Elsie's Girlhood
Martha Finley

Part 3 out of 6

looking up wistfully into his face.

"Dear papa, be kind to him for my sake," she murmured softly, putting
her arm about his neck again. "He is such a sufferer, so patient and
good, and it quite makes my heart ache to think how grievously your
refusal will pain him."

"My own sweet child! always unselfish, always concerned for the
happiness of others," thought the father as he looked down into the
pleading face; but he only stroked her hair, and kissed her more
tenderly than before, saying, "I shall try to be as kind as
circumstances will allow, daughter. You shall read the letter when it
is done, and if you think it is not kind enough it shall not be sent."

She thanked him with a very grateful look, then hurried away, for the
tiny fists were redoubling their blows upon the door, while the baby
voice called more and more clamorously for "sister Elsie."

She stooped to hug and kiss the little fellow, then was led off in
triumph to "mamma," whose greeting, though less noisy, was quite as
joyous and affectionate.

"Oh, how nice it is to get home!" cried Elsie, and wondered within
herself how she had been contented to stay away so long. She had
hardly finished giving Rose an animated account of her visit,
including a minute description of the birthday party, when her
father's voice summoned her to the study again.

"Does it satisfy you?" he asked when she had read the note.

"Yes, papa; I think it is as kind as a refusal could possibly be

"Then I shall send it at once. And now this settles the matter, and
I bid you put the whole affair out of your mind as completely as
possible, Elsie."

"I shall try, papa," she answered in a submissive and even cheerful

That note, kindly worded though it was, caused great distress to
Herbert Carrington. He passed an almost sleepless night, and the next
morning, finding himself quite unable to rise from his couch, he sent
an urgent entreaty that Mr. Dinsmore would call at Ashlands at his
earliest convenience.

His request was granted at once, and the lad pleaded with all the
eloquence of which he was master for a more favorable reception of his

Had he been as well acquainted with Horace Dinsmore's character
as Elsie was, he would have known the utter uselessness of such a
proceeding. He received a patient hearing, then a firm, though kind
denial. Elsie was entirely too young to be allowed even to think of
love or matrimony, her father said; he was extremely sorry the subject
had been broached to her; it must not be again for years. He would not
permit any engagement, correspondence, or, for the present at least,
any exchange of visits; because he wished the matter to be dropped
entirely, and, if possible, forgotten. Nor would he hold out the
slightest hope for the future; answering Herbert's petition for that
by a gentle hint that one in his ill health should be content to
remain single.

"Yes, you are right, Mr. Dinsmore, and I don't blame you for refusing
to give me your lovely daughter; I'm entirely unworthy of such a
treasure," said the poor boy in a broken voice.

"Not in character, my dear boy," said Mr. Dinsmore, almost tenderly;
"in that you are all I could ask or desire, and it is all that you
are responsible for. And now while she is such a mere child, I should
reject any other suitor for her hand, quite as decidedly as I do you."

"You don't blame me for loving her?"

"No; oh, no!"

"I can't help it. I've loved her ever since I first saw her, and that
was before I was five years old."

"Well, I don't object to a brotherly affection, and when you can tone
it down to that, shall not forbid occasional intercourse. And now,
with the best wishes for your health and happiness, I must bid you

"Good-bye, sir; and thank you for your kindness in coming," the boy
answered with a quivering lip. Then, turning to his mother, as Mr.
Dinsmore left the room, "I shall never get over it," he said. "I shall
not live long, and I don't want to; life without her isn't worth

Her heart ached for him, but she answered cheerily: "Why, my dear
child, don't be so despondent; I think you may take hope and courage
from some things that Mr. Dinsmore said. It is quite in your favor
that he will not allow Elsie to receive proposals from any one at
present, for who knows but, by the time he considers her old enough,
you may be well and strong."

Mrs. Carrington's words had a very different effect from what she
intended. The next time Herbert saw his physician, he insisted so
strongly on knowing exactly what he might look forward to that there
was no evading the demand; and on learning that he was hopelessly
crippled for life, he sank into a state of utter despondency, and from
that moment grew rapidly worse, failing visibly day by day.

Elsie, dutifully abstaining from holding any communication with
Ashlands, and giving all her thoughts as far as possible to home
duties and pleasures knew nothing of it till one day Enna came in,
asking, "Have you heard the news?"

"No," said Elsie, pausing in a game of romps with her little brother;
"what is it?"

"It! You should rather say they. There's more than one item of
importance." And Enna straightened herself and smoothed out her dress
with a very consequential air. "In the first place Arthur has been
found out in his evil courses; he's been betting and gambling till
he's got himself over head and ears in debt. Papa was so angry, I
almost thought he would kill him. But he seemed to cool down after
he'd paid off the debts; and Arthur is, or pretends to be, very
penitent, promises never to do the like again, and so he's got
forgiven, and he and Walter are to start for college early next week.
They've both gone to the city to-day with papa. Arthur seems to be mad
at you; he says that you could have saved him from being found out,
but didn't choose to, and some day he'll have his revenge. Now, what
was it you did, or didn't do?"

"He wanted money, and I refused to lend it because papa had forbidden

"You're good at minding, and always were," was Enna's sneering
comment. "No, I'll take that back; I forgot that time when you nearly
died rather than mind."

An indignant flush suffused Elsie's fair face for an instant; but
the sneer was borne in utter silence. Rose entered the room at that
moment, and, having returned her greeting, Enna proceeded to give
another important bit of news.

"Herbert Carrington is very ill; not confined to his bed, but failing
very fast. The doctors advised them to take him from home; because
they said they thought he had something on his mind, and taking him
into new scenes might help him to forget it. They think he's not
likely to live long anyhow, but that is the last hope. His mother and
Lucy started North with him this morning."

Elsie suddenly dropped the ball she was tossing for Horace and ran out
of the room.

"Why, what did she do that for?" asked Enna, in a tone of surprise,
turning to Rose for an explanation. "Is she in love with him, do you

"No, I know she is not; but I think she has a strong sisterly regard
for him, and I am sorry the news of his increased illness was told her
so abruptly."

"Such a baby, as she always was," muttered Enna, "crying her eyes out
about the least little thing."

"If she lacks sufficient control over her feelings it is almost the
only fault she has," replied Rose warmly. "And I think, Enna, you are
hardly capable of appreciating her delicately sensitive nature, and
warm, loving heart, else you would not wound her as you do. She
certainly controls her temper well, and puts up with more from you
than I should."

"Pray, what do you mean, Mrs. Dinsmore? what have I done to your pet?"
asked the young lady angrily.

"She is older than you, yet you treat her as if she were much younger.
Your manner toward her is often very contemptuous, and I have
frequently heard you sneer at her principles and taunt her with her
willing subjection to her father's strict rule; for which she deserves
nothing but the highest praise."

"Nobody could ever rule me the way Horace does her!" cried Enna, with
a toss of her head. "And as to her being older than I am, I'm sure no
one would think it; she is so absurdly childish in her way; not half
so mature as I, mamma says."

"I'm glad and thankful that she is not," answered Rose, with spirit;
"her sweet childish simplicity and perfect naturalness are very
charming in these days, when they are so rarely found in a girl who
has entered her teens."

Little Horace, standing by the window, uttered a joyous shout, "Oh,
papa tumin'!" and rushed from the room to return the next moment
clinging to his father's hand, announcing as they came in together,
"Here papa is; me found him!"

Mr. Dinsmore shook hands with his sister, addressed a remark to his
wife, then, glancing about the room, asked, "Where is Elsie?"

"She left us a moment since, but did not say where she was going,"
said Rose.

"I presume you'll find her crying in her boudoir or dressing room,"
added Enna.

"Crying! Why, what is wrong with her?"

"Nothing that I know of, except that I told her of Herbert
Carrington's being so much worse that they've taken him North as a
last hope."

"Is that so?" and Mr. Dinsmore looked much concerned.

"Yes, there can be no doubt about it, for I heard it from Harry
himself this morning."

Mr. Dinsmore rose, and, putting his little son gently aside, left the

Elsie was not in her own apartments; he passed through the whole
suite, looking for her; then, going on into the grounds, found her at
last in her favorite arbor. She was crying bitterly, but at the sound
of his step checked her sobs, and hastily wiped away her tears. She
thought he would reprove her for indulging her grief, but instead he
took her in his arms and soothed her tenderly.

"Oh, papa," she sobbed, "I feel as if I had done it--as if I had
killed him."

"Darling, he is not past hope; he may recover, and in any event
not the slightest blame belongs to you. I have taken the whole
responsibility; upon my shoulders."

She gave him a somewhat relieved and very grateful look, and he went
on: "And even if I had allowed you to decide the matter for yourself,
you would have done what was your duty in refusing to promise to
belong to one whom you love less than you love your father."

Some months later there came news of Herbert's death. Elsie's grief
was deep and lasting. She sorrowed as she might have done for the loss
of a very dear brother; while added to that was a half-remorseful
feeling which reason could not control or entirely relieve; and it was
long ere she was quite her own bright, gladsome sunny self again.


The bloom of opening flowers' unsullied beauty--
Softness and sweetest innocence she wears,
And looks like nature in the world's first spring.


"What a very peculiar hand, papa; so stiff and cramped and
old-fashioned," Elsie remarked, as her father laid down a letter he
had just been reading.

"Yes. Did you ever hear me speak of Aunt Wealthy Stanhope?"

His glance seemed to direct the question to Rose, who answered, with a
look of surprise and curiosity, "No, sir. Who is she?"

"A half-sister of my own mother. She was the daughter of my maternal
grandfather by his first wife, my mother was the child of the second,
and there were some five or ten years between them. Aunt Wealthy never
married, would never live with any of her relatives, but has always
kept up a cosey little establishment of her own."

