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Left alone upon the veranda, Harold sat scanning the columns of the morning paper, when a light step drew near, a pleasant voice said, "Good-morning," and looking up he found Mrs. Calhoun Conly, with a babe in her arms, close by his side.
"Oh! good-morning to you, Cousin Mary," he returned, hastily rising and gallantly handing her to a seat. "I am glad to see you and the little one looking so well."
"Thank you," she returned merrily, "it would be a pity if we failed to keep well with so many doctors about. Were you waiting to see Arthur? I believe he is in the house--probably up in his wife's room--though I have not seen him since breakfast."
"Yes, he is there, sharing with Marian a call from my mother."
"Ah! that is nice for Marian; she has been wanting to see Cousin Elsie badly. I want a call from her too, and hope she will not forget me when through with my sister-in-law."
"Hardly, I think; it is not mother's way to forget anyone; especially so near and dear a relative as yourself, Cousin Mary. But don't set your heart on a long call this morning, for some other folks want the doctor if you don't."
"Ah! and your mother has taken up the practice of medicine, has she?"
"Well, I don't say that exactly, but certainly her advice and suggestions are sometimes more beneficial to the patient than those of her doctor son; then think of the enviable condition of the patient who can have both," returned Harold laughingly. "Ah, here comes Cousin Cal!" as a horseman came galloping up the avenue.
"Good-morning, Harold!" Calhoun said, as he alighted, giving his steed in charge to a servant, and came up the veranda steps. "I have been out in the field for some hours, overseeing the work of my men, saw you passing a few moments since with your mother, and could not resist the temptation to leave them and come in for a bit of chat with her and yourself."
"Especially with me, of course," laughed Harold as the two shook hands and Calhoun, seating himself near his wife, took the babe, which was stretching out its arms to him with a cooing invitation not to be resisted by the doting father.
"Mother's particular errand this morning was a call upon Marian; she is paying it now, and I presume will be down in the course of ten or fifteen minutes," added Harold.
"You will both stay to dinner, won't you?" queried Calhoun hospitably. "We'd be delighted to have you do so."
"That we would," added his wife heartily.
"Thank you," returned Harold, "but I have some rather urgent calls to make and hope to get mother to accompany me. I know of no one else who can say such comforting things to the sick and depressed."
"Nor do I," responded Mrs. Conly. "If I am in the least depressed, a call from her, or a chat with her, always raises my spirits; she can always show you a silver lining to the cloud, however dark it may be."
"Yes," said Harold, "her faith in the goodness and love of God is so strong and unwavering, and she realizes so perfectly that life in this world is short and fleeting, that which follows unending and full of bliss to all who believe in the Lord Jesus, that she is ever content with whatever Providence sends her. I never knew a happier Christian."
"Nor I," said Mary. "I only wish we were all more like her in that respect."
"Yes," said Calhoun, "and I believe we are every one of us the happier and better for knowing her. I have been thinking that it will be hard for Rosie to leave such a mother."
"That it will," sighed Harold; "and hard for mother, and all of us indeed, to part with Rosie. But of course the members of so large a family as ours cannot expect to remain together all through life."
"Yes; weddings are apt to bring both joy and sorrow," remarked Mrs. Conly reflectively; "the forming of new ties and the breaking of old ones. One cannot altogether forget the old loves, however sweet the new may be; but when we get to the better land we may hope to have them all," she added with an appreciative glance at her husband. "Ah, how delightful that will be!"
There was a moment's silence; then Harold said, "The wedding day having not been fixed yet the invitations have not been sent out, but I know mother is hoping to see your parents here at that time, Cousin Mary."
"That is kind," she returned with a pleased smile; "I supposed they would be invited, and that so I should have the better prospect of getting a long promised visit from them myself. But if you invite all the relatives you will have a great many guests to entertain--that is should all, or nearly all, accept. However, it is more than likely that by far the larger number will feel constrained to content themselves with sending regrets, congratulations, and gifts."
"I hope," said Harold quickly and earnestly, "I am sure we all do--that no one will feel called upon for that last. I trust that will be fully understood. The parents of both bride and groom being abundantly able to provide everything necessary or desirable, why should distant relatives and friends assist in it, perhaps at the cost of embarrassment or self-denial?"
"But you should not deny the privilege to those who are abundantly able and would feel it a pleasure," returned Mary with playful look and tone; "which I am sure is the case with some of the relatives," she added.
"No," said Harold, "I should not deny it, but would have a distinct understanding that it was not expected or desired, at the cost of hardship or self-denial to the giver, or his or her nearer and dearer ones."
At that moment his mother stepped from the doorway into the veranda. Very warmly affectionate greetings were exchanged, she was quickly installed in an easy-chair, and some moments were spent in lively chat.
"Do take off your bonnet, Cousin Elsie, and stay and dine with us," urged Calhoun hospitably. "Our young doctor here insists that he cannot; but let him go on and visit the patients he thinks need his services, and call here again for you; unless you will allow me the pleasure of seeing you safely home later in the day."
