My dearest child," he said, "it is hard to refuse you, but I cannot
allow it. There, there! do not cry so bitterly; every tear I see you
shed sends a pang to my heart. Listen to me, daughter. Believing what
I do of that man, I would not for a great deal have him in possession
of a single line of your writing. Have you ever given him one?"
"No, papa, never," she sobbed.
"Or received one from him?"
"It is well." Then as if a sudden thought had struck him, "Elsie, have
you ever allowed him to touch your lips?" he asked almost sternly.
"No, papa, not even my cheek. I would not while we were not engaged;
and that could not be without your consent."
"I am truly thankful for that!" he exclaimed in a tone of relief; "to
know that he had--that these sweet lips had been polluted by contact
with his--would be worse to me than the loss of half my fortune." And
lifting her face as he spoke, he pressed his own to them again and
But for the first time in her life she turned from him as if almost
loathing his caresses, and struggled to release herself from the clasp
of his arm.
He let her go, and hurrying to the farther side of the room, she stood
leaning against the window-frame, with her back toward him, shedding
very bitter tears of mingled grief and anger.
But in the pauses of her sobbing a deep sigh struck upon her ear. Her
heart smote her at the sound; still more as she glanced back at her
father and noted the pained expression of his eye as it met hers. In a
moment she was at his side again, down upon the carpet, with her head
laid lovingly on his knee.
"Papa, I am sorry." The low, street voice was tremulous with grief and
"My poor darling, my poor little pet!" he said, passing his hand with
soft, caressing movement over her hair and cheek, "try to keep your
love for your father and your faith in his for you, however hard this
rule may seem."
"Ah, papa, my heart would break if I lost either," she sobbed. Then
lifting her tear-dimmed eyes with tender concern to his face, which
was very pale and sad, "Dear papa," she said, "how tired you look! you
were up all night, were you not?"
"Last night and the one before it."
"That you might hasten here to take care of me," she murmured in a
tone of mingled regret and gratitude. "Do lie down now and take a nap.
This couch is soft and pleasant, and I will close the blinds and sit
by your side to keep off the flies."
He yielded to her persuasions, saying as he closed his eyes, "Don't
leave the room without waking me."
She was still there when he woke, close at his side and ready to
greet him with an affectionate look and smile, though the latter was
touchingly sad and there were traces of tears on her cheeks.
"How long have I slept?" he asked.
"Two hours," she answered, holding up her watch, "and there is the
What thou bidst,
Unargued I obey; so God ordained.
"I hope you don't intend to hurry this child away from me, Horace?"
remarked Miss Stanhope inquiringly, glancing from him to Elsie, as she
poured out the tea.
"I'm afraid I must, Aunt Wealthy," he answered, taking his cup from
her hand, "I can't do without her any longer, and mamma and little
brother want her almost as badly."
"And what am I to do?" cried Miss Stanhope, setting down the teapot,
and dropping her hands into her lap. "It just makes a baby of me to
think how lonely the old house will seem when she's gone. You'd get
her back soon, for 'tisn't likely I've got long to live, if you'd only
give her to me, Horace."
"No, indeed, Aunt Wealthy; she's a treasure I can't spare to any
one. She belongs to me, and I intend to keep her," turning upon his
daughter a proud, fond look and smile, which was answered by one of
sweet, confiding affection.
"Good-evening!" cried a gay, girlish voice. "Mr. Dinsmore, I'd be
delighted to see you, if I didn't know you'd come to rob us of Elsie."
"What, you too ready to abuse me on that score, Miss Lottie?" he said
laughingly, as he rose to shake hands with her. "I think I rather
deserve thanks for leaving her with you so long."
"Well, I suppose you do. Aunt Wealthy, papa found some remarkably
fine peaches in the orchard of one of his patients, and begs you will
accept this little basketful."
"Why, they're beautiful, Lottie!" said the old lady, rising and taking
the basket from her hand. "You must return my best thanks to your
father. I'll set them on the table just so. Take off your hat, child,
and sit down with us. There's your chair all ready to your plate,
and Phillis's farmer's fresh fruit-cake, to tempt you, and the
cream-biscuits that you are so fond of, both."
"Thank you," said Lottie, partly in acknowledgment of the invitation,
partly of Mr. Travilla's attention, as he rose and gallantly handed
her to her seat, "I can't find it in my heart to resist so many
"Shall I bring a dish for de peaches, mistis?" asked Chloe, who was
waiting on the table.
"Oh, let us have them in that old-fashioned china fruit-basket I've
always admired so much, Aunt Wealthy!" cried Lottie eagerly. "I don't
believe Elsie has seen it at all."
"No, so she hasn't; but she shall now," said the old lady, hastening
toward her china-closet. "There, Aunt Chloe, just stand on the dish,
and hand down that chair from this top shelf. Or, if you would,
Horace, you're taller, and can reach better. I'm always like the
sycamore tree that was little of stature, and couldn't see Zaccheus
till he climbed into it."
"Rather a new and improved version of the Bible narrative, aunt, isn't
it?" asked Mr. Dinsmore, with an amused look, as he came toward her.
"And I fear I'm rather heavy to stand on a dish; but will use the
chair instead, if you like."
"Ah! I've put the horse before the cart as usual, I see;" she said,
joining good-humoredly in the laugh the others found it impossible
to suppress. "It's an old trick of my age, that increases with my
advancing youth, till I sometimes wonder what I'm coming to; the words
will tangle themselves up in the most troublesome fashion; but if you
know what I mean, I suppose it's all the same."
"Why, Aunt Wealthy, this is really beautiful," said Mr. Dinsmore,
stepping from the chair with the basket, in his hand.
"Yes, it belonged to your great-grandmother, Horace, and I prize it
highly on that account. No, Aunt Chloe, I shall wipe it out and put
the peaches into it myself; it will take but a moment, and it's too
precious a relic to trust to any other hands than my own."
Lottie was apparently in the gayest spirits, enlivening the little
party with many a merry jest and light, silvery laugh, enjoying the
good things before her, and gratifying her hostess with praises of
their excellence. Yet through it all she was furtively watching her
friends, and grieved to notice the unwonted paleness of her cheek, the
traces of tears about her eyes, that her cheerfulness was assumed,
and that if she ate anything it was only from a desire to please her
father, who seemed never to forget her for a moment, and to be a good
deal troubled at her want of appetite. In all these signs Lottie read
disappointment of Egerton's hopes, and of Elsie's, so far as he was
"So I suppose her father has commanded her to give him up," she said
to herself. "Poor thing! I wonder if she means to be as submissive as
she thought she would."
The two presently slipped away together into the garden, leaving the
gentlemen conversing in the sitting-room, and Miss Stanhope busied
with some household care.
"You poor dear, I am so sorry for you!" whispered Lottie, putting her
arm about her friend. "Must you really quite give him up?"
"Papa says so," murmured Elsie, vainly struggling to restrain her
"Is it that he believes Mr. Travilla was not mistaken?"
"Yes, and--and he has heard some other things against him, and thinks
his explanation of Mr. Travilla's mistake quite absurd. Oh, Lottie, he
will not even allow us one parting interview and says I am never to
see Mr. Egerton again, or hold any communication with him in any way.
If I should meet him in the street I am not to recognize him; must
pass him by as a perfect stranger, not looking at him or permitting
him to see my face, if I can avoid doing so."
"And will you really submit to all that? I don't believe I could be so
"I must; papa will always be obeyed."
"But don't you feel that it's very hard? doesn't it make you feel
angry with your father and love him a little less?"
"I was angry for a little while this afternoon," Elsie acknowledged
with a blush, "but I am sure I have no right to be; I know papa is
acting for my good,--doing just what he believes will be most likely
to secure my happiness. He says it is to save me from a life of
misery, and certainly it would be that to be united to such a man as
he believes Mr. Egerton is."
"But you don't believe it, Elsie?"
"No, no, indeed! I have not lost my faith in him yet, and I hope he
may some day be able to prove to papa's entire satisfaction that he is
really all that is good, noble, and honorable."
"That is right; hope on, hope ever."
"Ah, I don't know how we could live without hope," Elsie said, smiling
faintly through her tears. "But I ought not to be wretched--oh, very
far from it, with so many blessings, so many to love me! Papa's love
alone would brighten life very much to me. And then," she added in a
lower tone, "'that dearer Friend that sticketh closer than a brother,'
and who has promised, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.'"
"And He will keep His promise, child," said Aunt Wealthy, joining them
in the arbor where they had seated themselves. "I have proved His
faithfulness many times, and I know that it never fails. Elsie, dear,
your old auntie would save you from every trial, but He is a far wiser
and truer friend, and will cause all things to work together for your
good, and never allow you to suffer one unneeded pang." She softly
stroked her niece's sunny hair, as she spoke, and the kind old face
was full of pitying tenderness.
"Come back to the house now, dears," she added, "I think the dew is
beginning to fall, and I heard my nephew asking for his daughter."
"How much longer may we hope to keep you, Elsie?" Lottie asked as they
wended their way toward the house.
"Papa has set Monday evening for the time of leaving."
"And this is Friday; so we shall have but two more rides together. Oh,
dear! how I shall miss you when you're gone."