"Do you know her, papa?" asked Elsie, who was listening with eager

"I can hardly say that I do. I saw her once, nearly eighteen
years ago, about the time you were born--but I was not capable of
appreciating her then; indeed, was so unhappy and irritable as to be
hardly in a condition to either make or receive favorable impressions.
I now believe her to be a truly good and noble little woman, though
decidedly an oddity in some respects. Then I called her a fidgety,
fussy old maid."

"And your letter is from her?" Rose said inquiringly.

"Yes; she wants me to pay her a visit, taking Elsie with me, and
leaving her there for the summer."

"There, papa! where?"

"Lansdale, Ohio. Should you like to go?"

"Yes, I think I should like to go, papa, if you take me; but whether I
should like to stay all summer I could hardly tell till I get there."

"You may read the letter," he said, handing it to her.

"It sounds as though it might be very pleasant, papa," she said, as
she laid it down after an attentive perusal.

It spoke of Lansdale as a pretty, healthful village, surrounded by
beautiful scenery, and boasting of some excellent society: of two
lively young girls, living in the next house to her own, who would be
charming companions for Elsie, etc.

"Your remark that your aunt was an oddity in some respects has excited
my curiosity," said Rose.

"Ah! and I am to understand that you would like me to gratify it, eh?"
returned her husband, smiling. "Her dress and the arrangement of her
hair are in a style peculiarly her own (unless she has become more
fashionable since I saw her, which is not likely); and she has an odd
way of transposing her sentences and the names of those she addresses
or introduces, or calling them by some other name suggested by some
association with the real one. Miss Bell, for instance, she would
probably call Miss King; Mr. Foot, Mr. Shoe, and so on."

"Does she do so intentionally, papa?" Elsie asked.

"No, not at all; her mistakes are quite innocently made, and are
therefore very amusing."

Mrs. Horace Dinsmore's parents had been urging her to visit them, and
after some further consideration it was decided that the whole family
should go North for the summer, Mr. Dinsmore see his wife and little
son safe at her father's, then take Elsie on to visit his aunt; the
length of the visit to be determined after their arrival.

* * * * *

It was a lovely morning early in May; the air was vocal with the songs
of birds and redolent with the breath of flowers all bathed in dew;
delicate wreaths of snowy vapor rose slowly from the rippling surface
of the river that threaded its way through the valley, and folded
themselves about the richly-wooded hill-sides, behind which bright
streaks of golden light were shooting upward, fair heralds of the
coming of the king of day. On the outskirts of the pretty village of
Lansdale, and in the midst of a well-kept garden and lawn, stood a
tasteful dwelling, of Gothic architecture. Roses, honeysuckle, and
Virginia creeper clambered over its walls, twined themselves about the
pillars of its porticos and porches, or hung in graceful festoons from
its many gables; the garden was gay with sweet spring flowers; the
trees, the grass on the lawn, and the hedge that separated it from the
road, all were liveried in that vivid green so refreshing to the eye.

"Phillis! Simon!" called a sweet-toned voice from the foot of the back
staircase; "are you up? It's high time; nearly five o'clock now, and
the train's due at six."

"Coming, ma'am. I'll have time to do up all my chores and git to
the depot 'fore de train; you neber fear," replied a colored lad of
fifteen or sixteen, hurrying down as he spoke.

A matronly woman, belonging to the same race, followed close in his

"You're smart dis mornin', missis," she said, speaking from the middle
of the stairway. "I didn't 'spect you'd git ahead o' me, and de sun
hardly showin' his face 'bove de hill-tops yit."

"I woke early, Phillis, as I always do when something's going to
happen that I expect. Simon make haste to feed and water your horses
and be sure you have old Joan in the carriage and at the gate by a
quarter before six."

"Am I to drive her to the depot, ma'am?"

"No, Miss Lottie Prince will do that, and you are to take the
one-horse wagon for the trunks. Did you go to Mr. Laugh's and engage
it, as I told you yesterday?"

"I went to Mr. Grinn's and disengaged de one-horse wagon, ma'am;

"Very well. Now come into the sitting room and I'll show you the
likenesses of the lady and gentleman, and the old colored woman
they're going to bring with them," replied the mistress, leading
the way into an apartment that, spite of its plain, old-fashioned
furniture, wore a very attractive appearance, it was so exquisitely
neat; and the windows, reaching to the floor, opened upon one side
into conservatory and garden, on the other upon a porch that ran the
whole length of the front of the house. Taking a photograph album from
a side-table, she showed the three pictures to Simon, who pronounced
the gentleman very handsome, the lady the prettiest he ever saw, and
was sure he should recognise both them and their servant.

"Now, Phillis, we'll have to bestir ourselves," said Miss Stanhope,
returning to the kitchen. "Do you think you can get breakfast in less
than an hour? such a breakfast as we should have this morning--one fit
for a king."

"Yes, Miss Wealthy; but you don't want it that soon, do you? Folks is
apt to like to wash and dress 'fore breakfast."

"Ah, yes! sure enough. Well, we'll give them half an hour."

A few moments later, as Miss Stanhope was busy with broom and duster
in the front part of the house, a young girl opened the gate, tripped
gayly up the gravel walk that led from it across the lawn, and stepped
upon the porch. She was a brunette with a very rich color in her dark
cheek, raven hair, and sparkling, roguish black eyes. She wore a suit
of plain brown linen, with snowy cuffs and collar, and a little straw
hat. "Good-morning, Aunt Wealthy!" she cried, in a lively tone, "You
see I'm in good time."

"Yes, Lottie, and looking as neat as a pin, too. It's very kind in
you, because of course I want to be here to receive them as they come,
to offer to introduce yourself and drive down to the depot for them."

"Of course I'm wonderfully clever, considering that I don't at all
enjoy a drive in this sweet morning air, and aint in a bit of a hurry
to see your beautiful young heiress and her papa. Net wonders at my
audacity in venturing to face them alone; but I tell her I'm too
staunch a republican to quail before any amount of wealth or
consequence, and if Mr. and Miss Dinsmore see fit to turn up their
aristocratic noses at me, why--I'll just return the compliment."

"I hope they're not of that sort, Lottie; but if they are, you will
serve them right."

"She does not look like it," observed the young girl, taking the album
from the table and gazing earnestly upon Elsie's lovely countenance.
"What a sweet, gentle, lovable face it is! I'm sure I shall dote on
her; and if I can only persuade her to return my penchant, won't we
have grand good times while she's here? But there's Simon with old
Joan and the carriage. He'll hunt them up for me at the depot; won't
he, Aunt Wealthy?"

"Yes, I told him to."

* * * * *

The shrill whistle of the locomotive echoed and re-echoed among the

"Lansdale!" shouted the conductor, throwing open the car door.

"So we are at our destination at last, and I am very glad for your
sake, daughter, for you are looking weary," said Mr. Dinsmore, drawing
Elsie's shawl more closely about her shoulders.

"Oh, I'm not so very tired, papa," she answered, with a loving look
and smile, "not more so than you are, I presume. Oh, see! papa, what a
pretty girl in that carriage there!"

"Yes, yes! Come to meet some friend, doubtless. Come, the train has
stopped; keep close to me," he said. "Aunt Chloe, see that you have
all the parcels."

"Dis de gentleman and lady from de South, what Miss Stanhope's
'spectin'?" asked a colored lad, stepping up to our little party as
they alighted.


"Dis way den, sah, if you please, sah. Here's de carriage. De lady
will drive you up to de house, and I'll take your luggage in de little

"Very well; here are the checks. You will bring it up at once?"

"Yes, sah, have it dar soon as yourself, sah. Dis cullad person better
ride wid me and de trunks."

They were nearing the carriage and the pretty girl Elsie had noticed
from the car window. "Good-morning! Mr. and Miss Dinsmore, I presume?"
she said with a bow and smile. "Will you get in? Let me give you a
hand, Miss Dinsmore. I am Lottie King, a distant relative and near
neighbor of your aunt, Miss Stanhope."

"And have kindly driven down for us. We are much obliged, Miss King,"
Mr. Dinsmore answered, as he followed his daughter into the vehicle.
"Shall I not relieve you of the reins?"

"Oh, no, thank you; I'm used to driving, and fond of it. And, besides,
you don't know the way."

"True. How is my aunt?"

"Quite well. She has been looking forward with great delight to this
visit, as have my sister Nettie and I also," Lottie answered, with a
backward glance of admiring curiosity at Elsie. "I hope you will be
pleased with Lansdale, Miss Dinsmore; sufficiently so to decide to
stay all summer."

"Thank you; I think it is looking lovely this morning. Does my aunt
live far from the depot?"

"Not very; about a quarter of a mile."

"Oh, what a pretty place, and what a quaint-looking little old lady on
its porch!" Elsie presently cried out. "See, papa!"

"Yes, that's Aunt Wealthy, and doesn't she make a picture standing
there under the vines in her odd dress?" said Miss King, driving up to
the gate. "She's the very oddest, and the very dearest and sweetest
little old lady in the world."

Elsie listened and looked again; this time with eager interest and

Certainly, Aunt Wealthy was no slave to fashion. The tyrannical dame
at that time prescribed gaiter boots, a plain pointed waist and
straight skirt, worn very long and full. Miss Stanhope wore a full
waist made with a yoke and belt, a gored skirt, extremely scant, and
so short as to afford a very distinct view of a well-turned ankle and
small, shapely foot encased in snowy stocking and low-heeled black kid
slipper. The material of her dress was chintz--white ground with a
tiny brown figure--finished at the neck with a wide white ruffle; she
had black silk mitts on her hands, and her hair, which was very gray
was worn in a little knot almost on the top of her head, and one
thick, short curl, held in place by a puff-comb, on each side of her

At sight of the carriage and its occupants, she came hurrying down
the gravel walk, meeting them as they entered the gate. She took Mr.
Dinsmore's hand, saying, "I am glad to see you, nephew Horace," and
held up her face for a kiss. Then turning to Elsie, gave her a very
warm embrace. "So, dear, you've come to see your old auntie? That's
right. Come into the house."

