Chapter XVI.
 
"'Tis easier for the generous to forgive
Than for offence to ask it."

In passing through the hall on his way from Lulu's room to the nursery, Capt. Raymond met "grandma Elsie."

She stopped him, and asked, in a tone of kindly concern, if Lulu was ill, adding, that something she had accidentally overheard him saying to the doctor had made her fear the child was not well.

"Thank you, mother," he said: "you are very kind to take any interest in Lulu after what has occurred. No, she is not quite well: the mental distress of the last two days has been very great, and has exhausted her physically. It could not, of course, be otherwise, unless she were quite heartless. She is full of remorse for her passion and its consequences, and my only consolation is the hope that this terrible lesson may prove a lasting one to her."

"I hope so, indeed," Elsie said, with emotion. "Yes, she must have suffered greatly; for she is a warm-hearted, affectionate child, and would not, I am sure, have intentionally done her baby sister an injury."

"No, it was not intentional; yet, as the result of allowing herself to get into a passion, she is responsible for it, as she feels and acknowledges.

"And so deeply ashamed is she, that she knows not how to face the family, or any one of them, and therefore entreats me to allow her to seclude herself in her own room till I can take her to the home I hope to make for my wife and children ere long."

"Poor child!" sighed Elsie. "Tell her, Levis, that she need not shrink from us as if we were not sinners, as well as herself. Shall I go in to-morrow morning, and have a talk with her before breakfast?"

"It will be a great kindness," he said, flushing with pleasure, "and make it much easier for her to show herself afterwards at the table. But I ought to ask if you are willing to see her there in her accustomed seat?"

"I shall be glad to do so," Elsie answered, with earnest kindliness of look and tone. "She was not banished by any edict of mine or papa's."

"No: I forbade her to leave her room while the baby was in a critical condition. Yet I think she had no disposition to leave it,--shame and remorse causing a desire to hide herself from everybody."

"It strikes me as a hopeful sign," Elsie said; "and I do not despair of one day seeing Lulu a noble woman, the joy and pride of her father's heart."

She held out her hand as she spoke.

The captain grasped it warmly. "Thank you, mother, for those kind and hopeful words," he said with emotion. "For the last year or two, she has been alternately my joy and my despair; and I am resolved to leave no effort untried to rescue her from the dominion of her fierce temper.

"The task would doubtless have been far easier could I have undertaken it years ago, in her early infancy. But I trust it is not yet too late to accomplish it, with the help and the wisdom I may have in answer to prayer.

"No, I am sure it is by no means a hopeless undertaking, looking where you do for needed strength and wisdom; and I rejoice almost as much for Lulu's sake as for Vi's, that you have now come among us to stay. I will try to see her in the morning, and do what I can to make it easy for her to join the family circle again.

"And now good-night. I must not keep you longer from the wife who grudges every moment that you are absent from her side," she concluded, with a smile as sweet and beautiful as that of her girlhood's days.

While the captain and his mother-in-law held this little conversation in the upper hall, Zoe and Rosie were promenading the veranda, arm in arm. They had been talking of Violet and her baby, rejoicing together over its improved condition.

"How dreadful the last two days have been to poor Vi!" exclaimed Rosie, "even in spite of the home-coming of her husband, which has always before this made her so happy. In fact, it has been a dreadful time to all of us; and nobody to blame except that bad-tempered Lulu.

"At least, so I think," she added, conscience giving her a twinge; "though mamma says I ought to have let her have my pony, and taken my own ride later in the day, if I wanted one."

"It would have been more polite and unselfish, wouldn't it?" queried Zoe, in a teasing tone. "I dare say it is what mamma herself would have done under the same circumstances."

"I have no doubt of that," returned Rosie; "but mamma and I are two very different people. I can never hope to be as good and unselfish as she is, and always has been so far as I can learn."

"Ah! but there's nothing like trying," laughed Zoe.

"Suppose you tell Lulu that, advising her to undertake the task of controlling her temper."

"She was quite a good while without an outbreak," said Zoe; "and really, Rosie, that dog of yours is extremely trying at times."

"It's quite trying to me, that I've had to send him away, and can't have him about any more till Lulu's gone. I'll be sorry to have Vi leave Ion, but rejoiced to be rid of Lulu. I wonder if the captain still intends to send her away? I sincerely hope so, for Vi's sake. Poor little Elsie may be killed outright the next time Lulu has an opportunity to vent her spite upon her."

"O Rosie! how can you talk so?" exclaimed Zoe. "haven't you heard that Lulu says she thought it was your dog she was kicking at? and that she has been really sick with distress about the baby? As to sending her away to be trained and taught by strangers--her father has no idea of doing it: in fact,--so Vi told Ned,--the conviction that Lulu needed his constant oversight and control had a great deal to do in leading him to resign from the service and come home to live."

