"I will ask for guidance," she finally said half aloud, and, rising, knelt beside her couch, earnestly beseeching her best friend to make her way plain before her face, to lead and guide her all her journey through. Then, calmed and quieted by casting her burden on the Lord, she lay down again and presently fell into a deep, sweet sleep. She was awakened by a gentle tap on the door, then Violet's voice asking:
"Can I come in for one moment, Cousin Annis?" At that she rose and opened the door, saying.
"Indeed you can, Vi. But what—who——?" as Violet handed her a bunch of Scotch heather, her eyes dancing with mirth and pleasure as she did so, for at the sight of the flowers a crimson flush had suddenly suffused Annis' cheek.
"You see what," she said, "and the who is Cousin Ronald. Oh, Cousin Annis, I am so glad if only you won't reject him! and he's a dear old man; almost too old for you, I acknowledge, but don't say no on that account. Be 'an old man's darling,' there's a dear! for then we'll have you close beside us in that lovely Beechwood."
A silent caress was Annis' only reply, and Violet slipped away, leaving her once more alone. For a brief space Annis stood gazing down at the flowers in her hand with a tender smile on her lips, the roses coming and going on her cheek. They seemed to be whispering to her of priceless love and tenderness; for Mr. Lilburn was a hale, hearty man, looking much younger than his years: he might outlive her, but years of genial companionship might well be hoped for in this world, to be eventually followed by a blissful eternity in another and better land, for they were followers of the same Master, travelling the same road—toward the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Yes, she did indeed love the dear old man; she knew it now, and her heart sang for joy as she hastened to array herself in the most becoming dress she had at hand and pinned his flowers in the bosom of her gown.
He was alone in the saloon as she entered it, and turning at the sound of her light step, came forward to greet her with outstretched hand, his eyes shining with pleasure at the sight of his flowers and the sweet, blushing face above them.
"Ah, my darling! you do not despise my little gift," he said low and tenderly, taking quiet possession of her hand. "May I hope you will show equal favor to the giver?"
"If—if you think—if you are sure, quite sure, you will never repent and grow weary of your choice," she stammered, speaking scarcely above her breath.
"Perfectly sure!" he returned. "My only fear is that I may fail to make this dear lady as happy as she might be with a younger and more attractive companion."
"I have never seen such an one yet," she said, with a half smile, "and I do not fear to risk it. I shall be only too glad to do so," with a low half laugh, "if you have no fear of being disappointed in me."
"Not a ghost of a fear!" he responded.
As he spoke the door of Mrs. Travilla's state-room opened and she stepped out upon them. Catching sight of them standing there hand in hand, she was about to retreat into her room again, but Mr. Lilburn spoke:
"Congratulate me, Cousin Elsie, upon having won the heart of the sweetest lady in the land; or if that be too strong, one of the sweetest."
"I do, I do," Elsie said, coming forward and bestowing a warm embrace upon Annis, "and I could not have asked anything better, seeing it will bring one whom I so dearly love into our immediate neighborhood." Even as she spoke they were joined by other members of the party, the news of the state of affairs was instantly conjectured by them, and joyful congratulations were showered upon Cousin Ronald, tender embraces and words of love upon Annis.
Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore were there, but the young couples who had left the older people that morning and gone off to explore other parts of the Fair had not returned; but presently a slight commotion on deck, followed by the sound of their voices, told of their arrival; in another minute they were in the saloon, and Croly, leading Rosie to her mother, said:
"Will you give this dear girl to me, Mrs. Travilla? She doesn't deny that she loves me, and she is dearer to me than words can tell."
"Then I cannot refuse," returned the mother, with emotion, "knowing as I do that you are all a mother could ask in a suitor for her dear daughter's hand. But do not ask me to part from her yet; she is—you are both—young enough to wait at least a year or two longer."
"So I think," said Rosie's grandfather, coming up and laying a hand on her shoulder. "It would be hard to rob my dear eldest daughter of the last of her daughters; to say nothing about grandparents and brothers."
