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   Chapter 8 No.8

Elsie at Home By Martha Finley Characters: 17799

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


At Ion Rosie was pacing the veranda as her mother and Harold drove up. She hailed them eagerly as they alighted.

"At last! I began to think you must have yielded to a most urgent invitation to stay to dinner at Roselands, Beechwood, or Woodburn."

"No," said her mother; "invitations were not lacking, but were steadily declined for the sake of my daughter Rosie, who I knew would be sadly disappointed if her mother failed to keep her promise not to remain long away from her to-day. So here we are; and I see you have news to impart," she added with a smiling glance at a letter in Rosie's hand.

"Yes, mamma," returned the young girl, smiling and blushing as she spoke. "It is from Will, and incloses a little note from his mother-such a nice, kind, affectionate one-saying she is glad she is to have a daughter at last, and she wants to make my acquaintance as soon as possible."

They had seated themselves, and Harold, having given his horse into the care of a stable boy, now followed them, asking in a gay, bantering tone:

"Am I intruding upon a private conference, Rosie? I know mother may be intrusted with secrets which you might prefer not to give into my keeping."

"Certainly that is so, but this is not one of that kind, and you may listen if you care to," returned Rosie with a light laugh; then she repeated the item of news just given her mother.

"Ah! I wonder if she does not want an invitation to pay us a visit," said Harold.

"Wait," laughed Rosie; "I have not told you all yet. She goes on to speak of Cousin Arthur as a physician in whom she has great confidence, and to say that she would like to be in his care for at least a time; so if we can recommend a good boarding place somewhere in this neighbourhood she, her husband, and son will come and take possession for weeks or months; at least until after the wedding."

"By the way," said Harold, "I thought I had heard that Mrs. Croly had nearly or quite recovered her health while in Europe a few years ago. You know at the time Will was so nearly drowned they had just returned from a visit there."

"Yes," replied Rosie; "she had been greatly benefited, but her health has failed again within the last year or two-so Will has told me. I do hope she may come here-into this neighbourhood-and that Cousin Arthur may succeed in helping her very much."

"Yes, I hope so," said Harold. "He will be glad indeed of an opportunity to make some return for their very liberal treatment of him in acknowledgment of his service to their son. They feel that they owe that son's life to Arthur's persistent efforts to resuscitate him when he was taken from the sea apparently dead."

"Will himself is very grateful to him," said Rosie. "He has told me that he feels he owes his life to Doctor Arthur and that nothing can ever fully repay the obligation."

"Yes; he has talked to me in the same strain more than once or twice," said Harold. "Now I think of it, I should not be at all surprised if they would be willing to take the Crolys in at Roselands for a time. There is a good deal of unoccupied room in the house, and having her there would enable Arthur to watch the case closely and do everything possible for her restoration to health."

"Oh, that would be a grand plan!" exclaimed Rosie. "Though perhaps it would make too much care for our lady cousins-Mary and Marian."

"Well, we won't suggest it," returned Harold, "but just tell Arthur her wishes-Mrs. Croly's, I mean-and let him give his opinion in regard to possible boarding places. Would not that be the better plan, mother?"

"I think so," she said, taking out her watch, as she spoke. "Ah! it wants but five minutes of the dinner hour. I must go at once to my rooms and make ready for the summons to the table."

It was not thought worth while to make Mrs. Croly's request a secret from any member of the family, so the matter was talked over among them as they sat together on the veranda that evening, and the different boarding places in the vicinity were considered. It was feared none of them could furnish quite such accommodations as might be desired without placing the invalid farther from her physician than would be convenient for the constant oversight of the case which they supposed he would want to exercise.

"Well, evidently," remarked Herbert at length, "we will have to refer the question to Cousin Arthur himself. And here he comes, most opportunely," as a horseman turned in at the avenue gates.

He was greeted with warmth of cordiality and speedily installed in a luxuriously easy chair.

"I was passing," he said, "and though I don't like to be long away from my wife and boy, I felt an irresistible inclination to give my Ion relatives and friends a brief call."

"And omitting that ugly word brief, it is just exactly what we are all delighted to receive," laughed Zoe.

"Yes," said Mr. Dinsmore, "we were talking of you and wanting your opinion on a certain matter under discussion."

"Ah, what was that?" Arthur asked in return, and Mr. Dinsmore went on to explain, telling of the desire of Mrs. Croly to put herself under his care for at least a time, and asking his opinion of the various boarding places in the vicinity.

"Boarding places!" he exclaimed. "We would be only too glad to receive her as a guest at Roselands; for as you all know I feel under great obligation to Mr. Croly, her husband; besides, it would make it much easier for me to take charge of her case. Poor dear woman! I hope she may be at least partially, if not entirely, restored to health."

"That proposal is just what one might expect of you, Cousin Arthur," said Grandma Elsie, giving him a look of affectionate appreciation; "but are you quite sure it would suit Cal's convenience, and that of your wife and his?"