"Thank you, Cal," she said in reply, "but Rosie will be looking out for her mother--as I promised her I would not be gone very long--and I want to see some of my boy's patients myself, and to make a little call at Beechwood. You know they are all relatives there, and Annis and I very old and dear friends."
"Yes; and it is growing late," said Harold, consulting his watch; "so, whenever you are ready, mother, we will start."
"I am that now," she answered, rising with the words. "Good-bye, Cousin Mary. Come over to Ion whenever you can make it convenient. And when you write home be as urgent as possible in your entreaties that your parents will come to the wedding and be prepared to remain in the neighbourhood for a long visit after it is over."
"You may rest assured that I will do my very best to bring them here and for as long a stay as possible," was Mary's smiling and earnest reply.
"And never doubt, cousin, that I will do my best to second her efforts," said Calhoun, handing her into the carriage as he spoke.
"Will there be time for a call at Beechwood, Harold?" she asked as they drove down the avenue.
"Oh, yes, mother! I think so," he replied. "I have but two calls to make on the way, and it is not likely either need be very long."
"I would not have anyone neglected for my convenience," she remarked in a cheery tone, "but should be glad to spend a half hour with Annis if I can do so without loss or inconvenience to anyone else."
"Always thoughtful for others, mother dear," Harold said, giving her a most affectionate look and smile. "I think you may trust me not to neglect my patients."
"I hope so, indeed," she responded; "and that you will never be less careful and considerate of the poor than of the rich."
Fortunately they found all doing so well that no lengthened call was necessary, and they reached Beechwood in season to allow quite a long chat between the lady cousins before it would be time for Mrs. Travilla and her son to set out on their return to Ion.
They found Mr. Lilburn and Annis seated upon the front veranda, she with a bit of needlework in her hands, he reading aloud to her. He closed his book as the carriage drove up, and laying it aside, hastened to assist his Cousin Elsie to alight, greeting her with warmth of affection as he did so. Annis dropped her work and hastened to meet and embrace her, saying:
"Oh, but I am glad to see you, Elsie! I had letters this morning from Mildred and Zilla, both bringing a great deal of love to you and a cordial invitation to you and yours--as well as my husband and myself--to pay them a visit this summer. They have not yet heard of Rosie's approaching marriage, I find."
"But must hear of it very soon," Elsie said with a smile. "As soon as the important day is fixed upon I must send out my invitations; and you may rest assured that none of our relatives will be forgotten or neglected; certainly not one of your sisters or brothers."
"No, my dear cousin, it would not be at all like you to neglect any of them," returned Annis with a smile of loving appreciation. "Ah, Harold!" turning to him as, having secured his horse, he came up the veranda steps and joined their little group, "I am glad to see you; especially as, like a dear, good boy, you have brought your mother along."
"Yes," he said, grasping cordially the hand she held out, "I find I am sure of a welcome anywhere when I am fortunate enough to induce mother to accompany me. Sick or well, everybody is glad to see her."
"You also, I presume; especially if they are sick."
"And can't get Cousin Arthur," he added. "A young doctor is better than none; though an old and tried physician is deemed the best--by sensible people."
"Ah, ha; ah, ha; um, hm! so it would seem, laddie, yet sometimes the young fellows hae a new trick the auld hardly ken aboot," remarked Cousin Ronald with a good-humoured smile. "And for my ain sel' I should care little--were I ill--whether it were Doctor Arthur or Doctor Harold that prescribed the remedies to be used."
"Or Doctor Herbert; Herbert might do just as well as either of the two, I presume," added Annis.
"We have just come from a call at Roselands to see Marian and your little namesake, Cousin Ronald," said Mrs. Travilla. "He is a dear little fellow, and I hope will grow up in a way to do honour to the name."
"I hope he may, and to be a great comfort and blessing to the parents who have done me the honour to call their firstborn for me," returned the old gentleman, a gleam of pleasure lighting up his face. "I want to see the bit bairn myself when the mother is well enough to enjoy a call from her auld kinsman. And how soon do you think that may be, doctor?" he asked, turning to Harold.
"In a few days, sir, should she continue to gain strength as she seems to be doing now. I have no doubt she will be very glad to see both you and Cousin Annis."
"Yes; I must go along, for I want to see both the boy and his mother. Marian will make a sweet mother, I think; and Arthur an excellent father," said Annis.
"I quite agree with you in that idea," Elsie said, "and their joy in the possession of the little fellow is a pleasant thing to see. By the way, where are Cousin Ella and her little ones?"
"Hugh has taken them out driving," replied Mr. Lilburn. "There is nothing the bit bairnies like better than that."
"I am sorry to miss seeing them, but it is time we were on our homeward route," Elsie said, consulting her watch.
They were kindly urged to remain longer, but declined, bade adieu, and were presently driving on toward Ion.
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