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various kinds both in your own country and in England. I wish you to
examine all the papers, certificates of stock, bonds, deeds, mortgages,
and so forth."

"Oh, papa!" she cried, lifting her hands in dismay, "what a task. Please
excuse me. You know all about it, and is not that sufficient?"

"No, the property is yours; I have been only your steward, and must now
render up an account to you for the way in which I have handled your
property."

"You render an account to _me_, my own dear father," she said low and
tremulously, while her face flushed crimson; "I cannot bear to hear you
speak so. I am fully satisfied, and very, _very_ thankful for all your
kind care of it and of me."

He regarded her with a smile of mingled tenderness and amusement, while
softly patting and stroking the small white hand laid lovingly upon his.

"Could I - could any father - do less for his own beloved child?" he asked.

"Not you, I know, papa. But may I ask you a question?"

"As many as you like."

"How much are you worth? Ah! you needn't look so quizzical. I mean how
much do you own in money, land, etc.?"

"Something less than a million; I cannot tell you the exact number of
dollars and cents."

"Hardly a third as much as I! It doesn't seem right. Papa, take half of
mine."

"That wouldn't balance the scales either," he said laughingly; "and
besides, Mr. Travilla has now some right to be consulted."

"Papa, I could never love him again, if he should object to my giving you
all but a few hundred thousands."

"He would not. He says he will never touch a cent of your property; it
must be settled entirely upon yourself, and subject to your control. And
that is quite right; for he, too, is wealthy."

"Papa, I don't think I deserve so much; I don't want the care of so much.
I do wish you would be so good as to take half for your own, and continue
to manage the other half for me as you think best."

"What you deserve is not the question just now. This is one of the talents
which God has given you, and I think you ought, at least for the present,
to keep the principal and decide for yourself what shall be done with the
interest. You are old enough now to do so, and I hope do not wish to shirk
the responsibility, since God, in His good providence, has laid it upon
you."

He spoke very gravely and Elsie's face reflected the expression of his.

"No, I do not wish it now, papa," she said, in a low, sweet voice. "I
will undertake it, asking Him for wisdom and grace to do it aright."

They were busy for the next hour or two over the papers.

"There!" cried Elsie, at length, "we have examined the last one, and I
think I understand it all pretty thoroughly."

"I think you do. And now another thing; ought you not to go and see for
yourself your property in Louisiana?"

Elsie assented, on condition that he would take her.

"Certainly, my dear child, can you suppose I would ever think of
permitting you to go alone?"

"Thank you, papa. And if poor mammy objects this time, she may take her
choice of going or staying; but go I must, and see how my poor people are
faring at Viamede. I have dim, dreamy recollections of it as a kind of
earthly paradise. Papa, do you know why mammy has always been so
distressed whenever I talked of going there?"

"Painful associations, no doubt. Poor creature! it was there her
husband - an unruly negro belonging to a neighboring planter - was sold away
from her, and there she lost her children, one by accidental drowning, the
others by some epidemic disease. Your own mother, too, died there, and
Chloe I think never loved one of her own children better."

"No, I'm sure not. But she never told me of her husband and children, and
I thought she had never had any. And now, papa, that we are done with
business for the present, I have a request to make."

"Well, daughter, what is it?"

"That you will permit me to renew my old intimacy with Lucy Carrington; or
at least to call on her. You remember she was not well enough to be at the
wedding; she is here at Ashlands with her baby. Mr. and Mrs. Carrington
called here yesterday while you were out, and both urged me not to be
ceremonious with Lucy, as she is hardly well enough to make calls and is
longing to see me."

"And what answer did you give them?" he asked with some curiosity.

"That I should do so if possible; that meant if I could obtain your
permission, papa."

"You have it. Lucy is in some sort taken into the family now, and you are
safely engaged; to say nothing of your mature years," he added laughingly,
as she seated herself on his knee again and thanked him with a hug and
kiss.

"You dear good papa!"

"Some girls of your age, heiresses in their own right, would merely have
said, 'I'm going,' never asking permission."

"Ah, but I like to be ruled by you. So please don't give it up. Now about
Enna?"

"If I had any authority in the matter, I should say, you shall not give
her a cent. She doesn't deserve it from you or any one."

"Then I shall wait till you change your mind."

Mr. Dinsmore shook his head. "Ah! my little girl, you don't realize how
much some one else's opinions will soon weigh with you," he answered,
putting an arm about her and looking with fatherly delight into the sweet
face.