"And I you. I shall never forget what pleasant times we have had
together; Aunt Wealthy and you and I. You musn't let her miss me too
much, Lottie." And Elsie turned an affectionate look upon her aged
"As if I could prevent it! But I'll do my best; you may rest assured
"You are dear girls, both of you," said Miss Stanhope with a very
perceptible tremble in her voice, "and you have brightened my home
wonderfully; if I could only keep you!"
"Well, auntie, you're not likely to lose me altogether for some time
yet," returned Lottie gayly, though the tears shone in her eyes.
Bromly Egerton went out from Mr. Dinsmore's presence with his temper
at a white heat, for he had just been treated to some plain truths
that were far from palatable; besides which it seemed evident that he
had missed the prize he so coveted and had made such strenuous efforts
to win. He had learned nothing new in regard to his own character, yet
somehow it had never looked so black as now, when seen through the
spectacles of an upright, honest, vice-detesting Christian gentleman.
He writhed at the very recollection of the disgust, loathing, and
contempt expressed in Mr. Dinsmore's voice and countenance as well as
in his words.
He scarcely gave a thought to the loss of Elsie herself: he had no
feeling for her at all worthy of the name of love; his base, selfish
nature was, indeed, hardly capable of such a sentiment; especially
toward one so refined, so guileless in her childlike innocence and
purity that to be with her gave him an uncomfortable sense of his own
No, the wounds under which he smarted were all stabs given to his
self-love and cupidity. He had learned how honest men looked upon him;
and he had failed in the cherished expectation of laying his
hands upon a great fortune, which he had fondly hoped to have the
opportunity of spending.
Rushing into the street, boiling with rage and shame, he hurried
onward, scarcely knowing or caring whither he went; out into the open
country, and on through woods and over hills he tramped, nor thought
of turning back till the sun had set, and darkness began to creep
about his path.
There was light in Miss Stanhope's parlor and strains of rich
melody greeted his ear as he passed. He turned away with a muttered
imprecation, crossed the street, and entered Mrs. Schilling's gate.
She was sitting on her doorstep, resting after her day's work, and
enjoying the cool evening air.
"Why, la me Mr. Egerton! is that you?" she cried, starting up, and
stepping aside for him to pass in. "I'd really begun to think you was
lost. The fire's been put and everything cleaned away this two hours.
I kep' the table a-waitin' for you a right smart spell, but finally
come to the conclusion that you must 'a' stayed to Miss Stanhope's or
someone else, to tea."
"No, I've not had supper," he answered gruffly.
"You haint, eh? and I 'spose you're hungry, too. Well, sit down, and
I'll hunt up something or 'nother. But I'm afraid you'll get the
dyspepsy eatin' so late; why, it's nigh on to ten o'clock; and I was
just a-thinking' about shutting' up and going off to bed."
"Well, you'll not be troubled with me long. I shall leave the place in
a few days."
"Leave Lansdale, do you mean?"
"Why, what's up?"
"The time I had appropriated to rest and recreation. Business men
can't play forever."
"Well, I shouldn't wonder. And Mr. Dinsmore's come after his daughter,
"What's that got to do with it?" he muttered. But she had left the
room and was out of hearing.
Before closing his eyes in sleep that night, Egerton resolved to make
a moving appeal to Elsie herself. He would write and find some means
by which to get the letter into her hands. Directly after breakfast
he sat down to his task, placing himself in a position to constantly
overlook Miss Stanhope's house and grounds. He was hoping to get
sight of Elsie, and anxious to watch Mr. Dinsmore's movements. Mrs.
Schilling had informed him that "Miss Stanhope's friends didn't expect
to leave till sometime a Monday; so she had learned from Phillis,
through Lenwilla Ellawea, who had been sent over for a little of
Phillis's light'ning, to raise some biscuits for breakfast," yet he
had some fear that the information might prove unreliable, and Mr.
Dinsmore slip away with his daughter that day.
That fear was presently relieved by seeing Simon bringing out the
horses for the young ladies, and shortly after a livery-stable man
leading up two fine steeds, evidently intended for the use of the
gentlemen. He now laid down his pen, and kept close watch for a few
moments, when he was rewarded by seeing the whole party come out,
mount, and ride away; Mr. Dinsmore beside his daughter, Mr. Travilla
with Lottie. Elsie, however, was so closely veiled that he could not
so much as catch a glimpse of her face.
With a muttered oath, he took up his pen again, feeling more desirous
than ever to outwit "that haughty Southerner," and secure the prize in
spite of him.
Half an hour afterward Simon, who was at work gathering corn and
tomatoes for dinner in the garden behind the house, heard some one
calling softly to him from the other side of the fence. Turning his
head, he saw Mr. Egerton standing there, motioning to him to draw
"Good-mornin', sah. What you want, sah?" inquired the lad, setting
down his basket, and approaching the fence that separated them.
"Do you know what this is?" asked Egerton, holding up a small
"Yes, sah; five-dollar gold piece, sah," replied the negro, bowing and
chuckling. "What de gentleman want dis niggah do for to arn 'em?"
"To put this into Miss Dinsmore's hands," answered Egerton, showing
a letter; "into her own hands, now, mind. If you do that, the five
dollars are yours; and if you bring me an answer, I'll make it ten.
But you are to manage it so that no one else shall see what you do. Do
"Yes, sah, and I bet I do it up about right, sah."
Very anxious to win the coveted reward, Simon was careful to be on
hand when the riding party returned. He stationed himself near Elsie's
horse. Her father assisted her to alight, and as he turned to make a
remark to Lottie, Simon, being on the alert, managed to slip the note
into Elsie's hand, unperceived by Mr. Dinsmore, or the others.
She gave a start of surprise, turning her eyes inquiringly upon him,
the rich color rushing all over her fair face and neck; as he could
see, even through the folds of her thick veil.
Simon grinned broadly, as, by a nod and wink toward the opposite side
of the street, he indicated whence the missive had come.
She turned and walked quickly toward the house, her heart beating very
fast and loud, and her fingers tightly clasping the note underneath
the folds of her long riding-skirt, as she held it up. She hurried
to her room, shut and locked the door, and, throwing off her hat and
veil, dropped into a seat, trembling in every limb with the agitation
and excitement of her feelings. She longed intently to know what he
had said to her; but she had never deceived or wilfully disobeyed her
father, and should she begin now? The temptation was very great, and
perhaps she would have yielded; but Mr. Dinsmore's step came quickly
up the stairs, and the next moment he rapped lightly on the door.
She rose and opened it, at the same time slipping the note into her
"Why, my darling, what is the matter?" he asked, looking much
concerned at the sight of her pale, agitated countenance.
"Oh, papa, if you would let me! if you only would!" she cried,
bursting into tears, and putting her arms coaxingly about his neck.
"Let you do what, my child?" he asked, stroking her hair.
"Bead this," she said, in a choking voice, taking the note from her
pocket. "Oh, if you knew how much I want to! Mayn't I, papa? do, dear
papa, say yes."
"No, Elsie; it grieves me to deny you, but it must go back unopened.
Give it to me."
She put it into his hand and turned away with a sob.
"How did it come into your hands?" he inquired, going to her
writing-desk for an envelope, pen and ink.
"Must I tell you, papa?" she asked; in a tone that spoke reluctance to
give the information he required.
"Simon gave it to me a few moments since."
He touched the bell, and, Chloe appearing in answer, bade her take
that note to the house on the opposite side of the street.
"There is no message," he added; "it is directed to Mr. Egerton, and
you have nothing to do but hand it in at the door."
"Yes, sah." And with a sorrowful, pitying glance at the wet eyes of
her young mistress, the faithful old creature left the room.
"My poor little daughter, you feel now that your father is very
cruel," Mr. Dinsmore said tenderly, taking Elsie in his arms again,
"but some day you will thank me for all this."
She only laid her face down on his breast and cried bitterly, while he
soothed her with caresses and words of fatherly endearment.
"Oh, papa, don't be vexed with me," she murmured at length. "I'm
trying not to be rebellious, but it seems so like condemning him
"No, my child, it is not. I gave him the opportunity to refute the
charges against him, but he has no proof to bring."
"Papa, he said it would break his heart to lose me," she cried with a
fresh burst of grief.
"My dear child, he has no heart to break. If he could get possession
of your property, he would care very little indeed what became of
Mr. Dinsmore spoke very decidedly, but, though silenced, Elsie was not
Egerton, watching through the half-closed blinds of his bed-room, had
seen, with a chuckle of delight, the success of Simon's manoeuvre,
and Elsie hurrying into the house; for the purpose--he had scarcely
a doubt--of secretly reading and answering his note. He saw Chloe
crossing the street, and thought that her young mistress had sent him
a hasty line, perhaps to appoint the time and place of a clandestine
meeting; for such confidence had he in his own powers of fascination
for all the fair sex, that he could not think it possible she could
give him up without a struggle.
Lenwilla went to the door, and in his eagerness to receive the message
he ran out and met her on the landing. What was his disappointment and
chagrin at sight of the bold, masculine characters on the outside, and
only his own handwriting within!
"Sent back unopened! The girl must be a fool!" he cried, fairly
gnashing his teeth with rage. "She could have managed it easily
enough; she had the best chance in the world, for he didn't see her
take it, I know."
