Chapter XVII.
 
  "Home, sweet home!"

"How large is the estate, doctor?" asked Capt. Raymond, as they were on their way to Woodburn.

"I cannot say exactly," replied Arthur. "There is a bit of woodland comprising several acres; and lawn, gardens, and shrubbery cover several more. I believe that is all."

"About as much as I care for," returned the captain.

"The estate was formerly very large," Arthur went on,--"some thousands of acres,--and the family was a very wealthy one; but, like many others, they lost heavily by the war, and were compelled to part with one portion of the estate after another, till little more than the homestead was left; and now it seems that it, too, must go."

"Are they so reduced?" the captain asked in a tone of deep sympathy.

"I think Miss Elliott does not feel compelled to part with it, and would still live on there, if it were not for the loneliness of the situation, and a natural desire to be with her sister, the only remaining member of their once large family, besides herself."

"Yes, yes: I see. I understand, and shall feel much more comfortable in buying it, than if I knew that poverty compelled her to part with it against her will."

"That shows your kindness of heart," Arthur said, turning toward his friend with an appreciative smile.

The next moment they had entered the Woodburn grounds, and Capt. Raymond and Grace were glancing from side to side in a very interested manner.

"The place is a good deal run down," remarked Arthur. "They have not had the means to keep it up, I suppose; but if it comes into your hands, captain, you can soon set matters right in regard to that; and I, for one, shall greatly enjoy seeing the improvement."

"And I making it," was the cheery rejoinder; "more, I think, than taking possession of a place that was too perfect to be improved."

"Papa, I'd just love to have this for our home!" cried Gracie, flushing with pleasure as she glanced here and there, and then up into his face with an eager, questioning look, "Won't you buy it, papa?" coaxingly.

"It is still too soon for that question, my child," he said, smiling down at her. "But I hope to be able to answer it before very long."

They had reached the house, and were presently ushered into the presence of its owner. She was desirous to sell, the captain to buy,--willing also to give not only a fair, but a liberal, price; so it took but a short time for them to come to an agreement.

He bought the land, house, furniture, every thing just as it stood; was promised possession in two weeks, and accorded the privilege of at once beginning any repairs or alterations he might deem desirable.

Before making the agreement, he had inspected the whole house. He found it large, conveniently arranged, and in very tolerable repair.

The furniture had evidently been very handsome in its day, and would do quite well, he thought, to begin with: much of it might, with re-upholstering and varnishing, please Violet as well as any that could be bought elsewhere. He was eager to bring her to look at it, the house and the grounds.

These last delighted both himself and Grace, although lawn and gardens were far from being as trim and neat as those of Ion and Fairview: there was an air of neglect about the whole place, but that could soon be remedied.

The bit of woodland was beautiful; and through it, and across lawn and gardens, ran a little stream of clear, sparkling water,--a pretty feature in the landscape, without being deep enough to be dangerous to the little ones.

Grace went everywhere with her father, up-stairs and down, indoors and out, quietly looking and listening, but seldom speaking, unless addressed.

Once or twice she said, in a low aside, "Papa, I'd like to live here, if you can 'ford to buy it.

"Papa, this is such a pretty room, and the view from that window is so nice!"

He would reply only by a kind smile, or a word or two of assent. She did not understand all the talk in the library after they had finished their round, and when they left was still in some doubt as to her father's intentions.

"Papa," she asked eagerly, as soon as they were fairly on their homeward way, "have you bought it?"

"We have come to an agreement," he answered.

"Then, is it ours?"

"It will be, as soon as I have got the deed, and handed over the money."

"Oh, I'm so glad!" she cried, clapping her hands with delight. "And we're to be 'lowed to go there to stay in two weeks, aren't we? I thought that was what Miss Elliott said."

"Yes: can you get all your possessions packed up by that time?"

"Yes, indeed, papa: one day would be enough time for that."

"And if you should happen to forget one of the dollies, you could go back for her," remarked the doctor.

