“At Christmas play, and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year.”
The morning of the twenty-fourth found Grace almost too ill, with a heavy cold, to be out of bed; and it was quite evident that she would not be able to go to the Christmas-eve party at Ion, or the dinner on Christmas Day.
The captain was just finishing his morning toilet when Lulu knocked at his dressing-room door. She had come with the news of Grace’s illness, and he followed her at once to the bedside of the sick child.
“My poor darling,” he said, bending over her in tender concern, “you seem quite feverish. I think you must stay in bed, and we will send for your doctor.”
“And can’t I go to-night, papa?” she asked, the tears starting to her eyes.
“I’m afraid not, darling; but don’t fret; papa will try to find some way to make it up to you.”
“I’ll stay with her, papa, and read her stories, and do every thing I can to help her enjoy herself,” cried Lulu eagerly. “I may, mayn’t I?”
“You may, if you choose,” he said; “but I thought you were very anxious to go.”
“I was, but I’m not now,” she said. “I’d rather stay with Gracie. I shouldn’t be one bit happy there without her.”
“O Lu! I’d love to have you! but I don’t want you to lose all that fun just for me,” Grace said, with a wistful, loving look into her sister’s eyes.
“It wouldn’t be fun without you, my Gracie,” was the quick rejoinder.
“I am glad indeed that my little daughters love each other so dearly,” the captain said, kissing first one and then the other. “Well, we will see what can be done. If it were not for the disappointment to your mamma, I should stay at home with you, my darlings; as it is, I shall spend at least a part of the evening with you.”
He left them, and sought Violet in her dressing-room.
“My dear, what has happened? I am sure you look anxious and troubled!” she exclaimed, the instant she caught sight of his face.
“I confess that I am a little troubled about Gracie,” he replied: “she seems to have taken a very heavy cold. I shall send at once for the doctor. And, of course, she has to be disappointed in her expectations for this evening.”
“Then, let us all stay at home,” returned Violet promptly. “I could not enjoy myself, leaving the poor darling at home, sick. Besides,” glancing from the window, “do you see? it is snowing fast, and I should not like to expose baby to the storm. So I propose that we change our plans entirely, and have a private Christmas of our own,” she went on in a lively tone. “What do you say to it, my dear?”
They discussed the idea for some minutes, presently growing quite enthusiastic over it.
Their plans were nearly matured when the breakfast-bell rang; and, shortly after leaving the table, they began carrying them out.