"Well, sir, I thank both her mother and yourself for your willingness to let her engage herself to me, but I at least shall find it a little hard to wait," said Croly. "I am well able to support a wife now, and—don't you think we know each other well enough, and that early marriages are more likely to prove happy than later ones?"
"No, I don't agree to any such sentiment as that; old folks may as reasonably look for happiness—perhaps a trifle more reasonably—than young ones."
The words seemed to be spoken by someone coming down the cabin stairway, and everybody turned to look at the speaker; but he was not to be seen.
"Oh, that was Cousin Ronald!" exclaimed Violet, with a merry look at him, "and no wonder, since he has gone courting again in his latter days."
"What! is that possible!" exclaimed Mr. Hugh Lilburn, in evident astonishment. "And who? Ah, I see and am well content," catching sight of Annis' sweet, blushing face. "Father, I offer my hearty congratulations."
A merry, lively scene followed, mutual congratulations were exchanged, jests and badinage and spirited retorts were indulged in, and in the midst of it all there were other arrivals; Walter returned bringing with him the two Dinsmores and the Conly brothers and their wives; they were told the news, and the captain noticed that Chester cast a longing glance at Lulu, then turned with an entreating, appealing one to him. But the captain shook his head in silent refusal, and Chester seemed to give it up, and with another furtive glance at Lucilla, which she did not see, her attention being fully occupied with the others, he too joined in the mirthful congratulations and good wishes.
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.
Circumstances seemed to favor the scheme of the captain, Violet, and Lucilla, for the family and their guests had scarcely left the breakfast table when there was a new arrival, a boat hailing the yacht and discharging several passengers, who proved to be Annis' sisters, Mildred and Zillah, and her brother, the Rev. Cyril Keith.
It was an unexpected arrival, but they were most cordially welcomed and urgently invited to spend as much of their time on the yacht as could be spared from sight-seeing on shore. They were of course soon introduced to Mr. Lilburn—already known to them by reputation—and presently informed of the state of affairs between him and their sister. They were decidedly pleased with the old gentleman, yet grieved at the thought of so wide a separation between their dear youngest sister and themselves.
Violet afterward, seizing a momentary opportunity when neither Mr. Lilburn nor Annis was near, told of her plans in regard to the wedding, adding that the subject had not yet been mentioned to Annis, but that she herself hoped no objection would be raised; and it seemed to her that Cyril's arrival, thus providing a minister to perform the ceremony, the very one Annis would have chosen of course, seemed providential.
At first both brother and sisters were decidedly opposed to it—they wanted Annis to be married at home where all the family could be gathered to witness the ceremony; it was bad enough to lose her without being deprived of that privilege; besides time and thought must be given to the preparation of a suitable trousseau. But in the course of a day or two they were won over to the plan.
Then the consent of those most particularly interested had to be gained. There was no difficulty so far as concerned Mr. Lilburn; he was really delighted with the idea, but Annis at first positively refused. She wished to be married at home and she must have a trousseau: not that she cared so much about it for herself, but Mr. Lilburn must not be disgraced by a bride not suitably adorned.
"Well, Annis dear," said Mildred, who was the one selected for the task of obtaining her consent to the proposed plan, "you shall have all that you desire in the way of dress. I would not have you do without a single thing you want or think would be suitable and becoming. You shall have abundance of money to make such purchases without applying to your husband for any one of them. You have some money of your own, you know, and it will be a great pleasure to your brothers and sisters to give to the dear girl who was such a help and comfort to our loved father and mother, anything and everything she wants, and will accept at our hands."
"Yes, I know I have the best and kindest of brothers and sisters, and oh, I can hardly keep the tears back when I think of the separation that awaits us," said Annis with a sob, putting her arms round Mildred's neck and clinging to her.
"Yes, dear, I know. I feel just the same, though I believe you will be very happy with the kind, genial old gentleman who is stealing you away from us; but I can see that he is in great haste to get full possession of his dear little lady-love—at which I do not wonder at all—and I really think it would be better to take the plunge into matrimony suddenly and have it over," she added, with a smile.
