Just as they drew up at the cottage door on their return, a blast of Captain Baxter’s tin horn announced his arrival with the mail, and Edward, waiting only to assist the ladies and children to alight, hurried off to learn if they had any interest in the contents of the mailbag.
“Be not too ready to condemn
The wrongs thy brothers may have done;
Ere ye too harshly censure them
For human faults, ask, ‘Have I none?’”
—Miss Eliza Cook.
The little girls took up their station at the front
door to watch for
“Uncle Edward’s” return.
Gracie presently cried out joyfully, “Oh, he’s coming with a whole handful of letters! I wonder if one is from papa.”
“I’m afraid not,” said Lulu; “he would hardly write last night, leaving us so late as he did, and hardly have time before the leaving of the early boat this morning.”
The last word had scarcely left her lips when Edward reached her side and put a letter into her hand—a letter directed to her, and unmistakably in her father’s handwriting.
“One for you, too, Vi,” he said gayly, tossing it into her lap through the open window.
“Excuse the unceremonious delivery, sister mine. Where are grandma and mamma? I have a letter for each of them.”
“Here,” answered his mother’s voice from within the room; then as she took the missives from his hand, “Ah, I knew papa would not forget either mamma or me.”
“Where’s my share, Ned?” asked Zoe, issuing from the inner room, where she had been engaged in taking off her hat and smoothing her fair tresses.
“Your share? Well, really I don’t know; unless you’ll accept the mail-carrier as such,” he returned sportively.
“Captain Baxter?” she asked in mock astonishment. “I’d rather have a letter by half.”
“But you can’t have either,” he returned, laughing; “you can have the postman who delivered the letters here—nothing more; yours is ’Hobson’s choice.’”
Lulu, receiving her letter with a half-smothered exclamation of intense, joyful surprise, ran swiftly away with it to the beach, never stopping till she had gained a spot beyond and away from the crowd, where no prying eye would watch her movements or note if the perusal of her treasure caused any emotion.
There, seated upon the sand, she broke open the envelope with fingers trembling with eagerness. It contained only a few lines in Captain Raymond’s bold chirography, but they breathed such fatherly love and tenderness as brought the tears in showers from Lulu’s eyes—tears of intense joy and filial love. She hastily wiped them away and read the sweet words again and again; then kissing the paper over and over, placed it in her bosom, rose up, and slowly wended her way back toward the house, with a lighter, happier heart than she had known for some days.