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   Chapter 9 No.9

Elsie at Home By Martha Finley Characters: 20480

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

The Woodburn carriage was quite full with the captain and his entire family, excepting, of course, his eldest son, Max, who was far away on board a man-of-war.

"Well," said Violet, as they drove out of Beechwood Avenue into the highway, "I have enjoyed little Ronald's birthday party very much, and hope you can all say the same."

"Oh, yes, mamma! I think we had good fun," exclaimed Neddie. "To be sure Ronald is only a baby boy-just about half as old as I am-but he's a very dear little fellow; and then his grandpa made a great deal of fun for us."

"Sometimes it was his papa who did it, I think," said Elsie.

"Oh, yes!" said Ned. "Papa, why don't you do such things for us sometimes?"

"Really, my son, I do not seem to have any talent in that line," returned the captain with a smile. "Your brother Max has, however, and I hope that, some of these days, he will come home and make the fun for you that you are so eager for."

"Oh, I'll be so glad! And will he teach me how to do it, too?"

"I hardly think he can," his father answered, with an amused look; "at least, not till you are a good deal older than you are now."

"Well, I'm getting older every day; mamma tells me so when she wants me to behave like a little gentleman."

"Which is always, Neddie boy," Violet said, with an amused look.

"Yes, my son, both mamma and papa want their little boy to be always a little gentleman-kind, courteous, and thoughtful for others," the captain said, softly patting the little hand laid confidingly on his knee.

"Lu, do you know if Rosie sent off those important letters this morning?" asked Violet.

"Yes, she told me she did; also that she had learned from Cousin Mary that Cousin Arthur had written a warm invitation from himself and his wife, and from her and Cousin Cal, and sent it by the early morning mail. I presume they will be received by the Crolys to-morrow and that two or three days later the reply will come."

"I think it can hardly fail to be an acceptance," said Violet. "I shall be glad of the opportunity to make the acquaintance of Rosie's future mother-in-law,-the father-in-law too,-and I dare say Will is anxious to have them know mamma, and perhaps the rest of us."

"And, having done so they will be all the more pleased with the match," added the captain. "By the way, my dear, we must keep open house for the entertainment of family connections when they are here to attend the wedding."

"I am entirely willing," Violet answered with a smile; "as well I may be when my husband bears all the expense and does the planning, with the housekeeper's assistance, and she directs the servants, who do all the work. Really I do not know where a more fortunate woman than I can be found."

"Nor I where a more appreciative wife could be discovered," returned the captain, regarding her with a smile of profound affection.

"I hope Captain Keith will be one of our guests," said Grace. "I liked him very much when he visited us that time at the seashore. Didn't you, Lu?"

As the question was asked the captain turned a quick, inquiring look upon his eldest daughter, which, however, she did not seem to notice.

"Yes," she said rather indifferently, "I liked him well enough; and I remember he was pleasant and kind at West Point-showing us about and explaining things. But even if he hadn't been so kind and obliging I should be glad to entertain him as papa's friend," she added. "Were you boys together, father?"

"No," laughed the captain; "if I am not mistaken I am fully ten years older than Captain Keith."

"Why, papa, I don't think you look like it. And you are such great friends," exclaimed Lucilla.

"Well, my child, people may be great friends without being very near of an age," laughed her father. "For instance, are not you and I great friends?"

"Oh, we are lovers," she answered with a bright smile up into his eyes. "But then we are not of the same sex."

"And that, you think, makes a difference, eh?" he laughed. "But Max and Ned seem to love me nearly as well as my daughters do."

"Every bit as much, papa!" exclaimed Ned earnestly. "I do, I'm sure."

"That is pleasant to hear, my boy," his father said, smiling fondly upon the little fellow. "And I presume brother Max would say the same if he were here. Ah, we have reached home"; for at that moment the carriage turned in at the great gates.

"Our own sweet, lovely home!" said Grace, looking out upon the beautiful grounds with shining eyes. "I am always glad to get back to it, no matter where I have been."

"I too," said Lucilla; "unless my father is somewhere else," she added, giving him a most loving look.

"Ah, I wasn't thinking of being in it without papa," said Grace. "I'd rather live in a hovel with him than in a palace without him."

"I don't doubt it, my darling," he returned. "I am entirely sure of the love of both of you, and of all my children."

