Chapter First.
 
    "Of all the joys that brighten suffering earth,
     What joy is welcom'd like a new-born child."
                                     --MRS. NORTON.

A merry scene in the nursery at Viamede, where the little Travillas are waiting for their morning half hour with "dear mamma." Mammy coming in smiling and mysterious, her white apron thrown over something held carefully in her arms, bids the children guess what it is.

"A new dolly for me?" says Vi; "I'm going to have a birthday to-morrow."

"A kite," ventured Harold. "No, a balloon."

"A tite! a tite!" cried little Herbert, clapping his hands.

"Pshaw! it's nothing but a bundle of clothes mammy's been doing up for one of you girls," said Eddie. "I see a bit of lace or work, or something, hanging down below her apron."

"Is it a new dress for Vi, mammy?" asked Elsie, putting her arm about her sister and giving her a loving kiss.

"Yah, yah; you ain't no whar nigh it yet, chillens," laughed mammy, dropping into a chair, and warding off an attempt on the part of little Herbert to seize her prize and examine it for himself.

"Oh, it's alive," cried Harold, half breathlessly, "I saw it move!" Then as a slight sound followed the movement, "A baby! a baby!" they all exclaim, "O, mammy, whose is it? where did you get it? oh, sit down and show it to us!"

"Why, chillen, I reckon it 'longs to us," returned mammy, complying with the request, while they gathered closely about her with eager and delighted faces.

"Ours, mammy? Then I'm glad it isn't black or yellow like the babies down at the quarter," said Harold, eying it with curiosity and interest.

"So am I too," remarked Violet, "but it's got such a red face and hardly any hair on the top of its head."

"Well, don't you remember that's the way Herbie looked when he first came?" said Eddie.

"And he grew very white in a few weeks," remarked Elsie. "But is it mamma's baby, mammy?"

"Yes, honey, dat it am; sho's yer born, 'nother pet for ole mammy,--de bressed little darlin'," she answered, pressing the little creature to her breast.

The information was received with a chorus of exclamations of delight and admiration.

"Tate a bite of cacker, boy," said Herbert, offering a cracker which he was eating with evident enjoyment.

Mammy explained, amid the good-natured laughter of the older children, that the newcomer had no teeth and couldn't eat anything but milk.

"Oh, poor 'ittle fing!" he said, softly touching its velvet cheek. "Won't 'oo tum and pay wis Herbie?"

"No, it can't play," said Violet, "it can't walk and it can't talk."

"Where's mamma, mammy?" asked Eddie, glancing at the clock; "it's past her time; I wonder too she didn't come to show us the new baby herself."

"She's sick, chile," returned mammy, a grave and anxious look coming into her old eyes.

"Mamma sick?" exclaimed little Elsie, "oh, may I go to her?"

Mammy shook her head. "Not jes now, honey darlin', byme by, when she's bettah."

"Mamma sick?" echoed Violet. "Oh, I'm so, so sorry!"

"Don't fret, chillen, de good Lord make her well again soon," said mammy, with cheerful hopefulness, for she could not bear to see how sad each little face had grown, how the young lips quivered, and the bright eyes filled with tears; for dearly, dearly, they all loved their sweet, gentle mother.

"Herbie wants mamma," sobbed the baby boy, clinging to his eldest sister.

"Don't cry, pet," Elsie said chokingly, hugging him close and kissing away his tears. "We'll all ask God to make her well, and I'm sure he will."

"Why! why! what's the matter here?" cried a cheery voice, as the door opened and Mr. Travilla stepped into their midst. "What's the matter with papa's darlings?" he repeated, gathering them all into his arms, and caressing each in turn.

"Is mamma, dear mamma, very sick?" they asked, Vi immediately adding in joyous tones,

"No, no, she isn't, or papa wouldn't look so happy."

"I am very happy," he said with emotion, glancing toward the bundle in mammy's lap, "we are both very happy over the new treasure God has given us; and I trust she will soon be well."

"Can we go and speak to her?" they asked.

"After a while," he said, "she is trying to sleep now. What do you all think of the little sister?"

"Sister," cried Elsie. "Oh, that is nice, nice! I thought it was a boy. What's its name, papa?"

"It has none yet."

"I sorry for it," remarked Herbert, gazing with curious interest at the tiny creature, "I sorry for it; cause can't walk, can't talk, can't eat good fings; dot no teef to eat wis. Do, boy, try to eat cacker, cacker dood, Herbie likes," and breaking off a fragment he would have forced it into the wee mouth, if papa and mammy had not interfered for its protection.

"No, no, my son, you would choke it," said Mr. Travilla, gently drawing him away.

"It isn't a boy; it's a girl, Herbie," corrected Harold.

"Oh!" cried Vi, who was gently feeling the top of the tiny head, and she looked aghast at her father, "O, papa, its head's rotten!"

"No, daughter, don't be alarmed," he said smiling slightly, "there's nothing wrong there; all young babies' heads are soft like that on the top."

"Oh, are they?" she said with a sigh of relief, "I was afraid it would spoil soon and we couldn't keep her."

"No, she seems to be all right," he said with a grave and tender smile. "God has been very good to us."

"Yes, papa. Oh such a pretty darling as it is!" said Elsie.

"Yes, indeed," chimed in the others; Vi adding, "and I'm so glad she's a girl: 'cause now we have two sisters, Elsie, just the same as the boys."

"Oh, but we have three now!" said Eddie, laughing good naturedly at Vi's crestfallen look.

"Oh, yes," she acknowledged, then brightening, "but we have three brothers, and you only two; so it's even all around after all, isn't it, papa?"

The children were full of delight over their treasure, and eager to show it to grandpa, grandma, Aunt Rosie, Aunt Wealthy and Aunt May; regretting much that the rest of their friends had left Viamede before the advent of the little stranger.

She proved a frail, gentle little creature, with violet eyes and pale golden hair, so fair and delicate that Lily was the name that most readily suggested itself and the one finally settled upon as really hers.

Lily became a great pet with them all, but Violet claimed a special property in her because as she would say, "The darling came to us almost on my birthday and she's just the sweetest, prettiest birthday present mamma ever gave me."

The weather was growing very warm at Viamede and Aunt Wealthy and the little Duncans found the heat oppressive; so when Lily was three weeks old and the dear mamma able to be up again, looking bright and well, that party bade good-bye and set out on their return to Lansdale.

The Dinsmores and Travillas lingered until the middle of May, when they too set their faces northward, not parting company till very near to Ion and the Oaks.