Chapter XXII. Life at Woodburn.
 

Lulu's temper was not conquered, but she was more successful than formerly in combating it. The terrible lesson she had had in the injury to her baby sister, consequent upon her outburst of passion, could not easily be forgotten: the bitter recollection was often a great restraint upon her, and her father's loving watchfulness saved her many a time, when, without it, she would have fallen; he kept her with him almost constantly when at home,--and he was rarely absent,--scarcely allowed her to go anywhere off the estate without him, and seemed never for a moment to forget her and her special temptation: the slightest elevation in the tones of her voice was sure to catch his ear; and a warning look generally proved sufficient to put her on her guard, and check the rising storm of anger.

There were several reasons why it was--as she often asserted--easier to be good with him than with Mr. Dinsmore: he was more patient and sympathizing, less ready to speak with stern authority, though he could be stern enough when he deemed it necessary. Besides, he was her father, whom she greatly reverenced and dearly loved, and who had, as she expressed it, a right to rule her and to punish her when she deserved it.

One morning, after several very happy weeks at Woodburn, the quiet of the schoolroom, which had been profound for many minutes, was broken by a slight exclamation of impatience from Lulu.

Her father, glancing up from the letter he was writing, saw an ominous frown on her brow, as she bent over her slate, setting down figures upon it, and quickly erasing them again, with a sort of feverish haste, shrugging her shoulders fretfully, and pushing her arithmetic peevishly aside with the free hand.

"Lulu, my daughter," he said, in a quiet tone, "put on your hat and coat, and take a five-minutes' run on the driveway."

"Just now, papa?" she asked, looking up in surprise.

"Yes, just now. When you think you have been out the specified number of minutes, you may come back; but I shall not find fault with you if you are not quite punctual, as you will not have a timepiece with you."

"Thank you, sir," she said, obeying with alacrity.

She came in again presently, with cheeks glowing and eyes sparkling, not a cloud on her brow.

"Ah! I see you feel better," her father remarked, smiling kindly upon her; "and I have finished my letter, so have time to talk with you. Max and Gracie, you may take your turn at a run in the fresh air now."

Donning their outdoor garments, while Lulu took hers off, and put them in their proper place, they hurried away.

"Bring your slate and book here, daughter," was the next order, in the kindest of tones, "and let me see what was troubling you so."

"It's these vulgar fractions, papa," she said, giving herself an impatient shake. "I don't wonder they call them vulgar, for they're so hateful! I can't understand the rule, and I can't get the examples right. I wish you wouldn't make me learn them."

"Daughter, daughter!" he said, in grave, reproving accents, "don't give way to an impatient temper. It will only make matters worse."

"But, papa," she said, bringing the book and slate as directed, "won't you please let me skip these vulgar fractions?"

"I thought," he said, "that my Lulu was a brave, persevering little girl, not ready to be overcome by a slight difficulty."

"Oh! but it isn't a slight one, papa: it's big and hard," she pleaded.

"I will go over the rule with you, and try to make it clear," he returned, still speaking in a pleasant tone; "and then we will see what we can do with these troublesome examples."

She sighed almost hopelessly, but gave her attention fully to his explanation, and presently cried out joyfully, "Oh, I do understand it now, papa! and I believe I can get the sums right."

"I think you can," he said. "Stand here by my side, and let me see you try."

She succeeded, and was full of joy.

"There is nothing like trying, my little girl," he said, smiling at her exultation and delight.

She came to him again after lessons were done, and Max and Grace had left the room once more.

"May I talk a little to you, papa?" she asked.

"Yes, more than a little, if you wish," he replied, laying aside the book he had taken up. "What is it?"

"Papa, I want to thank you for sending me out to take that run, and then helping me so nicely and kindly with my arithmetic."

"You are very welcome, my darling," he said, drawing her to a seat upon his knee.

"If you hadn't done it, papa, or if you had spoken sternly to me, as grandpa Dinsmore would have done in your place, I'd have been in a great passion in a minute. I was feeling like just picking up my slate, and dashing it to pieces against the corner of the desk."

"How grieved I should have been had you done so!" he said; "very, very sorry for your wrong-doing, and that I should have to keep my word in regard to the punishment to be meted out for such conduct."

"Yes, papa," she murmured, hanging her head, and blushing deeply.

"Would breaking the slate have helped you?" he asked with grave seriousness.

"Oh, no, papa! you cannot suppose I'm so foolish as to think it would."

"Was it the fault of the slate that you had such difficulty with your examples?"

"Why, no, papa, of course not."

"Then, was it not extremely foolish, as well as wrong, to want to break it just because of your want of success with your ciphering?"

"Yes, sir," she reluctantly admitted.

He went on, "Anger is great folly. The Bible says, 'Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry; for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.' It seems to be the sort of foolishness that, more than any other, is bound in the heart of this child of mine. It seems, too, that nothing but 'the rod of correction' will drive it out."

She gave him a frightened look.

"No," he said, "you need not be alarmed: as you did not indulge your passionate impulse, I have no punishment to inflict.

"My dear, dear child, try, try to conquer the propensity! Watch and pray against this besetting sin."