He considered a moment, put on his hat, and, walking over to Dr.
King's, inquired for Miss Lottie.
"Jist walk intil the parlor, sir," said Bridget, "an' I'll call the
Lottie came to him presently, with her kind face full of regret and
He told his tale, produced his note, and begged her to be his
messenger, saying he supposed Mr. Dinsmore had come upon Elsie before
she had time to read it, and he thought it hard for both her and
himself that she should not have the chance.
"Yes," said Lottie, "but I am very sure she would not read it without
her father's permission, and you may depend upon it, she showed it to
him of her own accord."
He shook his head with an incredulous smile. "Do you really think she
has so little sense? Or is it that you believe she too has turned
"No, she has not turned against you, she believes in you still; nor is
she wanting in sense; but she is extremely conscientious about obeying
her father, and told me she meant to be entirely submissive, whatever
it cost her."
"I can hardly think you are right," he said, with another of his
incredulous smiles, "but even supposing she was silly enough to hand
my note over to her father, I should like to give her an opportunity
to retrieve her error, so won't you undertake"--
"Don't ask me to carry it to her," interrupted Lottie. "It would go
against my conscience to tempt Elsie to do violence to hers, I do
assure you, though I have no idea I should be successful. So you
really must excuse me."
He tried argument and persuasion by turns, but Lottie stood firm in
her refusal, and at length he went away, evidently very angry.
Lottie spent the evening with her friend, and when a fitting
opportunity offered gave her an account of this interview with
Egerton, Elsie telling her in return something of what had passed
between her father and herself in regard to the note.
That Egerton had desired to tempt her to disobedience and deception
did not tend to increase Elsie's esteem and admiration for him, but
quite the reverse.
"I think he'll not prevent me from getting sight of her to-day,"
muttered Egerton, stationing himself at the front window the next
morning, as the hour for church drew near.
He had not been there long, when he saw Miss Stanhope and Mr.
Travilla, then Mr. Dinsmore and Elsie, come out of the house and cross
the lawn. He made a hasty exit and was in the act of opening Mrs.
Schilling's front gate as the latter couple reached the one opposite.
"Put down your veil, Elsie; take my arm; and don't look toward that
man at all," commanded her father, and she obeyed.
Egerton kept opposite to them all the way to the church, but without
accomplishing his object. He followed them in and placed himself in a
pew on the other side of the aisle, and a little nearer the front than
Miss Stanhope's, so that, by turning half way round, he could look
into the faces of its occupants. But Elsie kept hers partly concealed
by her veil, and never once turned her eyes in his direction.
She was seated next her father, who seemed to watch her almost
constantly--not with the air of a jailer, but with a sort of tender,
protecting care, as one keeping guard over something belonging to him,
and which he esteemed very sweet and precious,--while now and then
her soft eyes were lifted to his for an instant with a look of loving
"Poor Elsie was well watched to-day," remarked Nettie King to her
sister as they walked home together; "her father scarcely took his
eyes off her for five consecutive minutes, I should think; and Mr.
Egerton stared at her from the time he came in till the benediction
"Yes, I thought he was decidedly rude."
"Isn't Mr. Dinsmore excessively strict and exacting?"
"Yes, I think so; yet he dotes on her, and she on him. I never saw a
father and daughter so completely wrapped up in each other."
They were now within sight of their own home, and Miss Stanhope's.
"Just look!" cried Nettie, "I do believe Egerton means to force
himself upon their notice and compel Elsie to speak to him."
He was crossing the street so as to meet them face to face, just at
the gate, giving them no chance to avoid the rencontre.
"Good-morning, Miss Dinsmore," he said in a loud, cordial tone of
greeting, as they neared each other.
Elsie started and tightened her grasp of her father's arm, but neither
looked up nor spoke.
"My daughter acknowledges no acquaintance with you, sir," answered Mr.
Dinsmore, haughtily, and Egerton turned and strode angrily away.
"There, Elsie, you see what he is; his behavior is anything but
gentlemanly," remarked her father, opening the gate for her to pass
in. "But you need not tremble so, child; there is nothing to fear."
Oh, what a feeble fort's a woman's heart,
Betrayed by nature, and besieged by art.
--FANE'S "LOVE IN THE DARK."
"Dear child, what shall I do without you?" sighed Miss Stanhope,
clasping Elsie in her arms, and holding her in a long, tender embrace;
for the time of parting had come. "Horace, will you bring her to see
"Yes, aunt, if she wants to come. But don't ask me to leave her
"Well, if you can't stay with me, or trust her yourself, let Mr.
Vanilla come and stand guard over us both. I'd be happy, sir, at any
time when you can make it convenient for me to see you here, with
Horace and the child, or without them."
"Thank you, Miss Stanhope; and mother and I would be delighted to see
you at Ion."
"Come, Elsie, we must go; the carriage is waiting and the train nearly
due," said Mr. Dinsmore. "Good-bye, Aunt Wealthy. Daughter, put down
Egerton was at the depot, but could get neither a word with Elsie, nor
so much as a sight of her face. Her veil was not once lifted, and
her father never left her side for a moment. Mr. Travilla bought the
tickets, and Simon attended to the checking of the baggage. Then the
train came thundering up, and the fair girl was hurried into it,
Mr. Travilla, on one side, and her father on the other, effectually
preventing any near approach to her person on the part of the baffled
and disappointed fortune-hunter.
He walked back to his boarding-house, cursing his ill luck and Messrs.
Dinsmore and Travilla, and gave notice to his landlady that his room
would become vacant the next morning.
As the train sped onward, again Elsie laid her head down upon her
father's shoulder and wept silently behind her veil. Her feelings had
been wrought up to a high pitch of excitement in the struggle to be
perfectly submissive and obedient, and now the overstrained nerves
claimed this relief. And love's young dream, the first, and sweetest,
was over and gone. She could never hope to see again the man she still
fondly imagined to be good and noble, and with a heart full of deep,
passionate love for her.
Her father understood and sympathized with it all. He passed his arm
about her waist, drew her closer to him, and taking her hand in his,
held it in a warm, loving clasp.
How it soothed and comforted her. She could never be very wretched
while thus tenderly loved, and cherished.
And, arrived at her journey's end, there were mamma and little brother
to rejoice over her return, as at the recovery of a long-lost,
"You shall never go away again," said the little fellow, hugging her
tight. "When a boy has only one sister, he can't spare her to other
folks, can he, papa?"
"No, son," answered Mr. Dinsmore, patting his rosy cheek, and softly
stroking Elsie's hair, "and it is just the same with a man who has but
"You don't look bright and merry, as you did when you went away," said
the child, bending a gaze of keen, loving scrutiny upon the sweet
face, paler, sadder, and more heavy-eyed than he had ever seen it
"Sister is tired with her journey," said mamma tenderly; "we won't
tease her to-night."
"Yes," said her father, "she must go early to bed, and have a long
"Yes, papa, and then she'll be all right to-morrow, won't she? But,
mamma, I wasn't teasing her, not a bit; was I, Elsie? And if anybody's
been making her sorry, I'll kill him. 'Cause she's my sister, and I've
got to take care of her."
"But suppose papa was the one who had made her sorry; what then?"
asked Mr. Dinsmore.
"But you wouldn't, papa," said the boy, shaking his head with an
incredulous smile. "You love her too much a great deal; you'd never
make her sorry unless she'd be naughty; and she's never one bit
naughty,--always minds you and mamma the minute you speak."
"That's true, my son; I do love her far too well ever to grieve her if
it can be helped. She shall never know a pang a father's love and care
can save her from." And again his hand rested caressingly on Elsie's
She caught it in both of hers and laying her cheek lovingly against
it, looked up at him with tears trembling in her eyes. "I know it,
papa," she murmured. "I know you love your foolish little daughter
very dearly; almost as dearly as she loves you."
"Almost, darling? If there were any gauge by which to measure love, I
know not whose would be found the greatest."
Mr. Dinsmore and his father-in-law had taken adjoining cottages for
the summer, and though "the season" was so nearly over that the hotels
and boarding-houses were but thinly populated and would soon close,
the two families intended remaining another month. So this was in some
sort a home-coming to Elsie.
After tea the Allisons flocked in to bid her welcome. All seemed glad
of her coming, Richard, Harold, and Sophy especially so. They were
full of plans for giving her pleasure, and crowding the greatest
possible amount of enjoyment into the four or five weeks of their
expected sojourn on the island.
"It will be moonlight next week," said Sophy; "and we'll have some
delightful drives and walks along the beach. The sea does look so
lovely by moonlight."
"And we'll have such fun bathing in the mornings," remarked Harold.
"You'll go in with us to-morrow, won't you, Elsie?"
"No," said Mr. Dinsmore, speaking for his daughter; "she must be
here two or three days before she goes into the water. It will be
altogether better for her health."
Elise looked at him inquiringly.
"You get in the air enough of the salt water for the first few days,"
he said. "Your system should become used to that before you take
"Yes, that is what some of the doctors here, and the oldest
inhabitants, tell us," remarked Mr. Allison, "and I believe it is the
"And in the meantime we can take some rides and drives,--down to
Diamond Beach, over to the light-house, and elsewhere," said Edward
Allison, his brother Richard adding, "and do a little fishing and
Mr. Dinsmore was watching his daughter. She was making an effort to be
interested in the conversation, but looking worn, weary, and sad.
