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- Elsie Dinsmore - 1/52 -


ELSIE DINSMORE

BY

MARTHA FINLEY

CHAPTER FIRST

"I never saw an eye so bright, And yet so soft as hers; It sometimes swam in liquid light, And sometimes swam in tears; It seemed a beauty set apart For softness and for sighs." --MRS. WELBY.

The school-room at Roselands was a very pleasant apartment; the ceiling, it is true, was somewhat lower than in the more modern portion of the building, for the wing in which it was situated dated back to the old-fashioned days prior to the Revolution, while the larger part of the mansion had not stood more than twenty or thirty years; but the effect was relieved by windows reaching from floor to ceiling, and opening on a veranda which overlooked a lovely flower-garden, beyond which were fields and woods and hills. The view from the veranda was very beautiful, and the room itself looked most inviting, with its neat matting, its windows draped with snow-white muslin, its comfortable chairs, and pretty rosewood desks.

Within this pleasant apartment sat Miss Day with her pupils, six in number. She was giving a lesson to Enna, the youngest, the spoiled darling of the family, the pet and plaything of both father and mother. It was always a trying task to both teacher and scholar, for Enna was very wilful, and her teacher's patience by no means inexhaustible.

"There!" exclaimed Miss Day, shutting the book and giving it an impatient toss on to the desk; "go, for I might as well try to teach old Bruno. I presume he would learn about as fast."

And Enna walked away with a pout on her pretty face, muttering that she would "tell mamma."

"Young ladies and gentlemen," said Miss Day, looking at her watch, "I shall leave you to your studies for an hour; at the end of which time I shall return to hear your recitations, when those who have attended properly to their duties will be permitted to ride out with me to visit the fair."

"Oh! that will be jolly!" exclaimed Arthur, a bright-eyed, mischief-loving boy of ten.

"Hush!" said Miss Day sternly; "let me hear no more such exclamations; and remember that you will not go unless your lessons are thoroughly learned. Louise and Lora," addressing two young girls of the respective ages of twelve and fourteen, "that French exercise must be perfect, and your English lessons as well. Elsie," to a little girl of eight, sitting alone at a desk near one of the windows, and bending over a slate with an appearance of great industry, "every figure of that example must be correct, your geography lesson recited perfectly, and a page in your copybook written without a blot."

"Yes, ma'am," said the child meekly, raising a pair of large soft eyes of the darkest hazel for an instant to her teacher's face, and then dropping them again upon her slate.

"And see that none of you leave the room until I return," continued the governess. "Walter, if you miss one word of that spelling, you will have to stay at home and learn it over."

"Unless mamma interferes, as she will be pretty sure to do," muttered Arthur, as the door closed on Miss Day, and her retreating footsteps were heard passing down the hall.

For about ten minutes after her departure, all was quiet in the school-room, each seemingly completely absorbed in study. But at the end of that time Arthur sprang up, and flinging his book across the room, exclaimed, "There! I know my lesson; and if I didn't, I shouldn't study another bit for old Day, or Night either."

"Do be quiet, Arthur," said his sister Louise; "I can't study in such a racket."

Arthur stole on tiptoe across the room, and coming up behind Elsie, tickled the back of her neck with a feather.

She started, saying in a pleading tone, "Please, Arthur, don't."

"It pleases me to do," he said, repeating the experiment.

Elsie changed her position, saying in the same gentle, persuasive tone, "O Arthur! _please_ let me alone, or I never shall be able to do this example."

"What! all this time on one example! you ought to be ashamed. Why, I could have done it half a dozen times over."

"I have been over and over it," replied the little girl in a tone of despondency, "and still there are two figures that will not come right."

"How do you know they are not right, little puss?" shaking her curls as he spoke.

"Oh! please, Arthur, don't pull my hair. I have the answer--that's the way I know."

"Well, then, why don't you just set the figures down. I would."

"Oh! no, indeed; that would not be honest."

"Pooh! nonsense! nobody would be the wiser, nor the poorer."

"No, but it would be just like telling a lie. But I can never get it right while you are bothering me so," said Elsie, laying her slate aside in despair. Then taking out her geography, she began studying most diligently. But Arthur continued his persecutions-- tickling her, pulling her hair, twitching the book out of her hand, and talking almost incessantly, making remarks, and asking questions; till at last Elsie said, as if just ready to cry, "Indeed, Arthur, if you don't let me alone, I shall never be able to get my lessons."

"Go away then; take your book out on the veranda, and learn your lessons there," said Louise. "I'll call you when Miss Day comes."

"Oh! no, Louise, I cannot do that, because it would be disobedience," replied Elsie, taking out her writing materials.

Arthur stood over her criticising every letter she made, and finally jogged her elbow in such a way as to cause her to drop all the ink in her pen upon the paper, making quite a large blot.

"Oh!" cried the little girl, bursting into tears, "now I shall lose my ride, for Miss Day will not let me go; and I was so anxious to see all those beautiful flowers."

Arthur, who was really not very vicious, felt some compunction when he saw the mischief he had done. "Never mind, Elsie," said he. "I can fix it yet. Just let me tear out this page, and you can begin again on the next, and I'll not bother you. I'll make these two figures come right too," he added, taking up her slate.

"Thank you, Arthur," said the little girl, smiling through her tears; "you are very kind, but it would not be honest to do either, and I had rather stay at home than be deceitful."

"Very well, miss," said he, tossing his head, and walking away, "since you won't let me help you, it is all your own fault if you have to stay at home."

"Elsie," exclaimed Louise, "I have no patience with you! such ridiculous scruples as you are always raising. I shall not pity you one bit, if you are obliged to stay at home."

Elsie made no reply, but, brushing away a tear, bent over her writing, taking great pains with every letter, though saying sadly to herself all the time, "It's of no use, for that great ugly blot will spoil it all."

She finished her page, and, excepting the unfortunate blot, it all looked very neat indeed, showing plainly that it had been written with great care. She then took up her slate and patiently went over and over every figure of the troublesome example, trying to discover where her mistake had been. But much time had been lost through Arthur's teasing, and her mind was so disturbed by the accident to her writing that she tried in vain to fix it upon the business in hand; and before the two troublesome figures had been made right, the hour was past and Miss Day returned.

"Oh!" thought Elsie, "if she will only hear the others first, I may be able to get this and the geography ready yet; and perhaps, if Arthur will be generous enough to tell her about the blot, she may excuse me for it."

But it was a vain hope. Miss Day had no sooner seated herself at her desk, than she called, "Elsie, come here and say that lesson; and bring your copybook and slate, that I may examine your work."

Elsie tremblingly obeyed.

The lesson, though a difficult one, was very tolerably recited; for Elsie, knowing Arthur's propensity for teasing, had studied it in her own room before school hours. But Miss Day handed back the book with a frown, saying, "I told you the recitation must be perfect, and it was not."

She was always more severe with Elsie than with any other of her pupils. The reason the reader will probably be able to divine ere


Elsie Dinsmore - 1/52

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