Chapter XX. Grandma Elsie anD Mamma Vi
 

Violet's toilet was finished. She wore a white silk trimmed with a great deal of very rich lace, white flowers in her hair and at her throat, and looked very bridelike and beautiful.

So Lulu thought as she came dancing in, full of joyous excitement over her own unusual adornment. Catching sight of Violet standing in front of her toilet-table turning over a box of ribbons, "Oh, how beautiful you are!" she cried, "and how very kind to let me wear these," glancing down at the ornaments on her own person.

"Let you wear them, dear child! I have given them to you for your own, and am looking now for ribbon for your hair to match the sash. I had forgotten it. Ah, here is just the thing!"

"Given me these lovely, lovely bracelets and necklace! and this handsome sash too!" cried Lulu in wide-eyed astonishment. "Oh, you are just too, too good to me! May I kiss you? and may I call you Mamma Vi now?"

"Yes, indeed, if you can give me a little place in your heart," Violet answered, taking the little girl in her arms.

"Oh, a great big place!" cried Lulu, returning Vi's caresses with ardor. "Mamma Vi! it's a very pretty name, and you are my own sweet, pretty new mamma! A great deal nicer than if you were old enough to be my real mother."

"Ah, Lulu, it makes me very happy to hear all that!" said her father's voice behind her, and she felt his hand laid affectionately upon her head.

She turned round quickly. "Ah, papa! how nice you look too! How is Gracie?"

"I left her sleeping comfortably a half hour ago, and have been making my toilet in another room. Ah, my love!" gazing at Violet with proud, fondly-admiring eyes, "how very lovely you are!"

"In my husband's partial eyes," she returned, looking up at him with a bright, sweet smile.

"In Lulu's, too, judging from what I heard her say just now," he said, turning his eyes upon his daughter again. "Ah, how you have improved her appearance!"

"Yes, papa, only see these lovely things she--Mamma Vi has given me!" cried Lulu, displaying her ornaments.

"A most generous gift," he said, examining the jewelry. "These coral ornaments are costly, Lulu, and you must be careful of them. Mamma Vi! Is that the name you have chosen for yourself, my love?" he asked, again turning to his bride.

"Yes, if you approve, Levis?"

"I like it!" he returned emphatically.

"And the other ladies," remarked Lulu, "say I am to call them Grandma Rose and Grandma Elsie. And the gentleman told me and Max to call him grandpa."

"May I come in?" asked Max at the door, which stood wide open.

"Yes," his father and Violet both answered.

"Oh!" he cried, gazing at Violet in undisguised admiration, "how lovely, how splendid you look! What shall I call you?--you said, you know, and of course anybody can see it, that you're not old enough to be my mother."

"No," she said, with a look of amusement and pleasure, "so you may use the name Lulu and Gracie will call me--Mamma Vi."

"Miss Wilet," said Agnes, appearing at the door, "dey says dey's waitin' suppah fo' you and de captain."

"Ah, then we must not linger here! Lulu dear, let Agnes tie this ribbon on your hair. She can do it more tastefully than I. Max, I see you are dressed for the evening."

"Yes, Mamma Vi, your brother Herbert showed me my room--a very nice one in the story over this--and had my trunk carried up. Am I all right?"

"You'll do very well," his father said laughingly, but with a gleam of fatherly pride in his eye. "Give your arm to your sister and we will go down--if you are ready, little wife."

The last words were spoken in a fond whisper, close to Violet's ear, as he drew her hand within his arm, and were answered by a bright, sweet smile as she lifted her azure eyes to his.

The two cottages stood but a few feet apart, with no fence or wall of separation between, and were connected by a covered way; so that it was very much as if they were but one house.

The room in which the feast was spread was tastefully decorated with evergreens, flags and flowers; the table too was adorned with lovely bouquets and beautifully painted china and sparkled with silver and cut glass.

The Dinsmores, Travillas, and Raymonds gathered about it as one family, a bright, happy party. Edward was there with his Zoe, looking extremely pretty in bridal attire, each apparently as devoted as ever to the other.

Max and Lulu behaved themselves admirably, the latter feeling quite subdued by the presence of her father and so many elegantly dressed and distinguished-looking people.

It was certainly a great change from Mrs. Scrimp's little dining-room with its small, plainly furnished table, the three to sit down to it, and Ann to wait upon them--a very pleasant change to Lulu. She enjoyed it greatly.

She and Max scarcely spoke during the meal, occupying themselves in eating and listening to the lively discourse going on around them, but were well waited upon, the servants being attentive, and both Elsie and Violet interesting themselves to see that the little strangers were not neglected.

On leaving the table, all repaired to the veranda and front door yard, for the enjoyment of a moonlight evening and the sea breeze.

The young Travillas and Raymonds speedily grew quite intimate and were mutually pleased; but the latter, fatigued with the journey and excitements of the day, were ready to retire at an early hour.