"You are greatly fatigued, my child," he said. "We will excuse you and
let you retire at once."
She was very glad to avail herself of the permission.
Rose followed her to her room, a pleasant, breezy apartment, opening
on a veranda, and looking out upon the sea, whose dark waves, here
and there tipped with foam, could be dimly seen rolling and tossing
beneath the light of the stars and of a young moon that hung like a
golden crescent just above the horizon.
Elsie walked to the window and looked out. "How I love the sea," she
said, sighing, "but, mamma, to-night it makes me think of a text--'All
Thy waves and Thy billows have gone over me.'"
"It is not so bad as that, I hope, dear," said Rose, folding her
tenderly in her arms; "think how we all love you, especially your
father. I don't know how we could any of us do without you, darling. I
can't tell you how sadly we have missed you this summer."
"Mamma, I do feel it to be very, very sweet to be so loved and cared
for. I could not tell you how dear you and my little brother are to
me, and as for papa--sometimes I am more than half afraid I make an
idol of him; and yet--oh, mamma," she murmured, hiding her face in
Rose's bosom, "why is it that I can no longer be in love with the
loves that so fully satisfied me?"
"'Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.' It
is part of woman's curse that she must ever crave that sort of love,
often yielding to her craving, to her own terrible undoing. Be
patient, darling, and try to trust both your heavenly and your earthly
father. You know that no trial can come to you without your heavenly
Father's will, and that He means this for your good. Look to Him and
he will help you to bear it, and send relief in His own good time and
way. You know He tells us it is through much tribulation we enter
the kingdom of God; and that whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth,
and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 'If ye be without
chastisements, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and no
"Ah, yes, mamma; better the hardest of earthly trials, than to be left
out of the number of his adopted children. And this seems to be really
my only one, while my cup of blessings is full to overflowing. I fear
I am very wicked to feel so sad."
"Let us sit down on this couch while we talk; you are too tired
to stand," said Rose, drawing her away from the window to a
softly-cushioned lounge. "I do not think you can help grieving,
darling, though I agree with you that it is your duty to try to be
cheerful, as well as patient and submissive; and I trust you will find
it easier as the days and weeks move on. You are very young, and have
plenty of time to wait; indeed, if all had gone right, you know your
papa would not have allowed you to marry for several years yet."
"You know all, mamma?"
"Yes, dear; papa told me; for you know you are my darling daughter
too, and I have a very deep interest in all that concerns you."
A tender caress accompanied the words, and was returned with equal
"Thank you, best and kindest of mothers; I should never want anything
kept from you."
"Your father tells me you have behaved beautifully, though you
evidently felt it very hard to be separated so entirely and at once
"Yes, mamma," and Elsie's lip quivered, and her eyes filled, "and oh,
I can't believe he is the wicked man papa thinks him. From the first
he seemed to be a perfect gentleman, educated, polished, and refined;
and afterward he became--at least so I thought from the conversations
we had together--truly converted, and a very earnest, devoted
Christian. He told me he had been, at one time, a little wild, but
surely he ought not to be condemned for that, after he had repented
"No, dear; and your father would agree with you in that. But he
believes you have been deceived in the man's character; and don't you
think, daughter, that he is wiser than yourself, and more capable of
finding out the truth about the matter?"
"I know papa is far wiser than I, but, oh, my heart will not believe
what they say of--of him!" she cried with sudden, almost passionate
"Well, dear, that is perfectly natural, but try to be entirely
submissive to your father, and wait patiently; and hopefully too," she
added with a smile; "for if Mr. Egerton is really good, no doubt it
will be proved in time, and then your father will at once remove his
interdict. And if you are mistaken, you will one day discover it, and
feel thankful, indeed, to your papa for taking just the course he
"There he is now!" Elsie said with a start, as Mr. Dinsmore's step was
heard without, and Chloe opened the door in answer to his rap.
"What, Elsie disobeying orders, and mamma conniving at it!" he
exclaimed in a tone that might mean either jest or serious reproof.
"Did I not bid you go to bed at once, my daughter?"
"I thought it was only permission, papa, not command," she answered,
lifting her eyes to his face, and moving to make room for him by her
side. "And mamma has been saying such sweet, comforting things to me."
"Has she, darling? Bless her for it! I know you need comfort, my poor
little pet," he said, taking the offered seat, and passing his arm
round her waist. "But you need rest too, and ought not to stay up any
"But surely papa knows I cannot go to bed without my good-night kiss
when he is in the same house with me," she said, winding her arms
about his neck.
"And didn't like to take it before folks? Well, that was right, but
take it now. There, good-night. Now mamma and I will run away, and you
must get into bed with all speed. No mistake about the command this
time, and disobedience, if ventured on, will have to be punished," he
said with playful tenderness, as he returned her embrace, and rose to
leave the room.
"The dear child; my heart aches for her," he remarked to his wife,
as they went out together, "and I find it almost impossible yet to
forgive either that scoundrel Jackson or my brother Arthur."
"You have no lingering doubts as to the identity and utter
unworthiness of the man?"
"Not one; and if I could only convince Elsie of his true character
she would detest him as thoroughly as I do. If he had his deserts, he
would be in the State's Prison; and to think of his daring to approach
my child, and even aspire to her hand!"
Elsie lay all night in a profound slumber, and awoke at an early hour
the next morning, feeling greatly refreshed and invigorated. The
gentle murmur of old ocean came pleasantly to her ear, and sweetly
in her mind arose the thought of Him whom even the winds and the sea
obey; of His never failing love to her, and of the many great and
precious promises of His word. She remembered how He had said, "Your
Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things," and, content to
bear the cross He had sent her, and leave her future in His hands, she
rose to begin the new day more cheerful and hopeful than she had been
since learning her father's decision in regard to Egerton.
Throwing on a dressing-gown over her night dress, she sat down before
the open window with her Bible in her hand. She still loved, as of
old, to spend the first hour of the day in the study of its pages, and
in communion with Him whose word it is.
Chloe was just putting the finishing touches to her young lady's
toilet when little Horace came running down the hall, and rapping on
Elsie's door, called out, "Sister, papa says put on a short dress, and
your walking shoes, and come take a stroll on the beach with us before
"Yes, tell papa I will. I'll be down in five minutes."
She came down looking sweet and fresh as the morning; a smile on the
full red lips, and a faint tinge of rose color on the cheeks that had
been so pale the night before.
"Ah, you are something like yourself again," said Rose, greeting her
with a motherly caress, as they met in the lower hall. "How nice it is
to have you at home once more."
"Thank you, mamma, I am very glad to be here; and I had such a good
restful sleep. How well you look."
"And feel too, I am thankful to be able to say. But there, your father
is calling to you from the sitting-room."
Elsie hastened to obey the summons, and found him seated at his
"Come here, daughter," he said, "and tell me if you obeyed orders last
"Yes, papa, I did."
"I am writing a few lines to Aunt Wealthy, to tell her of our safe
arrival. Have you any message to send?" and laying down his pen he
drew her to his knee.
"Only my love, papa, and--and that she must not be anxious about me,
as she said that she should. That I am very safe and happy in the
hands of my heavenly Father--and those of the kind earthly one He has
given me," she added in a whisper, putting her arms about his neck,
and looking in his face with eyes brimful of filial tenderness and
"That is right, my darling," he said, "and you shall never want for
love while your father lives. How it rejoices my heart to see you
looking so bright and well this morning."
"I feat I have not been yielding you the cheerful obedience I ought,
papa," she murmured with tears in her eyes, "but I am resolved to try
to do so in future; and have been asking help where I know it is to be
"I have no fault to find with you on that score, my dear child," he
said tenderly, "but if you can be cheerful, it will be for your own
happiness, as well as ours."
She kept her promise faithfully, and had her reward in much real
enjoyment of the many pleasures provided for her.
Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore were still youthful in their feelings, and
joined with great zest in the sports of the young people, going with
them in all their excursions, taking an active part in all their
pastimes, and contriving so many fresh entertainments, that during
those few weeks life seemed like one long gala day.
Mr. Travilla was with them most of the time. He had tarried behind in
Philadelphia, as Mr. Dinsmore and his daughter passed through, but
followed them to Cape Island a few days later.
The whole party left the shore about the last of September, the
Allisons returning to their city residence, Mr. Travilla to his
Southern home, and the Dinsmores travelling through Pennsylvania and
New York, from one romantic and picturesque spot to another; finishing
up with two or three weeks in Philadelphia, during which Rose and
Elsie were much occupied with their fall and winter shopping.
Mr. Dinsmore took this opportunity to pay another flying visit to his
two young brothers. He found Arthur nearly recovered, and at once
asked a full explanation of the affair of Tom Jackson, alias Bromly
Egerton; his designs upon Elsie, and Arthur's participation in them.
"I know nothing about it," was the sullen rejoinder.
"You certainly were acquainted with Tom Jackson, and how, but through
you, could he have gained any knowledge of Elsie and her whereabouts?"
"I don't deny that I've had some dealings with Jackson, but your
Egerton I know nothing of whatever."