"Then, he's a very good father,--a great deal better one than she deserves. But I'm sorry for Vi and her baby."

"You needn't be: surely the captain should be able to protect them from Lulu," laughed Zoe.

Rosie laughed too, remarked that it must be getting late; and they went into the house.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I do wish papa would come for me. I can't bear to go down alone to breakfast," Lulu was saying to herself the next morning, when a light step in the hall without caught her ear: then there was a tap at the door; and, opening it, she found the lady of the house standing on the threshold.

"Good-morning, my child," she said in pleasant, cheery tones, and smiling sweetly as she spoke; then, bending clown, she gave the little girl a kiss.

"Good-morning, grandma Elsie," murmured Lulu, blushing deeply, and casting down her eyes: "you are very kind to come to see me, and to kiss me too, when I have been so bad. Please take a chair," she added, drawing one forward.

"Thank you, dear; but I would rather sit on the sofa yonder, with you by my side," Elsie said, taking Lulu's hand, and leading her to it, then, when they had seated themselves, putting the other arm about the child's waist, and drawing her close to her side. "I feel that I have been neglecting you," she went on; "but my thoughts have been much taken up with other things, and"--

"O grandma Elsie!" cried Lulu, bursting into tears. "I didn't deserve that you should show me the least kindness, or think of me at all except as a very bad, disagreeable girl. I should think you'd want to turn me out of your house, and say I should never come into it again."

"No, dear child, I have no such feeling toward you: if I had, should I not be very much like that wicked servant to whom his lord had forgiven a debt of ten thousand talents, yet who refused to have compassion on his fellow-servant who owed him a hundred pence? I should, indeed; for my sins against God have been far greater, and more heinous, than yours against me or mine."

"But you were always such a good child when you were a little girl, and I am such a bad one."

"No, my dear; that is quite a mistake; I was not always good as a child, and I am very far from being perfect as a woman."

"You seem so to me, grandma Elsie: I never know of your doing and saying any thing the least bit wrong."

"But you, my child, see only the outward appearance, while God looks at the heart; and he knows that, though I am truly his servant, trying earnestly to do his will, I fall lamentably short of it."

"Grandma Elsie, I didn't know it was the baby: I didn't mean to hurt her."

"No, my dear, I know you didn't."

"But papa said he must punish me all the same, because it was being in a passion that made me do it. Grandma Elsie, if you had such a dreadful temper as mine, wouldn't you be discouraged about ever conquering it?"

"No, my child, not while I could find such words as these in the Bible: 'O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself: but in Me is thine help.' 'Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.' 'He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.' 'God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.'"

"'His people,'" repeated Lulu; then with a sigh, "But I am not one of them, grandma Elsie; so those promises are not for me."

"He invites you to become one of his people, and then they will be for you.

"'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden,' Jesus says, 'and I will give you rest.'

"You feel yourself heavy laden with that unconquerable temper, do you not?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Then, that invitation is for you; and it will not be unconquerable with the Lord to help you.

"'The God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people.' 'And they that stumbled are girded with strength.' You cannot doubt that you are included in the invitation, for it is, 'Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.' And the time to come is now: 'Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.'"

The breakfast-bell rang at that moment; and grandma Elsie, rising, took Lulu's hand, saying, "Come, my dear, you need not shrink from joining us at the table: no one will be disposed to treat you unkindly."

As she spoke, the door opened, and Capt. Raymond and Violet came in. They exchanged morning greetings with their mother; while Lulu, with eyes cast down, and cheeks aflame, half shrank behind her, ashamed and afraid to meet Violet's gaze.

But Violet bent down and kissed her affectionately, saying in a kindly tone, "I hope you are feeling better than you did yesterday?"

"O mamma Vi!" Lulu cried, throwing her arm round her young step-mother's neck, and bursting into tears, "is baby still getting better? and will you forgive me? I am, oh, so sorry!"

"Yes, dear, baby is improving fast; and it is all forgiven, so far as I am concerned," was the gentle reply.

Then the captain kissed his little girl good-morning, and they all went down to the breakfast-room together.

The worst was over to Lulu in having seen Violet, yet it was quite an ordeal to her to face the rest of the large family; but each one spoke pleasantly to her. Rosie alone bestowed so much an unkind look upon her, and that was wasted; for Lulu, expecting it from that quarter more than any other, constantly averted her gaze from Rosie, keeping her eyes down, or turned in another direction.

Dr. Conly had joined them as they sat down, and presently he addressed the captain:--

"I hear, Raymond, that you would like to buy in this neighborhood."

"Yes, if I can find a suitable place,--one that will satisfy my wife as well as myself," the captain answered with a smiling glance at Violet.

"Well, Vi, how would Woodburn answer, so far as you are concerned?" queried Arthur.

"Woodburn! is it for sale?" she cried delightedly. "O Levis!" turning to her husband, "it is a lovely old place! A visit there was always a great treat to me as a child."

