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Viamede presently showed as beautiful and festive a scene as had Torriswood earlier in the day—the velvety grass bespangled with sweet-scented flowers of varied hues, the giant oaks and magnolias, the orange trees with their beautiful glossy leaves, green fruit and ripe, lovely blossoms; also many flags floating here and there from upper windows, verandas, and tree tops. There were not a few exclamations of admiration and delight from the young people and children as carriage after carriage drove up and deposited its living load.
A very gay and mirthful time followed; sports begun at Torriswood were renewed here with as much zest and spirit as had been shown there; the large company scattering about the extensive grounds and forming groups engaged in one or another game suited to the ages and capacity of its members. But some preferred strolling here and there through the alleys and groves, engaging in nothing more exciting or wearying than sprightly chat and laughter, while the older ladies and gentlemen—among them Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore, Mr. and Mrs. Ronald and Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Lilburn, Mr. and Mrs. Embury, and Mr. and Mrs. Keith, Mrs. Travilla, and Mr. and Mrs. Leland, Dr. Arthur Conly and his Marian—gathered in groups on the verandas or the nearer parts of the lawn.
Edward Travilla and his Zoe were down among the little folks, overseeing the sports of their own twin boy and girl and their mates, as were also Captain Raymond and his Violet, with their Elsie and Ned. His older son and daughters, with Chester Dinsmore and his brother Frank, could be seen at some little distance, occupying rustic seats under a wide-spreading tree and seemingly enjoying an animated and amusing chat. Drs. Harold and Herbert Travilla, strolling along with the two older daughters of Mr. Embury, presently joined them, and Dr. and Mrs. Percival shortly followed, the mirth and jollity apparently increasing with every addition.
"They seem to be very merry over yonder," remarked Mrs. Embury, with a smiling glance at that particular group. "It does me good to see Dick take a little relaxation—he is usually so busy in the practice of his profession."
"Yes," said Grandma Elsie, "and the evidently strong affection between him and Maud is very delightful to see."
"As is that between the captain and Violet," added her cousin Annis. "I thought her young for him when they married, but I never saw a more attached couple. They make no display of it before people, but no close observer could be with them long without becoming convinced of the fact."
"That is so, I think," said Mrs. Leland. "The captain is a fond father, but he has told Vi more than once that to lose her would be worse to him than being called to part with all his children."
"Ah, I hope neither trial may ever be appointed him," said Grandma
Elsie, low and softly, ending with a slight sigh.
"And so Chester and Lucilla, Max and Eva are engaged," remarked Mrs. Embury in a reflective tone; "and so far as I know the entire connection seems satisfied with the arrangement."
"I have yet to hear of objection from any quarter," Mrs. Leland said with a smile, "and I can say with certainty that Lester and I are well satisfied, so far as our niece Eva is concerned. I think the captain is right and wise though, in bidding them delay marriage for at least a year or two—all of them being so young."
"I think," said Mrs. Arthur Conly, joining in the talk, "that Frank
Dinsmore is evidently very much in love with Grace."
"In which I sincerely hope he will get no encouragement from the captain," Dr. Conly added quickly and with strong emphasis. "Grace is much too young, and entirely too feeble to safely venture into wedlock for years to come."
"And I think you may safely trust her father to see that she does not," said Grandma Elsie. "I am sure he agrees in your opinion and that Grace is too good and obedient a daughter ever to go contrary to his wishes."
Gradually, as the sun drew near his setting, the participants in the sports gave them up and gathered in the parlors or upon the verandas, most of them just about weary enough with the pleasant exercise they had been taking to enjoy a little quiet rest before being summoned to partake of the grand dinner in process of preparation by Viamede's famous cooks.
Lucilla and her sister Grace, wishing to make some slight change in the arrangement of hair or dress, hastened up the broad stairway together on their way to the room now occupied by Grace and Elsie. In the upper hall they met their father, coming from a similar errand to his own apartment.
"Ah, daughters," he said in his usual kindly tones, "we have had much less than usual to say to each other to-day, but I hope you have been enjoying yourselves?" and as he spoke he put an arm around each and drew them closer to him.
"Oh, yes, yes, indeed, papa!" both replied, smilingly and in mirthful tones, Lucilla adding, "Everything seems to have gone swimmingly to-day."
"Even to the catching of the bride's bouquet, I suppose," returned her father, giving her an amused yet searching and half-inquiring look.
At that Lucilla laughed.
"Yes, papa; wasn't it odd that Eva and I happened to catch it together?"
"And were both highly elated over the happy augury?" he queried, still gazing searchingly into her eyes.