"You may as well speak the truth, sir; it will be much better for
you in the end," said Mr. Dinsmore, sternly, his eyes flashing with
"And you may as well remember that it isn't Elsie you are dealing
with. I'm not afraid of you."
"Perhaps not, but you may well fear Him who has said, 'a lying tongue
is but for a moment.' How do you reconcile such an assertion as you
have just made with the fact of your having that letter in your
"I say it's a cowardly piece of business for you to give the lie to a
fellow that hasn't the strength to knock you down for it."
"You would hardly attempt that if you were in perfect health, Arthur."
"You have not answered my question about the letter.
"I wrote it myself."
"A likely story; it is in a very different hand from yours."
"I can adopt that hand on occasion, as I'll prove to your
He opened his desk, wrote a sentence on a scrap of paper, and handed
it to Mr. Dinsmore. The chirography was precisely that of the letter.
While slowly convalescing, Arthur had prepared for this expected
interview with Horace, by spending many a solitary hour in laboriously
teaching himself to imitate Jackson's ordinary hand, in which most of
the letters he had received from him were written. The sentence he had
first penned was, "I did it merely for my own amusement, and to hoax
"I don't believe a word of it," said Mr. Dinsmore, looking sternly at
him. "Arthur, you had better be frank and open with me. You will gain
nothing by denying the hand you have had in this disgraceful business.
You can hardly suppose me credulous enough to believe an assertion so
perfectly absurd as this. I have no doubt that you sent that villain
to Lansdale to try his arts upon Elsie; and for that you are richly
deserving of my anger, and of any punishment it might be in my power
to deal out to you.
"It has been no easy matter for me to forgive the suffering you have
caused my child, Arthur; but I came here to-day with kind feelings and
intentions. I hoped to find you penitent and ready to forsake your
evil courses; and in that case, intended to help you to pay off your
debts and begin anew, without paining father with the knowledge that
his confidence in you has been again so shamefully abused. But I must
say that your persistent denial of your complicity with that scoundrel
Jackson does not look much like contrition, or intended amendment."
Arthur listened in sullen silence, though his rapidly changing color
showed that he felt the cutting rebuke keenly. At one time he had
resolved to confess everything, throw himself upon the mercy of his
father and brother, and begin to lead an honest, upright life; but a
threatening letter received that morning from Jackson had led him to
change his purpose, and determine to close his lips for a time.
Mr. Dinsmore paused for a reply, but none came.
Walter looked at Arthur in surprise. "Come, Art, speak, why don't
you?" he said. "Horace, don't look so stern and angry, I know he means
to turn over a new leaf; for he told me so. And you will help him,
"I ask no favors from a man who throws the lie in my teeth," muttered
"And I can give none to one who persists in denying his guilt,"
replied Mr. Dinsmore. "But, Arthur, I give you one more chance, and
for our father's sake I hope you will avail yourself of it. If you go
on as you have for the last three or four years, you will bring down
his gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. I presume you have put
yourself in Jackson's power; but if you will now make a full and free
confession to me, and promise amendment, I will help you to get rid of
the rascal's claims upon you, and start afresh. Will you do it?"
"No, you've called me a liar, and what's the use of my telling you
anything? you wouldn't believe it if I did."
She is not sad, yet in her gaze appears
Something that makes the gazer think of tears.
The family at Roselands were gathered about the breakfast-table. A
much smaller party than of yore, since Horace had taken Elsie and
set up an establishment of his own, and the other sons were away at
college and two daughters married; leaving only Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore,
Adelaide and Enna to occupy the old home.
"I presume you have the lion's share as usual, papa," observed the
last named, as her father opened the letter-bag which Pomp had just
"And who has a better right, Miss Malapert?" retorted the old
gentleman. "Yes, here are several letters for me; but as there is one
apiece for the rest of you, nobody need complain. Here, Pomp, hand
this to your mistress. From Walter, I see."
"Yes," she answered, opening it, "and a few lines from Arthur too. I'm
glad he's able to write again, poor fellow!"
"Yes," said Adelaide. "Rose says Horace has been up there and found
him nearly recovered. She writes that they are coming home."
"When?" asked Enna.
"Why, to-day! the letter has been delayed," said her sister, looking
at the date. "I shall ride over directly, to see that all is in order
for them at the Oaks."
"There is no need," remarked her mother. "Rose will have written to
"I presume so, still I shall go; it will be pleasant to be there to
welcome them when they arrive."
"How fond you are of Rose," said Mrs. Dinsmore in a piqued tone; "you
wouldn't do more for one of your own sisters, I believe, than for
"I wouldn't do less, mamma, and I am very fond of her; we are so
"And Elsie's a great pet of yours, too," said Enna sneeringly. "Well,
I shall put off my call till to-morrow, when the trunks will have been
unpacked, and I shall have a chance to see the fashions. Elsie will
have loads of new things; it's perfectly absurd the way Horace heaps
presents upon her, and pocket-money too. Such loads of jewelry as she
has,--two or three gold watches, and everything else in proportion."
"He may as well; she can never spend the half of her income," remarked
Mr. Dinsmore. "Unless she takes to gambling," he added, in a tone that
seemed to say that his purse had suffered severely from some one's
indulgence in that vice.
Mrs. Dinsmore winced, Enna looked vexed and annoyed, and Adelaide sad
and troubled; but when she spoke it was in answer to Enna.
"Yes, Elsie will have a great many beautiful things to show us, of
course; but, though she wears nothing outré, she has never been, and I
think never will be a mirror of fashion. It would suit neither her own
taste nor Horace's; and you know, fond of her as he is, he will never
allow her to have a will of her own in dress or anything else. So it
is well their tastes harmonize."
"I wouldn't be his child for all her money," said Enna.
"There would be some fighting if you were," said her father, laughing.
"I never could tell whether he tyrannized over Rose in the same style
or not," observed Mrs. Dinsmore interrogatively.
"All I know about it is that they seem perfectly happy in each other,"
answered Adelaide; "but I don't suppose Horace considers a husband's
authority by any means equal to a father's."
Something delayed Adelaide, and it was nearly two hours after they
rose from the table ere she was fairly on her way to the Oaks.
"Why, they are here before me!" she exclaimed half aloud as she came
in sight of the house.
There were piles of luggage upon the veranda, and the whole family,
including all the house servants, were gathered round a large
open trunk from which Mrs. Dinsmore and Elsie were dealing out
gifts--dresses, aprons, bonnets, hats, gay handkerchiefs, etc., etc.;
the darkies receiving them with a delight that was pleasant to see.
Mr. Dinsmore too was taking his part in the distribution, and as
Adelaide rode up little Horace was in the act of throwing a gay shawl
about the shoulders of his nurse, who caught him in her arms and
hugged and kissed him over and over, calling him "honey," and "pet,"
and "you ole mammy's darlin' ole chil'!"
So much engaged were they all that no one perceived Adelaide's
approach till she had reined in her horse close to the veranda, and
throwing her bridle to her attendant, sprung lightly to the ground.
But then there was a shout of welcome from little Horace, followed
instantly by joyous exclamations and embraces from the others.
"Dear me, what a long stay you made of it!" said Adelaide. "You can
have no idea how I missed you all; even down to this little man,"
patting Horace's rosy cheek. "You look remarkably well, Rose; and the
two Horaces also; but Elsie, I think, has grown a little pale, thin,
and heavy-eyed. What ails you, child? Pining for your native air--no,
home air--I presume. Is that it?"
"Hardly pining for it, auntie, but very glad to get back,
nevertheless," Elsie answered, with a blush and a smile.
"And you are not pale now. But don't let me interrupt your pleasant
employment. I wish I had been in time to see the whole of it."
"You are in season for your own gifts. Will you accept a trifle from
me?" said her brother, putting a jewel-case into her hand.
"Coral! and what a beautiful shade!" she cried. "Thank you; they are
just what I wanted."
"I thought they would contrast prettily with this, auntie," said
Elsie, laying a dress-pattern of black silk upon her lap.
"And these are to be worn at the same time, if it so pleases you,"
added Rose, presenting her with collar and undersleeves of point lace.
"Oh, Rose, how lovely! and even little Horace bringing auntie a gift!"
as the child slipped something into her hand.
"It's only a card-case; but mamma said you'd like it, Aunt Adie."
"And I do; it's very pretty. And here's a hug and a kiss for the pet
boy that remembered his old-maid auntie."
"Old maid, indeed! Adelaide, I'll not have you talking so," said Rose.
"There's nothing old-maidish about you; not even age yet; a girl of
twenty-six to be calling herself that! it's perfectly absurd. Isn't
it, my dear?"
"I think so, indeed," replied Mr. Dinsmore. "Here, Jim, Cato, and the
rest of you carry in these trunks and boxes, and let us have them
unpacked and put out of sight."
"Oh, yes!" said Adelaide, "I want to see all the fine things you have
brought, Rose. Mamma, Enna, and I are depending upon you and Elsie for
"Yes, we had all our fall and winter dresses made up in Philadelphia;
we prefer their styles to the New York; they don't go to such
extremes, you know; and besides--hailing from the Quaker city as I do,
it's natural I should be partial to her plainer ways--but we brought
quantities of patterns from both places; knowing that nothing was
likely to be too gay for Enna. We will let Elsie display hers first. I
feel in a special hurry, dear, to show your aunt those elegant silks
your papa and I helped you to select. I hope you will see them all on
her, one of these days, Adelaide.
