Part 6 out of 6
"Never! If Elsie chooses to run away with you, and wants any
assistance from me, she shall have it; but I will have nothing to do
He urged, entreated, used every argument he could think of, but with
no other effect than rousing Lucy's anger and indignation; "underhand
dealings were not in her line," she told him, and finally--upon his
intimating that what she had already done might be thought to come
under that head--almost ordered him out of the house.
He went, and hurrying to her friend's room, she found her walking
about it in a state of great agitation, and weeping bitterly.
"Oh, Lucy, how could you? how could you?" she cried, wringing her
hands and sobbing in pitiable distress. "I had no thought of him when
I went down; I did not know you knew him, or that he was in this part
of the country at all. I was completely taken by surprise, and have
disobeyed papa's most express commands, and he will never forgive me,
never! No, not that either, but he will be very, very angry. Oh, what
shall I do!"
"Oh, Elsie, dear, don't be so troubled! I am as sorry as I can be,"
said Lucy, with tears in her eyes. "I meant to do you a kindness;
indeed I did; I thought it would be a joyful surprise to you.
"I met him last summer at Saratoga. He came there immediately from
Lansdale, and somehow we found out directly that we both knew you, and
that I was a near neighbor and very old friend of yours; and he told
me the whole story of your love-affair, and quite enlisted me in his
cause; he seemed so depressed and melancholy at your loss, and grieved
so over the hasty way in which your father had separated you,--not
even allowing a word of farewell.
"He told me he hoped and believed you were still faithful to him in
your heart, but he could not get to see or speak to you, or hold any
correspondence with you. And so I arranged this way of bringing you
"It was kindly meant, I have no doubt, Lucy, but oh, you don't know
what you have done! I tremble at the very thought of papa's anger when
he hears it; for I have done and permitted things he said he would not
allow for thousands of dollars."
"Well, dear, I don't think you could help it; and I'm so sorry for my
share in it," said Lucy, putting her arms round her, and kissing her
wet cheek. "But perhaps your father will not be so very angry with
you after all; and at any rate you are too old to be whipped, so a
scolding will be the worst you will be likely to get."
"He never did whip me, never struck me a blow in his life; but I would
prefer the pain of a dozen whippings to what I expect," said Elsie,
with a fresh burst of tears.
"What is that, you poor dear?" asked Lucy. "I can't imagine what he
could do worse than beat you."
"He may put me away from his arms for weeks or months, and be cold,
and stern, and distant to me, never giving me a caress or even so much
as a kind word or look. Oh, if he should do that, how can I bear it!"
"Well, don't tell him anything about it. I wouldn't, and I don't see
any reason why you should."
Elsie shook her head sorrowfully. "I must; I never conceal
anything--any secret of my own--from him; and I should feel like a
guilty thing, acting a lie, and could not look him in the face; and he
would know from my very look and manner that something was wrong, and
would question me, and make me tell him all. Lucy, I must go home at
"No, indeed, you must not. Why, you were to stay a week--two days
longer than this; and if you were ready to start this minute, it would
be quite dark before you could possibly reach the Oaks."
Elsie looked at her watch, and perceiving that her friend was right,
gave up the idea of going that day, but said she must leave the next
morning. To that Lucy again objected. "I can't bear to lose those two
days of your promised visit," she said, "for if you are determined to
tell your papa all about this, there's no knowing when he will allow
you to come here again."
"Never, I fear," sighed Elsie.
"I haven't been able to help feeling a little hard to him on poor
Herbert's account," Lucy went on, "and I believe that had something
to do with my readiness to help Egerton to outwit him in obtaining an
interview with you. But I'll never do anything of the kind again; so
he needn't be afraid to let you come to see us."
She then told Elsie what had passed in the drawing-room between
Egerton and herself--his request and her indignant refusal.
It helped to shake Elsie's confidence in the man, and made her still
more remorseful in view of that day's disobedience; for she could
not deceive herself into the belief that she had been altogether
blameless. "As I said before, I can't bear the idea of losing you so
soon," continued Lucy, "but there is still another reason why I must
beg of you to stay till the set time of your leaving. Mamma knows
nothing about this affair, and would be exceedingly displeased with
me, if she should find it out; as of course she must, if you go
to-morrow; as that would naturally call out an explanation. So, dear,
do promise me that you will give up the idea."
Elsie hesitated, but not liking to bring Lucy into trouble, finally
yielded to her urgent entreaties, and consented to stay.
All the enjoyment of her visit, however, was over; she felt it
impossible to rest till her father knew all, shed many tears in
secret, and had much ado to conceal the traces of them, and appear
cheerful in the presence of the family.
But the two wretched days were over at last, and declining the urgent
invitations of her friends to linger with them a little longer, she
bade them an affectionate farewell, and set out for home.
Jim had been sent to escort her, another servant with the wagon for
Chloe and the luggage. Struck with a sudden fear that she might meet
or be overtaken by Egerton, Elsie ordered Jim to keep up close in the
rear, then touching the whip to her horse, started off at a brisk
canter. Her thoughts were full of the coming interview with her
father, which she dreaded exceedingly, while at the same time she
longed to have it over. She drew rein at the great gates leading into
the grounds, and the servant dismounted and opened them.
"Jim," she asked, "is your master at home?"
"Dunno, Miss Elsie, but the missus am gone ober to Ion to spend the
day, an lef' little Marse Horace at Roselands."
"Why, what's the matter, Jim?"
"De missus at Ion little bit sick, I b'lieve, Miss Elsie."
"And papa didn't go with them?"
"Yes, miss; but he comed right back again, and I 'spect he's in de
"Dear papa! he came back to receive me," murmured Elsie to herself, as
she rode on, and a scalding tear fell at the thought of how the loving
look and fond caress with which he was sure to greet her, would be
quickly exchanged for dark frowns, and stern, cold reproofs.
"Oh, if I were a child again, I believe I should hope he would just
whip me at once, and then forgive me, and it would be all over; but
now--oh, dear! how long will his displeasure last?"
It was just as she had expected; he was on the veranda, watching for
her coming--hastened forward, assisted her to alight, embraced her
tenderly, then pushing aside her veil, looked searchingly into her
"What is the matter?" he asked, as her eyes met his for an instant
with a beseeching, imploring glance, then fell beneath his gaze while
her face flushed crimson.
She tried to answer him, but her tongue refused to do its office,
there was a choking sensation in her throat and her lips quivered.
He led her into his private study, took off her hat and threw it
aside, and seating her on a sofa, still keeping his arm about her--for
she was trembling very much--asked again, "What is the matter? what
has gone wrong with you, my daughter?"
His tone, his look, his manner were very gentle and tender; but that
only increased her remorse and self-reproach.
"Papa, don't be so kind," she faltered; "I--I don't deserve it, for I
"Is it possible! when? where? and how? Can it be that you have seen
and spoken with that--scoundrel, Elsie?"
"Yes, papa." Her voice was very low and tremulous, her heart throbbed
almost to suffocation, her bosom heaved tumultuously, and her color
came and went with every breath.
He rose and paced hurriedly across the room two or three times,
then coming back to her side, "Tell me all about it," he said
sternly--"every action, every word spoken by either, as far as you can
She obeyed in the same low, tremulous tones in which she had answered
him before, her voice now and then broken by a half-smothered sob, and
her eyes never once meeting his, which she felt were fixed so severely
upon her tearful, downcast face.
He cross-questioned her till he knew all that had passed nearly as
well as if he had been present through the whole interview, his tones
growing more and more stern and angry.
"And you dared to permit all that, Elsie?" he exclaimed when she had
finished; "to allow that vile wretch to put his arm around you, hold
your hand in his, for half an hour probably, and even to press his
lips again and again to yours or to your cheek; and that after I had
told you I would not have him take such a liberty with you for half I
am worth; and--"
"Not to my lips, papa."