"I will, papa," she murmured with a half despairing sigh.

Some weeks later--it was on an afternoon early in December--Lulu and Grace were in their own little sitting-room, busied in the manufacture of some small gifts for "papa and Maxie," who were, of course, to be kept in profound ignorance on the subject till the time for presentation; therefore, the young workers sat with locked doors; and when presently Maxie's boyish footsteps were heard rapidly approaching, their materials were hastily gathered up, thrust into a closet close at hand, and the key turned upon them. Then Lulu ran and opened the door.

"Hollo!" cried Max, in a perfectly good-humored tone, "what do you lock a fellow out for? It looks as if you're up to some mischief. I just came to tell you there's company in the parlor, and they've asked for you, both of you."

"Who are they?" asked Lulu, glancing at her reflection in a pier-glass opposite, to make sure that dress and hair were in order.

She was neat and orderly by nature, and her father very particular about the appearance of his children; not caring to have them expensively attired, but always neat and tidy.

"The Oaks young folks," replied Max,--"Horace and Frank and their two sisters, Maud and Sydney."

"Come, Gracie," said Lulu, turning to her little sister: "we both look nice, and we'll go right down."

The children all felt rather flattered by the call, because the Oaks young people were older than themselves. Horace, Frank, and Maud were all older than Max, and Sydney was between him and Lulu in age.

With the Dinsmore girls, the Raymonds were quite well acquainted, having seen them frequently at Ion, and sometimes met them elsewhere; but the boys, who had been away at school, were comparative strangers.

Violet was in the parlor chatting pleasantly with her young cousins, the call being intended for her also; and her cheerful presence set her little step-daughters more at their ease than they would otherwise have been.

They had not been long in the room ere they learned that the special object of the visit was to invite them and Max to the Oaks, to spend the greater part of Christmas week.

"It is to be a young people's party, you must all understand," said Maud, who seemed to be the chief speaker, "and so the captain and cousin Vi are not invited: not that cousin Vi is not young, you know, for she is that; but there are to be no married folks asked.

"There is to be the usual Christmas-eve party at Ion for all the family connection, Christmas-tree and all that, and the grand dinner-party on Christmas Day; then all the boys and girls of the connection are invited to the Oaks to stay till the next Saturday evening.

"We hope, cousin Vi, that Max and his sisters may come?"

"If it depended upon me," returned Violet pleasantly, "I presume I should say yes; but of course it will have to be as their father says."

"Oh, yes! certainly. Is he in?"

"No, and I fear he will not be for an hour or two; but if you will stay to tea, you will be pretty sure to see him."

The invitation was declined with thanks; "they had other calls to make, and must be going presently:" but they sat for some minutes longer, the whole four joining in an animated description of various diversions planned for the entertainment of their expected guests, and repeating again and again that they hoped Max and his sisters would be permitted to come.

"I do wish papa may let us go!" cried Lulu, the moment the visitors had departed. "I'm sure it will be perfectly delightful!"

"So do I," said Max. "Mamma Vi, do you think papa will consent?"

"I really cannot say, Max," she answered doubtfully. "Do you want to go, too, Gracie?" drawing the child to her side, and softly smoothing her hair.

"Yes, mamma, if--if I could have you or papa there with me. I don't want to go very much 'less one of you goes too."

"And you are such a delicate little darling, that I hardly think your papa will feel willing to have you go, without either of us along to take care of you."

"I can take perfectly good care of Gracie, mamma Vi," asserted Lulu with dignity.

"Here comes papa," cried Max, as a step was heard in the hall.

Then the door opened, and the captain came in.

"We've had an invitation, papa, and hope you will let us accept it," Max said, coming eagerly forward.

"O papa! please, please do!" cried Lulu, running to him, and taking hold of his hand.

"Let me hear about it," he said, sitting down, and allowing Lulu to take possession of one knee, Gracie of the other; "but speak one at a time. Max, you are the eldest: we will let you have the first turn."

Violet sat quietly listening, and watching her husband's face, while the eager children told their tale, and expressed their wishes.

He looked grave and thoughtful; and before he spoke, she had a tolerably correct idea what he was about to say.

"I am glad my little Gracie does not care to go," he said, caressing the child as he spoke, "because she is too feeble and too young to be so long among comparative strangers, without papa or mamma to take care of her. I am sorry Lulu does want to accept the invitation, as there is an insuperable objection to letting her do so."

Lulu's countenance had assumed an expression of woful disappointment not unmingled with anger and wilfulness.

"I want to go, papa, and I do think you might let me," she said with an ominous frown. "I'm not sickly, and I'm a good deal older than Gracie."

"You cannot go, Lucilla," he said gravely, and with some sternness of tone. "Max," in answer to the eagerly questioning look in the lad's eyes, "if you are particularly desirous to go, you have my permission."

"Thank you, sir," said the boy heartily.

"Papa, why can't I go?" grumbled Lulu.

"I think a moment's reflection will tell you why," he answered. "I will talk with you about it at another time. And now not another word on the subject till I mention it to you first."

Lulu was silenced for the time; but after tea, going into the library, and finding her father sitting there alone, she went up to him, and in her most coaxing tones said, "O papa! won't you please let me go? I'll be"--

"Lulu," he interrupted sternly, "go immediately to your room and your bed."

