“You are right,” returned the captain cheerily, “my wife and children being by far the most valuable of my possessions. I only wish that you and your friend here,” glancing at Dr. Percival as he spoke, “were equally wealthy. But you are younger men, and may hope to become as rich as I am by the time you are my age.”
“Hardly; so far as I am concerned, at least,” returned Keith drily; “seeing I am already some ten or a dozen years older than you were at the time of your first marriage, Raymond.”
“Yet by no means too old to hope yet to become in the near future a happy husband and father. I am at a loss to understand why you have not found a mate before this.”
“Ah, none so blind as those that won’t see!” returned Keith with a slight laugh; then changed the subject of conversation by asking a question in regard to the plans of the young couple expecting to be united on the morrow.
Captain Raymond answered the query. A moment’s silence followed; then Keith, turning to Dick, said: “I presume you and I are of about the same age, doctor?”
“Quite likely; and confirmed bachelors, both of us, it would seem,” was the nonchalant rejoinder. “I am some years older than Cousin Vi.”
“Not too old for reformation, however,” remarked Captain Raymond pleasantly. “And let me assure you that a wife—such as mine, for instance—is a very great blessing; doubling the happiness of life.”
“I don’t doubt it, sir,” said Dick; “but such an one is not to be picked up every day.”
“No, certainly not. I have always felt myself strangely fortunate in securing so great a treasure.”
“As you well may,” remarked Keith pleasantly; “yet your good fortune has been largely owing to your undoubted worthiness of it, Raymond.”
“In which opinion I agree with you heartily, Cousin Donald,” responded Violet’s sweet voice close at hand, taking them by surprise, for, in the earnestness of their talk they had not perceived the sound of her light approaching footsteps. “I think there is nothing good which is beyond my husband’s deserts,” she added as all three rose hastily to hand her to a seat, Donald saying:
“So you overheard me, Coz! Well, please remember that it was I who brought you two together. An act which seems to have born abundance of good fruit in the happiness of all concerned.”
“I think it has,” she said, her husband adding, “And for which I, at least, owe you a deep debt of gratitude.”
“And not you alone, my dear,” said Violet; “and in return I can wish him nothing better than wedded happiness equal to our own.”
“A wish in which I heartily unite with you,” said Captain Raymond.
Captain Raymond and his eldest daughter were out in the Woodburn grounds the next morning at their usual early hour, wandering here and there along the shaded paths and among the shrubs and flowers, noting their growth in size and beauty, gathering blossoms, and chatting together in their usual familiar and affectionate manner; Lucilla expressing her thoughts and feelings as freely and openly as though her companion had been one of her own age and sex.