Elsie was charmed with her and with all she saw; all without was so
fresh and bright, everything within so exquisitely neat and clean. The
furniture of the whole house was very plain and old-fashioned, but
Miss Stanhope never thought of apologizing for what to her wore the
double charm of ownership, and of association with the happy days of
childhood and youth, and loved ones gone. Nor did her guests deem
anything of the kind called for in the very least; house and mistress
seemed well suited the one to the other: and Elsie thought it not
unpleasant to exchange, for a time, the luxurious furnishing of her
home apartments for the simple adornments of the one assigned her
here. The snowy drapery of its bed and toilet-table, its wide-open
casements giving glimpses of garden, lawn, and shrubbery, and the
beautiful hills beyond, looked very inviting. There were vases of
fresh flowers too, on mantel and bureau, and green vines peeping in
at the windows. It seemed a haven of rest after the long, fatiguing

"The child is sweet and fair to look upon, Horace, but I see nothing
of you or my sister in her face," observed Miss Stanhope, as her
nephew entered the breakfast-room, preceding his daughter by a moment
or two. "Whom does she resemble?"

"Elsie is almost the exact counterpart of her own mother, Aunt
Wealthy, and looks like no one else," he answered, with a glance of
proud fatherly affection at the young creature as she entered and took
her place at the table.

"Now my daughter," he said, at the conclusion of the meal, "you must
go and lie down until near dinner-time, if possible."

"Yes, that is excellent advice," said Miss Stanhope. "I see, and I'm
glad, she's worth taking care of, as you are sensible, Horace. You
shall be called in season, dear. So take a good nap."

Elsie obeyed, retired to her room, slept several hours, and woke
feeling greatly refreshed. Chloe was in waiting to dress her for

"Had you a nap too, my poor old mammy?" asked her young mistress.

"Yes, darlin'. I've been lying on that coach, and feel good as ever
now. Hark! what dat?"

"It sounds like a dog in distress," said Elsie, as they both ran to
the window and looked out.

A fat poodle had nearly forced his plump body between the palings of
the front gate in the effort to get into the street, and sticking
fast, was yelping in distress. As they looked Miss Stanhope ran
quickly down the path, seized him by the tail, and jerked him back, he
uttering a louder yelp than before.

"There, Albert," she said, stroking and patting him, "I don't like to
hurt you, but how was I to get you out, or in? You must be taught that
you're to stay at home, sir. Thomas! Thomas! come home, Thomas!" she
called; and a large cat came running from the opposite side of the

"So those are Aunt Wealthy's pets. What an odd name for a cat," said
Elsie, laughing.

"Yes, Miss Elsie, dey's pets, sure nuff: Phillis says Miss Wealthy's
mighty good t'em."

"There, she is coming in with them, and, mammy, we must make haste.
I'm afraid it's near dinner-time," said Elsie, turning away from the

Her toilet was just completed when there was a slight tap on the door,
and her father's voice asked if she was ready to go down.

"Yes, papa," she answered, hurrying to him as Chloe opened the door.

"Ah, you are looking something like yourself again," he said, with a
pleasant smile, as he drew her hand within his arm, and led her down
the stairs. "You have had a good sleep?"

"A delicious rest. I must have slept at least four hours. And you,

"I took a nap of about the same length, and feel ready for almost
anything in the shape of dinner, etc. And there is the bell."

Miss Stanhope cast many an admiring glance at nephew and niece during
the progress of the meal.

"I'm thinking, Horace," she said at length, "that it's a great shame
I've been left so many years a stranger to you both."

"I'm afraid it is, Aunt Wealthy; but the great distance that lies
between our homes must be taken as some excuse. We would have been
glad to see you at the Oaks, but you never came to visit us."

"Ah, it was much easier for you to come here," she replied, shaking
her head. "I've been an old woman these many years. Come," she added,
rising from the table, "come into the parlor, children, and let me
show you the olden relics of time I have there--things that I value
very highly, because they've been in the family for generations."

They followed her--Elsie unable to forbear a smile at hearing her
father and herself coupled together as "children"--and looked with
keen interest upon some half dozen old family portraits, an ancient
cabinet of curiosities, a few musty, time-worn volumes, a carpet that
had been very expensive in its day, but was now somewhat faded and
worn, and tables, sofas, and chairs of solid mahogany; each of the
last-named covered with a heavily-embroidered silken cushion.

"That sampler," said Aunt Wealthy, pointing to a large one with a
wonderful landscape worked upon it, that, framed and glazed,
hung between two of the windows, "is a specimen of my paternal
grandmother's handiwork; these chair-cushions, too, she embroidered
and filled with her own feathers, so that I value them more than their
weight in gold."

"My great-grandmother kept a few geese, I presume," Mr. Dinsmore
remarked aside to Elsie with a quiet smile.

Having finished their inspection of the parlor and its curiosities,
they seated themselves upon the front porch, where trees and vines
gave a pleasant shade. Miss Stanhope had her knitting, Mr. Dinsmore
the morning paper, while Elsie sat with her pretty white hands lying
idly in her lap, doing nothing but enjoy the beautiful prospect and a
quiet chat with the sweet-voiced old lady.

The talk between them was quite brisk for a time, but gradually it
slackened, till at length they had been silent for several minutes,
and Elsie, glancing at her aunt, saw her nodding over her work.

"Ah, you must excuse me, dear," the old lady said apologetically,
waking with a start; "I'm not very well, and, deary, I woke unusually
early this morning, and have been stirring about ever since."

"Can't you afford yourself a little nap, auntie?" Elsie asked in
return. "You mustn't make company of me; and, besides, I have a book
that I can amuse myself with."

"You would be quite alone, child, for I see your father has gone in."

"I shall not mind that at all, auntie. Do go and lie down for at least
a little while."

"Well, then, dear, I will just lie down on the sofa in the sitting
room, and you must call me if any one comes."

"Aunt Wealthy couldn't have meant for a child like that, unless she
comes on some important errand," thought Elsie, as, a few moments
later, a little girl came slowly across the lawn and stepped upon the

The child looked clean and decent, in a neat calico dress and gingham
sun-bonnet. At sight of Elsie she stood still, and, gazing with
open-mouthed curiosity, asked, "Be you the rich young lady that was
coming to see Miss Wealthy from 'way down south?"

"I have come from the South to see Miss Stanhope. What do you wish?"

"Nothin', I just come over 'cause I wanted to."

"Will you take a seat?"

"Yes," taking possession of the low rocking chair Miss Stanhope had

"What's your name?" inquired Elsie.

"Lenwilla Ellawea Schilling," returned the child, straightening
herself up with an air of importance; "mother made it herself."

"I should think so," replied Elsie, with a sparkle of fun in her eye.
"And your mother is Mrs. Schilling, is she?"

"Yes, and pap, he's dead, and my brother's named Corbinus."

"What do they call you for short?"

"Willy, and him Binus."

"Where do you live?"

"Over yonder," nodding her head towards the opposite side of the
street. "Mother's comin' over to see you some time. I guess I'll be
going now." And away she went.

"What did that child want?" asked Miss Stanhope, coming out just in
time to see the little maiden pass through the gate.

"Nothing but to look at and question me, I believe." Elsie answered,
with an amused smile.

"Ah! she generally comes to borrow some little thing or other. They're
the sort of folks that always have something they're out of. Mrs.
Sixpence is a very odd sixpence indeed."

"I think the little girl said her last name was Schilling."

"Ah, yes, so it is: but I'm always forgetting their exact commercial
value," and Aunt Wealthy laughed softly. "In fact, I've a very good
forgetting of my own, and am more apt to get names wrong than right."

"Mrs. Schilling must have an odd taste for names," said Elsie.

"Yes, she's a manufacturer of them; and very proud of her success in
that line."

Miss Stanhope was a great lover of flowers, very proud of hers,
cultivated principally by her own hands. After tea she invited her
nephew and niece to a stroll through her garden, while she exhibited
her pets with a very excusable pride in their variety, beauty, and

As they passed into the house again, Phillis was feeding the chickens
in the back yard.

"You have quite a flock of poultry, aunt," remarked Mr. Dinsmore.

"Yes, I like to see them running about, and the eggs you lay yourself
are so much better than any you can buy, and the chickens, too, have
quite another taste. Phillis, what's the matter with that speckled

"Dunno, mistis; she's been crippled dat way all dis week."

"Well, well, I dare say it's the boys; one of them must have thrown a
stone and hit her between her hind legs; they're great plagues. Poor
thing! There, Albert, don't you dare to meddle with the fowls! Come
away, Thomas. That cat and dog are nearly as bad and troublesome to
the boys as the poultry."

Puss and the poodle followed their mistress into the house, where
Albert lay down at her feet, while Thomas sprang into her lap, where
he stood purring and rubbing his head against her arm.

"You seem to have a good many pets, auntie," Elsie remarked.

"Yes, I am fond of them. A childless old woman must have something to
love. I've another that I'm fonder of than any of these though--my
grand-nephew, Harry Duncan. He's away at school now; but I hope to
show him to you one of these days."

"I should like to see him. Is he a relative of ours?" Elsie asked,
turning to her father.

"No, he belongs to the other side of the house."

"How soft and fine this cat's fur is, aunt; he's quite handsome,"
remarked Elsie, venturing to stroke Thomas very gently.

