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   Chapter 11 No.11

Elsie at Home By Martha Finley Characters: 16524

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

In less than a week after the Crolys had signified their intention of accepting the invitation to Roselands, the news of their safe arrival was communicated to the family at Ion, and as soon as the doctor thought Mrs. Croly sufficiently rested to see visitors, Grandma Elsie and Rosie called upon them there.

They were mutually pleased-Mrs. Croly delighted with the prospect of having so charming a daughter as Rosie.

And now preparations for the wedding went on rapidly, the bride-elect, and those who were to be her attendants, being particularly interested in regard to their attire for the great occasion, and keeping the dressmakers very busy in fashioning their finery.

Then, as the time drew near, relatives and friends from a distance began to arrive.

To the great joy of Mrs. Calhoun Conly her parents were among the first, and their and her near relatives from Indiana and Louisiana soon followed; their coming giving great pleasure to both her aunt Annis and herself, as well as to the Ion family. Mrs. Betty Norris and her brother Dr. Robert Johnson, their half brother Dr. Dick Percival, and his sister Mrs. Molly Embury of Magnolia Hall, with her husband, were among the later arrivals, and about the same time came Captain Donald Keith, having succeeded in obtaining a furlough for several weeks.

He, Dr. Percival, and several others of the family relatives were at first domiciled at Woodburn, where they were made very welcome and most hospitably entertained. Donald's was the first arrival, though only a day or so in advance of the others. He and Captain Raymond met with all the old cordiality, evidently glad to renew the comradeship of earlier days, while Violet's greeting was warm and cousinly, and that of the young girls such as they might be reasonably expected to bestow upon a valued friend and relative of the family.

Donald, hardly realising how many months and years had rolled by since his last sight of them, was surprised at their growth in height and beauty, and did not wonder at their father's evident pride and delight in claiming them as his own.

But for the few days between his coming among them and the wedding there was little opportunity for becoming intimately acquainted, so greatly interested and occupied with the preparations for it were they, and, indeed, all the family connection. He furtively watched them, however, while Captain Raymond, calling to mind a talk he had had with Donald at West Point, some years before, in regard to his eldest daughter, did the same by him whenever the two were together in his presence. He noted with pleasure that Lucilla evidently cared for Captain Keith only as a relative and friend of the family, never thinking of him as a lover or admirer of herself, or likely to become one.

"She is still satisfied with her father's affection," was his pleasing thought. "She evidently cares little or nothing for other men, and I may hope to keep her altogether my own for years to come; though there are some half dozen or more young fellows who, as I plainly perceive, are looking upon her with longing eyes."

That fact was evident to Violet, also, and she jestingly referred to it at one time when, for a few moments, they were alone together.

"My dear," she said, "be watchful if you would not be robbed of Lu, perhaps of Gracie, also; for the dear girls are entirely too charming for you to hope to escape an effort from somebody to take them from you."

"I agree with you in that idea, but am not alarmed," he said with a look of quiet confidence, "believing that my daughters still love their father better than any other man, and are satisfied that he seeks their best good in refusing to consider them as yet old enough to leave his care and protection for that of anyone else."

"I am sure you are right," returned Violet, "and very glad I am to think I shall not lose their sweet companionship for years, if ever. I feel, though, that it would be very selfish in me to want them to miss entirely the great happiness I have found in wedded life," she added with a look of ardent affection into his eyes. "But I fear there are not many husbands equal to mine."

"I hope there are," he said with a smile that was very loving and tender, "and I am sure it could not fail to be the case if there were many wives as worthy of love and entire devotion as is mine."

"Thank you," she said with a pleased smile. "I cannot tell you how often I rejoice in the thought of my husband's blindness to my many faults."

"If there is any such blindness, my dear, I am quite sure it is mutual," he returned with a look of amusement, adding, "and we will try to keep it up; won't we?"

"Yes, indeed," was her laughing rejoinder, "and I hope Rosie and her Will may be led to follow our good example in that respect."

"As I do," he rejoined; "and, knowing them both as I do know them, I think there is every prospect of it."

This talk was upon a side veranda where they sat watching their two little ones at play together in the grounds.

"Papa!" cried Ned at this moment, running toward them, "didn't you hear the telephone bell? I thought I did."

"No, my son," returned the captain; "and if it is ringing, one of your sisters will answer it, no doubt. They are both upstairs."

"It did ring, papa, and I answered it," said Lucilla, stepping from the open doorway and coming swiftly toward him. "Rosie was calling to me that there is to be a rehearsal of to-morrow's wedding ceremony, this evening, and asking if we can come over and take our parts. May we? Will you take us?"