"And of your wife, I hope," added Violet in a sprightly tone.

"Yes, indeed, my love, or I should not be the happy man I am," he responded; then, as the carriage drew up before the entrance to the mansion, he threw open the door, alighted, and handed them out in turn.

"The children seem to be tired," remarked Violet; "do you not think they might as well go at once to their beds, my dear?"

"Yes," he said. "Grace also; for she looks as weary as they."

"Thank you, papa," she said. "I am tired enough to be glad to do so. But don't be anxious," she added with a smile, as he gave her a troubled look; "I am not at all sick; it is only weariness." And she held up her face for a kiss, which he gave heartily and with a look of tenderest fatherly affection.

The two little ones claimed their turn; then Violet and the three went upstairs, leaving the captain and Lucilla alone together.

"Didn't you say you had some letters to write when you came home, papa?" she asked; "and can't I help you?"

"I say yes to both questions," he answered pleasantly. "Take off your hat and come with me into the library. But perhaps you are too tired," he added hastily, as if just struck by the thought. "If so, daughter, I would not have you exert yourself to do the work now. It can wait till to-morrow morning. Or, if I find anything needing an immediate reply, I can attend to it myself, without my little girl's assistance."

"But I am not tired, papa, and I dearly love to help you in any and every way that I can," she answered, smiling up into his eyes.

"I do not doubt it in the least, my child," he said, laying his hand on her head in tender, fatherly fashion; "and you are a very great help and comfort to me; so much so that I shall be extremely loath ever to let anybody rob me of my dear eldest daughter."

"I hardly think anybody wants to yet, papa," she laughed; "nobody seems to set anything like the value upon me that you do. So you needn't be in the least afraid of ever being robbed of this one of your treasures. Ah, papa, it is so nice-such a happiness to have you esteem me a treasure, and to know that I belong to you."

"A happiness to me as well as to you, dear child," he said. "Well, we will look at the letters and decide whether it is necessary to answer any of them to-night."

They had entered the library and drawn near the table while they talked. A pile of letters lay upon it. He took them up and glanced at the superscription upon each.

"Ah! here is one directed to you, daughter," he said, "and from someone in this neighborhood; for it is without a stamp."

"Probably from Maud or Sydney," she remarked.

"No," said her father, "the handwriting is evidently that of a man. Well, you may open it and see who the writer is," handing it to her as he spoke.

"If you would rather I did not, papa, I do not want to," she said, not offering to take it. "Please read it first."

"I can trust you, daughter, and you have my full permission to read it," he said in a kindly indulgent tone.

"Thank you, papa; but I really prefer to have you read it first," she replied.

He smiled approval, broke the seal, and glanced over the missive.

"It is from Chester Dinsmore," he said; "merely an invitation to you to go with him to a boating party on the river, if your father gives consent."

"Which I don't believe my father will," laughed Lucilla.

"And you are not anxious that he should?" he queried with a smile.

"Not unless he is entirely willing to have me go; and hardly even then, as he is not to be one of the party."

"That is my own good little girl," he said, putting an arm about her, drawing her close to his side, and kissing her several times. "I am not willing to have you a young lady yet,-as I think you know,-but I want to keep you my own little girl for some time longer."

"I am very glad that you do, papa," she returned, laying her head against his breast and putting her arms about his neck, "and I hope you won't ever, ever grow tired of keeping me for your own, altogether yours, with no partner in the concern," she added with a low, gleeful laugh.

"You need have no fear that I will grow tired of it until you do," he said with a smile, and repeating his caresses. "But when that time comes do not hesitate to tell me: for, rest assured, your happiness is very dear to your father's heart. And if you would like to accept this invitation, you may do so with my full consent."

"Thank you, father dear, but I really do not care to go; I should much prefer to keep the engagement already made for that day."

"Ah! what is that?"

"Now, papa, have you forgotten that you are to take Mamma Vi, Gracie, and me into the city to do some shopping?"

"Ah, yes; I had forgotten it for the moment. But I dare say both your mamma and Grace would be willing to defer that for a day or two."

"But I wouldn't, because my father has taught me not to break engagements without very strong reasons; which I don't think I have in this case."

He laughed a little at that. "Well, daughter," he said, "you shall do as you please about it, and I am glad to see that you are so good at remembering your father's instructions and so ready to obey them."