"Yes, I raised him, and his mother before him. My sister Beulah was
first husband's child of Harry's grandmother twice married, and my
mother. Yes, I think a great deal of him, but was near losing him last
winter. A fellow in our town--he's two years old now--wanted a buffalo
robe for his sleigh, and undertook to make it out of cat-skins. He
advertised that he'd give ten cents for every cat-skin the boys would
bring him. You know the old saying that you can't have more of a cat
than its skin, and hardly anybody's was safe after that; they went
about catching all they could lay hands on, even borrowing people's
pets and killing them."

Elsie turned to her father with a very perplexed look, puzzled to
understand who it was that had married twice, and whether her aunt had
stated Harry's age or that of the cat.

But at that instant steps and voices were heard upon the porch, and
the door-bell rang.

"It's Lottie and her father," said Miss Stanhope, pushing Thomas from
her lap. "Come in, friends, and don't stand for ceremony." For both
doors stood wide open.

"Good-evening," said the young lady, coming forward, leaning upon
the arm of a middle-aged gentleman. "Mr. Dinsmore, I have brought my
father, Dr. King, to see you."

The gentlemen shook hands, the doctor observing, "I am happy to make
your acquaintance, Mr. Dinsmore. I brought my daughter along to
introduce me, lest our good Aunt Wealthy here, in her want of
appreciation of nobility and birth, should, as she sometimes does,
give me a rank lower than my true one, making me to appear only a
Prince, while I am really a King."

A general laugh followed this sally, Miss Stanhope insisting that that
was a mistake she did not often make now. Then Elsie was introduced,
and, all being seated again, Dr. King turned to, his hostess with the
laughing remark, "Well, Aunt Wealthy, by way of amends, I'll own up
that my wife says that you're the better doctor of the two. That bran
has done her a world of good."

"Bran?" said Mr. Dinsmore inquiringly.

"Yes, sir; Mrs. King was suffering from indigestion; Miss Stanhope
advised her to try eating a tablespoonful or so of dry bran after her
meals, and it has had an excellent effect."

"My father learnt it from an old sea-captain," said Miss Stanhope;
"and it has helped a great many I've recommended it to. Some prefer
to mix it with a little cream, or take a little water with it but the
best plan's to take it dry if you can."


When to mischief mortals bend their will,
How soon they find fit instruments of ill.


"What, Art, are you going out?"


"Do you know it's after ten?"

"Yes, you just mind your own business, Wal; learn your lessons, and
go off to bed like a good boy when you get through. I'm old enough to
take care of myself."

"Dear me! I'm awfully afraid he's gone back to his evil courses, as
father says," muttered Walter Dinsmore to himself, as the door closed
upon his reckless elder brother. "I wonder what I ought to do about
it," he continued, leaning his head upon his hand, with a worried,
irresolute look; "ought I to report to the governor? No, I shan't,
there then; I don't know anything, and I never will be a sneak or a
tell-tale." And he drew the light nearer, returned to his book with
redoubled diligence for some ten or fifteen minutes more; then,
pushing it hastily aside, with a sigh of relief, started up, threw off
his clothes, blew out the light, and tumbled into bed.

Meanwhile Arthur had stolen noiselessly from the college, and pursued
his way into the heart of the town. On turning a corner he came
suddenly upon another young man who seemed to have been, waiting for
him; simply remarking, "You're late to-night, Dinsmore," he faced
about in the same direction, and the two walked on together.

"Of course; but how can a fellow help it when he's obliged to watch
his opportunity till the Argus eyes are closed in sleep, or supposed
to be so?" grumbled Arthur.

"True enough, old boy; but cheer up, your day of emancipation must
come some time or other," remarked his companion, clapping him
familiarly; on the shoulder. "Of age soon, aren't you?"

"In about a year. But what good does that do me? I'm not so fortunate
as my older brother--shall have nothing of my own till one or other of
my respected parents sees fit to kick the bucket, and leave me a pile;
a thing which at present neither of them seems to have any notion of

"You forget your chances at the faro-table."

"My chances! You win everything from me, Jackson. I'm a lame duck
now, and if my luck doesn't soon begin to turn, I'll--do something
desperate, I believe."

The lad's tone was bitter, his look reckless and half despairing.

"Pooh, don't be a spooney! We all have our ups and downs, and you must
take your turn at both, like the rest."

They had ascended a flight of steps, and Jackson rang the bell as he
spoke. It was answered instantly by a colored waiter, who with, a
silent bow stepped back and held the door open for their entrance.
They passed in and presently found themselves in a large,
well-lighted, and handsomely-furnished room, where tables were set out
with the choicest viands, rich wine, and trays of fine cigars.

They seated themselves, ate and drank their fill, then, each lighting
a cigar, proceeded to a saloon, on the story above, where a number of
men were engaged in playing cards--gambling, as was evident from the
piles of gold, silver, and bank-notes lying here and there upon the
tables about which they sat.

Here also costly furniture, bright light, and rich wines lent their
attractions to the scene.

Arthur took possession of a velvet-cushioned chair on one side of an
elegant marble-topped table, his companion placing himself in another
directly opposite. Here, seated in the full blaze of the gas-light,
each face was brought out into strong relief. Both were young, both
handsome; Jackson, who was Arthur's senior by five or six years,
remarkably so; yet his smile was sardonic, and there was often a
sinister expression in his keen black eye as its glance fell upon his
victim, for such Arthur Dinsmore was--no match for his cunning and
unscrupulous antagonist, who was a gambler by profession.

Arthur's pretended reformation had lasted scarcely longer than until
he was again exposed to temptation, and his face, as seen in that
brilliant light, wore unmistakable signs of indulgence in debauchery
and vice. He played in a wild, reckless way, dealing out his cards
with a trembling hand, while his cheek burned and his eye flashed.

At first Jackson allowed him to win, and filled with a mad delight at
the idea that "his luck had turned," the boy doubled and trebled his

Jackson chuckled inwardly, the game went on, and at length Arthur
found all his gains suddenly swept away and himself many thousands of
dollars in debt.

A ghastly pallor overspread his face, he threw himself back in his
chair with a groan, then starting up with a bitter laugh, "Well, I see
only one way out of this," he said. "A word in your ear, Tom; come
along with me. I've lost and you won enough for one night; haven't we,

"Well, yes; I'm satisfied if you are." And the two hurried into the
now dark and silent street, for it was long past midnight, and sober
and respectable people generally had retired to their beds.

"Where are you going?" asked Jackson.

"Anywhere you like that we can talk without danger of being

"This way then, down this street. You see 'tis absolutely silent and

They walked on, talking in an undertone.

"You'd like your money as soon as you can get it?" said Arthur.

"Of course; in fact I must have it before very long, for I'm hard
pushed now."

"Suppose I could put you in the way of marrying a fortune, would you
hold me quit of all your claims against me?"

"H'm, that would depend upon the success of the scheme."

"And that upon your own coolness and skill. I think I've heard you
spoken of as a woman-killer?"

"Ha, ha! Yes, I flatter myself that I have won some reputation in that
line, and that not a few of the dear creatures have been very fond of
me. It's really most too bad to break their soft little hearts; but
then a man can't marry 'em all; unless he turns Mormon."

Arthur's lips curled with scorn and contempt, and he half turned away
in disgust and aversion; but remembering that he was in the power
of this man, whom, too late, alas! he was discovering to be an
unscrupulous villain, he checked himself, and answered in his usual
tone, "No, certainly not; and so you have never yet run your neck into
the matrimonial noose?"

"No, not I, and don't fancy doing so either, yet I own that a fortune
would be a strong temptation. But, I say, lad, if it's a great chance,
why do you hand it over to me? Why not try for it yourself? It's not
your sister, surely?"

"No, indeed; you're not precisely the sort of brother-in-law I should
choose," returned the boy, with a bitter, mocking laugh. "But stay,
don't be insulted"--for his companion had drawn himself up with an air
of offended pride--"the lady in question is but a step farther from
me; she is my brother's daughter."

"Eh! you don't say? A mere child, then, I presume."

"Eighteen, handsome as a picture, as the saying is, and only too
sweet-tempered for my taste."

"And rich you say? that is her father's wealthy, eh?"

"Yes, he's one of the richest men in our county, but she has a fortune
in her own right, over a million at the very lowest computation."

"Whew! You expect me to swallow that?"

"It's true, true as preaching. You wonder that I should be so willing
to help you to get her. Well, I owe her a grudge, I see no other way
to get out of your clutches, and I shall put you in the way of making
her acquaintance only on condition that if you succeed we share the

"Agreed. Now for the modus operandi. You tell me her whereabouts and
provide me with a letter of introduction, eh?"

"No; on the contrary, you are carefully to conceal the fact that you
have the slightest knowledge of me. The introduction must come from
quite another quarter. Listen, and I'll communicate the facts and
unfold my plan. It has been running in my head for weeks, ever since I
heard that the girl was to spend the summer in the North with nobody
but an old maiden aunt, half-cracked at that, to keep guard over her;
but I couldn't quite make up my mind to it till to-night, for you must
see, Tom," he added with a forced laugh, "that it can't be exactly
delightful to my family pride to think of bringing such a dissipated
fellow as you into the connection."

"Better look at home, lad. But you are right; one such scamp is, or
ought to be, all-sufficient for one family."

Arthur said, "Certainly," but winced at the insinuation nevertheless.
It was not a pleasant reflection that his vices had brought him down
to a level with this man who lived by his wits--or perhaps more
correctly speaking, his rascalities--of whose antecedents he knew
nothing and whom, with his haughty Southern pride, he thoroughly

But scorn and loathe him as he might in his secret soul, it was
necessary that he should be conciliated, because it was now in his
power to bring open disgrace and ruin upon his victim. So Arthur went
on to explain matters and, with Jackson's assistance, to concoct a
plan of getting Elsie and her fortune into their hands.

