Chapter XIX.
 

Upon leaving the supper table the whole company resorted to the deck, where most of them spent the evening, being very weary with the sight-seeing of the day and finding restful seats there and a view of much that was interesting and enjoyable. Chester and his brother left early to take an evening train for the South.

"I am sorry for you that you must leave without having seen everything at the Fair, Chester," Lucilla said in bidding him good-by, "but we can't any of us stay the necessary forty-two years. I'll see all I can, though, and give you a full account of it after I get home; that is, if you care to come over to Woodburn and hear it."

"You may be sure I will and thank you, too," he returned, giving the pretty white hand she had put into his an affectionate squeeze. "Good-by. I'm glad you have your father to take good care of you."

"So am I," she said, with a happy laugh; "I'm sure there's no better caretaker in the world."

It was somewhat later before the others went and Lucilia, sitting a little apart from them, watched furtively the behavior toward each other of the newly engaged couples.

"A penny for your thoughts, Lu," said Violet, coming up from seeing her little ones in bed, and taking a seat by Lucilla's side.

"Really, they are not worth it, Mamma Vi," laughed the young girl. "I was watching Rosie, and wondering how she could ever think of leaving such a dear mother as hers to--marry and live with even so good and agreeable a young man as Mr. Croly."

"And what do you think of my leaving that very mother (the very best and dearest of mothers she is, too) for a husband when I was a full year younger than Rosie is now?" returned Violet, with a mischievous twinkle of amusement in her eyes.

"Oh, that was to live with papa--the dearest and best of men! I can see how one might well forsake father and mother and everybody else to live with him."

"I agree with you," said Violet. "I love my mother dearly; it would break my heart to lose her; and yet I love my husband still more."

"I don't believe I shall ever be able to say that," said Lulu emphatically. "I feel perfectly sure that I shall never love anybody else half so well as I do my own dear father."

"I know it would trouble him sorely to think you did," said Violet; "so I hope you will not think of such a thing for at least five or six years to come."

"Five or six years! Indeed, Mamma Vi, you may be sure I will never leave him while he lives. I know I could not be happy away from him. I have always looked to him for loving care and protection, and I hope that if ever he should grow old and feeble, I may be able to give the same to him."

"I can scarcely bear to think that that time will ever come," said Violet, gazing at her husband with loving, admiring eyes. "But I hope it is far off, for he really seems to have grown younger of late--since coming here to the Fair."

"I think so too, Mamma Vi," said Lucilla; "and indeed it seems as though everybody was younger--they all look so happy and interested; at least until they get worn out; as one does with all the walking and the thousands of things to look at, and feeling all the time in fear that you may miss the very things you would care most to see."

"Yes, that is the fatiguing part of it. But we had a nice time to-day, Lu. Aren't you pleased with our purchases?"

"Yes, indeed, Mamma Vi! I am sure Christine, Alma, and the servants cannot fail to be delighted with the gifts we have for them. And papa has been so very generous in supplying Grace and me with money. I hope Max will be pleased with all we bought for him. Poor, dear fellow! It is just a shame he couldn't have been allowed to come here with us."

"Yes, I regret it very much," said Violet. "It has been one great drawback upon our pleasure. O Lu, do look at Cousin Annis! She seems to have grown ten years younger with happiness. I am so glad for her, and that we are to have her for a near neighbor."

"I too; but judging from Mr. Lilburn's looks I should say he is gladder than anybody else. Oh, I wish they would get married at once! Wouldn't it be fun, Mamma Vi, to have a wedding here on the yacht?"

"Yes, indeed! Here comes your father," as the captain rose and came toward them; "we will suggest it to him and see what he thinks of the idea," she added, making room for him at her side.

"Thank you, my dear," he said, taking the offered seat. "You two seem to have found some very interesting topic of conversation. May I ask what it is?"

"We are ready to let you into the secret without waiting to be questioned," returned Violet. "We have been planning to have a wedding on board, should you and the parties more particularly interested give consent."

"And who may they be?" he asked lightly. "Not that couple, I hope," glancing in the direction of Croly and his lady-love. "Rosie is, in my opinion, rather young to assume the cares and duties of married life."

"As you said before, quite forgetting how you coaxed and persuaded a still younger girl to undertake them--under your supervision," laughed Violet. "Ah, Captain Raymond, have you forgotten that consistency is a jewel?"

"Ah, my dear, have you forgotten that circumstances alter cases?" he returned in sportive tone. "But allow me to remind you that you have not yet answered my question."

"But I do now; it is the older couple of lovers Lu and I are benevolently inclined to assist into the bonds of matrimony."

"Ah! Well, I am pleased with the idea, and have no doubt that it will be an easy matter to secure the gentleman's consent; as regards that of the lady I am somewhat doubtful."