"Thank you, sir. And now must I answer Chester's note-or

will you do it for me?"

"That shall be just as you please, daughter. Perhaps it would be as well for you to write the answer; but, if you greatly prefer to have me do so, I shall not refuse."

"May I do it on the typewriter?"

"If you prefer it, I see no objection."

"I do prefer it; it is so much easier and quicker than working with a pen," she said.

"Perhaps you would better wait until to-morrow morning, however," he suggested; "for, on thinking the matter over, you may find that you prefer to accept the invitation after all."

He was examining the rest of his mail, and she considered his proposition for a moment before replying to it.

"Yes, papa," she said at length, "I will wait a little-perhaps till to-morrow morning-before writing my answer. And now I will get ready to write replies to those letters at your dictation."

"Yes, daughter; fortunately there are but few that call for a reply, and it need not be long in any case." He laid down the letters and took the cover from the machine as he spoke, then supplied her with paper and envelopes, put a sheet into the machine, and began dictating. They made quick work of it, and had finished in about half an hour.

Violet joined them just as Lulu took the last sheet from the machine.

"Oh," she said, "I see you are busy; but I will not interrupt."

"We are just done, my dear, and very glad to have you with us," said her husband.

"Yes, Mamma Vi, this is the last letter papa wants written for him, and you are just in time to help me decide on a reply to one of my own."

"Willingly, if you wish it; but I should say your father's advice would be worth far more than mine," returned Violet in a sprightly tone. "Levis, my dear, do you refuse to tell her what to do or say?"

"I only advise her to follow her own inclination-if she can find out what that is," he answered, regarding Lucilla with a smile that seemed a mixture of fatherly affection and amusement.

"Yes, papa is so dear and kind he won't give me any order at all, and I am so used to being directed and controlled by him that it really seems hard work to decide for myself," laughed Lucilla.

"But what about? My curiosity is keenly aroused," said Violet, glancing from one to the other.

"An invitation for me to go boating and picnicking day after to-morrow," returned Lucilla. "You may read it," handing Chester's note to Violet. "I have no very strong inclination to accept,-especially as we are expecting to take that day for our shopping expedition to the city,-but papa seems to think I should hardly decline on that account. Still he leaves me free to decline or accept as I please, and though I have often wished he would, when he wouldn't, this time I wish he wouldn't when he will"; she ended with a hearty laugh.

"And I suppose your conclusion is that fathers are sometimes very doubtful blessings," the captain said, assuming a grave and troubled air.

She gave him a startled look. "Oh, papa! surely you are not in earnest? surely you know that I was not?" she exclaimed beseechingly.

He smiled and held out his hand. She sprang to his side and he drew her to a seat upon his knee.

"Yes, daughter, dear, I do," he said, caressing her hair and cheek with his hand, "and I, too, was but jesting; I am troubled with no doubts of the sincere, ardent affection of my eldest daughter."

"Yes," said Violet with a smile, "I think she very nearly makes an idol of her father-which is not surprising considering what a dear, good father he is. Well, I have read the note, Lu, and I think, if I were you, I would accept the invitation. Don't you think, my dear, that we might do the shopping to-morrow?"

"Certainly, if it suits you, my love," he replied. "I do not know why to-morrow would not suit for that business as well as the next day."

"And that leaves you free to accept Chester's invitation, Lu."

"Yes, and I begin to feel as if I might enjoy it right well if--"

"If what, daughter?" her father asked, as she paused, leaving her sentence unfinished.

"If I were perfectly sure you would not rather I did not go, papa."

"I think I can trust you to behave well, even out of my sight," he returned with a smile, and in a jesting tone; "and though I still call you my little girl, that is more as a term of endearment than anything else; and I really think you are large enough, old enough, and good enough to be trusted, occasionally, out of my sight-away from my side."

"Thank you, papa dear," she said, her eyes shining; "it is a great pleasure to hear you say that, and I certainly do intend to conduct myself exactly as I think you would wish; so now I will answer Chester's note with an acceptance of his invitation," she added, leaving her father's knee and seating herself before the typewriter. "I'll make it short and submit it to you, papa, for approval."

"About that, too, you may do exactly as you please," he responded, stepping to her side and putting the paper in for her, as when she was about to write for him.