"That child's complexion is so perfect, that she can wear anything,"
she added in an aside, as they followed Elsie to her apartments;
"there's a pale blue that she looks perfectly lovely in; a pearl-color
too, and a delicate pink, and I don't know how many more. One might
think we expected her to do nothing but attend parties the coming
Elsie seemed to take a lively interest in displaying her pretty things
to her aunt, and in looking on for a little, while Rose did the same
with hers; but at length, though the two older ladies were still
turning over and discussing silks, satins, velvets, laces, ribbons,
feathers, and flowers, her father noticed her sitting in the corner of
a sofa, in an attitude of weariness and dejection, with a pale cheek,
and a dreary, far-off look in her eyes that it pained him to see.
"You are very tired, daughter," he said, going to her side, and
smoothing her glossy brown hair with tender caressing motion, as he
spoke; "go and lie down for an hour or two. A nap would do you a great
deal of good."
"I don't like to do so while Aunt Adie is here, papa," she said,
looking up at him with a smile, and trying to seem fresh and bright.
"Never mind that; you can see her any day now. Come, you must take a
rest." And drawing her hand within his arm, he led her to her boudoir
and left her there, comfortably established upon a sofa.
"A hat trimmed in that style would be becoming to Elsie," remarked
Adelaide, continuing the conversation with Rose, and turning to look
at her niece as she spoke. "Why, she's not here."
"Papa took her away to make her lie down," said little Horace.
"Rose, does anything ail the child?" asked Adelaide, in an undertone.
"She does not seem to be out of health; but you know we are very
careful of her; she is so dear and sweet, and has never looked very
"But there is something wrong with her, is there not? she does not
seem to me quite the gay, careless child she was when you went away.
Horace," and she turned to him, as he re-entered the room, "may I not
know about Elsie? You can hardly love her very much better than I do,
"If that is so, you must love her very much indeed," he answered with
a faint smile. "Yes, I will tell you." And he explained the matter;
briefly at first, then more in detail, as she drew him on by questions
Her sympathy for Elsie was deep and sincere; yet she thought her
brother's course the only wise and kind one, and her indignation waxed
hot against Arthur and Egerton.
"And Elsie still believes in the scoundrel?" she said inquiringly.
"Yes, her loving, trustful nature refuses to credit the proofs of
his guilt, and only her sweet, conscientious submission to parental
authority has saved her from becoming his victim."
"She is a very good, submissive, obedient child to you, Horace."
"I could not ask a better, Adelaide. I only wish it were in my power
to make obedience always easy and pleasant to her, poor darling."
"I hope you have something for me there, my dear," Rose remarked to
her husband at the breakfast-table the next morning, as he looked over
the mail just brought in by his man John.
"Yes, there is one for you; from your mother, I think; and, Elsie, do
you know the handwriting of this?"
"No, papa, it is quite strange to me," she answered, taking the letter
he held out to her, and which bore her name and address on the back,
and examining it critically.
"And the post-mark tells you nothing either?"
"No, sir; I cannot quite make it out, but it doesn't seem to be any
place where I have a correspondent."
"Well, open it and see from whom it comes. But finish your breakfast
Elsie laid the letter down by her plate, and putting aside, for the
present, her curiosity in regard to it, went on with her meal. "From
whom can it have come?" she asked herself, while listening half
absently to extracts from Mr. Allison's epistle; "not from him surely,
the hand is so very unlike that of the one he sent me in Lansdale."
"You have not looked at that yet," her father said, seeing her take it
up as they rose from the table. "You may do so now. I wish to know who
the writer is. Don't read it till you have found that out," he added,
leading her to a sofa in the next room, and making her sit down there,
while he stood by her side.
She felt that his eye was upon her as she broke open the envelope and,
taking the letter from it, glanced down the page, then in a little
flutter of surprise and perplexity turned to the signature. Instantly
her face flushed crimson, she trembled visibly, and her eyes were
lifted pleadingly to his.
He frowned and held out his hand.
"Oh, papa, let me read it!" she murmured low and tremulously, her eyes
still pleading more eloquently than her tongue.
"No," he said, and his look and gesture were imperative.
She silently put the letter into his hand, and turned away with a low
"It is not worth one tear, or even an emotion of regret, my child," he
said, sitting down beside her. "I shall send it back at once; unread,
unless you prefer to have me read it first."
"Very well, then I shall not. But, Elsie, do you not see now that he
is quite capable of imitating the handwriting of another?"
"Yes, papa; but that does not prove that he did in the case you refer
"And he has acted quite fairly and honestly in using that talent to
elude my vigilance and tempt you to deception and disobedience, eh?"
"He is not perfect, papa, but I can't believe him as bad as you
"There are none so blind as those that won't see, Elsie; but,
remember"--and his tone changed from one of great vexation to another
sternly authoritative--"I will be obeyed in this thing."
"Yes, papa," she said, and rising, hastily left the room.
"Try to be very patient with her, dear," said Rose, who had been a
silent, but deeply interested spectator of the little scene; "she
suffers enough, poor child!"
"Yes, I know it, and my heart bleeds for her; yet she seems so
wilfully blind to the strongest proofs of the fellow's abominable
rascality that at times I feel as if I could hardly put up with it
at all. The very pain of seeing her suffer so makes me out of all
patience with her folly."
"Yes, I understand it, but do not be stern with her; she surely does
not deserve it while she is so perfectly submissive to your will."
"No, she does not, poor darling," he said with a sigh. "But I must
make haste to write some letters that ought to go by the next mail."
He left the room, and Mrs. Dinsmore, longing to comfort Elsie in her
trouble, was about to go in search of her, when Mrs. Murray, who was
still housekeeper at the Oaks, came to ask advice or direction about
some household matters.
Their consultation lasted for half an hour or more, and in the
meanwhile Mr. Dinsmore finished his correspondence and went himself to
look for his daughter. She was in the act of opening her writing-desk
as he entered the room.
"What are you doing, daughter?" he asked.
"I was about to write a letter to Sophy, papa."
"It would be too late for to-day's mail; so let it wait, and come with
me for a little stroll into the grounds. Aunt Chloe, bring a garden
hat and sunshade. You would like to go, daughter?"
"Yes, sir. Papa, you are not vexed with me? You don't think I want to
be disobedient or wilful?" There were tears in her voice and traces of
them on her cheeks.
"No, darling!" he said, drawing her to him, "and you did not in the
least deserve to be spoken to in the stern tone that I used. But--can
you understand it?--my very love for you makes me angry and impatient
at your persistent love for that scoundrel."
"Papa, please don't!" she said in a low, pained tone, and turning away
"Ah, you do not like to hear a word against him!" he sighed; "I can't
bear to think it, and yet I fear you care more for him than for me,
your own father, who almost idolizes you. Is it so?"
"Papa," she murmured, winding her arms about his neck, and laying
her head on his breast, "if I may have but one of you, I could never
hesitate for a moment to choose to cling here where I have been so
long and tenderly cherished. I know what your love is,--I might be
mistaken and deceived in another. And besides, God commands me to
honor and obey you."
He held her close to his heart for a moment, as something too dear and
precious ever to be given up to another, then drawing her hand within
his arm, while Chloe placed the hat on her head, and gave her the
parasol, he led her out into the grounds.
It pained him to notice the sadness of her countenance, sadder than he
had seen it for many days, and he exerted himself to entertain her
and divert her thoughts, calling her attention to some new plants and
flowers, consulting her taste in regard to improvements he designed
making, and conversing with her about a book they had been reading.
She understood his thoughtful kindness, was grateful for it, and did
her best to be interested and cheerful.
"It is so nice to have you treat me as your companion and friend as
well as your daughter, papa," she said, looking up at him with a
"Your companionship is very dear and sweet to me, daughter," he
answered. "But I think we had better go in now; the sun is growing
"Oh, here you are!" cried a girlish voice as they turned into a shaded
walk leading to the house. "I've been looking everywhere and am
glad to have found you at last. Really, if a body didn't know your
relationship, he or she might almost imagine you a pair of lovers."
"Don't be silly, Enna. How do you do?" said Mr. Dinsmore, shaking
hands with her and giving her a brotherly kiss.
"As usual, thank you," she answered, turning from him to Elsie, whom
she embraced with tolerable warmth, saying, "I'm really glad to have
you here again. I missed you more than I would have believed. Now come
in and show me all your pretty things. I'm dying to see them. Adelaide
says you've brought home such quantities of lovely laces, silks,
velvets, ribbons, flowers, feathers and what not, that one might
imagine you'd nearly bought out the Philadelphia merchants."
"No, they had quite a stock still left," replied Elsie, smiling; "but,
as mamma says, papa was very indulgent and liberal to us both; and I
shall take pleasure in showing you his gifts."
"How do you like my present to Adelaide? asked Mr. Dinsmore.
