Two days later Max was released from his imprisonment. He more than half dreaded to make his appearance below stairs, thinking every one would view him askance, but was agreeably surprised by being greeted on every hand with the utmost kindness and cordiality.
On the following Monday he and the other children were sent to the Oaks to make the promised visit.
Gracie alone needed some persuasion to induce her to go of her own free will, and that only because mamma was not going. Gracie was not at all sure that she could live two whole weeks without her dear mamma.
Just before they started, Mr. Dinsmore made Max very happy by the restoration of his money and watch. He added an admonition against gambling, and Max replied with an earnest promise never to touch a card again.
A CHAPTER OF SURPRISES.
Edward and Zoe decided upon a little pleasure trip in addition to the business one, and, in consequence, were absent from home for over a fortnight. On their return, Elsie met them on the threshold with the warmest and most loving of welcomes.
“How well and happy you both look, my dear children!” she said, glancing from one to the other, her face full of proud, fond, motherly affection.
“As we are, mother dear,” Edward responded. “Glad to see you so, also. How is Vi?”
“Vi! Is she sick?” asked Zoe, her tone expressing both surprise and concern.
“Yes,” Elsie said, leading the way down the hall and up the stairs. Then as they reached the upper hall, “Come this way, my dears, I have something to show you.”
She led them to the nursery; to the side of a dainty crib; and pushing aside its curtains of lace, brought to view a little downy head and pink face nestling cosily upon the soft pillow within.
Zoe uttered an exclamation of astonishment and delight. “Why, mamma, where did you get it? Oh, the little lovely darling!” and down she went on her knees by the side of the crib, to make a closer inspection. “O Ned, just look! did you ever see anything half so dear and sweet?”
“Yes,” he said, with a meaning, laughing look into her sparkling face. “I see something at this moment that to my eyes is dearer and sweeter still. What does Vi think of it, mamma?” turning to his mother.
“She is very proud and happy,” Elsie answered with a smile. “I believe Zoe has expressed her views exactly.”
“It’s Vi’s, is it?” said Zoe. “Come, Ned, do look at it. You ought to care a little about your——”
She broke off with an inquiring glance up into her mother’s face.
“Niece,” supplied Elsie, “my first granddaughter.”
“Another Elsie, I suppose,” Edward remarked, bending down to examine the little creature with an air of increasing interest.
“Her father must be heard from before the name can be decided upon,” his mother answered. “Vi wishes it named for me, but I should prefer to have another Violet.”