Captain Raymond went back to the hotel feeling somewhat lonely and heartsore over the parting from his eldest hope, but as he entered the private parlor where his young wife and most of the party were, his look and manner had all their accustomed cheeriness.
He made a pleasant remark to Violet, fondled the little ones, and talked for a few minutes in his usual agreeable way with Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore and the others; then glancing about the room, as if in search of someone or something, asked, "Where are Lulu and Gracie?"
"Why, I thought they were here," Violet answered in some surprise, following the direction of his glance. "They seem to have slipped out of the room very quietly."
"I must hunt them up, poor dears! for it is about time we were starting for the Dolphin," he said, hastily leaving the room. A low sobbing sound struck upon his ear as he softly opened the door of the room where his little girls had slept the previous night, and there they were down on the carpet near a window, Gracie's head in her sister's lap, Lulu softly stroking the golden curls and saying in tender tones, "Don't, Gracie dear; oh, don't! It can't be helped, you know; and we have our dear papa and Mamma Vi, and the little ones left. Besides, Maxie will come home again to visit us one of these days."
"Oh, but he'll never live at home with us any more," sobbed Gracie; "at least I'm afraid he won't; and—and oh, I do love him so! and he's the only big brother we have."
"But we have papa, dear, dear papa, who used to be obliged to go away and leave us; but we have him all the time now," Lulu replied half chokingly. "I wish we could have them both, but we can't, and we both do love papa the best after all."
"And papa loves his two dear little girls more than tongue can tell," the captain said in tenderest tones, drawing near, bending down to take both in his arms together, and kissing first one and then the other. "Be comforted, my darlings," he went on, holding them close to his heart; "we haven't lost our Maxie by any means; and though I left him feeling a trifle homesick and forlorn, he will get over that in a day or two I know, and greatly enjoy the business of preparing himself for the life work he has freely chosen."
"But, oh, papa, how he will miss our lovely home, and you, and all of us!" sobbed Gracie, hiding her tear-stained face on her father's shoulder.
"Not as you would, my darling," he replied, holding her close and caressing her with great tenderness. "Boys are different from girls, and I think our dear Maxie will soon feel very happy there among his mates, though he will, I am sure, never cease to love his father, sisters, Mamma Vi, baby brother, and his home with them all."
"Papa, I'm thinking how he'll miss the pleasant evenings at home—the good talks with you," sobbed the little girl.
"Yes, darling, but I will tell you what we will do to partly, at least, make up that loss to our dear boy."
"What, papa?" she asked, lifting her head and looking up into his face, with her own brightening a little.
"Suppose we each keep a journal or diary, telling everything that goes on each day at home, and now and then send them to Maxie; so that he will know all that we are doing?"
"Oh, what a good thought, papa!" exclaimed Lulu, giving him a vigorous hug and kiss. "And Maxie will write us nice, interesting letters; and some day he'll come home for a visit and have ever so much to tell us."
"Yes," her father said, "and I think we will have interesting letters from him in the meantime."
"And perhaps I'll learn to like writing letters, when it's just to please Maxie and comfort him," said Grace, wiping away her tears and trying to smile.
"I hope so, darling," her father replied, bestowing another kiss upon the sweet little tear-stained face. "But now, my dears," he added, "put on your hats; it is time to go back to the Dolphin."
They hastened to obey, and he led them to the parlor, where they found the rest of the party ready to accompany them on board the yacht....