"Hardly, I think, papa; though Chester and Max seemed rather elated by it. But really," she added with a mirthful look, "I depend far more upon my father's decision than upon dozens of such auguries; and besides am in no haste to leave his care and protection or go from under his authority."
"Spoken like my own dear eldest daughter," he returned with a gratified look, and giving her a slight caress.
"It would be strange indeed, if any one of your children did want to get from under it, papa," said Grace, with a look of ardent affection up into his eyes.
"I am glad to hear you say that, daughter," he returned with a smile, and softly smoothing the shining, golden hair, "because it will be years before I can feel willing to resign the care of my still rather feeble little Grace to another, or let her take up the burdens and anxieties of married life."
"You may be perfectly sure I don't want to, papa," she returned with a gleeful, happy laugh. "It is just a joy and delight to me to feel that I belong to you and always shall as long as you want to keep me."
"Which will be just as long as you enjoy it—and we both live," he added a little more gravely.
Then releasing them with an injunction not to waste too much time over their toilet, he passed on down the stairway while they went on into their tiring-room.
"Oh, Lu," said Grace as she pulled down her hair before the glass, "haven't we the best and dearest father in the world? I like Chester ever so much, but I sometimes wonder how you can bear the very thought of leaving papa for him."
"It does not seem an easy thing to do," sighed Lucilla, "and yet——"
But she paused, leaving her sentence unfinished.
"Yet what?" asked Grace, turning an inquiring look upon her sister.
"Well, I believe I'll tell you," returned Lucilla in a half-hesitating way. "I have always valued father's love oh, so highly, and once when I happened accidentally to overhear something he said to Mamma Vi, it nearly broke my heart—for a while." Her voice quivered with the last words, and she seemed unable to go on for emotion.
"Why, Lu, what could it have been?" exclaimed Grace in surprise, and giving her sister a look of mingled love and compassion.
With an evident effort Lucilla went on: "It was that she was dearer to him than all his children put together—that he would lose every one of them rather than part with her. It made me feel for a while as if I had lost everything worth having—papa's love for me must be so very slight. But after a long and bitter cry over it I was comforted by remembering what the Bible says, 'Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself.' And the words of Jesus, 'For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.' So I could see it was right for my father to love his wife best of all earthly creatures—she being but a part of himself—and besides I could not doubt that he loved me and each one of his children very, very dearly."
"Yes, I am sure he does," said Grace, vainly trying to speak in her usual cheery, light-hearted tones. "Oh, Lu, I don't wonder you cried over it. It would just kill me to think papa didn't care very much about me."
"Oh, Gracie, he does! I know he does! I am sure he would not hesitate a moment to risk his life for any one of us."
"Yes, I am sure of it! and what but his love for you makes him so unwilling to give you up to Chester? I can see that Ches feels it hard to wait, but father certainly has the best of rights to keep his daughters to himself as long as they are under age."
"And as much longer as he chooses, so far as I am concerned. I am only too glad that he seems so loath to give me up. My dear, dear father! Words cannot express my love for him or the regret I feel for the rebellious conduct which gave him so much pain and trouble in days long gone by."
"Dear Lu," said Grace, "I am perfectly sure our dear father forgave all that long ago."
"Yes, but I can never forget or forgive it myself. Nor can I forget how glad and thankful he was that I was not the one killed by the bear out at Minersville, or his saving me that time when I was so nearly swept into Lake Erie by the wind; how closely he hugged me to his breast—a tear falling on my head—when he got me safely into the cabin, and the low-breathed words, 'Thank God, my darling, precious child is safe in my arms.' Oh, Gracie, I have seemed to hear the very words and tones many a time since. So I cannot doubt that he does love me very much; even if I am not so dear to him as his wife is."
"And you love mamma, too?"
"Yes, indeed! she is just like a dear older sister. I may well love her since she is so dear to papa, and was so kind and forbearing with me in those early years of her married life when I certainly was very far from being the good and lovable child I ought to have been. She was very forbearing, and never gave papa the slightest hint of my badness."
"She has always been very good and kind to us," said Grace, "and I love her very dearly."
"And papa showed his love for me in allowing Chester to offer himself because he had saved my life—for otherwise he would have forbidden it for at least another year or two."
"Yes, I know," said Grace. "We certainly have plenty of proofs that father does love us very much."
"But we must not delay at this business, as he bade us hasten down again," Lucilla said, quickening her movements as she spoke.
"No; I'm afraid he is beginning to wonder what is keeping us so long," said Grace, following her example.