"Then it is not quite so bad as I thought, but bad enough certainly;
and all this after I had positively forbidden you to even so much as
exchange the slightest salutation with him. What am I to think of such
"Papa," she said beseechingly, "is not that too hard a word? I did not
disobey deliberately--I don't think anything could have induced me to
go into that room knowing that he was there. I was taken by surprise,
and when he had got hold of my hand I tried in vain to get it free."
"Don't attempt to excuse yourself, Elsie. You could have escaped from
him at once, by simply raising your voice and calling for assistance.
I do not believe it would have been impossible to avoid even that
first embrace; and it fairly makes my blood boil to think he succeeded
in giving it to you. How dared you so disobey me as to submit to it?"
"Papa, at the moment I forgot everything but--but just that he was
The last words were spoken in a voice scarcely raised above a whisper,
while her head drooped lower and lower and her cheek grew hot with
"Did I ever take forgetfulness of my orders as any excuse of
disobedience?" he asked in as stern a tone as he had ever used to her.
"No, papa; but oh, don't be very angry with me!"
"I am exceedingly displeased with you, Elsie! so much so that nothing
but your sex saves you from a severe chastisement. And I cannot allow
you to escape punishment. You must be taught that though no longer a
mere child, you are not yet old enough to disobey me with impunity.
Hush!" as she seemed about to speak, "I will not have a word of reply.
Go to your own apartments and consider yourself confined to them till
you hear further from me. Stay!" he added as she rose to obey, "when
did all this occur?"
She told him in her low, tearful tones, her utterance half choked with
"Two days ago, and yet your confession has been delayed till now. Does
that look like penitence for your fault?"
She explained why she had not returned home at once; but he refused to
accept the excuse, and ordered her away as sternly as before.
She obeyed in silence, controlling her feelings by a great effort,
until she had gained the privacy of her own apartments, then giving
way to a fit of almost hysterical weeping. It was years since her
father had been seriously displeased with her, and loving him with
such intense affection, his anger and sternness nearly broke her
Her tender conscience pricked her sorely too, adding greatly to her
distress by its reproaches on account of her disobedience and her
delay in confessing it.
It came to her mind at length that her heavenly Father might be more
tender and forbearing with her, more ready to forgive and restore to
favor, than her earthly one. She remembered the sweet words, "There is
forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." "If any man sin,
we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." She
went to Him with her sin and sorrow, asking pardon for the past and
help for the future. She asked, too, that the anger of her earthly
parent might be turned away; that the Lord would dispose him to
forgive and love her as before.
She rose from her knees with a heart, though still sad and sorrowful,
yet lightened of more than half its load.
But the day was a very long one; with a mind so disturbed she could
not settle to any employment, or find amusement in anything. She
passed the time in wandering restlessly from room to room, starting
and trembling as now and then she thought she heard her father's step
or voice, then weeping afresh as she found that he did not come near
When the dinner-bell rang she hoped he would send, or come to her; but
instead he sent her meal to her; such an one as was usual upon their
table--both luxurious and abundant,--which comforted her with the hope
that he was less displeased with her than at other times when he had
allowed her little more than prison fare. But excitement and mental
distress had brought on a severe headache; she had no appetite, and
sent the food away almost untasted.
It was mild, beautiful weather in the early spring; such weather as
makes one feel it a trial to be compelled to stay within doors, and
Elsie longed for her favorite retreat in the grounds.
In the afternoon some ladies called; Mr. Dinsmore was out, and she
dared not go to the drawing room without permission; but her headache
furnished sufficient excuse for declining to see them, and they went
Shortly after, she heard her father's return. He had not been off the
estate, or out of sight of the house; he was keeping guard over her,
but still did not come near her.
Just at tea-time she again heard the sound of wheels; then her
father's, mother's, and little brother's voices.
"Mamma and Horace have come home," she thought with a longing desire
to run out and embrace them.
"Oh, papa, has sister come home?" she heard the child's voice ask in
"Oh, then I must run into her room and kiss her!"
"No, you must not; stay here."
"But why mustn't I go to sister, papa?"
"Because I forbid it."
Every word of the short colloquy reached Elsie's ear, adding to her
grief and dismay. Was she, then, to be separated from all the rest of
the family? did her father fear that she would exert a bad influence
over Horace, teaching him to be disobedient and wilful? How deeply
humbled and ashamed she felt at the thought.
Rose gave her husband a look of surprised, anxious inquiry. "Is Elsie
sick, dear?" she asked.
"No, Rose, but she is in disgrace with me," he answered in an
undertone, as he led the way into the house.
"Horace, you astonish me! what can she have done to displease you?"
"Come in here; and I will tell you," he said, throwing open the door
of his study.
Rose listened in silence, while he repeated to her the substance of
Elsie's confession, mingled with expressions of his own anger and
"Poor child!" murmured Rose, as he concluded; "Horace, don't be hard
with her; she must have suffered a great deal in these last three
"Yes," he answered in a moved tone; "when I think of that, I can
scarcely refrain from going to her, taking her in my arms, and
lavishing caresses and endearments upon her; but then comes the
thought of her allowing that scoundrel to do the same, and I am ready
almost to whip her for it." His face flushed hotly, and his dark eyes
flashed as he spoke.
"Oh, my dear!" exclaimed Rose, half frightened at his vehemence, "you
cannot mean it?"
"Rose," he said, pacing to and fro in increasing excitement, "the
fellow is a vile wretch, whose very touch I esteem pollution to a
sweet, fair, innocent young creature like my daughter. I told her so,
and positively forbade her to so much as look at him, or permit him
to see her face, if it could be avoided, or to recognize, or hold the
slightest communication with him in any way. Yet in defiance of all
this, she allows him to take her hand and hold it for, I don't know
how long, put his arm around her waist and kiss her a number of times.
Now what does such disobedience deserve?"
"Had she no excuse to offer?"
"Excuse? Yes, she did not disobey deliberately--was taken by
surprise--forgot everything but that he was there."
"Well, my dear," and Rose's hand was laid affectionately on his arm,
while a tender smile played about her mouth, and her sweet blue eyes
looked fondly into his. "You know how it is with lovers, if you will
only look back a very few years. I think there were times when you and
I forgot that there was anybody in the wide world but just our two
A smile, a tender caress, a few very lover-like words, and resuming
his gravity and seriousness, Mr. Dinsmore went on: "But you forget
the odious character of the man. If I had objected to him from mere
prejudice or whim, it would have been a very different thing."
"But you know Elsie does not believe--"
"She ought to believe what her father tells her," he interrupted
hotly; "but believe or not, she must and shall obey me; and if she
does not I shall punish her."
"And to do that, you need only look coldly on her, and refrain from
giving her caresses and endearing words. Such treatment from her
dearly loved father would of itself be sufficient, very soon, to crush
her tender, sensitive spirit."
His face softened, the frown left his brow, and the angry fire his
eye. "My poor darling!" he murmured, with a sigh, his thoughts going
back to a time of estrangement between them long years ago. "Yes,
Rose, you are right; she is a very tender, delicate, sensitive plant,
and it behooves her father to be exceeding gentle and forbearing with
"Then you will forgive her, and take her to your heart again?"
"Yes--if she is penitent;--and tell her that she owes it to her
mother's intercession; for I had intended to make her feel herself in
disgrace for days or weeks."
Chloe was at that moment carrying a large silver waiter, filled with
delicacies, into the apartments of her young mistress. "Now, darlin',
do try to eat to please your ole mammy," she said coaxingly, as she
set it down before her. "I'se taken lots ob pains to fix up dese tings
dat my pet chile so fond ob."
