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.
“Envy is but the smoke of
Ascending still against the fortunate.”
It was dark and raining a little when the carriage turned into the avenue at Ion; but the whole front of the house was ablaze with lights, the hall door stood wide open, and a double line of servants in holiday attire, each sooty face dressed in smiles, stood waiting to welcome the weary travelers home.
There were many hearty shakings and kissings of hands; many fervent ejaculations: “God bless you, Massa and Missus!” “Tank de Lord you’s got home again, honey. We’s been pinin’ for you darlin’s and for de sight of de new baby,” and with the last words the voices were lowered at a sign from Aunt Chloe, in whose arms the little Lily lay sleeping sweetly.
There was some fretting among the weary little ones, but mamma and nurses were kind and gentle, and a good supper and bed soon cured all their troubles for that night.
Little Elsie was roused from her slumbers by a gentle shake, and starting up in bed, found the sun shining and Vi standing by her side with eager, excited face.
“Come, come to the window!” she cried. “It does seem as if I must be dreaming; it wasn’t there before, I’m sure.”
“What?” asked Elsie, springing out upon the floor and hurrying after Vi to the window from which she had witnessed the burning of the schoolhouse.
“There!” said Violet, pointing with her finger, “there! can you see it too?”
“Oh!” exclaimed Elsie, clasping her hands in a sort of ecstasy of delight, “oh, aren’t papa and mamma good? How did they ever come to think of it! and how could they get it done while they were away?”
“Grandpa, Uncle Horace and Cal,” suggested Vi. “Oh, aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad, Elsie?”
“I should think so! and the boat is ever so pretty. Let’s hurry and get dressed and go down and see it closer.”
Rowing and sailing upon the bayou and lakelet had been the children’s greatest pleasure at Viamede, their greatest regret in leaving it. Knowing this, their ever indulgent parents had prepared a pleasant surprise for them, causing a small tract of barren land on the Ion estate to be turned into an artificial lake. It was this, shining in the golden beams of the morning sun, and a beautiful boat moored to the hither shore, that had called forth from the lips of the little girls those exclamations of almost incredulous wonder and delight.
“Yes; I’ll ring for Dinah,” cried Vi, skipping across the room and putting out her hand to lay hold of the bell pull.
“Wait, Vi, our prayers first, you know,” said Elsie.
“Oh, yes! I do want to thank God for being so good to us; the pretty lake and boat and all.”