As he had said, the idea had been in his mind for weeks, yet it was
not until that day that he could see clearly how to carry it out.
Also, his family pride had stood in the way until the excitement of
semi-intoxication and his heavy losses had enabled him to put it aside
for the time. To-morrow he would more than half regret the step he was
taking, but now he plunged recklessly into the thing with small regard
for consequences to himself or others.

"Can you imitate the chirography of others?" he asked.

"Perfectly, if I do say it that shouldn't."

"Then we can manage it. My brother Walter has kept up a correspondence
with this niece ever since he left home. In a letter received
yesterday she mentions that her father was about leaving her for
the rest of the summer. Also that Miss Stanhope, the old aunt she's
staying with, was formerly very intimate with Mrs. Waters of this

"It just flashed on me at once that a letter of introduction from her
would be the very thing to put you at once on a footing of intimacy
in Miss Stanhope's house; and that if you were good at imitating
handwriting we might manage it by means of a note of invitation which
I received from Mrs. Waters some time ago, and which, as good luck
would have it, I threw into my table drawer instead of destroying."

"But who knows that it was written by the lady herself?"

"I do, for I heard Bob Waters say so."

"Good! have you the note about you?"

"Yes, here it is." And Arthur drew it from his pocket. "Let's cross
over to that lamp-post."

They did so, and Jackson held the note up to the light for a moment,
scanning it attentively. "Ah, ha! the very thing! no trouble at all
about that," he said, pocketing it with a chuckle of delight, "But,"
and a slight frown contracted his brows, "what if the old lady should
take it into her head to open a correspondence on the subject with her
old friend?"

"I've thought of that too, but fortunately for our scheme Mrs. Waters
sails for Europe to-morrow; and by the way that should be mentioned in
the letter of introduction."

"Yes, so it should. Come to my room at the Merchants' House to-morrow
night, and you shall find it ready for your inspection. I suppose the
sooner the ball's set in motion the better?" he added as they moved
slowly on down the street.

"Yes, for there's no knowing how long it may take you to storm the
citadel of her ladyship's heart, or how soon her father may come to
the conclusion that he can't do without her, and go and carry her off
home. And I tell you, Tom, you'd stand no chance with him, or with her
if he were there. He'd see through you in five minutes."

"H'm! What sort is she?"

"The very pious!" sneered Arthur, "and you're bound to take your cue
from that or you'll make no headway with her at all."

"A hard rôle for me, Dinsmore. I know nothing of cant."

"You'll have to learn it then; let her once suspect your true
character--a drinking, gambling, fortune-hunting roué--and she'll turn
from you with the same fear and loathing that she would feel for a
venomous reptile."

"Ha, ha! you're in a complimentary mood to-night, Dinsmore. Well,
well, such a fortune as you speak of is worth some sacrifice and
effort, and I think I may venture the character of a perfectly moral
and upright man with a high respect for religion. The rest I can learn
by degrees from her; and come to think of it, it mightn't be a bad
idea to let her imagine she'd converted me."

"Capital! The very thing, Tom! But good-night. I must be off now to
the college. I'll come to your room to-morrow night and we'll finish
the arrangement of all preliminaries."

More than a fortnight had passed since the arrival of Miss Stanhope's
guests. It had been a season of relaxation and keen enjoyment to
them, to her, and to Dr. King's family, who had joined them in many a
pleasant little excursion to points of interest in the vicinity, and
several sociable family picnics among the surrounding hills and woods.
A warm friendship had already sprung up between the three young girls,
and had done much toward reconciling Elsie to the idea of spending the
summer there away from her father.

She had finally consented to do so, yet as the time drew near her
heart almost failed her. In all these years since they went to live
together at the Oaks, they had never been far apart--except once or
twice for a few days when he had gone to New Orleans to attend to
business connected with the care of her property; and only on a very
few occasions, when she paid a little visit in their own neighborhood,
had they been separated for more than a day.

She could not keep back her tears as she hung about his neck on
parting. "Ah, papa, how can I do without you for weeks and months?"
she sighed.

"Or I without you, my darling?" he responded, straining her to his
breast. "I don't know how I shall be able to stand it. You need not be
surprised to see me again at any time, returning to claim my treasure;
and in the meanwhile we will write to each other every day. I shall
want to know all you are doing, thinking, and feeling. You must tell
me of all your pursuits and pleasures; your new acquaintances, too,
if you form any. In that you must be guided by the advice of Aunt
Wealthy, together with your father's known wishes. I am sure I can
trust my daughter to obey those in my absence as carefully as in my

"I think you may, papa. I shall try to do nothing that you would
disapprove, and to attend faithfully to all your wishes."

Mr. Dinsmore left by the morning train, directly after breakfast. It
was a bright, clear day, and Miss Stanhope, anxious to help Elsie to
recover her spirits, proposed a little shopping expedition into the

"You have not seen our stores yet," she said, "and I think we'd better
go now before the sun gets any hotter. Should you like it, my dear?"

"Thank you, yes, auntie. I will go and get ready at once."

Elsie could hardly forbear smiling at the quaint little figure that
met her in the porch a few moments later, and trotted with quick,
short steps by her side across the lawn and up and down the village
streets. The white muslin dress with its short and scanty skirt, an
embroidered scarf of the same material, the close, old-fashioned
leg-horn bonnet, trimmed with one broad strip of white mantua ribbon,
put straight down over the top and tied under the chin, and the black
mitts and morocco slippers of the same hue, formed a tout ensemble
which, though odd, was not unpleasant to look upon. In one hand the
little lady carried a very large parasol, in the other a gayly-colored
silk reticule of corresponding size, this last not by a ribbon or
string, but with its hem gathered up in her hand. All in singular
contrast to Elsie with her slight, graceful form, fully a head taller,
and her simple yet elegant costume. But the niece no more thought of
feeling ashamed of her aunt, than her aunt of her.

They entered a store, and the smiling merchant asked, "What can I do
for you to-day, ladies?"

"I will look at shirting muslin, if you please, Mr. Under," replied
Miss Stanhope, laying parasol and reticule upon the counter.

"Over, if you please, Miss Stanhope," he answered with an amused look.
"Just step this way, and I'll show you a piece that I think will

"I beg your pardon, I'm always making mistakes in names," she said,
doing as requested.

"Anything else to-day, ladies?" he asked when the muslin had been
selected. "I have quite a lot of remnants of dress goods, Miss
Stanhope. Would you like to look at them?"

"Yes," she answered almost eagerly, and he quickly spread them on the
counter before her. She selected quite a number, Elsie wondering what
she wanted with them.

"I'll send the package at once," said Mr. Over, as they left the

They entered another where Miss Stanhope's first inquiry was for
remnants, and the same thing was repeated till, as she assured Elsie,
they had visited every dry-goods store in the place.

"Pretty nice ones, too, some of them are; don't you think so, dear?"

"Yes, auntie; but do you know you have strongly excited my curiosity?"

"Ah! how so?"

"Why, I cannot imagine what you can want with all those remnants. I'm
sure hardly one of them could be made into a dress for yourself or for
Phillis, and you have no little folks to provide for."

"But other folks have, child, and I shall use some of the smallest for

"Dere's a lady in de parlor, Miss Stanhope," said Chloe, meeting them
at the gate; "kind of lady," she added with a very broad smile, "come
to call on you, ma'am, and Miss Elsie too."

"We'll just go in without keeping her waiting to take off our
bonnets," said Aunt Wealthy, leading the way.

They found a rather gaudily-dressed, and not very refined-looking
woman, who rose and came forward to meet them with a boisterous
manner, evidently assumed to cover a slight feeling of embarrassment.
"Oh, I'm quite ashamed, Aunt Wealthy, to have been so long in calling
to see your friends; you really must excuse me; it's not been for want
of a strong disinclination, I do assure you: but you see I've been
away a-nursing of a sick sister."

"Certainly, Mrs. Sixpence."

"Excuse me, Schilling."

"Oh no, not at all, it's my mistake. Elsie, Mrs. Schilling. My niece,
Miss Dinsmore. Sit down, do. I'm sorry you got here before we were
through our shopping."

"I'm afraid it's rather an early call," began Mrs. Schilling, her
rubicund countenance growing redder than ever, "but--"

"Oh, aunt did not mean that," interposed Elsie, with gentle
kindliness. "She was only regretting that you had been kept waiting."

"Certainly," said Miss Stanhope. "You know I'm a sad hand at talking,
always getting the horse before the cart, as they say. But tell me
about your sister. I hope she has recovered. What ailed her?"

"She had inflammation of the tonsils; she's better now though; the
tonsils is all gone, and I think she'll get along. She's weak yet;
but that's all. There's been a good bit of sickness out there in that
neighborhood, through the winter and spring; there were several cases
of scarlet fever, and one of small-pox. That one died, and what do you
think, Aunt Wealthy; they had a reg'lar big funeral, took the corpse
into the church, and asked everybody around to come to it."

"I think it was really wicked, and that if I'd been the congregation,
every one of me would have staid away."

"So would I. There now, I'm bound to tell you something that happened
while I was at father's. My sister had a little girl going on two
years old, and one day the little thing took up a flat iron, and let
it fall on her toe, and mashed it so we were really afraid 'twould
have to be took off. We wrapped it up in some kind o' salve mother
keeps for hurts, and she kept crying and screamin' with pain, and we
couldn't peacify her nohow at all, till a lady that was visiting next
door come in and said we'd better give her a few drops of laud'num. So
we did, and would you believe it? it went right straight down into her
toe, and she stopped cryin', and pretty soon dropped asleep. I thought
it was the curiosest thing I ever heard of."

"It was a wise prescription, no doubt," returned Miss Stanhope, with a
quiet smile.

"Oh, Aunt Wealthy, won't you tell me how you make that Farmer's
fruit-cake?" asked the visitor, suddenly changing the subject. "Miss
Dinsmore, it's the nicest thing you ever eat. You'd be sure it had
raisins or currants in it."