"Papa, it isn't my bedtime for two hours yet," she said, in a half pleading tone, "and I want to read this new 'Companion' that has just come."

"Don't let me have to repeat my order," was the stern rejoinder; and she obeyed, trembling and in haste.

She felt sorely disappointed, angry, and rebellious; but, as her father had said, a few moments' reflection showed her the reason of his refusal to allow her to accept the invitation to the Oaks: and, as she glanced round her rooms at the many pretty things his indulgent kindness had supplied, her anger changed to penitence and love.

"Of course, papa was right," she sighed to herself, as she moved about, getting ready for bed; "and it wasn't because he doesn't love to see me happy; and I wish, oh, how I wish, I'd been good about it!"

She was not at all drowsy; and it seemed a long, long time that she had been lying there awake, when at last she heard her father's step in the hall: then he opened the door, and came in.

He had a lighted lamp in his hand. He set it on the mantel, and drew near the bed.

"You are awake, I see," he said.

"Yes, papa; and I'm sorry I was naughty."

"You understand why I sent you to bed? and why I refused to grant your request?"

"Yes, sir; you can't trust me to pay that visit, because of my bad temper; and you sent me to bed for disobeying you, by asking again, after you had told me to say no more about it."

"Yes: you must learn to be more obedient, less wilful. Did you obey me about going immediately to bed?" he asked, drawing up a chair, and seating himself close beside her.

"Yes, papa,--just as quickly as I could get ready."

"I hope you did not neglect to kneel down and ask forgiveness of God?" he said inquiringly, in a gentle, tender tone, bending over her, and smoothing her hair as he spoke. "You do not need to be told, that, when you are rebellious and disobedient to your earthly father, you are so toward your heavenly Father also; because he bids you 'honor thy father and thy mother.'"

"Yes, papa, I know; I did ask him; and won't you forgive me too?"

"Yes," he said, giving her a kiss. "I am sorry to have to deprive you of the pleasure of accepting that invitation, but I cannot yet trust you anywhere away from me; and it was to spare your feelings that I did not state my reason before your mamma and brother and sister."

"Oh! I'm sorry I was naughty about it, papa," he said, again putting her hand into his.

He held it in a kindly pressure, while he went on talking to her.

"I intend you shall go to Ion to the Christmas-eve party, and the dinner-party the next day, as I shall be there too."

"Thank you, dear papa: I'd like to go ever so much, but I don't deserve to," she said humbly, "or to have any Christmas gifts. If I were you, and had such a bad child, I wouldn't give her a single thing."

"I hope she is going to be a better girl, in future," he said, kissing her good-night.

It was a joyful surprise to Lulu when, at the breakfast-table the next morning, her father said, "Children, your mamma and I are going to drive into the city, and will take you all along: and, as I suppose you would like to do some Christmas shopping, I shall advance your next week's allowance,--perhaps furnish something over," he added, with a kindly smile.

All three young faces had grown very bright, and there was a chorus of thanks.

"We expect to start in a few minutes after prayers," the captain went on, "and so there will be no school to-day."

"We like school, papa," said Grace. "I never liked it half so well before."

"Nor I." "Nor I," cried the other two.

"But you are glad of a holiday once in a while, nevertheless?" their father said, with a pleased look.

"Oh, yes, indeed, papa! 'specially when it is to go somewhere with you," replied Grace; and again the others gave a hearty assent.

When family worship was over, the captain handed a little roll of bank-notes to each, saying, "Now run away, and get yourselves ready for your ride. Put on your warmest clothing, for the wind is sharp."

They flurried out into the hall; then Lulu hesitated, turned about, and ran back.

"Papa," she said, rushing up to him, where he sat beside a table, with some papers before him, and throwing her arm round his neck, "dear papa! you are just too good and kind to me! Oh, I don't mean to be disobedient, wilful, or passionate ever again!"

"I am rejoiced to hear you say that, my dear little daughter," he replied, putting his arm round her, hugging her close, and kissing her tenderly; "and I do not think I shall ever regret any thing I have done for you or either of the others. It is, to me, the greatest pleasure in life to do whatever I can to make my children happy."

"I am so, so sorry I was naughty and disobedient last night," she murmured, laying her cheek to his.

"Dear child," he said, "it is fully and freely forgiven. Now run up to your room and dress."

Grace called to Lulu as she came up the stairs, "O Lu! come in here a minute, into my room. Look, look, on the bed! see how many papa has given me,--ten nice new one dollars."

Lulu counted them as they lay spread out in a row.

"Yes, ten," she said. "O Gracie! isn't it nice? isn't papa kind?"

"'Course he is; kindest man ever was made," said Grace. "Now see how many you have."

Lulu hastily spread out her roll, and counted the bills. "Nine ones, and one two," she announced.

"Just as many as mine," said Grace; "and I've got this besides," holding up a bright new silver half-dollar. "So mine's the most this time, isn't it?"

"No, because one of my bills counts two: that makes mine fifty cents the most. Papa has given us each ten dollars besides our regular allowance."