"Ah, papa!" she cried, laying her cheek to his, "please don't talk so; it
hurts me."

"Then, dearest, I shall not say it again, though indeed I was not
reproaching you; it is right, very right, that husband and wife should be
more than all the world beside to each other."

Elsie's cheek crimsoned. "It has not come to that yet, father dear," she
murmured, half averting her blushing face; "and - I don't know which of you
I love best - or how I could ever do without either: the love differs in
kind rather than in degree."

He drew her closer. "Thank you, my darling; what more could I ask or
desire?" A slight tap on the door and Mrs. Dinsmore looked in. "Any
admittance?" she asked playfully.

"Always to my wife," answered her husband, releasing Elsie and rising to
hand Rose a chair.

"Thanks, my dear, but I haven't time to sit down," she said. "Here is a
note of invitation for us all to spend the day at Roselands. Shall we go?"

"Certainly, if it suits you, Rose," replied Mr. Dinsmore; "and Elsie;" he
added, "will you go, daughter?"

"If you wish it, papa," she answered cheerfully; yet there was a slight
reluctance in her tone.

He gave her a kind, fond look. "You are your own mistress, and can accept
or decline as your judgment and wishes dictate."

"But you would rather have me go, papa?"

"I would, because it would seem more kind and courteous. But what is the
objection in your mind? Perhaps it could be removed."

"I wanted so much to see Lucy this morning," Elsie answered with a blush;
"but to-morrow will do."

"But both might be accomplished if mamma and Adelaide like to have Cæsar
drive them and the little ones over to Roselands. Then you and I will
mount our horses and away to Ashlands for a call, leaving there in good
time to join the dinner party at Roselands. How will that do?"

"Oh, bravely, you dear darling papa! always contriving for my enjoyment."

Mr. Dinsmore followed his wife from the room. "'Twill be an early return
of Carrington's call," he said, "but I have a little business with him."

"Yes, I'm very glad: it is a good plan; but don't hurry Elsie away. She
and Lucy will want a long talk."

"I promise to be careful to obey orders," he answered, sportively. "Is
that all?"

"Yes; only see that you don't stay too long, and keep the dinner waiting
at Roselands."

"Mamma," asked Elsie, bringing up the rear as they entered the
sitting-room, "can't you go, too - you and Aunt Adelaide? Four make as nice
a party as two, and the babies can be driven over quite safely, with their
mammies, to take care of them."

"No," said Rose, "I never accept such late invitations; I shall - - "

"My dear," said her husband, "we would be very glad."

"No, no; the first arrangement is decidedly the best;" putting on an air
of pretended pique.

"Babies! do you call me a baby?" cried young Horace, who had sprung to his
feet with a flash of indignation in his great black eyes, "I'm nine years
old, Elsie. Rosie there's the only baby belonging to this house. Do you
think papa would let a baby have a pony like Gip? and a pistol of his own,
too?"

Elsie put her arms round his neck, and gave him a kiss, "I beg ten
thousand pardons."

"Elsie, my daughter, don't allow yourself to speak so extravagantly,"
interrupted her father.

"I will try not, papa," she answered. "I beg your pardon, Horace dear, and
assure you I think you are quite a manly young man. Now I must prepare for
my ride, papa. I shall be ready by the time the horses can be brought to
the door."

"Papa," said Horace, as the door closed upon his sister, "may I ride Gip
to-day?"

"If you promise me to keep close beside the carriage."

"Oh, papa, can't I ride on ahead a little, now and then, or fall a few
paces behind if I wish?"

"No; you may do just what I have given permission for, and nothing else."




CHAPTER FOURTH.

"Grace was in all her steps, heaven in her eye,
In ev'ry gesture, dignity and love."
- MILTON'S PARADISE LOST.


"But, Elsie, what of Mr. Travilla?" asked her father, as he handed her
into the saddle.

"He will not be here till evening, sir," she answered, the rose on her
cheek deepening slightly.

"Then I can have undisturbed possession for to-day at least," replied Mr.
Dinsmore, mounting. "We couldn't have a lovelier day for a ride."

"Nor better company," added Elsie, archly, keeping her horse's head on a
line with that of her father's larger Steed, as they followed the winding
carriage road at a brisk canter.

"Why, you conceited little puss?" returned Mr. Dinsmore laughing.