Elsie's only answer was a sad sort of smile; but for the sake of the
loving heart that had prompted the careful preparation of the tempting
meal--the loving eyes that watched her as she ate, she tried to do her
Only half satisfied with the result, Chloe bore the waiter away again,
while Elsie seated herself in a large easy-chair that was drawn up
close to the glass doors opening upon the lawn and laying her head
back upon its cushions, turned her eyes toward the outer world,
looking longingly upon the shaded alleys and gay parterres, the lawn
with its velvet carpet of emerald green, where a fountain cast up
its cool showers of spray, and long shadows slept, alternating with
brilliant patches of ruddy light from the slowly sinking sun.
She sighed deeply, and her eyes filled with tears. "How long should
she be forbidden to wander there at her own sweet will?"
A soft, cool hand was gently laid upon her aching brow, and looking
up she saw her father standing by her side. She had not heard his
approach, for his slippered feet made no noise in passing over the
rich velvet carpet.
His face was grave, but no longer stern or angry. "Does your head
ache, daughter?" he asked almost tenderly.
"Yes, papa; but not half so badly as my heart does," she answered,
a tear rolling quickly down her cheek. "I am so sorry for my
disobedience. Oh, papa, will you forgive me?" And her eyes sought
his with the imploring look he ever found it well-nigh impossible to
"Yes, I will--I do," he said, stooping to press a kiss upon the
quivering lips. "I had thought I ought to keep you in disgrace some
time longer, but your mamma has pleaded for you, and for her sake--and
for the sake of a time, long ago, when I caused my little girl much
undeserved suffering," he added, his tones growing tremulous with
emotion, "I forgive and receive you back into favor at once."
She threw her arm about his neck, and as he drew her to his breast,
laid her head down there, weeping tears of joy and thankfulness.
"Dear, kind mamma! and you too, best and dearest of fathers! I don't
deserve it," she sobbed. "I am afraid I ought to be punished for such
"I think you have been," he said pityingly, "the last three days can
hardly have been very happy ones to you."
"No, papa; very, very wretched."
"My poor child! Ah, I must take better care of my precious one in
future. I shall allow you to go nowhere without either your mother or
myself to guard and protect you. Also, I shall break off your intimacy
with Lucy Carrington; she is henceforth to be to you a mere speaking
acquaintance; come, now we will take a little stroll through the
grounds. The cool air will, I hope, do your head good."
'Twas the doubt that thou wert false,
That wrung my heart with pain;
But now I know thy perfidy,
I shall be well again.
Elsie submitted without a murmur to her father's requirements and
restrictions; but though there was nothing else to remind her that she
had been for one sad day in disgrace with him--his manner toward her
having again all the old tender fondness--she did not fully recover
her spirits, but, spite of her struggles to be cheerful and hopeful,
seemed often depressed, and grew pale and thin day by day.
Her father noticed it with deep concern and anxiety. "Something
must be done," he said one day to his wife; "the child is drooping
strangely, and I fear will lose her health. I must try what change
will do for her. What do you say to a year in Europe?"
"For all of us?"
"Yes, for you and me and our two children."
"It might be very pleasant, and Elsie has never been."
"No; I have always meant to take her, but found home so enjoyable that
I have put it off from year to year."
Elsie entered the room as he spoke.
"Come here, daughter," he said, making room for her on the sofa by his
side. "I was just saying to mamma that I think of taking you all to
Europe for a year. How should you like that?"
"Oh, very much, papa!" she answered, looking up brightly; "I should so
enjoy seeing all the places you have told me of,--all the scenes of
your adventures when you travelled there before."
"Then I think we will go. Shall we not, mamma?"
"Yes; but I must pay a visit home first, and do some preparatory
shopping in Philadelphia. Can we go on in time to spend some weeks
there before sailing?"
"You might, my dear; but I shall have to stay behind to arrange
matters here; which will take some time, in contemplation of so
lengthened an absence from the estate."
"Then I suppose we must have a temporary separation," said Rose, in a
jesting tone; "I had better take the children and go home at once, so
that Elsie and I can be getting through our shopping, etc., while you
are busy here."
"No, Rose; you may go, and take Horace with you, if you like; but
Elsie must stay with me. I cannot trust her even with you!"
"Oh, papa!" And the sweet face flushed crimson, the soft eyes filled
"I think you misunderstand me, daughter," he said kindly; "I do not
mean that I fear you would fail in obedience to my commands or my
wishes; but that I must keep you under my protection. Besides, I
cannot possibly spare all my treasures--wife, son, and daughter--at
once. Would you wish to go and leave me quite alone?"
"Oh no, no, indeed, you dear, dearest father!" she cried, putting her
arm round his neck, and gazing in his face with eyes beaming with joy
"Yours is the better plan, I believe, my dear," said Rose. "I would
rather not have you left alone, and I think I could do what is
necessary for Elsie, in the way of shopping and ordering dresses made,
if she likes to trust me."
So it was arranged; three days after this conversation Mrs. Dinsmore
left for Philadelphia, taking little Horace with her, and a fortnight
later Mr. Dinsmore followed with Elsie.
Dearly as the young girl loved Rose and her little brother, it had yet
been an intense pleasure to her to have her father all to herself, and
be everything to him for those two weeks; and she was almost sorry to
have them come to an end.
It was late at night when they reached the City of Brotherly Love. Mr.
Allison's residence was several miles distant from the depot, but his
carriage was there in waiting for them.
"Are the family all well, Davis?" inquired Mr. Dinsmore, addressing
the coachman, as he placed Elsie in the vehicle.
"All well, sir; Mrs. Dinsmore and the little boy too."
"Ah, I am thankful for that. You may drive on at once. My man John
will call a hack and follow us with Aunt Chloe and the baggage."
"Did you give John the checks, papa?" asked Elsie as he took his seat
by her side, and Davis shut the carriage door.
"Yes. How weary you look, my poor child! There, lean on me," and he
put his arm about her and made her lay her head on his shoulder.
They drove on rapidly, passing through several comparatively silent
and deserted streets, then suddenly the horses slackened their pace,
a bright light shone in at the carriage window and the hum of
many voices and sound of many feet attracted the attention of the
Elsie started and raised her head, asking, "What is it, papa?"
"We are passing a theatre, and it seems the play is just over, judging
by the crowds that are pouring from its doors."
Davis reined in his horses to avoid running over those who were
crossing the street, and Elsie, glancing from the window, caught sight
of a face she knew only too well. Its owner was in the act of stepping
from the door of the theatre, and staggered as he did so--would have
fallen to the ground had he not been held up by his companion, a
gaudily dressed, brazen-faced woman, whose character there was no
"Ha, ha, Tom!" she cried, with a loud and boisterous laugh, "I saved
you from a downfall that time; which I'll be bound is more than that
Southern heiress of yours would have done."
"Now don't be throwing her up to me again, Bet," he answered thickly,
reeling along so close to our travellers that they caught the scent of
his breath; "I tell you again she can't hold a candle to you, and I
never cared for her; it was the money I was after."
Mr. Dinsmore saw a deadly pallor suddenly overspread his daughter's
face; for a single instant her eyes sought his with an expression of
mute despairing agony that wrung his heart; then all was darkness as
again the carriage rolled rapidly onward.
"My poor, poor darling!" he murmured, drawing her close to him and
folding his arms about her as if he would shield her from every danger
and evil, while hers crept around his neck and her head dropped upon
The carriage rattled on over the rough stones. Elsie clung with
death-like grasp to her father, shudder after shudder shaking her
whole frame, in utter silence at first, but at length, as they came
upon a smoother road and moved with less noise and jolting, "Papa,"
she whispered, "oh, what a fearful, fearful fate you have saved me
from! Thank God for a father's protecting love and care!"