They had no idea how their father was engaged at that moment. As he reached the lower hall Frank Dinsmore stepped forward and accosted him. "Can I have a moment's chat with you, captain?" he asked in an undertone, and with a slightly embarrassed air.
"Certainly, Frank. It is a very modest request," was the kindly-toned response, "What can I do for you?"
"Very nearly the same thing that you have so kindly done for my brother, sir," replied the young man, coloring and hesitating somewhat in his speech. "I—I am deeply, desperately in love with your daughter, Miss Grace, and——"
"Go no farther, my young friend," interrupted the captain in a grave though still kindly tone. "I have no objection to you personally, but Grace is entirely too young and too delicate for her father to consider for a moment the idea of allowing her to think of such a thing as marriage. Understand distinctly that I should be not a whit more ready to listen to such a request from any other man—older or younger, richer or poorer."
"But she is well worth waiting for, sir, and if you would only let me speak and try to win her affections, I——"
"That must be waited for, Frank. I cannot and will not have her approached upon the subject," was the almost stern rejoinder. "Promise me that you will not do or say anything to give her the idea that you want to be more to her than a friend."
"That is a hard thing you are requiring, sir," sighed Frank.
"But quite necessary if you would be permitted to see much of Grace," returned the captain with great decision. "And, seeing that you feel toward her as you have just told me you do, I think the less you see of each other—or hold intercourse together—the better. Should she be in good, firm health some six or eight years hence, and you and she then have a fancy for each other, her father will not, probably, raise any objection to your suit; but until then I positively forbid anything and everything of the kind."
"I must say I find that a hard sentence, captain," sighed the would-be suitor. "It strikes me that most fathers would be a trifle more ready to make an eligible match for a daughter of Miss Grace's age. She is very young, I acknowledge, but I have known some girls to marry even younger. And you will not even allow her to enter into an engagement?"
"No; I have no desire to rid myself of my daughter; very far from it. For my first set of children I have a peculiarly tender feeling because—excepting each other—they have no very near relative but myself. They were quite young when they lost their mother, and for years I have felt that I must fill to them the place of both parents as far as possible, and have tried to do so. As one result," he added with his pleasant smile, "I find that I am exceedingly loath to give them up into any other care and keeping."
"But since we are neighbors and distant connections, and my brother engaged to Miss Lu, you do not absolutely forbid me your house, captain?"
"No; you may see Grace in my presence—perhaps occasionally out of it—provided you carefully obey my injunction to refrain from anything like love-making."
"Thank you, sir; I accept the conditions," was Frank's response, and the two separated just as Lucilla and Grace appeared at the top of the stairway near which they had been standing, Frank passing out to the veranda, the captain moving slowly in the opposite direction.
"There's father now!" exclaimed Grace, tripping down the stairs.
"Papa," as he turned at the sound of her voice and glanced up at her,
"I've been re-arranging my hair. Please tell me if you like it in this
"Certainly, daughter; I like it in any style in which I have ever seen it arranged," he returned, regarding it critically, but with an evidently admiring gaze. "I am glad and thankful that you have an abundance of it—such as it is," he added sportively, taking her hand in his as she reached his side. Then turning to Lucilla, "And yours, too, Lulu, seems to be in well-cared-for condition."
"Thank you, papa dear; I like occasionally to hear you call me by that name so constantly used in the happy days of my childhood."
"Ah! I hope that does not mean that these are not happy days?" he said, giving her a look of kind and fatherly scrutiny.
"Oh, no, indeed, father! I don't believe there is a happier girl than
I in all this broad land."
"I am thankful for that," he said with a tenderly affectionate look into her eyes as she stood at his side gazing up into his; "for there is nothing I desire more than the happiness of these two dear daughters of mine."
"Yes, father dear, we both know you would take any amount of trouble for our pleasure or profit," said Grace gayly; "but just to know that we belong to you is enough for us. Isn't it, Lu?"
"And are so dear to him," added Lucilla. "I couldn't be the happy girl
I am if I didn't know that."
"Never doubt it, my darlings; never for a moment," he said in a moved tone.
"Oh, so here you are, girls!" exclaimed a familiar voice just in their rear. "I have been all round the verandas, looking for you, but you seemed to be lost in the crowd or to have vanished into thin air."
"Certainly not that last, sister Rose," laughed the captain. "I am happy to say there is something a good deal more substantial than that about them."
"Yes, I see there is; they are both looking remarkably well. And now I hope we can have a good chat. There has hardly been an opportunity for it yet—there being such a crowd of relations and friends, and such a commotion over the wedding—and you know I want to hear all about what you did and saw in Florida. Also to tell you of the improvements we are talking of making at Riverside."