Elsie blushed more deeply this time. "Why, papa, you are the company
to-day, are you not? I wished to go, and you kindly arranged to accompany
me."

"Ah! and that is how you look at it? Well, I recall my rebuke, and thank
you for your - what shall I say - pretty compliment, or appreciation of my
society?"

"Both, if you like. Oh, how nice it is to be at home again in our own dear
native land."

"And what do you call your own dear native land?"

"What a strange question, papa! The great, grand old Union to be
sure - North and South, East and West - is it not all mine? Have you not
taught me so yourself?"

"Yes," he said musingly.

They rode on in silence for some minutes, and when he spoke again, it was
upon a subject entirely foreign to the last.

"The place looks natural," he remarked, as they turned into the avenue
leading to the fine old dwelling of the Carringtons.

"How kind, how very kind, to come so soon!" was Mrs. Carrington's cordial,
joyful salutation. "Mr. Dinsmore, I owe you a thousand thanks for not only
permitting your daughter to come, but bringing her yourself."

"You are very welcome, my dear madam," he answered courteously; "and,
indeed, I should like to see Mrs. Rose myself, when she is well enough and
feels that it will be agreeable to her."

A few moments' chat in the drawing-room, and Mr. Dinsmore drew out his
watch. "How long a talk do you want with your friend to-day, Elsie?" he
asked.

"Oh, just as long as I can be allowed, papa!" she cried, with much of the
old childish eagerness.

"Then the sooner you begin, the better, I think, for we ought to be on our
way to Roselands in an hour, or an hour and a quarter at the farthest."

Upon that the gentlemen retired to the library to talk over business
matters, and Mrs. Carrington led the way for Elsie to Lucy's room. But
pausing in the upper hall, she took the young girl in her arms, folding
her in a close, loving embrace, and heaping upon her tearful, tender,
silent caresses.

"My poor boy! my poor dear Herbert," she murmured at length, as she
released her hold. "Darling, I can never forget that you might have been
my daughter. But there - I will leave you. Lucy occupies her old rooms, and
yonder is her door; you know the way."

"But come in with me, dear Mrs. Carrington," urged Elsie, the tears
shining in her eyes.

"No, dear, not just yet. Lucy would prefer to see you quite alone at
first, I know." And she glided away in the opposite direction.

A soft, cooing sound came to Elsie's ear, mingled with fondling words, in
a negro voice, as she stood an instant waiting admittance. Lucy, a good
deal paler and thinner than the Lucy of old, lay back in an easy chair,
languidly turning the leaves of a new magazine.

"Open the door, mammy," she said, "I thought I heard a rap." Then at sight
of Elsie, the magazine was hastily tossed aside, and with a cry of joy,
"Oh, you darling! I thought I'd never see you again," she sprang forward,
caught her friend in a close embrace, and wept upon her neck.

Elsie soothed her with caresses and words of endearment, and presently she
calmed down, made her friend take a seat, and sinking back into her own,
wiped away the tears still welling up in her eyes, and with a little
hysterical laugh said, "Please don't look so concerned, or think I'm
unhappy with my dear old Phil, or going to die, or any such nonsense: it's
just my nerves; hateful, torturing things! I wish I'd never found out I
had any."

"You poor dear, I'm so sorry for your lost health," said Elsie, exchanging
her chair for a low ottoman at Lucy's feet, and taking the small thin
hands in hers, stroking and patting them caressingly; "I know nerves won't
be reasoned with, and that tears are often a great relief."

"And I've everything to make me happy," sobbed Lucy - "the best husband in
the world, and the darlingest of babies, to say nothing of mamma and papa,
and the rest, and really almost everything one could desire."

"Oh, the baby, yes!" cried Elsie, turning towards it with eager interest;
"the sweet, pretty darling. May I take him a moment, Lucy?"

"Certainly, if he's not too heavy - bring him here, mammy. I remember your
father would not allow you to lift or carry little Horace."

"Ah, but that was years ago! Ah, how lovely he is!" as the babe accepted
her mute invitation to come to her. "You are rich indeed, with this
treasure added to all your others. And you and your Phil don't quarrel
yet?"

"No indeed! not the first cross word yet. Mamma calls us her turtle-doves:
says we're always billing and cooing. Ah, Elsie, how beautiful you are!
I've always thought you just as lovely as possible, yet there's an added
something - I can't divine what - that increases even your peerless
attractions."