"Certainly, Mrs. Schilling. You must soak three cups of dried apples
in warm water over night, drain off the water through a sieve, chop
the apples slightly, them simmer them for two hours in three cups of
molasses. After that add two eggs, one cup of sugar, one cup of sweet
milk or water, three-fourths of a cup of butter or lard, one-half
teaspoonful of soda, flour to make a pretty stiff batter, cinnamon,
cloves, and other spices to suit your taste."

"Oh, yes! but I'm afraid I'll hardly be able to remember all that."

"I'll write the receipt and send it over to you," said Elsie.

Mrs. Schilling returned her thanks, sat a little longer, conversing in
the same lucid style, then rose and took leave, urging the ladies to
call soon, and run in sociably as often as they could.

She was hardly out of the door before Aunt Wealthy was beating up
her crushed chair-cushions to that state of perfect roundness and
smoothness in which her heart delighted. It amused Elsie, who had
noticed that such was her invariable custom after receiving a call in
her parlor.

Lottie King and Mrs. Schilling passed each other on the porch, the
one coming in as the other went out. Kind Aunt Wealthy, intent on
preventing Elsie from grieving over the emptiness of her father's
accustomed seat at the table, had invited her young friend to dinner.
The hour of the meal had, however, not yet arrived, and the two girls
repaired to Elsie's room to spend the intervening time.

Lottie, in her benevolent desire to be so entertaining to Elsie that
her absent father should not be too sorely missed, seized upon the
first topic of conversation which presented itself and rattled on in a
very lively manner.

"So you have begun to make acquaintance with our peculiar currency,
mon ami! An odd sixpence as Aunt Wealthy calls her. Two of them I
should say, since it takes two sixpences to make a shilling."

"I don't know; I'm inclined to think Aunt Wealthy's arithmetic has the
right of it, since she was never more than a shilling, and has lost
her better half," returned Elsie, laughing.

"Better half, indeed! fie on you, Miss Dinsmore! have you so little
regard for the honor of your sex as to own that the man is ever that?
But I must tell you of the time when she sustained the aforesaid loss;
and let me observe, sustained is really the proper--very properest of
words to express my meaning, for it was very far from crushing her.
While her husband was lying a corpse, mother went over with a pie,
thinking it might be acceptable, as people are not apt to feel like
cooking at such a time. She did not want to disturb the new-made widow
in the midst of her grief, and did not ask for her; but Mrs. Schilling
came to the door. 'Oh, I'm so much obliged to you for bringing that
pie!' she said. 'It was so good of you. I hadn't any appetite to eat
while he was sick, but now that he's dead, I feel as if I could eat
something. You and your girls must come over and spend a day with
me some time soon. He's left me full and plenty, and you needn't be
afraid to take a meal's victuals off me'!"

"How odd! I don't think she could be quite broken-hearted."

"No, and she has apparently forgotten him, and bestowed her affections
upon another; a widower named Wert. Mr. Was, Aunt Wealthy usually
calls him. They both attend our church, and everybody notices how
impossible it seems to be for her to keep her eyes off him; and you
can never be five minutes in her company without hearing his name.
Didn't she talk of him to-day?"

"Oh, yes, she spoke of Mr. Wert visiting some sick man, to talk and
pray with him, and rejoiced that the man did not die till he gave
evidence that he was repaired."

"Yes, that sounds like her," laughed Lottie. "She's always getting the
wrong word. I told you she never could keep her eyes off Mr. Wert.
Well, the other day--three or four weeks ago--coming from church he
was behind her; she kept looking back at him, and presently came bump
up against a post. She made an outcry, of course everybody laughed,
and she hurried off with a very red face. That put an idea into my
head, and--" Lottie paused, laughing and blushing--

"I'm half ashamed to tell you, but I believe I will--Nettie and I
wrote a letter in a sort of manly hand, signed his initials, and put
it into an iron pot that she keeps standing near her back door. The
letter requested that she would put her answer in the same place, and
she did. Oh, it was rich! such a rapture of delight; and such spelling
and such grammar as were used to express it! It was such fun that we
went on, and there have been half a dozen letters on each side. I
daresay she is wondering why the proposal doesn't come. Ah, Elsie, I
see you don't approve; you are as grave as a judge."

"I would prefer not to express an opinion; so please don't ask me."

"But you don't think it was quite right, now do you?"

"Since you have asked a direct question, Lottie, dear," Elsie
answered, with some hesitation, "I'll own that it does not seem to me
quite according to the golden rule."

"No," Lottie said, after a moment's pause, in which she sat with
downcast eyes, and cheeks crimsoning with mortification. "I'm ashamed
of myself, and I hope I shall never again allow my love of fun to
carry me so far from what is true and kind.

"And so Aunt Wealthy took you out shopping, and secured the benefit of
your taste and judgment in the choice of her remnants?" she exclaimed,
with a sudden change to a lively, mirthful tone.

"How do you know that she bought remnants?" asked Elsie, in surprise.

"Oh, she always does; that's a particular hobby of the dear old
body's; two or three times in a season she goes around to all the
stores, and buys up the most of their stock; they save the best of
them for her, and always know what she's after the moment she shows
her pleasant face. She gives them away, generally, to the minister's
wife, telling her the largest are to be made into dresses for her
little girls; and the poor lady is often in great tribulation, not
knowing how to get the dresses out of such small patterns, and afraid
to put them to any other use, lest Miss Stanhope should feel hurt or
offended. By the way, what do you think of Aunt Wealthy's own dress?"

"That it is very quaint and odd, but suits her as no other would."

"I'm so glad! It's just what we all think, but before you came we were
much afraid you would use your influence to induce her to adopt a more
fashionable attire."


Bear fair presence, though your heart be tainted;
Teach sin the carriage of a holy saint.


"It's a very handsome present, child, very; and your old auntie will
be reminded of you every time she uses it, or looks at it."

"Both beautiful and useful, like the giver," remarked Lottie.

"It" was a sewing-machine, Elsie's gift to Aunt Wealthy, forwarded
from Cincinnati, by Mr. Dinsmore; the handsomest and the best to be
found in the city; so Elsie had requested that it should be, and so he
had written that it was.

"I am glad you like it, auntie, and you too, Lottie," was all she said
in response to their praises, but her eyes sparkled with pleasure at
the old lady's evident delight.

"It" had arrived half an hour before, on this the second morning after
Mr. Dinsmore's departure, and now stood in front of one of the windows
of Aunt Wealthy's bedroom--a delightfully shady, airy apartment on the
ground floor, back of the parlor, and with window and door opening
out upon a part of the lawn where the trees were thickest and a tiny
fountain sent up its showers of spray.

Miss Stanhope stood at a table, cutting out shirts. Lottie was
experimenting on the machine with a bit of muslin, and Elsie sat
near by with her father's letter in her hand, her soft dark eyes now
glancing over it for perhaps the twentieth time, now at the face of
one or the other of her companions, as Lottie rattled on in her usual
gay, flighty style, and Aunt Wealthy answered her sometimes with a
straightforward sentence, and again with one so topsy-turvy that her
listeners could not forbear a smile.

"For whom are you making shirts, aunt?" asked Elsie.

"For my boy Harry. He writes that his last set are going wonderfully
fast; so I must send up another to make."

"You must let us help you, Lottie and I; we have agreed that it will
be good fun for us."

"Thank you, dearie, but I didn't suppose plain sewing was among your

"Mamma says I am quite a good needle-woman," Elsie replied with a
smile and a blush, "and if I am not it is no fault of hers. She took
great pains to teach me. I cut out a shirt for papa once, and made
every stitch of it myself."

"And she can run the machine too," said Lottie, "though her papa won't
let her do so for more than half an hour at a time, lest she should
hurt herself."

"He's very careful of her, and no wonder," Aunt Wealthy responded,
with a loving look at the sweet, fair face. "You may help me a little,
now and then, children, when it just suits your humor, but I want you
to have all the rides and walks, the reading and recreation of every
sort that you can enjoy."

"Here comes Lenwilla Ellawea Schilling," said Lottie, glancing from
the window.

"What do you want, Willy?" asked Miss Stanhope, as the child appeared
in the doorway with a teacup in her hand.

"Mother wants a little light'ning to raise her bread."

"Yeast? Oh, yes, just go round to Phillis, and she'll give you some."

The door-bell rang.

"It's a gentleman," said the child, "I seen him a-coming in at the

Chloe answered the bell and entered the room the next moment with a
letter, which she handed to Miss Stanhope.

The old lady adjusted her spectacles and broke the seal. "Ah, a letter
of introduction, and from my old friend and schoolmate Anna Waters;
wishes me to treat the young man with all the courtesy and kindness I
would show to her own son, for she esteems him most highly, etc., etc.
Aunt Chloe, what have you done with him?"

"Showed him into de parlor, mistis, and leff him a-sittin' dar."

"What's his name, auntie?" asked Lottie, as the old lady refolded the
letter and took off her glasses.

"Bromly Egerton; quite romantic, isn't it? Excuse me for a few
minutes, dears; I must go and see what he wants."

Aunt Wealthy found a well-dressed, handsome young man seated on one of
her softly-cushioned chairs. He rose and came forward to meet her with
courtly ease and grace. "Miss Stanhope, I presume?"

"You are right, Mr. Ledgerfield. Pray be seated, sir."

"Thank you, madam, but let me first help you to a seat. Excuse the
correction, but Egerton is my name."

"Ah, yes! For the sake of my friend, Mrs. Waters, I welcome you to
Lansdale. Do you expect to make some stay in our town?"