"Have what over?" asked Annis, smiling faintly.
"Not the matrimony," laughed her sister, "but the plunge into it."
"Oh, Milly dear, you wouldn't have liked to be hurried so!"
"Ah, but wasn't I?" laughed Mildred; "and that by this very brother of ours who expects to perform the ceremony for you."
"Ah, I don't remember about that," returned Annis, in a tone of enquiry.
"No, you were such a little girl then that I don't wonder it has slipped your memory. But Cyril was about starting for college and so determined to see me married, so fearful that he would miss the sight if he went off before-hand, that he coaxed, planned, and insisted till he actually gained his point—hurrying me into wedlock before I had even one wedding dress made up."
"Oh, yes! and you were married in mother's wedding dress, I remember now. But, Milly, I haven't a single handsome dress with me! I did not think they would be at all suitable to wear in tramping about the White City and its buildings, or needed in the hotel, where I spent but little time except at night. And so far, what I brought with me have answered every purpose."
"Never mind," said Mildred; "handsome ready-made dresses can be bought in Chicago, and it will not take long to procure one. You will of course want to select one that is well fitting and becoming in color; gray would, I think, be very becoming and altogether suitable for a—not very young bride."
"No, I do not want to be too youthfully dressed, or to look too bridelike on my wedding tour; so I think I will have a dark navy blue."
"So she has about consented to the desired arrangement," said Mildred, a little triumphantly to herself; then aloud: "Yes, that will be quite as becoming and a trifle more suitable; but let us go and talk it over with our cousins, Rose, Elsie, and Vi."
"There is no hurry," said Annis, blushing. "If I should give up to you enough to consent to have the ceremony performed here on the yacht, I shall put it off till the very last day of your stay, for I don't intend to miss seeing all that I possibly can of you, Cyril, and Zillah, and of the Fair."
"Very well," Mildred answered. "I incline to think myself that that would be the best plan; for really I want to see all I can of the dear sister who is going to leave us. O Annis, dear, whatever shall I do without you!" she exclaimed, putting an arm about her and kissing her with tears in her eyes. "Ah, it seems that in this world we cannot have any unalloyed good!"
"No, Milly, dear sister; but when we get home to the Father's house on high, there will be no more partings, no sorrow, no sin—nothing but everlasting joy and peace and love.
"'Tis there we'll meet At Jesus' feet, When we meet to part no more.
"Oh, doesn't it sometimes seem as if you could hardly wait for the time when you will be there with all the dear ones gone before? There at the Master's feet, seeing him and bearing his image—like him; for we shall see him as he is?"
"Yes, there are times when I do; and yet I am glad to stay a little longer in this world for the sake of husband and children; and to work for the Master too, doing what I can to bring others to him. I want some jewels in the crown I cast at his dear feet."
"Yes; and so do I." A moment of silence followed;—then Mildred said:
"Let us go now and have our talk with the cousins, for it will not be very long before we will be summoned to the supper table."
Annis made no objection, and they went up to the deck, where they found the three ladies they sought—Zillah with them too—sitting in a little group apart from the young girls and gentlemen.
They joined the group and Mildred quickly and briefly reported Annis' decision. All approved, saying they would be very glad to keep her to the last minute, and there was a good deal more well worth looking at in the Fair than she had already seen; also the delay would give plenty of time for the selection of a wedding dress and other needed articles of apparel.
"Now I am going to relieve the anxiety of the gentlemen, particularly the one belonging especially to me," said Violet, in a lively tone, rising with the last word and hurrying away in their direction. The others sat silently watching her and her auditors.
"Ah," laughed Mildred presently, "they are all well satisfied with the arrangement except Mr. Lilburn. He wears a dubious, disappointed look. Ah, Annis, how can you have the heart to disappoint him so?"