"I say yes to both queries," was the pleasant-toned reply. "I will order out the carriage and we will all drive over directly after tea. I have been told that our gentlemen guests are all to spend the evening there or at Beechwood or Roselands."

"Oh, I like that!" exclaimed Lucilla. "And now, our wedding dresses being entirely finished, Grace and I are going to try them on. Will our father, Mamma Vi, Elsie, and Ned come up presently and see what they think of our appearance in them?"

"Of course we will," answered Violet. "I can speak for myself and the children, and have not a doubt of Captain Raymond's desire to see how well the dainty gowns become his young-lady daughters."

"He hardly considers them young ladies yet, Mamma Vi," laughed Lulu. "And I am sure I don't want him to, for I dearly love to have him call me his own little girl," she concluded, with a look of ardent filial love and respect into her father's eyes. "I hope he will let me always be that to him."

"Always, while you wish it, daughter mine," he responded in low, tender tones, affectionately pressing the hand she had laid in his. "Now go, array yourself in your finery, and we will follow in a few moments," he added in a little louder key, and she hastened to obey.

"Oh, mamma!" cried Elsie, who had drawn near enough to overhear nearly all that had been said, "mayn't I try my wedding dress on, too? You know it is almost finished-all but sewing on a few buttons, Alma said a while ago."

"I have no objection," said Violet, rising. "Come, and I will help you put it on."

"Your wedding dress, Elsie? you are not old enough to get married," laughed Ned. "Is she, papa?"

"No, indeed! very far from it," the captain said. "Even her older sisters are much too young for that; but they seem to so have named their new gowns because of having had them made expressly to be worn at the wedding."

"Yes, sir; I suppose that is what they mean. Aunt Rosie's will be the only real wedding dress, and I heard mamma say it was very handsome indeed. And I like my new suit you bought me to wear to the wedding; and your new one, too."

"I am glad you are satisfied," his father said. "The dress of the ladies will be noticed much more than yours or mine, but it is only right that men and boys should take pains to be neatly and suitably attired. Now I think we may follow your mother and sisters and see what they have to show us."

The dresses were pronounced by all beautiful, perfect in regard to fit, trimming, and suitability to the occasion on which they were to be worn; very becoming, also, the captain remarked in an aside to his wife; a remar

k to which she gave a hearty and unqualified assent.

"We'll wear these dresses to Ion to-night, won't we, mamma?" asked Elsie.

"Oh, no, child!" replied Violet; "the rehearsal will be gone through with in ordinary attire, and these grand dresses kept perfectly fresh for the wedding. Come, now, we must make haste with the change, for the tea bell will ring presently. It is well you took a good nap this afternoon, for I fear you are likely to be kept up late."

"Probably a little later than usual," said their father, "though, as to-morrow is to be so exciting a day, I intend to bring you all home in pretty good season; that you may be able to take such a night's rest as will give you the needed strength to go through the trying ordeal."

"There, papa," laughed Grace, "you talk as if we were all going to be married."

"Dear me, but I am glad we are not!" exclaimed Lucilla, "and that I am not the one that is."

"Quite a lucid remark, my child," laughed her father. "But now I will leave you to make the necessary changes in your dress that you may be ready for a drive on leaving the tea table."

They hastened to obey, helping each other and laughing and chatting merrily as they worked. They were ready when the summons to the tea table came, and, directly after leaving it, all entered the family carriage and drove to Ion, greatly enjoying the balmy air, the easy motion over the smooth roads, and all the sweet sights and sounds of lovely summer time in the country. They never wearied of those familiar things, daily blessings though they were.

The sun was near its setting when they reached Ion, where they found a gathering of friends and relatives unusual in its size, though not nearly so large as it would be on the coming day, when the great event was to take place.

Walter was one of the first to greet them, having reached home that morning and been ever since much excited over the situation of affairs-the prospect of losing Rosie, his youngest and only single sister out of the home nest, as a permanent resident there.

"Glad to see you, Vi!" he exclaimed, seizing his sister, Mrs. Raymond, in a warm embrace. "Glad to see you all-Brother Levis, Lu, Gracie, and you little folks. Of course you haven't forgotten Uncle Walter in the long months since we parted in Paradise Valley?"

"No, indeed!" answered several voices.

"And we are all very glad to see you at home among us again-I must not say little brother, according to former custom, I suppose?" added Violet in merry accents; "for you have grown into a fine young gentleman."

"Thank you," he returned with a slightly embarrassed laugh. "Well, I mean to try to be, as well as to seem."