They waited only for family worship, conducted for both households by Mr. Dinsmore, then Violet and they bade good-night and went back to their own dwelling, leaving the captain to sit some time longer on the veranda with the other gentlemen.

"Have you everything you want in your room, Max?" Violet asked in a kindly tone, as the boy took up his bedroom candle.

"Yes, thank you, Mamma Vi," he answered cheerfully, but with a longing look at her.

"What is it, Max?" she asked, with her sweet smile. "Don't be afraid to tell me if there is anything you want."

"I--I'm afraid I oughtn't to ask it," he stammered, blushing vividly, "I've no right, and--and it might be disagreeable, but--oh, I should like to kiss you good-night!"

"You may, Max," she said, laughing, then put her arms round his neck and gave the kiss very heartily.

"Thank you," he cried in blushing delight; then hurried away, calling back, "Ah, good-night, Lu!"

"Good-night," she answered, looking wistfully at Violet.

"Shall I have a good-night kiss from you too, dear?" Violet asked, offering her lips.

Lulu accepted the invitation in an eager, joyous way, then asked, "May I see Gracie before I go to bed?"

"Yes, dear; we will go in very quietly lest we should wake her if she is asleep."

They found Gracie awake, Aunt Chloe shaking up her pillow and smoothing the cover over her.

"O mamma!" she cried in her little weak voice, "how beautiful you are! And, Lulu, where did you get those pretty things?"

"Mamma Vi gave them to me," Lulu said. "O Gracie dear, are you better?"

"Yes, I don't feel sick now, only weak. She's very good to me, she and everybody," with a grateful look at her sable nurse.

"Yes," Violet said, "mammy is always good and kind, especially to a sick person. Now Lulu and I will kiss you good-night and leave you to go to sleep again."

"You are nice and kind to come, both of you," Gracie said, receiving and returning their caresses.

"Mammy," Violet said as she turned to leave the room, "I'm afraid you are not able to take the care of her through the night."

"Yes, I is, honey darlin'," responded the old woman with warmth. "I'll hab a quilt spread down dar on de flo', and I'll lie dar an' sleep, an' ef de chile stirs I'll wake right up and gib her eberyting she wants."

"Mamma Vi, don't you want to see my room?" Lulu asked as they neared its door. "I think it is ever so pretty."

"So it is," Violet said, stepping inside with her, "and I am very glad you like it. If you think of anything else you want in it, don't hesitate to ask for it; both your papa and I wish to do all in our power to make his children happy."

"Thank you. Oh, it is so nice to have a new mamma! such a sweet, kind one," Lulu exclaimed with impulsive warmth, setting down her candle and throwing her arms about Violet's neck.

"Dear child!" Violet said, returning the embrace, "I am very glad you are beginning to love me. I hope we shall all love each other better every day and be very happy together. You won't forget to ask God's protection before you sleep, and thank him for his love and care? What a mercy that we met with no accident on our journey!"

"Yes, indeed! and I won't forget to say my prayers, Mamma Vi."

They exchanged an affectionate good-night, and Violet went to her own room.

Agnes was there, waiting to assist her in disrobing, to take down her hair, and put things in place.

As the maid withdrew, her duty finished, Elsie came softly in.

"Dearest mamma!" cried Vi joyously, "I am so glad you have come! I thought you would."

"Yes, daughter, I have just seen Rosie and Walter in bed, and could not deny myself the pleasure of one of the old-time private talks with my dear Vi. Ah, you don't know how I have missed them ever since Capt. Raymond carried you away from Ion!"

They were standing together with their arms about each other.

"Mamma," Violet said with an earnest, tenderly affectionate look into her mother's face, "how very beautiful you are! and how youthful in appearance! there is not a line in your face, not a silver thread in your hair, and it still has that exquisite golden tinge it has had ever since I can remember."

"Ah, dear child! we can see many beauties in those we love that are imperceptible to other eyes," Elsie returned with a quiet smile.

"But, mamma, every one sees you to be both young and beautiful in looks. You look far too young to be addressed as grandma by Max and Lulu, or even Gracie. I wish you would not allow it, but let them call you auntie."

"It does not make me really any older, or even to feel or look so," the mother said, with a low silvery laugh of amusement at Violet's earnestness.

"But I don't like it, dear mamma."

"Then I am sorry I gave them permission; yet having done so, I do not like to recall it. But, daughter dear, old age will come to us all, if we live, and it is quite useless to fight against the inevitable."

"Yet we needn't hurry it on, mamma."

"No; but consider; had I and my eldest daughter married as early in life as my mother did I might now have own grandchildren as old as Max and Lulu. Beside," she added gayly, "how can I hope to deceive people into supposing me young when I have three married children."

"Yes, mamma, that is true," Violet said, after a moment's thought; "and perhaps the children may be more ready to submit to the guidance and control of a grandma than of an aunt. Oh, how thankful I am that when their father is no longer here to govern them, they will not be left to my management alone!"