"Never mind, Annis, he will prize you all the more for not being able to get possession of you too quickly and easily," said Mrs. Dinsmore.
"So I think," returned Annis demurely; "also that it will be quite as well for him to have a little more time to learn about all my faults and failings."
"I do not believe he will be able to find them," said Mrs. Dinsmore, with an admiring look into the sweet face of the speaker, "since I have not succeeded in so doing."
Lucilla and Grace, seated a little apart from the others, had been watching with keen interest all that passed among both ladies and gentlemen.
"There, just look at Cousin Ronald!" exclaimed Lucilla. "He isn't smiling—looks rather disappointed I think; so I suppose we are not to be allowed to carry out our plan. And I think it would be just splendid to have a wedding here on board our yacht."
"Yes; so did I," returned Grace; "but I suppose she doesn't like the idea of being married in a hurry. I'm sure I shouldn't. I don't believe Rosie would mind that though; and Mr. Croly seems to say by his looks that he would like to take possession of her as soon as possible."
"Yes, no doubt he would. He ought to wait till he can have his father and mother present, however; and besides Grandpa Dinsmore and Grandma Elsie won't consent to let her marry for at least a year. I shouldn't think she would feel willing to leave her mother even then; unless as Mamma Vi did, for such a man as our father."
"But there isn't any other," asserted Grace more positively than she often spoke. "Papa is just one by himself for lovableness, goodness, kindness—oh, everything that is admirable!"
"Indeed he is all that!" responded Lucilla heartily. "Oh, I could never bear to leave him and cannot help wondering at Rosie—how she can think of leaving her mother! Her father being dead, she wouldn't be leaving him, but Grandma Elsie is so sweet and lovable. To be sure, just as I said, Mamma Vi did leave her, but then it seems all right since it was for love of papa. But what are you looking so searchingly at me for, Gracie?"
"Oh, something that Rosie said last night quite astonished me, and I was wondering if it were possible she could be right."
"Right about what?"
"Why, that Chester Dinsmore is deeply in love with you, and that you care something for him too."
"Oh, what nonsense!" exclaimed Lucilla with a half vexed, yet mirthful look. "I am only half grown up, as papa always says, and really I don't care a continental for that young man. I like him quite well as a friend—he has always been very polite and kind to me since that time when he came so near cutting my fingers off with his skates—but it is absurd to think he wants to be anything more than a friend; besides papa doesn't want me to think about beaux for years to come, and I don't want to either."
"I believe you, Lu," said Grace, "for you are as perfectly truthful a person as anybody could be. Besides I know I love our father too dearly ever to want to leave him for the best man that ever lived; there couldn't be a better one than he is, or one who could have a more unselfish love for you and me."
"Exactly what I think," returned Lucilla. "But there's the call to supper."
"Annis, dear, my ain love, my bonny lass," Mr. Lilburn said, when at last he could get a moment's private chat with her, "why condemn me to wait longer for my sweet young wife? Is it that you fear to trust your happiness to my keeping?"
"Oh, no, not that," she replied, casting down her eyes, and half turning away her face to hide the vivid blush that mantled her cheek; "but you hardly know yet, hardly understand, what a risk you run in asking me to share your life."
"Ah," he said, "my only fear is that you may be disappointed in me; and yet if so, it shall not be for lack of love and tenderest care, for to me it seems that no dearer, sweeter lass ever trod this earth."
"Ah, you don't know me!" she repeated, with a slight smile. "I am not afraid to trust you, and yet I think it would be better for us to wait a little and enjoy the days of courtship. One reason why I would defer matters is that we will never again have an opportunity to see this wonderful Fair, and I have seen but little of it yet; also I would not willingly miss spending as much time as possible with my dear brother and sisters whom I am about to leave for a home with you, and I must make some preparation in the matter of dress too."
"Ah, well, my bonny lass, 'if a woman will, she will you may depend on't, and if she won't, she won't and there's an end on't.' So I'll even give up to you, comforting mysel' that ye'll be mine at last; and that in the mean time I shall have your dear companionship while together we explore the streets and buildings of this wonderful White City."