She made quick work, saying only what seemed necessary, submitted it to her father's and Violet's verdict, which was altogether favourable, then directed an envelope, placed the note in it, and sealed it, saying, "There! it is all ready to go early to-morrow morning, and will be no hindrance to me in getting ready for the shopping expedition."

"Which, perhaps, you will enjoy nearly as much as the boating party," remarked Violet in a jesting tone.

"Probably more," responded Lucilla; "at least if we are successful in finding very suitable and handsome wedding gifts for Rosie. Father, how much may I spend on one?"

"I think not more than a hundred dollars."

"Oh! may I have so much as that for it? You dear, good papa!" she exclaimed.

"I am well able to afford it," he returned pleasantly, "and should be sorry to let my daughters give other than valuable wedding gifts to my wife's sister."

"Thank you, my dear," said Violet with a gratified look. "I have no doubt Rosie will appreciate your and your daughter's kindness, as she certainly ought to."

"Grandma Elsie has been very, very kind to us," said Lucilla, and her father added:

"She has, indeed! I can never forget how kindly she took my children in when I was unable to provide them with a good and happy home."

"Hark! I hear carriage wheels on the drive; we are going to have callers," exclaimed Lucilla, and, as she spoke, they all rose and went out upon the veranda to receive their guests.

They proved to be Maud, Sydney, and Frank Dinsmore, from the Oaks; and, when greetings had been exchanged, they said their errand was to speak of the boating party, and ask if Grace could go; also if Lucilla had received Chester's invitation and meant to accept it. Chester would have come himself but had an unavoidable business engagement for the evening.

"I have given Lucilla permission to go," the captain replied, "but Grace is not strong enough for the exertion she would be likely to make without her father at hand to caution and care for her."

"Oh, I am sorry!" said Maud. "I hoped Gracie could go and would enjoy it. But I am glad we may tell Chester that Lu can."

"I have written my acceptance of his kind invitation," Lulu said, "and will send it in the morning."

"Captain," said Frank, "if you will let Miss Grace go I promise to take all possible care of her. Won't it seem a trifle hard to her to have to stay at home while her sister and the rest of us are having such a good time?"

"I think not," the captain answered. "Grace is the best and most dutiful of daughters, always satisfied with her father's decisions; thinking he knows what is best for her. Also she loves her home and home pleasures; indeed thinks there is no other place quite equal to home."

"It is a lovely place, that's a fact," Frank returned with a slight laugh, "but variety is the spice of life, and possibly Miss Grace's health might be better if she tried more of that spice."

"I think that if you ask her you will learn that a pleasant variety is not, and has not been, lacking in her experience of life," was the captain's pleasant-toned rejoinder.

"I am sure of it," remarked Maud. "I never knew anybody who seemed to me happier or more light-hearted than Gracie. And, oh, but she dotes upon her father!"

"As all his children do," said Lucilla, giving him a look of ardent affection.

"You will not keep my daughter out very late?" the captain said, addressing Frank in a tone of inquiry.

"No, sir; we expect to get home before dark. But if anything should happen to detain us you need not be uneasy. We will take good care of her and return her to you in safety."

"We are staying out rather late now ourselves, Frank, and I think should be starting for home," said Maud, rising and turning to Violet to begin her adieus.

"Father," said Lucilla, turning to him when their callers had gone, "please don't let me go at all if you expect to be the least bit anxious about me. I would far rather stay at home than cause you a moment's uneasiness."

"My dear child, I must allow you a little liberty-let you out of my sight sometimes," he said with a smile. "But it pleases me that you are so ready and willing to do whatever you find most pleasing to your father," he added, pressing affectionately the hand she had put into his.

"Are you not afraid my father will make me miserably conceited-giving me so much more commendation than I deserve?" she asked with a roguish look and pleased laugh.

"I hope not; you will fall very much in my estimation if you grow conceited and vain. I do not think you that now; but, remember, love is blind, and your father's love for you is very great."

"Yes, you dear papa, I know that and it makes me, oh, so happy," she said with joyous look and tone.

"As I think you have reason to be, Lu," Violet said, regarding her husband and his daughter with a smile of pleased sympathy.

"It is time for our evening service, and then for my daughter to go to her bed and take her beauty sleep," remarked the captain looking at his watch.

"Yes, papa," laughed Lucilla, "I need all of that kind of sleep that I can get."

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