"Thank Him that I have my darling safe." he responded in a deeply
moved tone, and caressing her with exceeding tenderness.
In another moment they had stopped before Mr. Allison's door, which
was thrown wide open almost on the instant; for Rose and Edward were
up, waiting and listening for their coming.
"Come at last! glad to see you!" cried the latter, springing down
the steps to greet his brother-in-law as he alighted. Then, as Mr.
Dinsmore turned, lifted his daughter from the carriage, and half
carried her into the house, "But what's the matter? Elsie ill? hurt?
have you had an accident?"
Rose stood waiting in the hall. "My dear husband!" she exclaimed in a
tone of mingled affection, surprise, and alarm. "What is it? what is
wrong with our darling? Come this way, into the sitting-room, and lay
her on the sofa."
"She has received a heavy blow, Rose, but I think--I hope it will turn
out for her good in the end," he said low and tremulously, as he laid
She seemed in a half-fainting condition, and Edward rushed away in
search of restoratives.
Rose asked no more questions at the time, nor did her husband give any
further information, but in silence, broken only now and then by
a subdued whisper, they both devoted their energies to Elsie's
"Shall I go for a doctor?" asked Edward.
"No, thank you. I think she will be better presently," answered Mr.
"I am better now," murmured Elsie feebly. "Papa, if you will help me
up to bed, I shall do very well."
"Can't you eat something first?" asked Rose, "I have a nice little
supper set out in the next room for papa and you."
Elsie shook her head, and sighed, "I don't think I could, mamma; I am
not at all hungry."
"I want you to try, though," said her father; "it is some hours now
since you tasted food, and I think you need it," and lifting her
tenderly in his arms he carried her into the supper-room, where he
seated her at the table in an easy-chair which Edward hastily wheeled
up for her use.
To please her father she made a determined effort, and succeeded in
swallowing a few mouthfuls. After that he helped her to her room and
left her in the care of Rose and Chloe.
Having seen with her own eyes, and heard with her own ears, Elsie
could no longer doubt the utter unworthiness of Egerton, or his
identity with Tom Jackson; of whose vices and crimes she had heard
from both her father and Walter, with whom she still kept up a
correspondence. She loved him no longer; nay, she had never loved him;
her affection had been bestowed upon the man she believed him to be,
not the man that he was. But now the scales had fallen from her eyes,
she saw him in all his hideous moral deformity, and shrank with horror
and loathing from the recollection that his arm had once encircled
her waist, his lip touched her cheek. She could now appreciate her
father's feelings of anger and indignation on learning that she had
permitted such liberties, and felt more deeply humbled and penitent on
account of it than ever before.
She slept little that night, and did not leave her room for several
days. The sudden shock had quite unnerved her; but the cause of her
illness remained a secret between herself and her parents, who watched
over her with the tenderest solicitude, and spared no effort to
cheer and comfort her. She seemed at this time to shrink from all
companionship but theirs, although she and her mamma's younger
brothers and sisters had always entertained a warm friendship for each
On the fourth day after their arrival her father took her out for
a drive, and returning left her resting on the sofa in her
dressing-room, while he and Rose went for a short walk.
The door-bell rang, and presently Chloe came up with a very smiling
face to ask if "Marse Walter" might come in.
"Walter?" cried Elsie, starting up. "Yes, indeed!"
She had scarcely spoken the words before he was there beside her,
shaking hands, and kissing her, saying with a gay boyish laugh, "I
suppose your uncle has a right?"
"Yes, certainly; though I don't know when, he ever claimed it before.
But oh, how glad I am to gee you! and how you've grown and improved.
Sit down, do. There's an easy-chair.
"Excuse my not getting up; papa bade me lie and rest for an hour."
"Thanks, yes; and I know you always obey orders. And so you're on the
sick list? what's the matter?"
An expression of pain crossed her features and the color faded from
her cheek. "I have been ailing a little," she said, "but am better
now. How is Arthur?"
"H'm! well enough physically, but--in horrible disgrace with papa.
You've no idea, Elsie, to what an extent that Tom Jackson has fleeced
him. He's over head and ears in debt, and my father's furious. He has
put the whole matter into Horace's hands for settlement. Did he tell
you about it?"
"No, he only said he expected to go to Princeton to-morrow to attend
to some business. He would have gone sooner, but didn't like to leave
"Careful of you as ever! that's right. I say, Elsie, I think Horace
has very sensible ideas about matters and things."
"Do you? I own I think so myself," she answered with a quiet smile.
"Yes; you see Arthur is in debt some thousands, a good share of it
what they call debts of honor. Papa had some doubt as to whether they
ought to be paid, and asked Horace what was his opinion. Adelaide
wrote me the whole story, you see. Here, I'll give it to you in his
exact words, as she reports them," he added, taking a letter from his
pocket and reading aloud, "'Father, don't think of such a thing! Why,
surely it would be encouraging gambling, which is a ruinous vice; and
paying a man for robbing and cheating. I would, if necessary, part
with the last cent to pay an honest debt; but a so-called debt of
honor (of dishonor would be more correct) I would not pay if I had
more money than I could find other uses for.' And I think he was
right. Don't you?" concluded Walter.
"I think papa is always right."
"Yes? Well, I was afraid you didn't think he was in regard to
that--fellow you met out in Lansdale; I've been wanting to see you to
tell you what I know of the scoundrelism of Tom Jackson, and the proof
that they are one and the same."
"Yes, I know, I--I believe it now, Walter, and--But don't let us speak
of it again," she faltered, turning deathly pale and almost gasping
"I won't; I didn't know you'd mind; I--I'm very sorry," he stammered,
looking anxious, and vexed with himself.
"Never mind; I shall soon learn not to care. Now tell me about Arthur.
Will he stay and finish his course?"
"No; papa says his patience is worn out, and his purse can stand no
more such drains as Arthur has put upon it two or three times already.
So he is to leave and go home as soon as Horace has settled up his
"I hope to go on and to graduate in another year."
"Oh, Wal, I'm so glad! so thankful you have'nt followed in poor
"He wouldn't let me, Elsie; he actually wouldn't. I know I'm lacking
in self-reliance and firmness, and if Aft had chosen to lead me wrong,
I'm afraid he'd have succeeded. But he says, poor fellow! that it's
enough for one to be a disgrace to the family, and has tried to keep
me out of temptation. And you can't think how much my correspondence
with you has helped to keep me straight. Your letters always did me so
"Oh, thank you for telling me that!" she cried, with bright, glad
tears glistening in her eyes.
"No, 'tis I that owe thanks to you," he said, looking down
meditatively at the carpet and twirling his watch-key between his
finger and thumb.
"Poor Art! this ought to have been his last year, and doubtless would
if he had only kept out of bad company."
"Ah, Wal, I hope that you will never forget that 'evil communications
corrupt good manners.'"
"I hope not, Elsie. I wish you could stay and attend our commencement.
What do you say? Can't you? It comes off in about a fortnight."
"No, Wal. I'm longing to get away, and papa has engaged our passage
in the next steamer. But perhaps we may return in time to see you
graduate next year."
"What, in such haste to leave America! I'm afraid you're losing your
patriotism," he said playfully.
"Ah, it is no want of love for my dear native land that makes me
impatient to be gone!" she answered half sadly.
"And are you really to be gone a year?"
"So papa intends, but of course everything in this world is
"I shall look anxiously for my European letters, and expect them to be
"I'll do my best, Wal," she said languidly, "but I don't feel, just
now, as if I could ever write anything worth reading."
"I think I never saw you so blue," he said in a lively, jesting tone.
"I must tell you of the fun we fellows have, and if it doesn't make
you wish yourself one of us--Well," and he launched out into an
animated description of various practical jokes played off by the
students upon their professors or on each other.