"O Lucy, Lucy, still a flatterer!" laughed her friend.

"Yet you've come back to us single," Lucy went on, ignoring the
interruption, "though we all know you had ever so many good offers. Pray,
do you intend to remain single all your days?"

At that, Elsie's face dimpled all over with blushes and smiles.

Lucy signed to the nurse to take the babe, and as the woman walked away
with it in her arms, turned eagerly to her friend.

"Now do tell me; for I'm sure you are not going to live single. Shall we
have the pleasure of hailing you as duchess yet?"

"No, Lucy; I intend to marry; am actually engaged, but not to a
foreigner."

"Dear me! I don't believe I could have resisted the title. That is," she
added, hastily, "if I'd been heart-whole like you: but after seeing my
Phil, of course I wouldn't give him up for all the nobles in Europe, Asia,
and Africa. But do tell me who is the fortunate man?"

"Suppose you try your skill at guessing."

"Perfectly useless, never had any. It must be somebody I don't know."

"My good little woman, you know him well."

"Either of Harry's brothers-in-law? Richard? Harold?"

"No, no, no; you are wide of the mark! Could you suppose papa would ever
consent to such a mixture of relationships? Why, it would make papa my
brother and mamma's brother her son-in-law."

"So it would. Well, I give it up and beg of you to put a speedy end to my
suspense."

Lucy bent her head to listen, and Elsie murmured the name low and softly,
the rose deepening on her cheek as she spoke. For a moment Lucy seemed
struck dumb with astonishment. Then, "Elsie!" she exclaimed, "I can't
believe it; you are only jesting."

Elsie shook her head with a low, musical, happy laugh.

"He's splendid, I don't deny that; but then - only think - your father's
most intimate friend from boyhood up; and almost as old."

"Some people seem like wine - to improve with age. But Mr. Travilla is not
old to me now. He has been standing still, I believe, while I have grown
up to him."

"And you really are in love with him?"

"He has all my heart, all the love I could give to any one, and I respect,
honor, and trust him as I do no one else but my father."

"And that reminds me; I was so afraid your father would not let you come
to see me. But - you are your own mistress now, of course."

"Papa tells me so sometimes," laughed Elsie, "and yet I know he would be
greatly surprised should I take the liberty of doing anything he would not
approve. I asked his permission to come, and he not only gave consent but
brought me himself."

"That was good in him; but I hope he won't hurry you away. I want to hear
about your European conquests, and have ever so much to say besides."

"No, he has kindly promised me time for a long talk. Besides, I can ride
over any day and supplement it with another."

Mr. Dinsmore was as good as his word; their chat had lasted more than an
hour when his summons came, yet Lucy declared it had not been half long
enough, and would not be satisfied to let Elsie go without a promise to
come again very soon.

* * * * *

"Roselands, too, looks very natural, and very homelike," remarked Mr.
Dinsmore, as they rode up its avenue.

"Yes, papa; and yet, do you know, it seems to me it has grown smaller and
less grand since I lived here as a child."

"Ah! did you think it very grand then, daughter?" he asked, turning to her
with a smile.

"I believe so, papa; but it is beautiful yet, even after all the fine
places we have seen in our own country and Europe."

Adelaide met them at the door. "Just in time," she said, "for there is the
dressing-bell. Your own old room, Elsie dear: you know the way and will
find Aunt Chloe in waiting. Horace, you will make yourself at home of
course."

It was strictly a family party, sociable and informal. Elsie had not met
Arthur since their return, and at the first moment scarcely recognized him
in the moustached and bewhiskered young man who rose and came forward,
with a slight limp, to meet her as she entered the drawing-room.

"How do you do?" he said, holding out his right hand, while steadying
himself with a cane held in the left. "I hope you're glad to get back to
America?"

"Arthur, is it? Yes; thank you: and I'm very glad your injuries have
proved less serious than was at first feared," she said, kindly meeting
his advances half-way.

"Oh yes," he replied, with attempted nonchalance, "I shall be all right by
and by."

Then retreating to the seat from which he had just risen, the corner of a
sofa by the side of his sister Adelaide, his eye following Elsie as she
crossed the room to pay her respects to her grandfather and others. "What
on earth you call that girl little for, I can't imagine," he remarked in
an undertone; "why she's quite above the average height; graceful as a
young fawn, too; splendid figure, and actually the most beautiful face I
ever saw. I don't wonder she turned the heads of lords and dukes on the
other side of the water. But what _do_ you call her little for?"

