Chapter XII. Lulu Rebels.
 

Several weeks had passed since the events recorded in the last chapter, during which life had moved on in its accustomed way at Fairview and Ion.

Evelyn was as happy in her new home as she could have been anywhere without her father and mother--perhaps happier than she would have been anywhere with the latter--and enjoyed her studies under Mr. Dinsmore's tuition; for, being very steady, respectful, studious, and in every way a well-behaved child, and also an interested pupil, she found favor with him, was never subjected to reproof or punishment, but smiled upon and constantly commended, and in consequence her opinion of him differed widely from that of Lulu, whose quick, wilful temper was continually getting her into trouble with him.

She was the only one of his scholars who caused him any serious annoyance, but he had grown very weary of contending with her, and one day when she had failed in her recitation and answered impertinently his well-merited reproof, he said to her, "Lucilla, you may leave the room and consider yourself banished from it for a week. At the end of that time I shall probably be able to decide whether I will ever again listen to a recitation from you."

Lulu, with cheeks aflame and eyes flashing, hardly waited for the conclusion of the sentence ere she rose and rushed from the room, shutting the door behind her with a loud slam.

Mr. Dinsmore stepped to it and called her back.

"I desire you to come in here again and then leave us in a proper and ladylike manner, closing the door quietly," he said.

For a single instant Lulu hesitated, strongly tempted to refuse obedience; but even she stood in some awe of Mr. Dinsmore, and seeing his stern, determined look, she retraced her steps, with head erect and eyes that carefully avoided the faces of all present; went quietly out again, closed the door gently, then hurried through the hall, down the stairs, and into her own room; there she hastily donned hat and sacque, then rapidly descended to the ground-floor, and the next instant might have been seen fairly flying down the avenue.

Her passion had slightly cooled by the time she reached the gate, and giving up her first intention of passing through into the road beyond, she turned into an alley bordered by evergreens which would screen her from view from the house, and there paced back and forth, muttering angrily to herself between her shut teeth,

"I hate him, so I do! the old tyrant! He's no business to give me such long, hard lessons and then scold because I don't recite perfectly."

Here conscience reminded her that she could easily have mastered her task if her time had not been wasted over a story-book.

"It's a pity if I can't have the pleasure of reading a story once in a while," she said in reply; "and I'm not going to give up doing it either for him or anybody else. He reads stories himself; and if it's bad, it's worse for grown folks than for children. Oh, how I do wish I was grown up and could do just as I please!"

Then came to mind her father's assurance that even grown people could not always follow their own inclinations; also his expressions of deep gratitude to Mr. Dinsmore and Grandma Elsie for giving his children a home with them and taking the trouble to teach and train them up for useful and happy lives. Lulu well knew that Mr. Dinsmore received no compensation for his labors in behalf of her brother and sister and herself, and that few people would be at such pains for no other reward than the consciousness of doing good; and reflecting upon all this, she at length began to feel really ashamed of her bad behavior.

Yet pride prevented her from fully acknowledging it even to her own heart. But recalling the doubt he had expressed as to whether he would ever again hear a recitation from her, she began to feel very uneasy as to what might be the consequence to her of such a refusal on his part.

Her education must go on; that she knew; but who would be her teacher if Mr. Dinsmore refused? In all probability she would be sent away to the much-dreaded boarding-school. Indeed she felt quite certain of it in case the question should be referred to her father; for had he not warned her that if she were troublesome or disobedient to Mr. Dinsmore, such would be her fate?

A fervent wish arose that he might not be appealed to--might forever be left in ignorance of this her latest act of insubordination. She would, it was true, have to make a report to him of the day's conduct, but she could refrain from telling the whole story; could smooth the matter over so that he would not understand how extremely impertinent and passionate she had been.

Everything that had passed between Mr. Dinsmore and herself had been seen and heard by all her fellow-pupils, and the thought of that did not tend to lessen Lulu's mortification and dread of consequences.

"Rosie will treat me more than ever like the Pharisee did the publican," she said bitterly to herself, "Max and Gracie will be ashamed of their sister, Walter will look at me as if he thought me the worst girl alive, and perhaps Evelyn won't be my friend any more. Mr. Dinsmore will act as if he didn't see me at all, I suppose, and Grandma Elsie and Aunt Elsie and Mamma Vi will be grave and sad. Oh dear, I 'most think I'm willing to go to boarding-school to get away from it all!"

Evelyn had been greatly shocked and surprised at Lulu's outburst of temper, for she had become strongly attached to her, and had not known her to be capable of such an exhibition of passion.

During the scene in the school-room, Rosie sent angry glances at Lulu, but Evelyn sat silent with eyes cast down, unwilling to witness her friend's disgrace. Max hid his face with his book, Gracie wept, and little Walter looked on in silent astonishment.

"She is the most ill-tempered piece I ever saw!" remarked Rosie, aloud, as the door closed upon Lulu for the second time.

"Rosie," said her grandfather, sternly, "let me hear no more such observations from your lips. They are entirely uncalled for and extremely uncharitable."

Rosie reddened and did not venture to speak again, or even to so much as raise her eyes from her book for some time.

The out-door air was quite keen and cold; Lulu was beginning to feel chilled, and debating in her own mind whether to return at once to the house spite of the danger of meeting some one who knew of her disgrace, and was therefore likely to look at her askance, when a light, quick step approached her from behind and two arms were suddenly thrown around her neck.