He succeeded at length in coaxing some of the old brightness into the
sweet face, and Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore, mounting the stairs on their
return from their walk, exchanged glances of delighted surprise at the
sound of a silvery laugh which had not greeted their ears for days.
Walter received a hearty welcome from both. His visit, though
necessarily short, was of real service to Elsie, doing much to rouse
her out of herself and her grief; thus beginning the cure which
time and change of scene--dulling the keen edge of sorrow and
disappointment, and giving pleasant occupation to her thoughts--would
at length carry on to completion.
"The shaken tree grows firmer at the roots;
So love grows firmer for some blasts of doubt."
It was two years or more since the Oaks had suffered the temporary
loss of its master and mistress, yet they had not returned; they still
lingered on foreign shores, and Mrs. Murray, who had been left at
the head of household affairs, looked in vain for news of their
She now and then received a short business letter from Mr. Dinsmore
or of directions from Rose; or a longer one from the latter or Elsie,
giving entertaining bits of travel, etc.; and occasionally Adelaide
would ride over from Roselands and delight the old housekeeper's
heart by reading aloud a lively gossipy epistle one or the other had
addressed to her.
How charmed and interested were both reader and listener; especially
when they came upon one of Rose's graphic accounts of their
presentation at court--in London, Paris, Vienna, or St.
Petersburg--wherein she gave a minute description of Elsie's dress
and appearance, and dwelt with motherly pride and delight upon the
admiration everywhere accorded to the beauty and sweetness of the
lovely American heiress.
It was a great gratification to Adelaide's pride in her niece to learn
that more than one coronet had been laid at her feet; yet she was not
sorry to hear that they had been rejected with the gentle firmness
which she knew Elsie was capable of exercising.
"But what more could the bairn or her father desire? would he keep the
sweet lassie single a' her days, Miss Dinsmore?" asked Mrs. Murray
when Adelaide told her this.
"No," was the smiling rejoinder; "I know he would be very loath to
resign her; but this is Elsie's own doing. She says the man for whom
she would be willing to give up her native land must be very dear
indeed, that her hand shall never be given without her heart, and that
it still belongs more to her father than to any one else."
"Ah, that is well, Miss Adelaide. I hae been sorely troubled aboot my
sweet bairn. I never breathed the thoct to ither mortal ear, but when
they cam hame frae that summer in the North, she was na the blythe
young thing she had been; and there was that in the wistfu' and
hungered look o' her sweet een--when she turned them whiles upon her
father--that made me think some ane he didna approve had won the
innocent young heart."
"Ah, well, Mrs. Murray, whatever may have been amiss then, is all over
now. My sister writes me that Elsie seems very happy, and as devotedly
attached to her father as ever, insisting that no one ever can be so
dear to her as he."
Mrs. Dinsmore's last letter was dated Naples, and there they still
One bright spring day they were out sight-seeing, and had wandered
into a picture-gallery which they had visited once or twice before.
Rose had her husband's arm. Elsie held her little brother's hand in
"Sister," said the child, "look at those ladies and gentlemen. They
are English, aren't they?"
"Yes; I think so," Elsie answered, following the direction of his
glance; "a party of English tourists. No, one of the gentlemen looks
like an American."
"That one nearest this way? I can only see his side face, but I think
he is the handsomest. Don't you?"
"Yes; and he has a fine form too, an easy, graceful carriage, and
polished manners," she added, as at that moment he stooped to pick
up a handkerchief, dropped by one of the ladies of his party, and
presented it to its owner.
Elsie was partial to her own countrymen, and unaccountably to herself,
felt an unusual interest in this one. She watched him furtively,
wondering who he was, and thinking that in appearance and manners he
compared very favorably with the counts, lords, and dukes who in the
past two years had so frequently hovered about her, and hung upon her
But her father called her attention to something in the painting he
and Rose were examining, and when she turned to look again for the
stranger and his companions, she perceived that they were gone.
"Papa," she asked, "did you notice that party of tourists?"
"Not particularly. What about them?"
"I am quite certain one of the gentlemen was an American; and I half
fancied there was something familiar in his air and manner."
"Ah! I wish you had spoken of it while he was here, that I might have
made sure whether he were an old acquaintance. But come," he added,
taking out his watch, "it is time for us to return home."
The Dinsmores were occupying an old palace, the property of a noble
family whose decayed fortunes compelled the renting of their
ancestral home. In the afternoon of the day of their visit to the
picture-gallery Mr. Dinsmore and his daughter were seated in its
spacious saloon, she beside a window overlooking the street, he at
a little distance from her, and near to a table covered with books,
magazines, and newspapers. That day had brought him a heavy mail from
America, and he was examining the New York and Philadelphia dailies
with keen interest.
Elsie was evidently paying no heed to what might be passing in the
street. A bit of fancy work gave employment to her fingers, while her
thoughts were busy with the contents of a letter received from her
Aunt Adelaide that morning.
It brought ill news. Arthur had been seriously injured by a railroad
accident and, it was feared, was crippled for life. But that was not
all. Dick Percival--whom Enna had married nearly two years before--had
now become utterly bankrupt, having wasted his patrimony in rioting
and drunkenness, losing large sums at the gaming-table; and his young
wife, left homeless and destitute, had been compelled to return to her
father's house with her infant son.
Mr. Dinsmore uttered a slight exclamation.
"What is it, papa?" asked Elsie, lifting her eyes to meet his fixed
upon her with an expression of mingled gratitude and tenderness.
"Come here," he said, and as she obeyed he drew her to his knee,
passing his arm about her waist, and, holding the paper before her,
pointed to a short paragraph which had just caught his eye.
She read it at a glance; her face flushed, then paled; she put her arm
about his neck, and laid her cheek to his, while tears trembled in the
sweet eyes, as soft and beautiful as ever.
For a moment neither spoke; then she murmured in low, quivering tones
the same words that had fallen from her lips two years ago,--"Thank
God for a father's protecting love and care!"
"Thank Him that I have my daughter safe in my arms," he said,
tightening his clasp about her slender waist. "Ah, my own precious
child, how could I ever have borne to see you sacrificed to that
They had just learned that Tom Jackson had been tried for manslaughter
and for forgery, found guilty on both charges, and sentenced to the
State's Prison for a long term of years.
They were quiet again for a little; then Elsie said, "Papa, I want to
ask you something."
"Well, daughter, say on."
"I have been thinking how sad it must be for poor Enna to find herself
so destitute, and that I should like to settle something upon her--say
ten or twenty thousand dollars, if I may--"
"My dear child," he said with a smile, "I have no control over you
now as regards the disposal of your property. Do you forget that you
passed your majority three weeks ago?"
"No, papa, I have not forgotten; but I don't mean ever to do anything
of importance without your approval. So please make up your mind that
I'm always to be your own little girl; never more than eighteen or
twenty to you. Now won't you answer my question about Enna?"
"I think it would be quite as well, or better, to defer any such
action for the present. It won't hurt Enna to be made to feel poor and
dependent for a time; she needs the lesson; and her parents will not
allow her to suffer privation of any sort. Ah, here comes mamma in
walking attire. We are going out for perhaps an hour; leaving house,
servants, and the little ones in your charge. Horace, be careful to do
just as your sister tells you."
"Yes, papa, I will," answered the child, who had come in with his
mother, and had a book in his hand. "Will you help me with my lesson,
Elsie, and hear me say it when it is learned?"
"Yes, that I will. Here's a stool for you close by my side," she said,
going back to her seat by the window.