"Or replace it with a new one," said the captain.

"But I love all my dollies, papa," she returned, with a wistful look up into his face: "they're my children, you know. Would you be satisfied with another new little girl 'stead of me?"

"No, indeed!" he replied, bending down to kiss her cheek. "If I had another new little girl given me, I should want to hold fast to my little Gracie too; and you shall keep all your dollies as long as you please."

Lulu and Max started on their walk to Fairview about the same time that Dr. Conly drove away with their father and Grace.

Their talk was principally of the new home in prospect. Lulu had only driven past Woodburn several times; but Max had been taken there once by Dr. Conly, with whom he was almost as great a favorite as his sister Grace, and had seen not only the grounds, but one or two rooms of the mansion.

Lulu was eager to hear all he had to tell about the place, and he not at all averse to describing what he had seen.

So interested were they in the topic, that they reached the entrance to the Fairview grounds almost ere they were aware of it.

"Oh, we're here!" exclaimed Lulu, in some surprise. "Max, I'll stay outside, while you go up to the house, for--I--I can't bear to see aunt Elsie and the others."

Her eyes were downcast, her cheeks burning with blushes as she spoke.

"But you may as well get it over," said Max: "you'll have to see them all sometime."

"You don't care a bit, do you?" she said, in a hurt tone.

"Yes, I do; I'm right sorry for you; but I can't help your having to meet them sooner or later."

"But I'm afraid I won't be welcome to aunt Elsie. What if she should tell me to go out of the house, she didn't want such a bad girl there?"

"She isn't that kind of person," said Max. "But here comes Eva," as the little girl came tripping down the avenue to meet them.

She shook hands with Max, then threw her arms round Lulu, and kissed her.

"O Eva! I'm 'most ashamed to look at you," murmured Lulu, half averting her blushing face. "I shouldn't think you'd want me for your friend any more."

"I do, though: I love you dearly, and should have gone to your room yesterday if your papa had not refused to allow it," responded Evelyn, repeating her caress. "Come in and rest, both of you: aunt Elsie told me to ask you."

"I'm not sure that papa meant to give me permission to go into the house," said Lulu, hanging back.

"No,--come to think of it,--I don't believe he did," said Max. "Besides, it must be pretty near school-time; so if you are ready, Eva, and want to walk, we'll start back directly, and be glad to take you with us."

"Yes, I prefer to walk," she said: "I'll be ready in five minutes, and glad to have your company."

Mrs. Leland was on the veranda.

"Won't they come in?" she asked of Evelyn, as the child came hurrying up the steps.

"No, auntie: Lu is not quite certain that her papa gave her permission."

"Then, I'll go to them."

Lulu's eyes were on the ground, her cheeks hot with blushes, as Mrs. Leland drew near the rustic bench on which she and Max had seated themselves.

"Good-morning, my dears: I am sorry you cannot come in and sit a while," was her pleasant greeting. Then she shook hands with Max and kissed Lulu.

"I heard you were not well yesterday, Lulu: I hope you feel quite so this morning?"

"Yes, ma'am, thank you."

"I heard from Ion before breakfast, and am delighted that baby is still improving, as, no doubt, you are, both of you."

"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Max.

"And I am gladder than words can tell," said Lulu, a tear rolling quickly down her cheek. "Aunt Elsie, I do love her! I think she is the nicest, sweetest baby I ever saw."

"Yes, my dear; and I have no doubt you intend to be the best of sisters to her."

"Oh, I do! I can't ever make up to her for--for hurting her so, though I did not mean to do it."

"Of course not: you couldn't be so cruel toward any baby, but especially your own sweet little sister," was the gentle, sweet-toned reply. "I am rejoiced, especially for you, my dears, and for your mamma, that your father is going to settle down here; for I know it will add greatly to your happiness, he is such a good husband and father, and you will so enjoy having a home of your own."

"Yes, aunt Elsie: we think it is the best thing that could have happened to us," replied Max.