"Oh, very much; but when my turn comes please remember I want
"Ah, then I have been fortunate in my selection," he said, quite
unsuspicious of the fact that Enna had instructed Elsie beforehand in
regard to her wishes, should Horace intend making her a present. Elsie
had quietly given the desired hint, but merely as though the idea had
originated with herself.
The jewelry was highly approved, as also a rich violet silk from Rose,
and a lace set from Elsie.
Adelaide had been intrusted with quite as rich gifts for her father
and mother; nor had Lora been forgotten; Elsie had a handsome shawl
for her, Mr. Dinsmore a beautiful pair of bracelets, and Rose a costly
volume of engravings.
"Do you think Aunt Lora will be pleased?" asked Elsie.
"They're splendid! It must be mighty nice to have so much money to
spend. But come now, show me what you got for yourselves."
She spent a long while, first in Rose's apartment, then in Elsie's,
turning over and admiring the pretty things, discussing patterns, and
styles of trimming, and what colors and modes would be becoming to
her, trying on some of the dresses, laces, sacques, shawls, bonnets,
and hats--without so much as saying by your leave, when the article in
question belonged to her niece--that she might judge of the effect;
several times repeating her remark that it must be delightful to have
so much money, and that Elsie was exceedingly fortunate in being so
"Yes; it is something to be thankful for," Elsie said at length, "but,
Enna, it is also a great responsibility. We are only stewards, you
know, and sometimes I fear it is hardly right for me to spend so much
in personal adornment."
"That wouldn't trouble me in the least; but why do you do it, if you
are afraid it's wrong?"
"Papa does not think so; he says the manufacturers of these rich goods
must live as well as others, and that for one with my income, it is no
more extravagant to wear them than for one with half the means to wear
goods only half as expensive."
"And I'm sure he's perfectly right; and of course you have no choice
but to obey. Well, I presume I've seen everything now, and I'm
actually weary with my labors," she added, throwing herself into an
easy-chair. "You've grown a little pale, I think, and your eyes look
as if you'd been crying. What ails you?"
"I am not at all ill," returned Elsie, flushing.
"I didn't say you were, but something's wrong with you, and you can't
deny it; you don't seem as gay as you used to before you went away."
She paused, but receiving no reply, went on. "Come now, it isn't worth
while to be so close-mouthed with me, Miss Dinsmore; for I happen to
know pretty much all about it already. You've fallen in love with a
man that your father thinks is a scamp and though you don't believe
it, you've given him up, in obedience to orders, like the cowardly
piece that you are. Dear me, before I'd be so afraid of my father!"
"No, you neither fear nor love your father as I do mine; but fear of
papa has very little to do with it. I love him far too well to refuse
to submit to him in this, and I fear God, who bids me obey and honor
him. But, Enna, how did you learn all this?"
"Ah, that is my secret."
Elsie looked disturbed. "Won't you tell me?"
"Is it generally known in the family?"
"So far as I am aware, no one knows it but myself."
"Ah!" thought Elsie, "I did not believe Aunt Adelaide or Walter would
tell her; but I wonder how she did find it out."
"I wouldn't give up the man I loved for anybody," Enna went on in a
sneering tone. "I say parents have no business to interfere in such
matters; and so I told papa quite plainly when he took it upon him
to lecture me about receiving attentions from Dick Percival, and
threatened to forbid him the house."
"You consider it wickedly disrespectful and rebellious no doubt, but
I say I'm no longer a child, and so the text, 'Children obey your
parents'--which I know is just on the end of your tongue--doesn't
apply to me."
"The Bible doesn't say obey till you are of age, then do as you
please. You are not seventeen yet, and Isaac was twenty when he
submitted to be bound and laid upon the altar."
"Well, when I go to the altar, it shall be leaning on Dick's arm,"
said Enna, laughing. "I don't care if he is wild; I like him, and
intend to marry him too."
"But are you not afraid?"
"Afraid of what?"
"That he will run through his property in a few years, and perhaps
become an habitual drunkard and abusive to his wife."
"I mean to risk it anyhow," returned Enna sharply, "so it is not worth
while for my friends to waste their breath in lecturing me on the
"Oh, Enna! you can't expect a blessing, if you persist in being so
undutiful; I think it would be well for you if your father were more
"Indeed! I wouldn't be your father's daughter for anything."
"And I am glad and thankful that I am."
The human heart! 'tis a thing that lives
In the light of many a shrine;
And the gem of its own pure feelings gives
Too oft on brows that are false to shine;
It has many a cloud of care and woe
To shadow o'er its springs,
And the One above alone may know
The changing tune of its thousand strings.
--MRS. L.P. SMITH.
Mr. and Mrs. Horace Dinsmore were most anxious to promote Elsie's
happiness, and in order to that to win her to forgetfulness of her
unworthy suitor. Being Christians they did not take her to the
ball-room, the Opera, or the theater (nor would she have consented
to go had they proposed it), but they provided for her every sort of
suitable amusement within their reach. She was allowed to entertain as
much company and to pay as many visits to neighbors and friends as she
But a constant round of gayety was not to her taste; she loved quiet
home pleasures and intellectual pursuits far better. And of these also
she might take her fill, nor lack for sympathizing companionship; both
parents, but especially her father, being of like mind with herself.
They enjoyed many a book together, and she chose to pursue several
studies with him.
And thus the weeks and months glided away not unhappily, though at
times she would be possessed with a restless longing for news from
Egerton, and for the love that was denied her; then her eyes would
occasionally meet her father's with the old wistful, pleading look
that he found so hard to resist.
He well understood their mute petition; yet it was one he could not
grant. But he would take her in his arms, and giving her the fondest,
tenderest caresses, would say, in a moved tone, "My darling, don't
look at me in that way; it almost breaks my heart. Ah, if you could
only be satisfied with your father's love!"
"I will try, papa," was her usual answer, "and oh, your love is very
sweet and precious!"
Such a little scene, occurring one morning in Elsie's boudoir, was
interrupted by Chloe coming in to say that Miss Carrington had called
to see her young mistress and was waiting in the drawing-room.
"Show her in here, mammy," Elsie said, disengaging herself from her
father's arms, and smoothing out her dress. "She used to come here in
the old times without waiting for an invitation."
The Carringtons had not been able quite to forgive the rejection of
Herbert's suit, and since his death there had been a slight coolness
between the two families, and the girls had seen much less of each
other than in earlier days; their intercourse being confined to an
occasional exchange of formal calls, except when they met at the
house of some common acquaintance or friend. Still they were mutually
attached, and of late had resumed much of their old warmth of manner
toward each other.
"Ah, this seems like going back to the dear old times again," Lucy
said when their greetings were over, and sending an admiring glance
about the luxuriously furnished apartment as she spoke. "I always
thought this the most charming of rooms, Elsie, but how many lovely
things,--perfect gems of art,--you have added to it since I saw it
"Papa's gifts to his spoiled darling, most of them," answered Elsie,
with a loving look and smile directed to him.
"Petted, but not spoiled," he said, returning the smile.
"No, indeed, I should think not," said Lucy. "Mamma says she is the
most perfectly obedient, affectionate daughter she ever saw, and I
can't tell you how often I have heard her wish I was more like her."
"Ah," said Elsie, "I think Mrs. Carrington has always looked at me
through rose-colored spectacles."
After a little more chat Lucy told her errand. Her parents and
herself, indeed the whole family, she said, had greatly regretted the
falling off of their former intimacy and strongly desired to renew it;
and she had come to beg Elsie to go home with her and spend a week at
Ashlands in the old familiar way.
Elsie's eye brightened, and her cheek flushed. "Dear Lucy, how kind!"
she exclaimed; then turned inquiringly to her father.
"Yes, it is very kind," he said. "Use your own pleasure, daughter. I
think perhaps the change might do you good."
"Thanks, papa, then I shall go. Lucy, I accept your invitation with
They were soon on their way, cantering briskly along side by side,
Lucy in gay, almost wild spirits, and Elsie's depression rapidly
vanishing beneath the combined influence of the bracing air and
exercise, the brilliant sunshine, and her friend's lively sallies.
Arrived at Ashlands, she found herself received and welcomed with all
the old warmth of affection. Mrs. Carrington folded her to her heart
and wept over her. "My poor boy!" she whispered; "it seems almost to
bring him back again to have you with us once more. But I will not
mourn," she added, wiping her eyes; "for our loss has been his great
Tender memories of Herbert, associated with nearly every room in the
house, saddened and subdued Elsie's spirit for a time, yet helped to
banish thoughts of Egerton from her mind.
But Lucy had a great deal to tell her, and in listening to these
girlish confidences, Herbert was again half forgotten. Lucy too had
spent the past summer in the North, and had there "met her fate." She
was engaged, the course of true love seemed to be running smoothly,
and they expected to marry in a year.
Elsie listened with interest, sympathizing warmly in her friend's
happiness; but Lucy, who was watching her keenly, noticed a shade of
deep sadness steal over her face.
"Now I have told you all my secrets," she said, "won't you treat me as
generously, by trusting me with yours?"
"If I had as happy a tale to tell," replied Elsie, the tears filling
"You poor dear, what is wrong? Is it that papa refuses his consent."
Elsie nodded; her heart was too full for speech.
"What a shame!" cried Lucy. "Does he really mean to keep you single
all your life? is he quite determined to make an old maid of you?"