"Good-bye, dears, we won't be gone long." said Rose, taking her
Elsie and Horace watched them till they had passed out of sight far
down the street, then returned to their employments; her thoughts
now going back, not to Roselands, but to Lansdale, Ashlands, and
Philadelphia; memory and imagination bringing vividly before her each
scene of her past life in which Egerton had borne a part. Did any of
the old love come back? No, for he was not the man who had won her
esteem and affection; and even while sending up a silent petition for
his final conversion, she shuddered at the thought of her past danger,
and was filled with gratitude to God and her father at the remembrance
of her narrow escape.
Her brother's voice recalled her from her musings. "Look, sister," he
exclaimed, glancing from the window, "there is the very same gentleman
we saw this morning! and see, he's crossing the street! I do believe
he's coming here."
Elsie looked, recognized the stranger, and perceived, with a slight
emotion of surprise and pleasure, that he was approaching their door.
That he was her countryman, and perhaps direct from her dear native
land, was sufficient to make him a welcome visitor.
The next moment John threw open the door of the saloon and announced,
"A gentleman from America!"
"One who brings no letter of introduction; yet hopes for an audience
of you, fair lady," he said, coming forward with smiling countenance
and outstretched hand.
"Mr. Travilla! can it be possible!" she cried, starting up in joyful
astonishment, and hastening to bid him welcome.
"You are not sorry to see me then, my little friend?" he said, taking
her offered hand and pressing it in both of his.
"Sorry, my dear sir! what a question! Were you not always a most
welcome guest in my father's house? and if welcome at home, much more
so here in a foreign land."
Mr. Travilla looked into the sweet face, more beautiful than ever, and
longed to treat her with the affectionate freedom of former days, yet
refrained; the gentle dignity of her manner seeming to forbid it,
pleased and cordial as was her greeting.
He turned to Horace and shook hands with him, remarking that he had
grown very much.
"I am very glad to see you, sir," said the boy.
"You have not forgotten me then?"
"Ah, no, indeed; and I can't think how it was that sister and I did
not know you yesterday in the picture-gallery; though we knew you were
"Ah, were you there? How blind I must have been!" and he turned to
"We were there for but a few minutes before your party left; and quite
at the other end of that long gallery," she said. "But I am surprised
that I failed to recognize you, even at that distance. But I had no
thought of your being in the country. How delighted papa will be
to see you. He has often spoken of the old times when you and he
travelled over Europe together, and wished that you were with him on
this trip. He and mamma have gone out, but will be in presently."
Elsie had many inquiries to make in regard to the health and welfare
of relatives and friends, and the old family servants at the Oaks; Mr.
Travilla numerous questions to ask concerning all that she had seen
and done since leaving America. But in the midst of it all she
exclaimed, "Ah, you must see our little Frenchwoman! such a darling as
"I'll ring the bell, sister," said Horace, seeing her glance toward
John appeared in answer, was ordered to tell the nurse to bring the
baby, and a neatly dressed middle-aged woman presently entered the
room, carrying a lovely infant a little more than a year old.
"See, is she not a darling?" said Elsie, taking it in her arms. "She
has mamma's own sweet pretty blue eyes, and is named for her. Our
Rosebud we call her. Papa gave her the name, and he says she is as
much like her mother as I am like mine. You don't know, Mr. Travilla,
how glad I was when she came to us; it was something so new and
delightful to have a sister of my own. Ah, I love her dearly, and she
returns my affection. There, see her lay her little head down on my
Mr. Travilla admired and caressed the little creature, coaxed her to
come to him for a moment, and the nurse carried her away.
"When do you return home, Elsie?" he asked.
"In the fall. Mr. and Mrs. Perris, mamma's grandparents, have their
golden wedding in October. Sophy expects to be married at the same
time, and of course we wish to be present on the occasion. We have
yet to visit Turin, Venice, and Munich. After seeing these places we
intend to spend the rest of the summer in Switzerland, sailing for
America some time in September. Ah, here are papa and mamma!" she
added as the two entered the room together.
"Travilla! what favorable wind blew you here?" cried Mr. Dinsmore,
shaking his friend's hand, in almost boyish delight.
"A westerly one, I believe," answered Travilla, laughing and shaking
hands with Rose, who looked scarcely less pleased than her husband.
"They think at Roselands and the Oaks that your year is a very long
one, or that you have lost your reckoning, and were anxious to send
a messenger to assist you in recovering it; so I volunteered my
"Ah, that was kind! but to be able to do so to advantage you will need
to take up your abode with us for the present, and to make one of our
party when we start again upon our travels."
"Of course you will," added Rose; "we always consider you one of the
family; a sort of brother to us and uncle to the children."
"Thank you, you are most kind," he said, a slight flush suffusing his
cheek for an instant, while his eyes involuntarily sought Elsie's face
with a wistful, longing look.
Her father turned laughingly to her. "Is this your stranger of the
picture-gallery? ah, are you not ashamed of failing to recognize so
old a friend?"
"Yes, papa, but I did not catch sight of his full face, and he was
at quite a distance, and I never thinking of the possibility that he
could be anywhere out of America."
"And time makes changes in us all--is fast turning me into a quiet
"You are very kind to furnish another excuse for my stupidity," said
Elsie, smiling, "but I really cannot see that you have changed in the
least since I saw you last."
"And no stranger would ever think of pronouncing you over thirty,"
"Ah, you flatter me, fair ladies," returned Mr. Travilla, smiling and
shaking his head.
"No, I can vouch for the truthfulness and honesty of both," said Mr.
Mr. Travilla did not hesitate to accept his friend's invitation,
knowing that it was honestly given, and feeling that he could not
decline it without doing violence to his own inclination. He made one
of their party during the rest of their stay in Europe and on the
voyage to America.
His presence was most welcome to all; he saw no reason to doubt that,
and yet Elsie's manner sometimes saddened and depressed him. Not that
there was ever in it anything approaching to coolness, but it lacked
the old delightful familiarity, instead of which there was now a quiet
reserve, a gentle dignity, that kept him at a distance, and while
increasing his admiration for the fair girl, made him sigh for the old
childish days when she was scarcely under more constraint with him
than with her father.
Our little party reached Philadelphia a fortnight before the golden
wedding. They found the handsome city residence of the Allisons
occupied by the family, and full of the pleasant stir and bustle of
preparation for the eventful day which was to witness the celebration
of the fiftieth anniversary of the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Ferris, and
the marriage of their granddaughter.
Sophy, while paying a visit to Rose in her Southern home, had won the
heart of Harry Carrington, and they had been engaged a year or more.
Harry had once indulged in a secret penchant for Elsie; but now he
would not have exchanged his merry, blue-eyed Sophy for her, or for
any other lady in the land.
The young couple were married at church, very early in the evening,
Elsie acting as first bridesmaid. Returning to the house the bridal
party were ushered into the drawing-room, which they found richly
ornamented with evergreens and flowers. In the centre rose a pyramid
of rare and beautiful blossoms, filling the air with their delicious
perfume. Above that was a wide arch of evergreens bearing the
monograms of Mr. and Mrs. Ferris, placed between the dates of their
marriage and of this anniversary.
The old bride and groom sat together beneath the arch on one side of
the pyramid, while the newly-married pair took up a similar position,
upon the other.
Only the family and near connections were present for the first half
hour. The eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Ferris made a short address,
thanking his aged parents for their unselfish love and devotion to
their offspring, and exhorting the youthful bride and groom to follow
in their footsteps. Upon the conclusion of this little speech,
gifts were presented by children and grandchildren, and letters of
congratulation, in both poetry and prose, from absent friends were
After this the doors were thrown open to the invited guests, and for
the remainder of the evening the house was thronged with the elite of
the city, and with friends and acquaintances from other parts of the
Among the latter were Adelaide and Walter Dinsmore, and Mr. Travilla
and his mother. The last named was seated in the corner of a sofa, her
son standing by her side.