"Knowing all three as I do, I can scarcely doubt it," replied Arthur; "but perhaps I would better consult them before sending the invitation to the Crolys. I will do so, and you shall hear from me early to-morrow or possibly to-night," he added. "Marian, I am sure, will feel very much as I do about it," he went on presently, "but just now the burden would fall more upon Sister Mary; so that I think I must not give the invitation unless she is entirely willing."

"Which I feel almost certain she will be," said Rosie. "But I will wait to hear from you, Cousin Arthur, before answering my letters."

"You shall hear at an early hour," he returned.

"Mary is hoping to have her parents here for the wedding and for a long visit afterward," remarked Grandma Elsie, "but you have room enough to accommodate both them and the Crolys, I think."

"Oh, yes!" replied Arthur, "there need be no difficulty about that. Our house is large and the regular dwellers in it are far less numerous than they were in my young days. Ah, how widely scattered they are," he continued half musingly-"my sisters Isadore and Virginia in Louisiana-Molly and Dick Percival there too, with Betty and Bob Johnson; my brothers Walter and Ralph-the one in the army, the other in California. Sister Ella, the only one near at hand, living at Beechwood; Cal and I the only ones left in the old home."

"Where you are very happy; are you not?" asked his cousin Elsie in a cheery tone and with an affectionate smile into his eyes.

"Yes," he answered, returning the smile; "Cal with his charming wife and two dear little children, I with my sweet Marian and a baby boy of whom any father might well be proud and fond. And I must be going back to them," he added, rising, and with a hasty good-night to all, he took his departure.

He was scarcely out of sight when the Beechwood and Woodburn carriages turned in at the gates, the one bringing Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Lilburn, the other Captain Raymond, his wife, and his daughters Lucilla and Grace.

All were received with warm and joyous greetings. They had started out for a drive, met and exchanged salutations, had then decided to call together upon their Ion relatives; a not very unusual proceeding.

And scarcely were they seated when Mr. and Mrs. Leland and Evelyn were seen coming up the drive, having walked over from Fairview, tempted to do so by the beauty of the evening and the prospect of the pleasure of a chat with the very near and dear dwellers in the old home at Ion, who never seemed weary of their companionship, though scarcely a day passed in which they had not more or less of it.

Nor was the communication with Woodburn much less frequent, though it was farther away by a mile or more; for with their abundance of steeds and conveyances of various sorts, it could be traversed with such ease, expedition, and comfort that it seemed little or no inconvenience; the short ride or drive was really a pleasure; though not infrequently it was made a walk when roads were in good condition and the weather was propitious.

Th

e welcome of the Fairview party was not less cordial than had been that of the others, and presently all were seated and a buzz of conversation ensued.

The young girls made a little group by themselves and of course the approaching wedding, with the preparations for it, was the principal theme of their talk. Rosie, not caring to have secrets from these very near and dear young friends, told of the letters received that morning and the talk just held with Dr. Conly.

"Oh, that was noble in Cousin Arthur!" exclaimed Lucilla. "The Crolys were very generous to him, to be sure, but not at all more so than he deserved."

"No," said Rosie; "they were quite able to pay him what they did; but it isn't everyone who would have done so, and I have always thought well of them for it; and I am glad Cousin Arthur can make them some small return."

"But should he succeed in restoring Mrs. Croly to health, that will not be a very small return, I think," said Evelyn with a smile.

"No; for good health is the greatest of earthly blessings," said Grace. "One can hardly fully enjoy anything without it."

"As you know by experience, you poor thing!" said Rosie.

"Oh, no! not now."

"Have you fixed upon the wedding day yet, Rosie?" asked Lucilla.

"No, not definitely; we have only decided that it shall be somewhere about the middle of June; or perhaps a little later. I want to make sure of having Walter here; for it would be too bad to have him miss his youngest sister's wedding."

"And you want Marian to have time to get well, too, don't you?" said Grace.

"Oh, yes, indeed! and she will be by that time; at least she seems altogether likely to be. Mamma was there to-day and found her doing nicely."

"Hark! What is that Cousin Ronald is saying?" exclaimed Lucilla, and they paused in their talk to listen.

"I want you all, old and young," he said in his blithe, cordial tones, "to come and have as good and merry a time as possible, to celebrate the third birthday of my little namesake grandson. We talked the thing over at the dinner table and all agreed that there could be no better way of celebrating that most important event."

"It certainly is a delightful time of year for an outdoor party in this region of country," remarked Mrs. Dinsmore, "and I, for one, accept the invitation with pleasure."

"As I do," said her husband.

"And I!" "And I!" "And I!" added the others in turn.

The young girls were highly pleased: it was by no means their first invitation to Beechwood, and they felt sure of being hospitably and well entertained. Ella, Hugh's wife, had been mistress of the mansion before the marriage of the old gentleman and Annis, and so continued to be, with Annis' full consent, but there was no jarring between them; they were congenial spirits, and enjoyed each other's society. Ella was fond of the old gentleman, too,-the only father she had ever known,-and her little ones, Ronald and his baby sister, were to all a strong bond of union.