"I presume," said Violet, "she will veto it at first; that is only natural; but we may succeed in coaxing her into it."

"I should think that if they are going to get married the sooner the better," observed Lucilla gravely.

"Why so, daughter?" asked the captain.

"Because neither is very young, you know, papa, so that they can hardly expect to have many years to live together, and the longer they wait the shorter the time will be."

"Of their life together on earth, yes; but being Christians, they may hope to spend a blessed eternity in each other's society."

"Shall we make any move in the matter to-night, my dear?" asked Violet.

"I think not, except to talk it over with your mother and grandparents."

"Yes, that will be the better plan," said Violet. "And mother will be the one to make the suggestion to Cousin Annis and persuade her to adopt it."

"Yes; there will be no need of persuasion as regards the gentleman's share in the matter."

"There, the Conlys are making a move as if about to go," said Lucilla. "And I hope they will, for I do want to know what Grandma Elsie and the others will think of the plan."

"Always in a hurry, daughter mine," the captain said, giving her an amused smile as they rose and went forward to speed the parting guests and assure them of a hearty welcome whenever they should see fit to return.

Not long after their departure the others retired to their state-rooms, Violet, however, going first into that of her mother to tell of her own and husband's plans concerning the nuptials of their cousins, Mr. Lilburn and Annis.

"That would be quite romantic for the youthful pair," Mrs. Travilla said with her low, sweet laugh, "I doubt very much, however, if you can persuade Annis to give her consent to so sudden a relinquishment of all the rights and privileges of maidenhood. Besides she will hardly like to deprive her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, of the pleasure of witnessing the ceremony."

"They might be invited to come and be present at the marriage," Violet suggested a little doubtfully.

"I fear there are too many of them," her mother said in reply; "so that they will think it would be far easier for Aunt Annis to go to them; and more suitable for her to be married in her own old home."

"Do you really think so, mamma? Well, please don't suggest it to her. I am sure that if our plan can be carried out it will be a great saving to them of both expense and trouble; for of course my husband will provide the wedding feast."

"Well, dear, I should like to see your plan carried out, and I must insist upon sharing the expense. But we will talk it over again in the morning. We are both weary now and ought to go at once to our beds."

"Then good-night, mamma, dear. May you sleep sweetly and peacefully and wake again fully rested," Violet said, giving her mother a fond embrace.

"And you also, daughter. May He who neither slumbers nor sleeps have you and yours in his safe keeping through the silent watches of the night," responded her mother, returning the embrace.

The captain had lingered on the deck as usual, to give his orders for the night, and Lucilla waited about for the bit of petting as she termed it, of which she was so fond.

"Ah, so you are still here, daughter!" he said in his usual kind, fatherly tones as he turned and found her at his side. "Have you something to say to your father?" putting his arm about her and holding her close as something precious.

"Only the usual story--that I love my father dearly, dearly, and don't like to go to bed without telling him so and getting a caress that nobody else will know anything about."

"A great secret that doubtless the whole world would be glad to discover!" he laughed, bestowing them without stint. "Is my little girl unhappy, about--anything? and wanting her father to comfort her?" he asked, looking keenly into her face.

"Unhappy, father? here in your arms and perfectly certain of your dear love?" she exclaimed, lifting to his eyes full of joy and love. "No, indeed! I don't believe there is a happier girl in the land or in the whole world for that matter. Oh, you are so good to me and all your children! How very generous you were to-day to Grace and me in letting us buy so many lovely presents to carry home with us! I am often afraid, papa, that you do without things yourself to give the more to us. Oh, I hope you don't!"

"You need not be at all troubled on that score" he said, patting her cheek and smiling down into her eyes. "I have abundance of means and can well allow my daughters such pleasures. 'It is more blessed to give than to receive,' and when I give to you, and you use my gift in procuring something for another, it gives us both a taste of that blessedness."

"So it does, papa, and oh, what a good place this is for making purchases! there are so many, many lovely things to be found in the various buildings."

"And we meet so many relatives and friends from various quarters. But that gives us the pain of a good many partings," and again he looked keenly at her as he spoke.

"Yes, sir," she said, "but one can always hope to meet again with those one cares particularly about; so I don't feel that I need to mourn while I have you, my dear father, and Mamma Vi and the little brother and sisters left; and I'm content and more than content, except that I miss dear Max and can't help wishing he were here to see and enjoy all that we do."

"Yes; dear boy! I wish he could be," sighed the captain. Then, with another caress, "Go now to your bed, daughter; it is high time you were there," he said.

"Just one minute more, please, papa, dear," she entreated, with her arm about his neck. "Oh, I can't understand how Rosie can think of leaving her mother for Mr. Croly or any other man. I could never, never want to leave you for anybody else in the wide world."

"I am glad and thankful to hear it, dear child," he said, with another tender caress and good-night.