Evelyn joined them at that moment; so they said good-by, and started on their way back to Ion.

"Eva," said Max, "have you heard about Woodburn?"

"No; what about it?"

"It's for sale, and perhaps papa will buy it."

"Oh, how nice that would be!" she exclaimed. "I've been there with aunt Elsie, and it's just a lovely place! It has a rather neglected look now; but it wouldn't take long to remedy that, and then it would be quite as handsome as Ion or Fairview, or any other place about here. Aren't you happy, Lu?"

"I shall be if papa gets it; but the best thing of all is, that he is to be with us all the time."

"Yes, of course," sighed Evelyn, thinking of the happy days when she had her father with her. "Lu," she said presently, "I know you are not to be sent away; but where are you to go to school?"

"To papa," replied Lulu, with a glad look and smile.

Evelyn sighed again. "The only part I regret," she remarked, "is that we have to give up being together in our studies,--you and I. Unless," she added the next moment, as if struck by a sudden thought, "your father would take me as a pupil too. But I wouldn't dare to ask it."

"I would," said Max: "I dare ask papa almost any thing,--unless it was leave to do something wrong,--and I'll undertake to sound him on the subject."

"I'm not afraid to ask him, either," said Lulu; "and he's so kind, I do believe he'll say yes, or at least that he'll do it if everybody else is agreed. Have you seen him, Eva?"

"Yes; and he had such a kind, fatherly manner toward me, that I fell in love with him at once. I believe I'd be glad to have him adopt me if he was badly in want of another daughter about my age," she added, with a merry look and smile.

"I believe he'd be the gainer if he could swap me off for you," said Lulu, catching her friend's tone; "but I'm very happy in feeling quite sure he would rather have me, bad as I am, just because I am his own."

"That makes all the difference in the world," said Evelyn; "and perhaps, on becoming acquainted with my faults, he might think them worse than yours."

It was not quite school-time when they reached Ion, and Evelyn proposed that they should spend the few intervening minutes in the grounds.

"I'd like to, ever so much," said Lulu; "but papa bade me go directly to my own room on getting home. So good-by," and she moved on resolutely in the direction of the house.

"Good-by. I'll see you again when school is out, if I can," Evelyn called after her.

Lulu's thoughts were so full of other things, she found great difficulty in fixing them upon her lessons. But saying to herself that it would be much too bad to fail in her first recitations to her father, she exerted her strong will to the utmost, and succeeded. She was quite ready for him when, at length, he came in.

But looking up eagerly from her book, "Papa," she asked, "have you, oh! have you, bought it?"

"Bought what?" he asked smilingly, as he sat down and drew her to his side.

"O papa! you know! Woodburn, I mean."

"I think I have secured it," he said, "and that it will make a very delightful home for us all."

"Oh, I am so glad!" she cried, throwing her arms round his neck, and giving him a vigorous hug. "When can we move in, papa?"

"In about two weeks, probably: can you stand having to wait for that length of time?"

"I s'pose I'll have to," she said, laughing a little ruefully. "It'll help very much that I'll have you here, and see you every day. Are you going to keep me shut up in this room all the time?"

"No: did I not tell you, you were no longer a prisoner?"

"Oh, yes, sir! but I--I don't care very much to--to be with Rosie and the rest."

"I prefer that you should not be, except when I am present," he returned gravely. "I want to keep you with me as much as possible; and would rather have you alone, or with Evelyn, Max, and Gracie only, when I am not with you."

"I like that best, too, papa," she replied humbly; "for I can't trust myself not to get into a passion with Rosie and her dog, and I suppose you can't trust me either."

"Not yet, daughter," he said gently; "but I hope the time will come when I can. Now we will attend to the lessons."

When the recitations were finished, "Papa," she said, with an affectionate, admiring look up into his face, "I think you are a very nice teacher: you make every thing so clear and plain, and so interesting. I'm so glad you're the gentleman who is to have charge of me," she added with a happy laugh.