He heard a low-breathed sigh, noted the quivering of her lip and
the gathering tears in the gentle eyes, as she turned them upon the
gray-haired bride and groom, and he knew that her thoughts were with
the early dead, the husband and father whose image he could scarcely
recall. His heart swelled with tender pitying, protecting love, as he
thought of her long, lonely widowhood, and of all that she had been
and still was to him.
But her gaze wandered to the pair standing just upon the threshold of
married life; and smiling up at him, "They are a handsome couple," she
said; "how proud and happy Harry looks! Ah, Edward, when will your
He shook his head with a rather melancholy smile.
"It is your own fault, I am sure," she continued in a playful tone;
"there are plenty of pretty girls and charming young widows who would
like well to be mistress of Ion, and I am growing old, and sometimes
feel that I would be glad to resign the sceptre to younger hands."
He gave her a glance of affectionate concern. "I shall look for a
housekeeper immediately. I ought to have thought of it before."
"No, no, it is a daughter I want," she returned still playfully. "I
have often wondered how it has come to pass that my warm-hearted boy
seems so perfectly invulnerable to Cupid's darts."
"All seeming, mother," he answered lightly, but with a wistful
yearning look in his eyes which were fixed upon a little group on the
farther side of the room; "to tell you a secret," and he bent down,
that the low-breathed words might catch her ear alone, "I have been
hopelessly in love for many years."
She started with surprise,--for there was the ring of deep, earnest
feeling beneath the jesting tone--then following the direction of
his glance, and perceiving that the group upon which it rested
was composed of Adelaide and Elsie Dinsmore, with some half dozen
gentlemen who had gathered about them, she looked greatly pleased.
"And why hopeless?" she asked.
"Ah, the evidences of indifference are so patent that I cannot hope
she will ever learn to care for me."
"And pray what may they be?"
"Constraint and reserve, where formerly there was much warmth and
cordiality of manner."
"You foolish boy! if that be all, you may take heart. I would not ask
for better symptoms. And remember the old proverb--'Faint heart never
won fair lady.' You do not fear that she still clings to the old
"No, ah no!"
"I never saw Adelaide look better than she does to-night," was Mrs.
Travilla's next remark; "what a queenly presence, and noble face she
has, and how very lovely our little Elsie is! She seems to have gained
every womanly grace without losing a particle of her sweet childish
simplicity and freshness."
Her son assented with a slight sigh, and wandered off in their
direction. But before he reached the little group, Elsie had taken
Harold Allison's arm and was being led away toward the conservatory.
Harold had a rare plant to show her, and was glad of the excuse to get
her to himself for a few moments.
For the rest of the evening Mr. Travilla devoted himself to Adelaide,
his mother looking on with beaming countenance, and thinking how
gladly she would welcome the dear girl to her heart and home.
It was past twelve when the company dispersed. Harry and his bride
having started an hour before upon their wedding tour.
"Get to bed as soon as you can, my dear child; you are looking sadly
fatigued," Mr. Dinsmore said, putting his arm about his daughter as
she came to him for her good-night kiss.
"I will, papa," she answered, clinging to him with more than her usual
warmth of affection. "Dear papa, what could I ever do without you to
"My darling, if it please the Lord, may we be long spared to each
other," he whispered, clasping her close. "Now, good-night, and may He
bless you, and keep you, and ever cause his face to shine upon you."
Elsie turned away with eyes full of tears, and her pillow was bedewed
with them ere she slept that night. But the morning found her
apparently her own bright, sunny self again.
She was in her mamma's dressing-room soon after breakfast, chatting
with her and Adelaide, Mr. Dinsmore sitting by with Rosebud on his
knee. Of course they were discussing the wedding, how lovely the bride
and her attendants looked, how handsome the groom, how tasteful and
becoming was the dress of this lady and that, how attentive was Mr.
Such-an-one to Miss So-and-so, etc., etc. Rose making a little jesting
allusion to "the devotion of a certain gentleman to Adelaide;" and
saying how delighted she was; nothing could please her better than for
them to fancy each other; when in the midst of it all, a servant came
up with a message. "Mr. Travilla was in the drawing-room asking for
Miss Dinsmore,--Miss Adelaide."
She went down at once, and as the door closed upon her, Rose turned to
her husband with the laughing remark, "It would be a splendid match!
they seem just made for each other. I wonder they didn't find it out
long ago, and I begin to quite set my heart upon it."
"Better not, my dear, lest they disappoint you, and allow me to advise
you to let match-making alone; 'tis a dangerous business. Elsie, my
child, you are looking pale this morning; late hours do not agree
with you. I think I shall have to take to sending you to bed at nine
o'clock again, when once I get you home."
"Won't ten be early enough, papa?" she answered with a faint smile, a
vivid color suddenly suffusing her cheek.
"Well, we will see about it. But I can't have you looking so. Go and
put on your hat and shawl, and I will take you and mamma out for an
"Looking so?" said Rose, with an arch glance at the glowing cheeks, as
she stooped to take Rosebud in her arms, "she is not pale now."
"No, certainly not," he said. "Come back, daughter," for Elsie had
risen to obey his order, and was moving toward the door, "come here
and tell me what ails you?"
"I am quite well, papa, only a little tired from last night, I
believe," she answered, as he took her hands in his and looked
searchingly into her face.
"I hope that is all," he said a little anxiously. "You must lie down
and try to get a nap when we return from our drive; and remember you
must be in bed by ten o'clock to-night."
"I shall do just as my father bids me," she said, smiling up at him,
"my dear father who is so kindly careful of me." Then as he let go her
hands, she tripped lightly from the room.
Mr. Travilla had come on an errand from his mother; she begged
Adelaide's advice and assistance in a little shopping.
Adelaide was at leisure, and at once donned bonnet and shawl and went
with him to the Girard House, where the old lady awaited their coming,
and the three spent the remainder of the morning in attending to Mrs.
Travilla's purchases and visiting the Academy of Fine Arts. In driving
down Chestnut street, the Dinsmores passed them on their way to the
Adelaide did not return to Mr. Allison's to dinner, but Mr. Travilla
called presently after, to say that she had dined with his mother and
himself at the hotel, and would not return until bed-time, as they
were all going to hear Gough lecture that evening.
He was speaking to Mrs. Allison. Several of the family were in the
room, Elsie among them. She was slipping quietly away, when he turned
toward her, saying: "Would you not like to go with us, my little
friend? I think you would find it entertaining, and we would be glad
to have you."
"Thank you, sir, you are very kind, but a prior engagement compels me
to decline," she answered, glancing smilingly at her father.
"She has not been looking well to-day, and I have ordered her to go
early to bed to-night," Mr. Dinsmore said.
"Ah, that is right!" murmured Mr. Travilla, rising to take leave.
The Travillas staid a week longer in the city. During that time
Adelaide went out with them, quite frequently, but Elsie saw scarcely
anything of her old friend; which was, however, all her own fault,
as she studiously avoided him; much to his grief and disturbance. He
could not imagine what he had done to so completely estrange her from
Mr. Dinsmore felt in some haste to be at home again, but Mrs. Allison
pleaded so hard for another week that he consented to delay. Adelaide
and Walter went with the Travillas, and wanted to take Elsie with
them, but he would not hear of such an arrangement; while she said
very decidedly that she could not think of being separated from her
She seemed gay and happy when with the family, or alone with him or
Rose; but coming upon her unexpectedly in her dressing-room, the day
after the others had left, he found her in tears.
"Why, my darling, what can be the matter?" he asked, taking her in his
"Nothing, papa," she said, hastily wiping away her tears and hiding
her blushing face on his breast--"I--I believe I'm a little homesick."
"Ah, then, why did you not ask to go with the others?"