At that moment others came upon the scene and put an end to the private talk.
The next two weeks were those of delightful experience to all our friends, to Annis in particular, spent in visits to that beautiful Court of Honor, and to various interesting exhibits to be found in other parts of the Fair, with an occasional change of scene and occupation by a shopping excursion to Chicago in search of wedding finery.
She would not allow herself to anticipate the pain of the partings from the dear brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, that lay before her, but gave herself up to the enjoyment of the present; in especial of the intercourse with him who was the chosen companion of her future life on earth.
The yacht could not furnish night accommodations for all, but usually all the relatives and friends gathered about its supper table and afterward spent an hour or more upon its deck in rest that was particularly enjoyable after the day's exertion, and in cheerful chat over their varied experiences since separating in the morning; for they were now much too large a company to keep together in their wanderings in and about the White City.
But the time approached when they must separate. The trousseau—with the exception of such articles as it was considered more desirable to purchase in New York or Philadelphia—was ready, all the arrangements for the wedding feast had been made, and but a day or two intervened between that and the one which was to see Annis become a bride and set out upon her wedding tour.
The evening meal was over, and leaving the table they assembled upon the deck.
"Has anyone seen the evening paper or the morning one either?" asked Mr. Dinsmore, addressing his query to the company in general.
"Yes, sir; I have," answered Harold. "There has been an awful railroad collision, one section of the train running into another; a good many killed; one lady meeting with a most terrible fate," he added with emotion, "but she was an earnest, active Christian worker, and no doubt is now rejoicing before the throne of God."
"But oh, couldn't they have saved her?" asked his mother, in tones tremulous with feeling. "How was it? what was the difficulty?"
"The car was crushed and broken, her limbs caught between broken timbers in such a way that it was impossible to free her in season to prevent the flames—for the car was on fire—from burning her to death. The upper part of her body was free, and she close to a window, so that she could speak to the gathered crowd who, though greatly distressed by the sight of her agony, were powerless to help her. She sent messages to her dear ones and her Sunday-school class and died like a martyr."
"Poor dear woman!" said Violet, in low, tender tones. "Oh, how well that her peace was made with God before the accident, for she could do little thinking in such an agony of pain."
"Yes; and such sudden calls should make us all careful to be ready at any moment for the coming of the Master," said Mr. Dinsmore.
"Yes," assented the captain, "and we do not know that he may not come at any moment, for any of us; either by death or in the clouds of heaven. 'Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh,' is his own warning to us all."
"Dear Christian woman, how happy she is now!" said Grandma Elsie; "that agony of pain all over, and an eternity of bliss at God's right hand—an eternity of the Master's love and presence already hers."
A moment of deep and solemn silence followed, then from the lake they seemed to hear two voices sweetly singing:
"I would not live alway: I ask not to stay Where storm after storm rises dark o'er the way; The few lurid mornings that dawn on us here, Are enough for life's woes, full enough for its cheer.
"I would not live alway, thus fetter'd by sin, Temptation without and corruption within: E'en the rapture of pardon is mingled with fears, And the cup of thanksgiving with penitent tears.
"I would not live alway; no, welcome the tomb: Since Jesus hath lain there, I dread not its gloom; There, sweet be my rest, till he bid me arise To hail him in triumph descending the skies.
"Who, who would live alway, away from his God; Away from yon heaven, that blissful abode, Where the rivers of pleasure flow o'er the bright plains, And the noontide of glory eternally reigns;
"Where the saints of all ages in harmony meet, Their Saviour and brethren, transported, to greet; While the anthems of rapture unceasingly roll, And the smile of the Lord is the feast of the soul."
Hugh Lilburn was present among the guests of the evening, and before the finishing of the first verse, the voices seemingly coming from the water had been recognized by more than one of the company as those of his father and himself. As the last notes died upon the air, a solemn silence again fell upon them all.
