Chapter IV



I Know of no happier moment for parents than that when their eldest daughter returns from school to take her place finally by her mother’s side. It was two years that very day since we had seen Dorothy, when her father set out for Lausanne to bring her home; and how the children and I got through the few days of his absence, I don’t know. The last touches had been put many times over to her rooms—not the plain little room she had left, but a dainty bower for our young maiden, a little sitting-room opening into a pure nest of a bedroom. Our eyes met, her father’s and mine, and moistened as we conjured up I don’t know what visions of pure young life to be lived there, of the virginal prayers to be offered at the little prayer table, the gaiety of heart that should, from this nook, bubble over the house; and, who knows, by-and-by, the dreams of young love which should come to glorify the two little rooms.
     Two or three times already had the children put fresh flowers into everything that would hold a flower. Pretty frocks and sweet faces, bright hair
and bright eyes had been ready this long time to meet sister Dorothy.
     At last, a telegram from Dover—“Home by five”—and our restlessness subsided into a hush of expectation.
     Wheels sounded on the gravel, and we flew to the hall door and stood in two files, children and maids, Rover and Floss, waiting to welcome the child of the house. Then, a lovely face, glad to tears, looking out of a nest of furs; then, a light leap, almost before the carriage drew up, and I had her in my arms, my Dorothy, the child of my heart! The order of the day was “high tea,” to which every one, down to baby May, sat up. We two, her father and I, gave her up to the children, only exchanging notes by the species of telegraphy married folk understand.
     “Indubitably lovely!” said her father’s eyes. “And what grace—what an elegant girl she is!” answered mine. “And do but see what tact she shows with the little ones—” “And notice the way she has with us, as if her heart were brimming with reverence and affection.”  Thus, we two with our eyes. For a week or more we could not settle down. As it was the Christmas holidays, we had not Miss Grimshaw to keep us in order, and so it happened that wherever Dorothy ran—no, she went with a quick noiseless step, but never ran—about the house to find out the old dear nooks, we all followed, a troop of children with their mother in the rear; their father too, if he happened to be in. Truly we were a ridiculous family, and did our best to turn the child’s head. Every much has its more-so. Dorothy’s two special partisans were Elsie, our girl of fifteen years,
fast treading in her sister’s steps, and Herbert, our eldest son, soon to go to college. Elsie would come to my room and discourse by the hour, her text being ever, Dorothy says.” And as for Herbs, it was pleasant to see his budding manhood express itself in all sorts of little attentions to his lovely sister.
     For lovely she was; there could not be two opinions on that point. A lily maid, tall and graceful, without a trace of awkwardness or self-consciousness; the exquisite complexion of the Elmores (they are a Devonshire family), warm, lovely rose on creamy white, no hint of brunette colouring; a smile which meant spring and love and other good things; and deep blue eyes reflecting the light of her smile—this was Dorothy.
     Never, not even during the raptures of early married life, have I known a month of such joyous exhilaration as that which followed Dorothy’s return, and I think her father would own as much.
     What a month it was! There was the pleasant earthly joy of going to town to get frocks for Dorothy; then, the bewilderment of not being able to find out what suited her best.
     “Anything becomes her!” exclaims Mdme. la Modiste; “that figure, that complexion, may wear anything.”
     And then, how pleasant it was to enter a room where all eyes were bent upon us in kindliness—our dear old friends hurrying forward to make much of the child. The deference and gentleness of her manner to these, and the warmth with which she was received by her compeers, both maidens and men; her grace in the dance; her simplicity in conversation; the perfection of her manner, which was not manner
at all but her own nature, in every situation—all these added to our delight. After all, she liked best to be at home, and was more amiable and lovely with father and  mother, brothers and sisters, than with the most fascinating strangers. Our good child! We had grown a little shy of speaking to her about the best things, but we knew she said her prayers: how else this outflow of sweet maiden life upon us all?
     I can imagine these ramblings of mine falling into the hands of a young pair whose life is in each other: “Oh, only the outpourings of a doting mother,” and they toss the pages aside. But never believe, young people, that yours are the only ecstatic moments, yours the only experiences worth recording; wait and see.

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