"I hardly know, Art; with me it's a term of endearment more than anything
else, I believe," replied his sister; "but there is something in the
expression of her face - something that has always been there, a sweet
simplicity and innocence - that moves one to a sort of protecting love as
to a little one who has not yet attained sufficient worldly wisdom to take
care of herself."

Old Mr. Dinsmore greeted his lovely granddaughter almost affectionately,
holding her hand in his for a moment, and looking from her to her father.
"Really, she's a girl to be proud of, Horace," he said with a paternal
smile. "But I've no need to tell you that."

"No, she is not bad looking," observed his wife with a slight sneer; "few
girls would be in such elegant attire; but it surprises me to see that,
with all her advantages and opportunities for improvement, she has not yet
lost that baby expression she always had. She'll never be half the woman
Enna is."

The days were past in which the lady mother had gloried in the fact that
anywhere Enna would have been taken for the elder of the two; and now the
contrast between her faded, fretful face and Elsie's fresh bloom was a
sore trial to madam's love, and pride in her household pet.

But no one deemed it necessary to reply to the unpleasant remark. Elsie
only smiled up into her father's face as he came forward and stood at her
side, and meeting his look of loving content and pride in her, just as she
was, and calling to mind how fully satisfied with her was another, whose
loving approbation was no less precious, turned away with a half-breathed
sigh of heartfelt happiness, finished her greetings, and, the dinner-bell
ringing at that moment, accepted Walter's offered arm to the dining-room.

Arthur was more and more charmed with his niece as he noted the modest
ease and grace of her manners, both at the table, and afterwards in the
drawing-room; listened to her music - greatly improved under the
instructions of some of the first masters of Europe - and her conversation
with his father and others, in which she almost unconsciously revealed
rich stores of varied information gathered from books, the discourse of
the wise and learned met in her travels, and her own keen yet kindly
observations of men and things. These, with the elegance of her diction,
and the ready play of wit and fancy, made her a fascinating talker.

Contrary to Elsie's expectations, it was decided by the elders of the
party that all should remain to tea.

As the others returned to the drawing-room on leaving the table, she stole
out upon the moonlighted veranda. Gazing wistfully down the avenue, was
she thinking of one probably even then on his way to the Oaks - thinking of
him and his disappointment at not finding her here?

"It's a nice night, this," remarked Arthur's voice at her side, "I say,
Elsie, suppose we bury the hatchet, you and I."

"I never had any enmity towards you, Arthur," she answered, still gazing
straight before her.

"Well, it's odd if you hadn't; I gave you cause enough, as you did me by
your niggardly refusal to lend me a small sum, on occasions when I was
hard up. But I'm willing to let by-gones be by-gones, if you are."

"Certainly; I should be glad to forget all that has been unpleasant in the
past."

"You have improved wonderfully since I saw you last: you were a pretty
girl then, but now you are without exception the most superbly beautiful,
graceful, accomplished, and intelligent woman I ever saw."

"I do not like flattery, Arthur," she answered, turning coldly away.

"Pooh! the truth's never flattery; I declare if we were not so nearly
related, I'd marry you myself."

"You forget," she said, half scornfully, "that it takes two to make a
bargain; three in this case; and two of us would never consent."

"Nonsense! I'd soon manage it by clever courting. A man can always get the
woman he wants if he's only sufficiently determined."

"In that you are mistaken. But why broach so disagreeable a subject, since
we are so nearly related that the very thought seems almost a sin and a
crime?"

"And so you're going to throw yourself away on old Travilla?"

Elsie faced him with flashing eyes. "No; it will be no throwing away of
myself, nor will I allow him to be spoken of in such disrespectful terms,
in my presence."

"Humph!" laughed Arthur. "Well, I've found out how to make you angry, at
all events. And I'm free to confess I don't like Travilla, or forgive him
all old scores."

Elsie scarcely seemed to hear. A horse was coming at a quiet canter up the
avenue. Both the steed and his rider wore a familiar aspect, and the young
girl's heart gave a joyous bound as the latter dismounted, throwing the
reins to a servant, and came up the steps into the veranda.

She glided towards him; there was an earnest, tender clasping of hands, a
word or two of cordial greeting, and they passed into the house and
entered the drawing room.


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