"And it is really for sale?" exclaimed several voices in chorus, all eyes turning inquiringly upon Dr. Conly.

"Yes, so Miss Elliott told me yesterday," replied Arthur. "She was slightly indisposed, and sent for me, and, while telling of her ailments, remarked that she was very lonely since her sister Margaret had married and gone, leaving her sole occupant--not taking servants into account--of that large house, with its extensive grounds. So she had at last decided, she said, to comply with her sister's urgent request to sell the place, and take up her abode with them.

"She had thought of advertising, and asked my advice about it. Of course, I thought at once of you and Vi, captain, told her I knew of a gentleman who might like to become a purchaser, and that I would promise her a call from him to-day to look at the place. Will you redeem my promise?"

"Gladly," responded the captain, "especially as Vi expresses so strong a liking for the place. Will you go with me, my dear?"

"I hardly like to leave my baby yet," she answered dubiously. "But if you should feel entirely satisfied with the house, the grounds, and the price asked for them, you could not please me better than by making the purchase."

"There! if Miss Elliott only knew it, she might consider the estate as good as sold," remarked Zoe.

"If she is willing to take a reasonable price, I presume she might," said Arthur. "Captain, I will go there directly from here: will you drive over with me, and take a look at the place?"

"Yes, thank you; and have a talk with the lady, if you will give me an introduction."

Max and Lulu, sitting side by side at the table, exchanged glances,--Lulu's full of delight, Max's only interested. He shook his head in response to her's.

"What do you mean? wouldn't you like it?" she asked in an undertone.

"Yes, indeed! but I'm pretty sure papa couldn't afford such a place as that: it must be worth a good many thousands."

Lulu's look lost much of its brightness; still, she did not quite give up hope, as the conversation went on among their elders, Woodburn and the Elliotts continuing to be the theme.

"Will it be near enough to Ion?" Capt. Raymond asked, addressing Violet more particularly. "What is the distance?"

"Something over a mile, they call it," said Mr. Dinsmore.

"That is as near as we can expect to be, I suppose," said Violet.

"And with carriages and horses, bicycles, tricycles, and telephones, we may feel ourselves very near neighbors indeed," remarked Edward. "When the weather is too inclement for mamma or Vi to venture out, they can talk together by the hour through the telephone, if they wish."

"And it won't often be too inclement to go back and forth," said Zoe; "almost always good enough for a close carriage, if for nothing else."

"We are talking as if the place were already secured," remarked Violet, with a smiling glance at her husband.

"I think you may feel pretty sure of it if you want it, love; unless Miss Elliott should change her mind about selling," he responded, in a tone too low to reach any ear but hers.

She gave him a bright, glad look, that quite settled the matter so far as he was concerned; he would, if necessary, give even an exorbitant price for the place, to please her.

"Have you never seen Woodburn, captain?" asked Mrs. Dinsmore.

"I have some recollection of driving past it," he replied meditatively; "but--is not the house nearly concealed from view from the road, by a thick growth of trees and shrubbery?"

"Yes: you will thin them out a little, I hope, for the mansion is well worth looking at; it is a very aristocratic-looking dwelling,--large, substantial, and handsome architecturally."

"Papa, are you going to buy it?" asked Grace.

"It is too soon to answer that question, daughter," he said pleasantly; and Max and Lulu again exchanged glances, which said this time, "Maybe he will, after all."

Both ardently wished their father would propose taking them along; he did not: but when Dr. Conly said, with a kindly glance at Grace, "There will be room in my carriage for a little friend of mine, if papa is willing to let her go with us," he at once said,--

"Certainly, Gracie may go, if she will be ready in season, and not keep the doctor waiting."

"Indeed I will, papa," she cried delightedly, and ran away to don hat and coat; for the meal was concluded, and everybody leaving the table.

Lulu followed her father, till, in the hall, she found an opportunity to speak to him without being overheard.

"Papa," she asked, "what am I to do with myself to-day?"

"Stay in your room, and learn your lessons, beginning just where you left off the other day. You will recite to me after I come back; then we will consider what you shall do for the rest of the day."

"Yes, sir: may I see Evelyn when she comes?"

"If she chooses to go to you in your room."

"Must I stay in my room all the time?" she asked dejectedly.

"While I am away. I will take you out after I return." Then, noticing her downcast look, "You shall have more liberty when we get into our own home," he said kindly.

At that she looked up with a bright, glad smile. "Papa, it will be so nice!"

Max had drawn near.

"Papa," he said, "won't you let Lu take a walk with me? Mayn't we run over to Fairview, and bring Evelyn back with us? I know she'd be glad to have company coming over to school."

"Yes, you may go, both of you, if you like. But, Lulu, when you get home, go at once to your room: don't stop in the grounds or on the veranda."

"I won't, papa," she said: "I'll go straight to my room, and, oh, thank you for letting me go!"