"Well, madam, I hardly had such expectation before arriving here, but
I find it so pretty a place that I begin to think I can scarcely do
better. My health has been somewhat impaired by very strict and close
attention to business; and my physician has ordered entire relaxation
for a time, and fresh country air. Can you recommend a boarding-place
in town? Some quiet, private hotel where drinking and things of that
kind would not be going on. I'm not used to it, and should find it
very disgusting."

"I'm glad to hear such sentiments, young man; they do you honor. I
daresay Mrs. Sixpence,--no, Mrs. Schilling,--just opposite here, would
take you in. She told me some weeks ago that she would be glad to have
one or two gentlemen boarders."

"Thank you, the location would suit me well; and you think she could
give me comfortable accommodations?"

"I do; she has pleasant rooms and is a good cook."

"A widow?"

"Yes, not very young, and has two children. But they are old enough
not to be annoying to a boarder."

"What sort of woman is she?"

"A good manager, neat, industrious, honest, and obliging. Very
suitable for a landlady, if you are not looking in the person of your
hostess for an intellectual companion."

"Oh, not at all, Miss Stanhope, unless--unless you could find it in
your benevolent heart to take me in yourself;" and his smile was very
insinuating. "In that case I should have the luxury of intellectual
companionship superadded to the other advantages of which you have

The old lady smiled, but shook her head quite decidedly. "I have lived
so long in the perfect house that I should not know how to give it up.
I have come to think men a care and a trouble that I cannot take upon
me in my old age."

"Excuse me, my dear madam, for the unwarrantable liberty I took
in asking it," he said in an apologetic tone, and with a slightly
embarrassed air. "I beg ten thousand pardons."

"That is a great many," she answered with a smile, "but you may
consider them all granted. I hope you left my friend Mrs. Waters well?
I must answer her letter directly."

"Ah, then you are not aware that she is already on her way to Europe?"

"No, is she indeed?"

"Yes, she sailed the day after that letter was written; which accounts
for the date not being a very recent one. You see I did not leave
immediately on receiving it from her."

She was beginning to wish that he would go, but he lingered for some
time, vainly hoping for a glimpse of Elsie. On finally taking his
leave, he asked her to point out Mrs. Schilling's house, and she
noticed that he went directly there.

"Really, auntie, we began to think that your visitor must intend to
spend the day," cried Lottie, as Miss Stanhope returned to her room
and her interrupted employment.

"Ah? Well it was not my urging that kept him; I was very near telling
him that he was making me waste a good deal of time" replied the old
lady; then seeing that Lottie was curious on the subject, she kindly
went on to tell all that she had learned in regard to the stranger and
his intentions.

Elsie was amusing herself with Thomas, trying to cajole him to return
to the frolicsomeness of his long-forgotten kittenhood, and did not
seem to hear or heed. What interest for her had this stranger, or his

"Young and handsome, you say, Aunt Wealthy? and going to stay in
Lansdale all summer? Would you advise me to set my cap for him?"

"No, Lottie; not I."

"You were not smitten with the gentleman, eh?"

"Not enough to spare him to you anyhow, but he may improve upon

"I don't approve of marrying, though, do you, auntie? Your practice
certainly seems to speak disapproval."

"Perhaps every one does not have the opportunity, my dear," answered
the old lady, with a quiet smile.

"Oh, but you must have had plenty of them. Isn't that so? and why did
you never accept?"

Elsie dropped the string she had been waving before the eyes of the
cat, and looked up with eager interest.

"Yes, I had offers, and one of them I accepted," replied Aunt Wealthy,
with a slight sigh, while a shade of sadness stole over her usually
happy face, "but my friends interfered and the match was broken off.
Don't follow my example, children, but marry if the right one comes

"Surely you don't mean if our parents refuse their consent, auntie?"
Elsie's tone spoke both surprise and disapproval.

"No, no, child! It is to those who keep the fifth commandment God
promises long life and prosperity."

"And love makes it so easy and pleasant to keep it," murmured Elsie,
softly, and with a sweet, glad smile on her lips and in her eyes,
thinking of her absent father, and almost unconsciously thinking

"Ah, child, it can sometimes make it very hard," said Miss Stanhope,
with another little sigh, and shaking her head rather sadly.

"Elsie, you must have had lots of lovers before this, I am sure!"
exclaimed Lottie, stopping her machine, and facing suddenly round upon
her friend. "No girl as rich and beautiful as you are could have lived
eighteen years without such an experience."

Elsie only smiled and blushed.

"Come now, am I not right?" persisted Lottie.

"I do assure you that I have actually lived to this mature age quite
heart-whole," laughed Elsie. "If I have an idol, it is papa, and I
don't believe anybody can ever succeed in displacing him."

"You have quite misunderstood me, wilfully or innocently--I asked of
your worshippers, not of your idols. Haven't you had offers?"

"Several; money has strong attractions for most men, papa tells me."

"May the Lord preserve you from the sad fate of a woman married for
her money, dear child!" ejaculated Aunt Wealthy, with a glance of
anxious affection at her lovely niece. "I'm sometimes tempted to think
a large amount of it altogether a curse and an affliction."

"It is a great responsibility, auntie," replied Elsie, with a look of
gravity beyond her years. Then after a moment's pause, her expression
changing to one of gayety and joy, "Now, if you and Lottie will excuse
me for a little, I'll run up to my room, and answer papa's letter,"
she said, rising to her feet. "After which I shall be ready to make
myself useful in the capacity of seamstress. Au revoir." And she
tripped away with a light, free step, every movement as graceful as
those of a young gazelle.

Mr. Bromly Egerton, alias Tom Jackson, was fortunate enough to find
Mrs. Schilling at home. It was she who answered his knock.

"Good-day, sir," she said. "Will you walk in? Just step into the
parlor here, and take a seat."

He accepted the invitation and stated his business without preface, or
waiting to be questioned at all.

She seemed to be considering for a moment. "Well, yes, I can't say as
I'd object to taking a few gentlemen boarders, but--I'd want to know
who you be, and all about you."

"Certainly, ma'am, that's all right. I'm from the East; rather broken
down with hard work--a business man, you see--and want to spend the
summer here to recruit. Pitched upon your town because it strikes me
as an uncommonly pretty place. I brought a letter of introduction to
your neighbor, Miss Stanhope, and she recommended me to come here in
search of board, saying you'd make a capital landlady."

"Well, if she recommends you, it's all right. Would you like to look
at the rooms?"

She had two to dispose of--one at the back and the other in the front
of the house, both cheerful, airy, of reasonable size, and neatly
furnished. He preferred the latter, because it overlooked Miss
Stanhope's house and grounds.

As he stood at the window, taking note of this, a young girl appeared
at the one opposite. For one minute he had a distinct view of her face
as she stood there and put out her hand to gather a blossom from the
vine that had festooned itself so gracefully over the window.

He uttered an exclamation of delighted surprise, and turning to his
companion asked, "Who is she?"

"Miss Dinsmore, Miss Stanhope's niece. She's here on a visit to her
aunt. She's from the South, and worth a mint of money, they say. Aint
she handsome though? handsome as a picture?"

"Posh! handsome doesn't begin to express it! Why, she's angelic! But
there! she's gone!" And he drew a long breath as he turned away.

"You'd better conclude to take this room if you like to look at her,"
artfully suggested Mrs. Schilling. "That's her bedroom window, and
she's often at it. Besides, you can see the whole front of Miss
Stanhope's place from here, and watch all the comings and goings o'
the girls--Miss Dinsmore, and Miss Nettie and Lottie King."

"Who are they?"

"Kind o' fur-off cousins to Miss Stanhope. They live in that next
house to hern, and are amazin' thick with her, runnin' in and out all
times o' day. Nice, spry, likely girls they be too, not bad-lookin'
neither, but hardly fit to hold a candle to Miss Dinsmore, as fur as
beauty's concerned. Well, what do you say to the room, Mr. Egerton?"

"That I will take it, and would like to have immediate possession."

"All right, sir; fetch your traps whenever you've a mind; right away,
if you like."

There was no lack of good society in Lansdale. It had even more than
the usual proportion of well-to-do, intelligent, educated, and refined
people to be found in American villages of its size. They were
hospitable folks, too, disposed to be kind to strangers tarrying in
their midst, and, Miss Stanhope being an old resident, well known and
highly esteemed, spite of her eccentricities, her friends had received
a good deal of attention. Elsie had already become slightly acquainted
with a number of pleasant families; a good many young girls, and also
several young gentlemen had called upon her, and Lottie assured her
there were many more to come.

"Some of the very nicest are apt to be slow about calling--we're
such busy folks here," she said, laughing. "I've a notion, too, that
several of the beaux stood rather in awe of your papa."

They were talking together over their sewing, after Elsie had come
down from finishing her letter, and sent Chloe to the post-office with

"I don't wonder," she answered, looking up with a smile; "there was a
time, a long while ago, when I was very much afraid of him myself; and
even now I have such a wholesome dread of his displeasure as would
keep me from any act of disobedience, if love was not sufficient to do
that without help from any other motive."

"You are very fond of him, and he of you?"

"Yes, indeed! how could it be otherwise when for so many years each
was all the other had? But I'm sure, quite sure that neither of us
loves the other less because now we have mamma and darling little

"I should like to know them both," said Miss Stanhope. "I hope your
father will bring them with him when he comes back for you."

"Oh, I hope he will! I want so much to have you know them. Mamma is so
dear and sweet, almost as dear as papa himself. And Horace--well, I
can't believe there ever was quite such another darling to be found,"
Elsie continued, with a light, joyous laugh.