It was broken by Mrs. Travilla saying softly, and in tones tremulous with emotion:
"I have always loved that hymn of Muhlenberg's. Ah, who would wish to live alway in this world of sin and sorrow, never entering, never seeing, the many mansions Jesus has gone to prepare for those that love him?"
As the last word left her lips, the seemingly distant voices again rose in song, the words coming distinctly to every ear:
"Jerusalem the golden, With milk and honey blest, Beneath thy contemplation Sink heart and voice opprest. I know not, O I know not What joys await us there, What radiancy of glory, What bliss beyond compare.
"They stand, those halls of Zion, All jubilant with song, And bright with many an angel, And all the martyr throng. The Prince is ever in them, The daylight is serene; The pastures of the blessed Are decked in glorious sheen,
"There is the throne of David; And there, from care released, The shout of them that triumph, The song of them that feast. And they, who with their Leader, Have conquered in the fight, For ever and for ever Are clad in robes of white.
"O sweet and blessed country, The home of God's elect! O sweet and blessed country, That eager hearts expect! Jesus, in mercy bring us To that dear land of rest; Who art, with God the Father, And Spirit, ever blest,"
"Thank you very much, gentlemen," said Mildred as the last notes died away. "What lovely words those are! Ah, they make one almost envious of that dear woman who has already reached that happy land where sin and sorrow are unknown."
"And death never enters," added Grandma Elsie low and feelingly. "Oh, 'blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.'"
The wedding morning dawned bright and clear. All the invited guests who had passed the night on shore were early arrivals upon the yacht, which then immediately started across the lake, heading for Michigan City.
The crew had outdone themselves in making everything about the vessel even more than ordinarily clean and bright, and everyone was arrayed in holiday attire. The young men of the party had taken care to provide abundance of flowers, especially for the saloon where the ceremony was to take place.
There they all assembled, drawn by the familiar strains of the Bridal Chorus from "Lohengrin," played by Violet on the small pipe organ which the captain's thoughtfulness had provided for his wife's amusement and his own pleasure, as well as that of his daughters.
A hush fell upon them as Cyril entered and took his appointed place, followed closely by the bridal party, which consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore and the bride and groom; Annis preferring to be without bridesmaids, and Mr. Dinsmore having expressed a desire to take a father's part and give her away.
The short and simple ceremony was soon over, and after the customary congratulations and good wishes, all repaired to the dining saloon where they partook of a delicious breakfast.
All this time the vessel was speeding on her way, and the lake being calm, and such breeze as there was favorable, she made excellent headway, carrying them into their port in good season for catching their trains without being unpleasantly hurried.
Then the Dolphin turned and retraced her course, arriving at her old station near the Peristyle before nightfall; so that the returned passengers were able to spend their evening, as usual, in the beautiful Court of Honor.
Captain Raymond and his wife and daughters returned to the yacht rather earlier than was their wont, and sat on its deck awaiting the coming of the others.
"Papa," said Lucilla, breaking a momentary silence, "I have been wondering why you took the cousins to Michigan City rather than to Pleasant Plains as you did before."
"Because it would have taken a good deal longer to go to Pleasant Plains; for which reason they preferred Michigan City, not wishing to take the cars here because of the great crowds about the stations, causing much inconvenience and some peril to those who must push their way through them."
"I wondered that the bride and groom were willing to go on the cars at all after hearing of the many accidents on the trains of late, papa," said Grace.
"I trust they will not meet with any," said her father. "The crowds are coming in this direction, and I think it is on those trains that most of the accidents occur. But we will all pray for them, asking the Lord to have them in his kind care and keeping."
"Yes, indeed, papa!" she replied, in earnest tones. "I am so glad that we may, and that we know—because he has told us so—that he is the hearer and answerer of prayer. Still I am glad we are not going home by rail."
"So am I," he said; "yet yachts are sometimes wrecked; and in fact there is no place where we could be certain of safety except as our heavenly Father cares for and protects us; and in his kind care and keeping we are safe wherever we may be."