"So am I," he said, caressing her. "I am very glad, very thankful, to be able to take charge of all my own children; and whatever I may lack in experience and ability as a teacher, I hope to make up in the deep interest I shall always feel in the welfare and progress of my pupils."

She then told him of Evelyn's wish, concluding With, "Won't you, dear papa? I'd like it so much, and Eva is such a good girl you wouldn't have a bit of trouble managing her. She's just as different from me as possible."

"Quite a recommendation; and if I were as sure of proving a competent teacher, I should not hesitate to grant your request. But it is a new business to me, and perhaps it would not be wise for me to undertake the tuition of more than my own three at present. However," he added, seeing her look of disappointment, "I will take the matter into consideration."

"Oh, thank you, sir! Papa, I've just thought of two things I want to talk to you about."

"Very well; let me hear them."

"The first is about my being so naughty at Viamede," she went on, hanging her head, and blushing deeply; "in such a passion at Signor Foresti, and so obstinate and disobedient to grandpa Dinsmore."

"I was very sorry to hear of it all," he said gravely: "but what about it?"

"Don't you have to punish me for it?" she asked, half under her breath.

"No: the punishment I gave you the other night settled all accounts up to that date."

She breathed more freely.

"Papa, would you have made me go back to that horrid man after he struck me?"

"It is not worth while to consider that question at this late day. Now, what else?" he asked.

"Papa, I spoiled one of those valuable books of engravings belonging to grandpa Dinsmore; no, I didn't exactly spoil it myself, but I took it out on the veranda without leave, and carelessly left it where Rosie's dog could get at it; and he scratched and gnawed and tore it, till it is almost ruined."

"I shall replace it at once," he said. "I am sorry you were so careless, and particularly that you took the book out there without permission; but that was not half so bad as flying into a passion, even if you hurt nothing or no one but yourself."

"But I did get into a passion, papa, at the dog and at Rosie," she acknowledged, in a frightened tone, and blushing more deeply than before.

"I am deeply grieved to hear it," he said.

"And won't you have to punish me for that, and for getting the book spoiled?"

"No: didn't I tell you just now that all accounts were settled up to the other night?"

"Papa, you're very, very kind," she said, putting her arm round his neck, and laying her head on his shoulder.

"I am very glad, that, with all her faults, my dear little daughter is so truthful and so open with me," he said, smoothing her hair.

"Papa, I'm ever so sorry you'll have to pay so much money to replace that book," she said. "But--you often give me some pocket-money, and--won't you please keep all you would give me till it counts up enough to pay for the book?"

"It is a right feeling, a feeling that pleases me, which prompts you to make that request," he said in a kind tone, and pressing his lips to her cheek; "and probably another time I may let you pay for such a piece of carelessness, but you need not in this instance. I feel rich enough to spare the money quite easily for that and an increase in my children's weekly allowance. What is yours now?"

"Fifty cents, papa."

"Where is your purse?"

She took it from her pocket, and put it into his hand.

"Only five cents in it," he remarked, with a smile, when he had examined.

Then, taking a handful of loose change from his pocket, he counted out four bright quarters and ten dimes, and poured them into her purse.

"O papa! so much!" she cried delightedly, "I feel ever so rich!"

He laughed at that. "Now," he said, "you shall have a dollar every week, unless I should have to withdraw it on account of some sort of bad behavior on your part. Max is to have the same; Gracie half a dollar till she is a little older: and you are all to keep an account of your spendings."

He took from another pocket, three little blank-books.

"One of these is for you: the others are for your brother and sister," he said. "See, there is a blank space for every day in the week; and, Whenever you lay out any money, you must write down in the proper place what it was that you bought, and how much it cost."

"And show it to you, papa?"

"Once in a while: probably, whenever I hand you your allowance, I shall look over your account for the week that is just past, and tell you what I think of the way you have laid out your money, in order to help you to learn to spend it judiciously."