"Ah!" said Aunt Wealthy with a sigh and a smile, "it is a good and
pleasant thing to be young and full of life and gayety, and to have
kind, wise parents to look to for help and guidance. You will realize
that when you grow old and have to be a prop for others to lean upon

"Yes, dear auntie," Elsie answered, giving her a look of loving
reverence, "but surely the passing years must have brought you so much
wisdom and self-reliance that that can be no such very hard task to

"Ah, child!" replied the old lady, shaking her head, "I often feel
that my stock of those is very small. But then how sweet it is to
remember that I have a Father to whom I never shall grow old; never
cease to be His little child, in constant need of His tender, watchful
care to guard and guide. Though the gray hairs are on my head, the
wrinkles of time, sorrow, and care upon my brow, He does not think me
old enough to be left to take care of myself. No; He takes my hand in
His and leads me tenderly and lovingly along, choosing each step for
me, protecting me from harm, and providing for all my needs. What does
He say? 'Even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I
carry you'!"

"Such sweet words! They almost reconcile one to growing old," murmured
Lottie, and Aunt Wealthy answered, with a subdued gladness in her
tones, "You need not dread it, child, for does not every year bring us
nearer home?"

The needles flew briskly until the dinner-bell sounded its welcome

"We shall finish two at least this afternoon, I think," said Lottie,
folding up her work.

"No, we've had sewing enough for to-day," replied Miss Stanhope. "I
have ordered the carriage at two. We will have a drive this afternoon,
and music this evening; if you and Elsie do not consider it too much
of a task to play and sing for your old auntie."

"A task, Aunt Wealthy! It would be a double delight--giving you
pleasure and ourselves enjoying the delicious tones of that splendid
piano. Its fame has already spread over the whole town," she added,
turning to Elsie, "and between its attractions and those of its owner,
I know there'll be a great influx of visitors here."

Elsie was a very fine musician, and for her benefit during her stay in
Lansdale, Mr. Dinsmore had had a grand piano sent on from the East,
ordering it in season to have it arrive almost as soon as they

"Yes, Lottie is quite right about it, Aunt Wealthy, and you shall
call for all the tunes you want," Elsie said, noticing her friend's
prediction merely by a quiet smile.

"You don't know how I enjoy that piano," Lottie rattled on as they
began their meal. "It must be vastly pleasant to have plenty of
money and such an indulgent father as yours, Elsie. Not that I would
depreciate my own at all--I wouldn't exchange him even for yours--but
he, you see, has more children and less money."

"Yes, I think we are both blessed in our fathers," answered Elsie. "I
admire yours very much; and mine is, indeed, very indulgent, though at
the same time very strict; he never spares expense or trouble to give
me pleasure. But the most delightful thing of all is to know that he
loves me so very, very dearly;" and the soft eyes shone with the light
of love and joy.

It was nearly tea time when they returned from their drive, some lady
callers having prevented them from setting out at the early hour

"Now I must run right home," said Lottie, as they alighted. "Mother
complains that she gets no good of me at all of late."

"Well, she has Nettie," returned Miss Stanhope, "and she told me Elsie
and I might have all we wanted of you till the poor child gets a
little used to her father's absence."

"Did she, Aunt Wealthy? There, I'll remind her of that, and also of
the fact that Nettie is worth two of me any day."

"And you'll come back to spend the evening? Indeed you must, or how is
Elsie to learn her visitors' names? You know I could never get them
straight. But there's the tea-bell, so come in with us. No need to go
home till bed-time, or till to-morrow, that I can see."

"Thank you, but of course, auntie, I want to primp a bit, just as you
did in your young days, when the beaux were coming. So good-bye for
the present," she cried, skipping away with a merry laugh, Miss
Stanhope calling after her to bring Nettie along when she returned.

"We have so many odd names in this town, and I such an odd sort of
memory, that I make a great many mistakes," said the old lady, leading
the way to the house.

Elsie thought that was all very true, when in the course of the
evening she was introduced to Mr. Comings, Mr. Tizard, Mr. Stop,
Miss Lock, and Miss Over, and afterward heard her aunt address them
variously as "Mr. In-and-out," "Mr. Wizard," "Mr. Lizard," "Mr. Quit,"
"Miss Under," and "Miss Key."

But the old lady's peculiarity was so well known that no one thought
of taking offence; and her mistakes caused only mirth and amusement.

Lottie's prediction was so fully verified that Elsie seemed to be
holding a sort of levee.

"What faultless features, exquisitely beautiful complexion, and sweet
expression she has." "What a graceful form, what pleasant, affable
manners, so entirely free from affectation or hauteur; no patronizing
airs about her either, but perfect simplicity and kindliness." "And
such a sweet, happy, intelligent face." "Such beautiful hair too;
did you notice that? so abundant, soft and glossy, and such a
lovely color." "Yes, and what simple elegance of dress." "She's an
accomplished musician, too, and has a voice as sweet, rich, and full
as a nightingale's," remarked one and another as they went away. The
unanimous verdict seemed to be, that the young stranger was altogether

Across the street, Mrs. Schilling's boarder paced to and fro, watching
the coming and going, listening to the merry salutations, and gay
adieux, the light laughter, and the sweet strains of music and song,
till the desire to make one of the happy throng grew so strong upon
him that it was no longer to be resisted..

"I will go in with those," he muttered, crossing over just in time to
enter directly in the rear of a lady and gentleman, whom he saw coming
up the street. "Miss Stanhope invited me to call again, without
particularizing how soon, and I can turn my speedy acceptance into a
compliment to their music, without even a white lie, for it does sound
extremely attractive to a lonely, idle fellow like me."

Miss Stanhope met him at the door, would scarce listen to his
apology--insisting that "none was needed; one who had come to her with
such an introduction from so valued a friend as Mrs. Waters, must
always be a welcome guest in her house"--and ushering him into the
parlor, introduced him to her niece, and all others present.

A nearer and more critical view of Elsie only increased his
admiration; he thought her the loveliest creature he had ever seen.
But it did not suit his tactics to show immediately any strong
attraction toward her, or desire to win her regard. For this evening
he devoted himself almost exclusively to Miss Stanhope, exerting all
his powers to make a favorable impression upon her.

In this he was entirely successful. He had, when he chose, most
agreeable and polished manners. Also he had seen much of the world,
possessed a large fund of general information, and knew exactly how to
use it to the best advantage. With these gifts, very fine, expressive
eyes, regular features, and handsome person, no wonder he could boast
himself "a woman-killer."

Aunt Wealthy, though old enough to be invulnerable to Cupid's arrows,
showed by her warm praises, after he had left that evening, that she
was not proof against his fascinations.


Your noblest natures are most credulous.


Bromly Egerton (we give him the name by which he had become known to
our friends in Lansdale) considered it "a very lucky chance" that
had provided him a boarding-place so near the temporary home of his
intended victim. He felicitated himself greatly upon it, and lost no
time in improving to the utmost all the advantages it conferred.
It soon came to be a customary thing for him to drop in at Miss
Stanhope's every day, or two or three times a day, and to join the
young girls in their walks and drives, for, though at first paying
court to no one but the mistress of the mansion, he gradually turned
his attention more and more to her niece and Miss King.

As their ages were so much nearer his this seemed perfectly natural,
and excited no suspicion or remark. Aunt Wealthy was quite willing to
resign him to them; for--a very child in innocent trustfulness--she
had no thought of any evil design on the part of the handsome,
attractive young stranger so warmly recommended to her kindness and
hospitality by an old and valued friend, and only rejoiced to see the
young folks enjoying themselves so much together.

Before leaving Lansdale Mr. Dinsmore had provided his daughter with a
gentle, but spirited and beautiful little pony, and bade her ride out
every day when the weather was favorable, as was her custom at home.
At the same time he cautioned her never to go alone; but always to
have Simon riding in her rear, and, if possible, a lady friend at her

Dr. King was not wealthy, and having a large family to provide for,
kept no horse except the one he used in his practice; but Elsie, with
her well-filled purse, was more than content to furnish ponies for
her friends Lottie and Nettie whenever they could accompany her; and
matters were so arranged by their indulgent mother that one or both
could do so every day.

It was not long before Mr. Egerton joined them in these excursions
also, having made an arrangement with a livery-stable keeper for the
daily use of a horse. And gradually his attention, in the beginning
about equally divided between the two, or the three, were paid more
and more exclusively to Elsie.

She was not pleased with him in their earlier interviews, she could
scarcely have told why; but there was an intuitive feeling that he was
not one to be trusted. That, however, gradually gave way under the
fascinations of his fine person, agreeable manners, and intellectual
conversation. He was very plausible and captivating, she full of
charity and ready to believe the best of everybody, and so, little by
little, he won her confidence and esteem so completely that at length
she had almost forgotten that her first impression had not been

He went regularly to the church she, her aunt, and the Kings attended,
appearing an interested listener, and devout worshipper; and that not
on the Sabbath only, but also at the regular weekday evening service;
he seemed also to choose his associates among good, Christian people.
The natural inference from all this was that he too was a Christian,
or at least a professor of religion; and thus all our friends soon
came to look upon him as such, and to feel the greater friendship for,
and confidence in him.

He found that Elsie's beauty would bear the closest scrutiny, that her
graces of person and mind were the more apparent the more thoroughly
she was known; that she was highly educated and accomplished,
possessed of a keen intellect, and talents of no common order, and a
wonderful sweetness of disposition. He acknowledged to himself that,
even leaving money out of the question, she was a prize any man might
covet; yet that if she were poor, he would never try to win her. A
more voluptuous woman would have suited him better. Elsie's very
purity made her distasteful to him, his own character seeming so much
blackened by contrast that at times he could but loathe and despise

But her fortune was an irresistible attraction, and he resolved more
firmly than ever to leave no stone unturned to make himself master of

He soon perceived that he had many rivals, but he possessed one
advantage over them all in his entire leisure from business, leaving
him at liberty to devote himself to her entertainment during the day
as well as the evening.

For a while he greatly feared that he had a more dangerous rival at a


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