"You will have hardly time for a very long talk, Rosie," said her mother, joining them at that moment. "The call to dinner will come soon. But here are comfortable chairs and a sofa in which you can rest and chat until then."
"Yes, mamma, and you will join us, will you not? And you too, brother
Levis?" as the captain turned toward the outer door.
"I shall be pleased to do so if my company is desired," he replied, taking a chair near the little group already seated.
"Of course it is, sir. I always enjoyed your company even when you were my respected and revered instructor with the right and power to punish me if I failed in conduct or recitation," returned Rosie in the bantering tone she had so often adopted in days gone by.
"I am rejoiced to hear it," he laughed.
"And you may as well make yourself useful as story-teller of all you folks saw and did in Florida," she continued.
"Much too long a tale for the few minutes we are likely to be able to give to it at present," he said. "Let us reserve that for another time and now hear the story of your own prospective doings at Riverside."
"Or talk about this morning's wedding. It was a pretty one; wasn't it? I never saw Sidney look so charming as she did in that wedding gown and veil. I hope they will have as pleasant a wedding trip as my Will and I had; and be as happy afterward as we are."
"I hope so, indeed," said her mother, "and that their after life may be a happy and prosperous one."
"Yes, mamma, I join you in that. And, Lu, how soon do you expect to follow suit and give her the right to call you sister?"
"When my father bids me; not a moment sooner," replied Lucilla, turning an affectionately smiling look upon him.
He returned it, saying, "Which will not be for many months to come. He is far from feeling ready yet to resign even one of his heart's best treasures."
"Oh, it is a joy to have you call me that, papa!" she exclaimed low and feelingly.
They chatted on for a few minutes longer, when they were interrupted by the call to the dinner table. A very welcome one, for the sports had given good appetites and the viands were toothsome and delicious. The meal was not eaten in haste or silence, but amid cheerful, mirthful chat and low-toned, musical laughter, and with its numerous courses occupied more than an hour.
On leaving the banqueting room they again scattered about the parlors, verandas, and grounds, resuming the intimate and friendly intercourse held there before the summons to their feast.
Captain Raymond had kept a watchful eye upon his daughters—Grace in especial—and now took pains to seat her near himself on the veranda, saying, "I want you to rest here a while, daughter, for I see you are looking weary; which is not strange, considering how much more than your usual amount of exercise you have already taken to-day."
"Yes, I am a little tired, papa," she answered, with a loving smile up into his eyes as she sank somewhat wearily into the chair, "and it is very, very pleasant to have you so kindly careful of me."
"Ah!" he returned, patting her cheek and smiling affectionately upon her, "it behooves everyone to be careful of his own particular treasures."
"And our dear Gracie is certainly one of those," said Violet, coming to the other side of the young girl and looking down a little anxiously into the sweet, fair face. "Are you very weary, dearest?"
"Oh, not so very, mamma dear," she answered blithely. "This is a delightful chair papa has put me into, and a little rest in it, while digesting the good hearty meal I have just eaten, will make me all right again, I think."
"Won't you take this other one by her side, my love? I think you too need a little rest," said the captain gallantly.
"Thank you, I will if you will occupy that one on her other side, so that we will have her between us. And here come Lu and Rosie, so that we can perhaps finish the chat she tells me she was holding with you and the girls before the call to dinner."
"I don't believe we can, mamma," laughed Grace, "for here come Will
Croly and Chester to take possession of them; Eva and Max too, and
"Then we will just defer it until another time," said Violet. "Those who have children will soon be leaving for their homes and those left behind will form a smaller, quieter party."
Violet's surmises proved correct, those with young children presently taking their departure in order that the little ones might seek their nests for the night.
The air began to grow cool and the family and remaining guests found it now pleasanter within doors than upon the verandas. Music and conversation made the time pass rapidly, a light tea was served, Mr. Dinsmore—Mrs. Travilla's father—read a portion of Scripture and led in a short prayer, a little chat followed, and the remaining guests bade adieu for the present and went their ways; Maud's two brothers and the Dinsmores from the Oaks among them.
"Now, Grace, my child, linger not a moment longer, but get to bed as fast as you can," said Captain Raymond to his second daughter as they stood upon the veranda, looking after the departing guests. His tone was tenderly affectionate and he gave her a good-night caress as he spoke.
"I will, father dear," she answered cheerfully and made haste to do his bidding.
