“Oh, how nice! how kind!” cried Elsie.
“And to-morrow you are all to be at the Oaks!” added her father. “Now shall I ride beside your carriage? or take a seat in it with you?”
“The latter, by all means,” answered Travilla, Elsie’s sparkling eyes saying the same, even more emphatically.
“Take Selim home, and see that both he and the family carriage are at Ion by nine this evening,” was Mr. Dinsmore’s order to his servant.
“Ah, papa! so early!” Elsie interposed, in a tone that was half reproach, half entreaty.
“We must not keep you up late after your journey, my child,” he answered, following her into the carriage, Mr. Travilla stepping in after.
“The seats are meant for three; let me sit between you, please,” requested Elsie.
“But are you not afraid of crushing your dress?” asked her father jocosely, making room for her by his side.
“Not I,” she answered gayly, slipping into her chosen place with a light, joyous laugh, and giving a hand to each. “Now I’m the happiest woman in the world.”
“As you deserve to be,” whispered her husband, clasping tight the hand he held.
“Oh, you flatterer!” she returned. “Papa, did you miss me?”
“Every day, every hour. Did I not tell you so in my letters? And you? did you think often of me?”
“Oftener than I can tell.”
“I have been wondering,” he said, looking gravely into her eyes, “why you both so carefully avoided the slightest allusion to that most exciting episode of your stay at Viamede.”
Elsie blushed. “We did not wish to make you uneasy, papa.”
“Of course, you must have seen a newspaper account?” observed Mr. Travilla.
“Yes; and now suppose you let me hear your report. Did the villain’s shot graze Elsie’s forehead and carry a tress of her beautiful hair?”
“No, no, it was only a lock of her unworthy husband’s hair—a much slighter loss,” Travilla said, laughing. “But perhaps the reporter would justify his misrepresentation on the plea that man and wife are one.”
“Possibly. And did your shot shatter the bone in the rascal’s arm?”
“No; Dr. Balis told me the ball glanced from the bone, passed under the nerve and severed the humeral artery.”
“It’s a wonder he didn’t bleed to death.”
“Yes; but it seems he had sufficient knowledge and presence of mind to improvise a tourniquet with his handkerchief and a stick.”
“What rooms were you occupying?” asked Mr. Dinsmore. “Come, just tell me the whole story as if I had heard nothing of it before.”
Travilla complied, occasionally appealing to Elsie to assist his memory; and they had hardly done with the subject when the carriage turned into the avenue at Ion.
“My darling, welcome to your home,” said Travilla low and tenderly, lifting the little gloved hand to his lips.
An involuntary sigh escaped from Mr. Dinsmore’s breast.