"And leave you? Ah, do you not know that my father is more--a great
deal more than half of home to me?" she answered, hugging him close.
"And you wouldn't have let me go?"
"No, indeed, not I; but I'm afraid I really ought to read you a
lecture. I daresay you miss Sophy very much, but still there are young
people enough left in the house to keep you from feeling very dull and
lonely, I should think; and as you have all your dear ones about you,
and expect to go home in a few days--"
"I ought to be cheerful and happy. I know it, papa," she said, as he
paused, leaving his sentence unfinished, "and I'm afraid I'm very
wicked and ungrateful. But please don't be vexed with me, and I will
try to banish this feeling of depression."
"I fear you are not well," he said, turning her face to the light and
examining it with keen scrutiny; "tell me, are you ill?"
"No, papa, I think not. Don't be troubled about me."
"I shall send for a doctor if this depression lasts," he said
decidedly, "for I shall have to conclude that it must arise from some
physical cause, since I know of no other; and it is so foreign to the
nature of my sunny-tempered little girl."
He saw no more of it, though he watched her carefully.
Great was the rejoicing at the Oaks when at last the family returned.
Adelaide was there to welcome them, and Elsie thought she had never
seen her look so youthful, pretty, and happy, Chloe remarked upon it
while preparing her young mistress for bed, adding that the report in
the kitchen was that Miss Adelaide and Mr. Travilla were engaged, and
would probably marry very soon.
Elsie made no remark, but her heart seemed to sink like lead in her
bosom. "Why am I grieving so? what is there in this news to make me
sorry?" she asked herself as she wetted her pillow with her tears.
"I'm sure I'm very glad that dear Aunt Adie is so happy, and--and I
used often to wish he was my uncle." Yet the tears would not cease
their flow till she had wept herself to sleep.
But she seemed bright and gay as usual in the morning, and meeting
her parents at the breakfast-table, thought they looked as though
something had pleased them greatly.
It was Rose who told her the news, as an hour later they sauntered
around the garden together, noting the changes which had taken place
there in their absence.
"I have something to tell you, dear," Rose said, and Elsie shivered
slightly, knowing what was coming; "something that pleases your father
and me very much, and I think will make you glad too. Can you guess
what it is?"
"About Aunt Adelaide, mamma?" Elsie stooped over a plant, thus
concealing her face from view, and so controlled her voice that it
betrayed no emotion. "Yet; I know; she is engaged."
"And you are pleased with the match, of course; I knew you would be.
You used so often to wish that he was your uncle, and now he soon will
be. Your papa and I are delighted; we think there could not have been
a more suitable match for either."
"I am very glad for her--dear Aunt Adie--and for--for him too," Elsie
said, her voice growing a little husky at the last.
But Rose was speaking to the gardener, and did not notice it, and
Elsie wandered on, presently turned into the path leading to her arbor
and seeking its welcome privacy, there relieved her full heart by a
flood of tears.
Mr. Travilla called that day, but saw nothing of his "little friend,"
and in consequence went away very sorrowful, and pondering deeply
the question what he could have done to alienate her affections so
entirely from him.
The next day he came again, quite resolved to learn in what he had
offended, and was overjoyed at hearing that she was alone in her
He sought her there and found her in tears. She hastily wiped them
away on perceiving his approach, but could not remove their traces.
"Good-morning," she said, rising and giving him her hand; but with the
reserved manner that had now become habitual, instead of the pleasant
ease and familiarity of earlier days; "were you looking for papa? I
think he is somewhere on the plantation."
"No, my dear child, it was you I wished to see."
"Me, Mr. Travilla?" and she east down her eyes, while her cheek
crimsoned; for he was looking straight into them with his, so wistful
and tender, so fall of earnest, questioning, sorrowful entreaty, that
she knew not how to meet their gaze.
"Yes, you, my little friend, for I can no longer endure this torturing
anxiety. Will you not tell me, dear child, what I have done to hurt or
grieve you so?"
"I--I'm not hurt or gri--you have always been most kind," she
stammered, "most--But why should you think I--I was--"
The rest of the sentence was lost in a burst of tears, and covering
her burning cheeks with her hands, she sank down upon the seat from
which she had risen to greet him.
"My dear child, I did not mean to pain you so; do not weep, it breaks
my heart to see it. I was far from intending to blame you, or complain
of your treatment," he said in an agitated tone, and bending over her
in tender concern. "I only wanted to understand my error in order that
I might retrieve it, and be no longer deprived of your dear society.
Oh, little Elsie, if you only knew how I love you; how I have loved
you, and only you, all these years--as child and as woman--how I have
waited and longed, hoping even against hope, that some day I might be
able to win the priceless treasure of your young heart."
Intense, glad surprise made her drop her hands and look up at him.
"But are you not--I--I thought--I understood--Aunt Adelaide--"
"Your Aunt Adelaide!" he cried, scarcely less astonished than herself,
"can it be that you do not know--that you have not heard of her
engagement to Edward Allison?"
A light broke upon Elsie at that question, and her face grew radiant
with happiness; there was one flash of exceeding joy in the soft eyes
that met his, and then they sought the ground.
"Oh, my darling, could you? is it--can it be--"
He took her in his arms, folded her close to his heart, calling her by
every tender and endearing name, and she made no effort to escape, or
to avoid his caresses; did nothing but hide her blushing face on his
breast, and weep tears of deep joy and thankfulness.
It might have been half an hour or an hour afterward (they reckoned
nothing of the flight of time) that Mr. Dinsmore, coming in search of
his daughter, found them seated side by side, Mr. Travilla with his
arm about Elsie's waist, and her hand in his. So absorbed were they in
each other that they had not heard the approaching footsteps.
It was a state of affairs Mr. Dinsmore was far from expecting, and
pausing upon the threshold, he stood spell-bound with astonishment.
"Elsie!" he said at length.
Both started and looked up at the sound of his voice, and Mr.
Travilla, still holding fast to his new-found treasure, said in tones
tremulous with joy, "Will you give her to me, Dinsmore? she is willing
"Ah, is it so, Elsie, my darling?" faltered the father, opening his
arms to receive her as she flew to him. "Is it so? have I lost the
first place in my daughter's heart?" he repeated, straining her to his
breast, and pressing his lips again and again to her fair brow.
"Dear papa, I never loved you better," she murmured, clinging more
closely to him. "I shall never cease to be your own dear daughter; can
never have any father but you--my own dear, dear papa. And you will
not be left without a little girl to pet and fondle; darling Rosebud
will fill my place."
"She has her own; but neither she nor any one else can ever fill
yours, my darling," he answered with a quivering lip. "How can I--how
can I give you up? my first-born, my Elsie's child and mine."
"You will give her to me, my friend?" repeated Travilla. "I will
cherish her as the apple of my eye; I shall never take her away from
you, you may see her every day. You love her tenderly, but she is
dearer to me than my own soul."
"If you have won her heart, I cannot refuse you her hand. Say, Elsie,
my daughter, is it so?"
"Yes, papa," she whispered, turning her blushing face away from his
keen, searching gaze.
"I can hardly bear to do it. My precious one, I don't know how to
resign you to another," he said in a voice low and tremulous with
emotion, and holding her close to his heart; "but since it is your
wish, I must. Take her, my friend, she is yours. But God do so to you,
and more also, if ever you show her aught but love and tenderness."
He put her hand into Travilla's, and turned to go. But she clung to
him with the other. "Yours too, papa," she said, looking up into his
sad face with eyes that were full of tears, "always your own daughter
who loves you better than life."
"Yes, darling, and who is as dearly loved in return," he said,
stooping to press another kiss on the ruby lips. "Let us be happy, for
we are not to part." Then walking quickly away, he left them alone