"It is to be an afternoon party, I suppose?" remarked Mrs. Dinsmore in a tone of inquiry.

"Yes," said Mr. Lilburn. "Come as early as you please, bringing all the little folks as the guests of our bit laddie. We will have an early supper for their sakes, and after that the parents can carry them home and see them in their nests as early as they like."

"And both parents and little folks may stay as late as they like," added Annis with a smile.

"Yes," said her husband, "each and every guest may feel free to do that."

"I hope you are not too busy to come, Rosie?" said Annis, turning to her.

"Thank you, no; I should not like to miss the fun of attending little Ronald's birthday party," returned Rosie in a sprightly tone, "and you must be sure to bring him to the party I am to have some weeks later."

"That, of course, will have to be as his father and mother say," laughed Annis.

"Well, he shall not lack an invitation," said Rosie. "I do not intend that any of my relatives shall. By the way, I hope your nephew, Cousin Donald Keith, will be able to get a furlough, so that he can come. He has visited us several times, here and at the seashore, and I like him very much indeed."

"Yes, so do I," said Annis, "and I hope he may be able to come. I should enjoy showing him my new home and entertaining him there."

"He will be in demand if he comes," said Captain Raymond. "I shall want him as my guest; for he and I are old attached friends."

"Ah, yes, I remember," said Annis. "No doubt he will want to be with you a part of his time."

"Yes," said Grandma Elsie; "and as we will all want him we will have to divide the pleasure of his visit among us-if he will allow it."

"I have always liked and admired Cousin Donald," said Violet, "and often wondered that he has remained single all these years."

"He has not happened to meet the right one yet, I suppose, my dear," the captain said with a smile. "Or, if he has met her, has failed to secure her."

"And in doing so has caused her to miss securing an excellent husband, I think," said Violet.

"In which I certainly agree with you," Annis said. "All my married nephews seem to me to be admirable husbands. I hope, Elsie, that Cyril Keith and his Isadore may be able to come to the wedding."

"So do I," responded Mrs. Travilla heartily; "and if they fail to come you may be assured it was not for lack of a warm invitation."

"I hope they and all the other cousins from that region will come," remarked Mrs. Leland.

Just then the telephone bell rang.

"There! that is Cousin Arthur, I presume," said Edward Travilla, hastening to the instrument.

His answering ring and "Hello!" were quickly replied to, and the next moment he announced to the company, "It was Arthur. He says all is right, and Rosie may send as warm an invitation as possible. They will be only too glad to receive the three Crolys as their guests."

"Oh, that is good!" cried Rosie. "Now I shall be able to send my reply by to-morrow's early mail."

"Yes, Cousin Arthur was very kindly prompt; as indeed he always is," said her mother.

"Quite true, mother," said Harold; "and Herbert and I try to copy him in that, feeling that it is very necessary in a physician to be ready, able, and willing to answer a call for his services with expedition."

"That it is, laddie," responded Cousin Ronald, "for a life sometimes depends on getting quick help frae the doctor. The life of a faithfu' medical mon is one of toil and self-denial; a fact that has made me wonder that you and your Cousin Herbert, here, chose it rather than a vocation that wad be somewhat easier."

"It is a hard life in some respects," Harold answered; "but there is something very delightful in having and using the ability to relieve suffering, and surely one who professes to be a follower of Christ should be seeking to do good to others rather than courting his own ease and enjoyment."

"Yes; copying the dear Master's own example," returned the old gentleman with a smile. "The dear Master who should be our pattern in all things."

"Yes," said Herbert, low and feelingly, "that is what we both sincerely desire to do."

It was still early when the callers bade good-night and took their departure; the Lilburns going first, then the Raymonds, and lastly the Lelands.

All met again the next day at Beechwood, where they were joined by the other members of the family connexion and had a very pleasant afternoon, mostly taken up with sports suited to the entertainment of the little ones-three-year-old Ronald and his baby cousins.

The invitations had been sent out too late to allow time for the purchase of many gifts, but there were fruits and flowers, and some few toys; among these last, animals which ventriloquism caused apparently to say very amusing things, to the surprise and merriment of the little folks.

Then, when they began to tire of fun and frolic, they were seated about a table under the trees on the lawn, and regaled with toothsome viands, not too rich for their powers of digestion. After that they were allowed to sport upon the verandas and the grass, while the elder people gathered about the table and satisfied their appetites with somewhat richer and more elaborate viands.

They had finished their meal and were gathered in groups under the trees or on the verandas, when the sound of a banjo caused a sudden hush of expectancy. Glances were sent here and there in search of the musician, yet no one was greatly surprised that he was not visible. Several tunes were played; then followed a song in the negro dialect, which made everybody laugh.

That was the winding up of the entertainment, and, as it was nearing the bedtime of the little ones, all presently bade good-bye, with truthful assurances of having greatly enjoyed themselves, and returned to their homes.

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