But others were crowding about, and in the exchange of greetings, questions, and answers, there were time and opportunity for no more.

There was a pleasant bustle, a good deal of mirth and laughter, the young folks going about from room to room to examine the tasteful arrangements for the grand affair of the morrow-then, the last one of those selected to take part in the ceremony having arrived, they went through their rehearsal; so that even the little flower girls might be perfect in their parts, knowing just how and when to enter the room, where to stand and what to do.

They were greatly interested and very anxious to do all in the best possible manner, that no one might be mortified by their failure and led to regret that they had been chosen to perform that particular part. They succeeded admirably, and were delighted with the praise freely bestowed upon them by one and another of the onlookers, including the guests and the members of the different families present.

When all seemed perfect in their parts, which no one found very difficult, some simple refreshments were served, and presently after Captain Raymond and his family departed for Woodburn, Captain Donald Keith and Dr. Dick Percival accompanying them.

It was something of a disappointment to both these gentlemen that, very shortly after arriving there, Captain Raymond advised his daughters to retire, in order that they might feel entirely rested and refreshed before entering upon the exciting pleasures and fatigues of the coming day.

"I know it is the best plan for me, papa," returned Grace in cheerful tones, and began her good-nights at once.

"For me too, since I want all the beauty sleep I can get in preparation for to-morrow," laughed Lucilla, "though of course it is by no means so necessary for the bride's attendants as for herself."

"Ah! is that because they are so much handsomer to begin with?"

"Oh, papa! please refrain from asking such hard questions!" was the response in tones of mock entreaty; "hard because they seem to imply a good deal of vanity in me. I was only meaning that, of course, the bride's appearance will attract the most attention."

"Ah! was that it? Well, my child, say good-night and go; get to bed quickly, put aside thoughts of to-morrow's gaieties, and indulge in sleep so sound and refreshing that you will be ready to give your father his usual companionship in his early stroll about the grounds."

"I'll do my best to follow all those directions, sir," she said with a bright, pleased look. "Good-night, gentlemen," turning toward the guests. "I hope you will both sleep well and find to-morrow's festivities very enjoyable." And with that she hastened away, leaving the three gentlemen alone upon the veranda, for Violet was seeing her little ones to bed.

"What a rich man you are, Raymond!" remarked Keith, half unconsciously sighing slightly as he spoke.

"You are right," returned the captain cheerily, "my wife and children being by far the most valuable of my possessions. I only wish that you and your friend here," glancing at Dr. Percival as he spoke, "were equally wealthy. But you are younger men, and may hope to become as rich as I am by the time you are my age."

"Hardly; so far as I am concerned, at least," returned Keith drily; "seeing I am already some ten or a dozen years older than you were at the time of your first marriage, Raymond."

"Yet by no means too old to hope yet to become in the near future a happy husband and father. I am at a loss to understand why you have not found a mate before this."

"Ah, none so blind as those that won't see!" returned Keith with a slight laugh; then changed the subject of conversation by asking a question in regard to the plans of the young couple expecting to be united on the morrow.

Captain Raymond answered the query. A moment's silence followed; then Keith, turning to Dick, said: "I presume you and I are of about the same age, doctor?"

"Quite likely; and confirmed bachelors, both of us, it would seem," was the nonchalant rejoinder. "I am some years older than Cousin Vi."

"Not too old for reformation, however," remarked Captain Raymond pleasantly. "And let me assure you that a wife-such as mine, for instance-is a very great blessing; doubling the happiness of life."

"I don't doubt it, sir," said Dick; "but such an one is not to be picked up every day."

"No, certainly not. I have always felt myself strangely fortunate in securing so great a treasure."

"As you well may," remarked Keith pleasantly; "yet your good fortune has been largely owing to your undoubted worthiness of it, Raymond."

"In which opinion I agree with you heartily, Cousin Donald," responded Violet's sweet voice close at hand, taking them by surprise, for, in the earnestness of their talk they had not perceived the sound of her light approaching footsteps. "I think there is nothing good which is beyond my husband's deserts," she added as all three rose hastily to hand her to a seat, Donald saying:

"So you overheard me, Coz! Well, please remember that it was I who brought you two together. An act which seems to have born abundance of good fruit in the happiness of all concerned."

"I think it has," she said, her husband adding, "And for which I, at least, owe you a deep debt of gratitude."

"And not you alone, my dear," said Violet; "and in return I can wish him nothing better than wedded happiness equal to our own."

"A wish in which I heartily unite with you," said Captain Raymond.

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