"Oh, Lu, dear Lu," said Evelyn's soft voice, "I am so, so sorry!"

"Eva! I did not think you would come to find me; do you really care for me still?" asked Lulu, in subdued tones, and half averting her face.

"Of course I do. Did you suppose I was not a true friend that would stand by you in trouble and disgrace, as well as when all goes prosperously with you?"

"But it was my own fault for not learning my lesson better, in the first place, and then for answering Grandpa Dinsmore as I did when he reproved me," said Lulu, hanging her head. "I know papa would say so if he were here, and punish me severely too."

"Still I'm sorry for you," Eva repeated. "I'm not, by any means, always good myself; I might have neglected my lessons under the same temptation, and if my temper were naturally as hot as yours I don't know that I should have been any more meek and respectful than you were under so sharp a rebuke."

"It's very good in you to say it; you're not a bit of a Pharisee; but I think Rosie is very much like the one the Bible tells about; the one who thought himself so much better than the poor publican."

"Isn't it just possible you may be a little hard on Rosie?" suggested Eva, with some hesitation, fearing to rouse the ungovernable temper again.

But Lulu did not show any anger. "I don't think I am," she replied, quite calmly. "What did she say after I left the room?"

Eva was very averse to tale-bearing, so merely answered the query with another. "Why do you suppose she said anything?"

"Because I know her of old; she dislikes and despises me, and is always ready to express her sentiments whenever the slightest occasion offers."

"That reminds me," said Evelyn, "that just before dismissing us Grandpa Dinsmore requested us to refrain from mentioning what had passed, unless it should become quite necessary to do so."

"You may be sure Rosie will find it necessary," Lulu said; "she will tell her mamma all about it--Mamma Vi, too--and it will presently be known all over the house; even by the Keiths. I wish they weren't here,"

"Don't you like them? I do."

"Yes; Aunt Marcia and Aunt Annis--as we children all call them--are kind and pleasant as can be; but I'd rather they wouldn't hear about this; though I don't care so very much either," she added, half defiantly. "What difference does it make what people think of you?"

"Some difference, surely," said Evelyn, gently; "for the Bible says, 'A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.' Papa used to tell me that to deserve a good name, and to have it, was one of the greatest blessings of life. I must go now," she added, pulling out a pretty little watch, one of the last gifts of that loved father; "Aunt Elsie will be expecting me."

"I wish I could go with you," said Lulu, sighing.

"Oh, that would be nice!" exclaimed Evelyn. "Can't you?"

Lulu shook her head. "Not without leave, and I don't want to ask it now. Oh, Eva, I do wish I hadn't to obey these people who are no relation to me!"

"But they are very kind; and Aunt Violet is your father's wife, and loves you for his sake, I am sure."

"But she's too young to be a real mother to me, and the rest are no relation at all. I begged papa not to say I must obey them, but he would say it."

"Then, loving him so dearly, as I am sure you do, I should think you would be quite willing to obey them, because it is his will that you should."

"I don't see that that follows," grumbled Lulu; "and--now you will think me very bad, I know--I have sometimes even refused to obey papa himself."

"Oh, how sorry you will be for it if ever he is taken away from you!" Eva said, with emotion. "But did he let you have your own way?"

"No, indeed; he is as strict in exacting obedience from his children as Grandpa Dinsmore himself. I'm dreadfully afraid Grandpa Dinsmore or somebody will write to him about to-day; I do hope they won't, for he said if I should be disobedient and troublesome he would take me away from here and put me in a boarding-school."

"And you wouldn't like that?"

"No, indeed! for how could I bear to be separated from Gracie and Max?"

"I hope you won't have to go; I should be sorry enough on my own account as well as yours," Evelyn said, with an affectionate kiss. "I must really go now; so good-by, dear, till to-morrow."

Evelyn had hardly gone when Max joined his sister. "Lulu, why can't you behave?" he exclaimed in a tone of impatience and chagrin. "You make Gracie and me both ashamed of your ingratitude to Grandpa Dinsmore."

"I don't choose to be lectured by you, Max," returned Lulu, with a toss of her head.

"No; but what do you suppose papa would say to this morning's behavior?"

"Suppose you write and tell him all about it, and see what he says," she returned scornfully.

"You know I would not do such a thing," said Max; "but I should think you would feel bound to do it."

"I intend to some day," she answered, almost humbly; "but I don't think I need just now; 'tisn't likely he'd get the story anyhow for weeks or months."

"Well, you'll do your own way, of course, but if it was my case I'd rather confess, and have it off my mind."

So saying, Max turned and walked toward the house, Lulu slowing following.

Though determined not to show it, she quite dreaded meeting any one belonging to the family; but she was already too thoroughly chilled to think of staying out another moment. Besides, the more she reflected upon the matter, the more plainly she saw that her misconduct could not be hidden from the family; they would notice that she did not go into the schoolroom as usual; they would see by Mr. Dinsmore's manner toward her that she was in disgrace with him, and would know it was not without cause; therefore to remain longer out in the cold was only delaying for a very little while the ordeal which she must face sooner or later. Still she deemed it cause for rejoicing that she succeeded in gaining her own room without meeting any one.