"No, oh, no! but he does not believe my friend to be a good man. There
seems to be some sad mistake, and I cannot blame papa; because if Mr.
Egerton really was what he thinks him, it would be folly and sin for
me to have anything to do with him; and indeed I could not give either
hand or heart to one so vile,--a profane swearer, gambler, drunkard,
"Oh, my, no!" and Lucy looked quite horrified; "but you don't believe
him such a villain?"
"No; on the contrary I think him a truly converted man. I believe
he was a little wild at one time; for he told me he had been; but I
believe, too, that he has truly repented, and therefore ought to be
"Then I wouldn't give him up if I were you, father or no father,"
remarked Lucy, with spirit.
"But, Lucy, there is the command, 'Children, obey your parents.'"
"But you are not a child."
"Hardly more, not of age for more than two years."
"Well, when you are of age, surely you will consider a lover's claims
before those of a father."
"No," Elsie answered low and sadly. "I shall never marry without
papa's consent. I love him far too dearly to grieve him so; and it
would be running too fearful a risk."
"Then you have resigned your lover entirely?"
"Unless he can some day succeed in convincing papa that he is not so
"Well, you are a model of filial piety! and deserve to be happy, and I
am ever so sorry for you," cried Lucy, clasping her in her arms, and
kissing her affectionately.
"Thank you, dear," Elsie said, "but oh, I cannot bear to have my
father blamed. Believing as he does, how could he do otherwise than
forbid all intercourse between us? And he is so very, very kind, so
tenderly affectionate to me. Ah, I could never do without his dear
After this, the two had frequent talks together on the same subject,
and though Lucy did not find any fault with Mr. Dinsmore, she yet
pleaded Egerton's cause, urging that it seemed very unfair in Elsie
to condemn him unheard, very hard not to allow him even so much as a
"I had no choice," Elsie said again and again, in a voice full of
tears; "it was papa's command, and I could do nothing but obey. Oh,
Lucy, it was very, very hard for me, too! and yet my father was
doing only his duty, if his judgment of Mr. Egerton's character was
One afternoon, when Elsie had been at Ashlands four or five days, Lucy
came flying into her room; "Oh, I'm so glad to find you dressed! You
see I'm in the midst of my toilet, and Scip has just brought up word
that a gentleman is in the parlor asking for the young ladies--Miss
Dinsmore and Miss Carrington. Would you mind going down alone and
entertaining him till I come? do, there's a dear."
"Who is he?"
"Scip didn't seem to have quite understood the name; but it must be
some one we both know, and if you don't mind going, it would be a
relief to my nerves to know that he's not sitting there with nothing
to do but count the minutes, and think, 'What an immense time it takes
Miss Carrington to dress. She must be very anxious to make a good
impression upon me.' For you see men are so conceited, they are always
imagining we're laying ourselves out to secure their admiration."
"I will go down then," Elsie answered, smiling, "and do what I can to
keep him from thinking any such unworthy thoughts of you. But please
follow me as soon as you can."
The caller had the drawing-room to himself, and as Elsie entered was
standing at the centre-table with his back toward her. As she drew
near, he turned abruptly, caught her hand in his, threw his arm about
her waist, and kissed her passionately, crying in a low tone of
rapturous delight, "My darling, I have you at last! Oh, how I have
suffered from this cruel separation."
It was Egerton, and for a few moments she forgot everything else, in
her glad surprise at the unexpected meeting.
He drew her to a sofa, and still keeping his arm about her, poured out
a torrent of fond loverlike words, mingled with tender reproaches that
she had given him up so easily, and protestations of his innocence of
the vices and crimes laid to his charge.
At first Elsie flushed rosy red, and a sweet light of love and joy
shone in the soft eyes, half veiled by their heavy, drooping lashes;
but as he went on her cheek grew deathly pale, and she struggled to
free herself from his embrace.
"Let me go!" she cried, in an agitated tone of earnest entreaty, "I
must, indeed I must! I can't stay--I ought not; I should not have come
in, or allowed you to speak to, or touch me. Papa has forbidden all
intercourse between us, and he will be so angry." And she burst into
"Then don't go back to him; stay with me, and give me a right to
protect you from his anger. I can't bear to see you weep, and if you
will be mine--my own little wife, you shall never have cause to shed
another tear," he said, drawing her closer to him and kissing them
"No, no, I cannot, I cannot! You must let me go; indeed you must!"
she cried, shrinking from the touch of his lip upon her cheek, and
averting her face, "I am doing wrong, very wrong to stay, here!"
"No, I shall hold you fast for a few blissful moments at least;" he
answered, tightening his grasp and repeating his caresses, as she
struggled the harder to be free. "You cannot be so cruel as to refuse
to hear my defence."
"Oh, I cannot stay another moment--I must not hear another word, for
every instant that I linger I am guilty of a fresh act of disobedience
to papa. I shall be compelled to call for help it you do not loose
He took his arm from her waist, but still held fast to her hand. "No,
don't do that," he said; "think what a talk it would make. I shall
detain you but a moment, and surely you may as well stay that much
longer; 'in for a penny, in for a pound,' you know. Oh, Elsie, can't
you give me a little hope."
"If you can gain papa's approval, not otherwise."
"But when you come of age."
"I shall never marry without my father's consent."
"Surely you carry your ideas of obedience too far. You owe a duty to
yourself and to me, as well as to your father. Excuse my plainness,
but in the course of nature we shall both outlive him, and is it
right to sacrifice the happiness of our two lives because he has
unfortunately imbibed a prejudice against me?"
"I could expect no blessing upon a union entered into in direct
opposition to my father's wishes and commands," she answered with sad
and gentle firmness.
"That's a hard kind of obedience; and I don't think it would answer to
put in practice in all cases," he said bitterly.
"Perhaps not; I do not attempt to decide for others; but I am
convinced of my own duty; and know too that I should be wretched
indeed, if I had to live under papa's frown. And oh, how I am
disobeying him now! I must go this instant! Release my hand, Mr.
Egerton." And she tried with all her strength to wrench it free.
"No, no, not yet," he said entreatingly. "I have not given you half
the proofs of my innocence that I can bring forward; do me the simple
justice to stay and hear them."
She made no reply but half yielded, ceasing her struggles for a
moment. She had no strength to free her hand from his grasp, and could
not bear to call others upon the scene. Trembling with agitation and
eagerness, she waited for his promised proofs; but instead he only
poured forth a continuous stream of protestations, expostulations and
"Mr. Egerton, I must, I must go," she repeated; "this is nothing to
the purpose, and I cannot stay to hear it."
A step was heard approaching; he hastily drew her toward him, touched
his lips again to her cheek, released her, and she darted from the
room by one door, as Lucy entered by another.
"Where is she? gone? what's the matter? wasn't she pleased to see you?
wouldn't she stay?"
Lucy looked into the disappointed, angry, chagrined face of Egerton,
and in her surprise and vexation piled question upon question without
giving him time to answer.
"No, the girl's a fool!" he muttered angrily, and turning hastily from
her, paced rapidly to and fro for a moment; then suddenly recollecting
himself, "I beg pardon, Miss Carrington," he said, coming back to
the sofa on which she sat regarding him with a perturbed, displeased
countenance, "I--I forgot myself; but you will perhaps, know how to
excuse an almost distracted lover."
"Really, sir," returned Lucy coolly, "your words just now did not
sound very lover-like; and would rather lead one to suspect that
possibly Mr. Dinsmore may be in the right."
He flushed hotly. "What can you mean, Miss Carrington?"
"That your love is for her fortune rather than for herself."
"Indeed you wrong me. I adore Miss Dinsmore, and would consider myself
the happiest of mortals could I but secure her hand, even though she
came to me penniless. But she has imbibed the most absurd, ridiculous
ideas of filial duty and refuses to give me the smallest encouragement
unless I can gain her father's consent and approval; which, seeing he
has conceived a violent dislike to me, is a hopeless thing. Now
can you not realize that the more ardent my love for her, the more
frantically impatient I would feel under such treatment?"
"Perhaps so; men are so different from women; but nothing could ever
make me apply such an epithet to the man I loved."
"Distracted with disappointed hopes, I was hardly a sane man at the
moment, Miss Carrington," he said deprecatingly.
"The coveted interview has proved entirely unsatisfactory then?" she
said in a tone of inquiry.
"Yes; and yet I am most thankful to have had sight and speech of her
once more; truly grateful to you for bringing it about so cleverly.
But--oh, Miss Carrington, could you be persuaded to assist me still
further, you would lay me under lasting obligations!"
"Please explain yourself, sir," she answered coldly, moving farther
from him, as he attempted to take her hand.
"Excuse me," he said. "I am not one inclined to take liberties with
ladies; but I am hardly myself to-day; my overpowering emotion--my
half distracted state of mind--"
Breaking off his sentence abruptly, and putting his hand to his head,
"I believe I shall go mad if I have to resign all hope of winning the
sweet, lovely Elsie," he exclaimed excitedly, "and I see only one way
of doing it. If I could carry her off, and get her quite out of her
father's reach, so that no fear of him need deter her from following
the promptings of her own heart, I am sure I could induce her to
consent to marry me at once. Miss Carrington, will you help me?"