“Entirely,” he said; “and now it remains only to fix upon the day and hour.”
That question seemed more difficult to settle than the other; but Dick finally had his way, and the morning of the day on which he was to start for the far South was fixed upon as the time for the ceremony. The other relatives from a distance would delay their departure long enough to be present, the older Mr. Cyril Keith was chosen as the officiating minister, and everyone seemed satisfied with all the arrangements.
It had been a very enjoyable, but an exciting day; the little ones were weary with their sports, and all the guests, except those who were making Woodburn their temporary home, departed shortly after an early tea, and directly after the evening service of prayer and praise the ladies of the family retired to their rooms. At length Captains Raymond and Keith found themselves alone together upon the veranda.
“Raymond,” said the younger man, breaking a pause in their talk, “I have a great favour to ask of you.”
“Ah! what is it, Keith? Surely you do not need to be told that it would give me pleasure to do you any favour in my power.”
“Ah, I fear you hardly realise how much you are promising. Do you remember the talk we had some years ago at West Point?”
“Yes; but do you remember that the subject was not to be referred to—at least the question you asked not to be repeated—for six years, and that it is now only five?”
“Yes; but one year cannot make much difference, and it is highly probable that I may not be able to get here next year. Am I asking too much in begging you to let me speak now—before I go? Understand I am not asking leave to take her—your beautiful, charming daughter—away from you now, but only to tell the story of my love; for it has come to that, that I am deeply in love with her; only to tell the story and try to win a return of my affection and a promise that, at some future day, I may claim her for my own.”
“I would rather not, Keith; she is only a child,” Captain Raymond replied in moved tones. “But since you are so urgent, and are so old and valued a friend, I don’t like to refuse you. You may speak to her; but with the clear understanding, remember, that I will on no account allow her to marry for some time to come; I do not want to allow it before she is twenty-four or five.”
“Thank you,” said Keith heartily; “that will be a long time to wait, but she is well worth waiting for. But do you think I have any reason to hope to win her—that she likes me in the very least?”
“I am certain she has no dislike to you; that she feels kindly toward you as a relative and friend of the family; but I tell you candidly that I am well-nigh convinced that she has never thought of looking upon you as a lover; and it is a great happiness to me to be able to believe that she still loves her father better than any other man living.”