"She is looking very weary. I fear I have let her exert herself to-day far more than was for her good," he remarked somewhat anxiously to his wife and Lucilla standing near.
"But I hope a good night's rest will make it all right with her," Violet returned in a cheery tone, adding playfully, "and we certainly have plenty of doctors at hand, if anything should go wrong with her or any of us."
"Excellent ones, too," said Lucilla; "but I hope and really expect that a good night's rest will quite restore her to her usual health and strength. So, father, don't feel anxious and troubled."
"I shall endeavor not to, my wise young mentor," he returned with a slight laugh, laying a hand lightly upon her shoulder as he spoke.
"Oh, papa, please excuse me if I seemed to be trying to teach you!" she exclaimed in a tone of penitence. "I'm afraid it sounded very conceited and disrespectful."
"If it did it was not, I am sure, so intended, so I shall not punish you this time," he replied in a tone which puzzled her with the question whether he were jesting or in earnest.
"I hope you will if you think I deserve it, father," she said low and humbly, Violet having left them and gone within doors, and no one else being near enough to overhear her words.
At that he put his arm about her and drew her closer. "I but jested, daughter," he said in tender tones, "and am not in the least displeased with you. So your only punishment shall be an order presently to go directly to your room and prepare for bed. But first let us have our usual bit of bedtime chat, which I believe I enjoy as fully as does my little girl herself."
"Oh, father, how kind in you to say that!" she exclaimed in low, but joyous tones. "I do dearly love to make you my confidant—you are so wise and kind and I am so sure that you love me dearly, as your very own God-given property. Am I not that still as truly as I ever was?"
"Indeed you are! as truly now as when you were a babe in arms," he said, with a happy laugh and drawing her closer to his heart. "A treasure that no amount of money could buy from me. Your price is above rubies, my own darling."
"What sweet words, papa!" she exclaimed with a happy sigh. "But sometimes when I think of all my past naughtiness—giving you so much pain and trouble—I wonder that you can love me half so well as you do."
"Dear child, I think I never loved you the less because of all that, nor you me less because of the severity of my discipline."
"Papa, I believe I always loved you better for your strictness and severity. You made it so clear to me that it was done for my best good and that it hurt you when you felt it your duty to give me pain."
"It did indeed!" he said; "but for a long time now my eldest daughter has been to me only a joy, a comfort, a delight—so that I can ill bear the thought of resigning her to another."
"Ah, father, what sweet, sweet words to hear from your lips! they make me so glad, so happy."
"Pleasant words those for me to hear, and a pleasant thought that my dear eldest daughter is not in haste to leave my protecting care for that of another. I trust Chester is inclined to wait patiently until the right time comes?"
"He has made it evident to me that he would much rather shorten the time of waiting if there were a possibility of gaining my father's consent."
"But that there is not," the captain replied with decision. "If I should consider only my own feeling and inclination and my belief as to what would be really best for you, I should certainly keep full possession of my eldest daughter for several years to come. I have had a talk with Dr. Conly on the subject, and he, as a physician, tells me it would be far better in most cases, for a girl to remain single until well on toward twenty-five."
"Which would make her quite an old maid, I should think, papa," laughed Lucilla. "Yet if you bid me wait that long and can make Chester content—I'll not be at all rebellious."
"No, I don't believe you would; but I have really no idea of trying you so far. By the way, Rosie and her Will, Maud and Dick seem two very happy couples."
"Yes, indeed, father; it is a pleasure to watch them. And do you know
I think Frank Dinsmore is casting longing eyes at our Grace."
"But you don't think the dear child cares at all for him?"
"Oh, no, sir! no, indeed! Grace doesn't care in the least for beaux, and loves no other man half so well as she does her father and mine."
"Just as I thought; but I want you quietly to help me prevent any private interviews between them—lest she might learn to care for him."
"Thank you for trusting me, papa; I will do any best," she responded.
Then they bade good-night and Lucilla went to her room. She found Eva there and they chatted pleasantly together as they prepared for bed. Eva had noticed Frank's evident devotion to Grace and spoke of it, adding, "It is a pity, for of course your father—I had very nearly said father, for I begin to feel as if I belonged in his flock—considering us older ones too young to marry, will say she is very far from being old enough for loverlike attentions."
"Yes, he does," replied Lucilla, "and I want your help in a task he has set me—the endeavor to keep them from being alone together."
"I'll do so with pleasure," laughed Evelyn, "and I think probably it would be just as well to take Grace herself into the plot, for I'm very sure she doesn't care a pin for Frank, but dotes upon her father."
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