Chapter XXII.
 
    "Prithee, forgive me!"

"Papa, can't I see Gracie?" Lulu asked when he came in with her dinner.

"Certainly, if you are ready to obey."

The child's lip quivered. "I'm so tired of that bread and milk," she said. "Can't I have something else? I'm sure you and everybody in the house have a great many good things."

"We have, and it is a great grief to me that I cannot share them with my little Lulu. I have very little enjoyment in them because of that."

"Papa, I'm sorry I've been so naughty, so impertinent to you. I don't mean ever to be so again; and I'll be a good girl every way after this, if you'll let me out."

"Then come with me to your mamma," he said, holding out his hand.

"I can't ask pardon of her," she said, turning away with a sob.

"You must, Lucilla," he said in a tone that made her tremble. "You need not think to conquer your father. I shall keep you here on this plain fare and in solitary confinement until you are entirely penitent and submissive."

He waited a moment, but receiving no reply, went out and locked the door.

"She is still stubborn," he said to Violet, whom he found alone in their room across the hall, sighing deeply as he spoke; "and the close confinement is telling upon her; she grows pale and thin. Oh, how my heart bleeds for her, my dear child! But I must be firm. This is an important crisis in her life, and her future character--therefore her happiness for time and eternity--will depend greatly upon how this struggle ends."

The next day was the Sabbath, and on returning from church, he went to Lulu's room.

Little had passed between them since the talk of yesterday when he carried in her dinner. He found her now sitting in a listless attitude, and she did not look up on his entrance.

He lifted her from her chair, sat down in it himself, and took her on his knee.

"Has this holy day brought no good thoughts or feelings to my little girl?" he asked, gently smoothing the hair back from her forehead.

"You know I couldn't go to church, papa," she said, without looking at him.

"No; I know you could have gone, had you chosen to be a good, obedient child."

"Papa, how can you go on trying to make me tell a lie when you have always taught me it was such a wicked, wicked thing to do?"

"I try to make you tell a lie! what can you mean, daughter?" he asked in great surprise.

"Yes, papa, you are trying to make me ask Mamma Vi's pardon after I have said I wouldn't."

"Ah, my child, that was a wicked promise because it was rebellion against your father's authority, which God commands you to respect. Therefore the sin was in making it, and it is your duty to break it."

Then he made her repeat the fifth commandment, and called her attention to its promise of long life and prosperity, as far as it shall be for God's glory and their own good, to all such as keep it.

"I want you to inherit that blessing, my child," he said, "and to escape the curses pronounced against those who refuse obedience to their parents."

Opening the Bible, he read to her, "The eye that mocketh at his father and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it."

She gave him a frightened look, then, with a slight shudder, hid her face on his breast, but did not speak.

"Lulu," he said, again softly stroking her hair, "about nine years ago I came home from a long voyage to find a dear little dark-eyed baby daughter, and as I took her in my arms, oh how my heart went out in love to her and gratitude to God for giving her to me! I loved her dearly then. I have loved her ever since with unabated affection, and never doubted her love to me until now."

"Papa, I do love you," she said, hastily brushing away a tear. "I've said I was sorry for being naughty to you and didn't mean to do so any more."

"And yet are continuing to be naughty and disobedient all the time. It is quite possible, Lulu, that you may some day be fatherless; if that time should come, do you think you will look back with pleasure to these days of rebellion?"

At that she cried quite bitterly, but her father waited in vain for a word of reply.

He put her on her knees on the floor, knelt beside her, and with his hand on her head prayed earnestly, tenderly that the Lord would cast out her wicked temper, forgive her sins, give her a new heart, and make her his own dear child.

Rising, he took her in his arms again for a moment, she still sobbing, but saying not a word, then putting her gently aside, he left the room.

To her surprise her dinner of bread and milk was presently brought up by Agnes, who set it down and went out without exchanging a word with her.

The same thing occurred at supper-time.

Lulu began to be filled with curiosity not unmingled with apprehension, but was too proud to question the girl.

All through the afternoon and evening her thoughts dwelt much upon what her father had said to her, and the words and tender tones of his prayer rang in her ears and melted her heart. Beside she had become thoroughly convinced that what he had said he would do, so that there was no hope of release until won by obedience.

She was disappointed that he did not come with her supper nor afterward, for she had almost resolved to submit. She cried herself to sleep that night, feeling such a love for her father as she had never known before, and an intense longing for his kiss of forgiveness.

She became not willing only, but eager to do his bidding that she might receive it.

In the morning she dressed herself with neatness and care and impatiently awaited his coming. She was sure it must be long past the usual hour when at last the door opened and Violet came in with the waiter of bread and milk.

She set it down and turned to the little girl, who stood gazing at her in silent surprise.

"Lulu, dear, your father is very ill," she said in tones quivering with emotion, and then the child noticed that there were traces of tears about her eyes and on her cheeks, "He was in terrible pain all night, and is very little better this morning," she went on. "O Lulu, I had a dear, dear father once, and he was taken ill very much as yours has been and--in a few days. Oh, how I loved him! and while he lived I thought I was a good daughter to him, for I don't remember ever being wilfully disobedient, but after he was gone my heart reproached me with having neglected opportunities to give him pleasure, and not having always obeyed quite so promptly and cheerfully as I might, and I would have given worlds to go back and be and do all I ought."

She ended with a burst of tears, covering her face with her hands and sobbing, "O papa, papa! O my husband, my dear, dear husband!"

"O Mamma Vi! I will ask your pardon--I do! won't you please forgive me for being so very, very naughty and impertinent? when you have been so good and kind to me too," sobbed Lulu, dropping on her knees at Violet's feet.

"I do with all my heart," Violet said, lifting her up and kissing her. "And shall we not always love each other for your dear father's sake?"

"Oh, yes, yes, indeed! I do love you! I don't know what made me be so wicked and stubborn. Mayn't I go to papa and tell him how sorry I am, and ask him to forgive me too?"

"Yes, dear, come; perhaps it may help him to grow better, for I know he has grieved very much over this," Vi said, taking the child's hand and leading her into the room where the captain lay.

As he saw them come in thus his eye brightened in spite of the severe pain he was enduring.

With one bound, Lulu was at his side, sobbing, "Papa, papa! I'm so sorry for all my badness, and all your pain. Please, please forgive me. I've done it--asked Mamma Vi's pardon, and--and I'll never talk so to her again, nor ever disobey you any more."

"I hope not, my darling," he said, drawing her down to give her a tender fatherly kiss of forgiveness. "I am rejoiced that you have given up your rebellion so that now I can love and pet you to my heart's content--if God spares me to get up from this bed of pain. I do forgive you gladly, dear daughter."

For several days the captain was very ill, but the best of medical advice was at hand, the best of nursing was given him by Elsie and Violet, assisted by Mr. and Mrs. Dinsmore and others, and, by the blessing of Providence, upon these means he recovered.

Lulu seemed very unhappy and remorseful until it was quite certain that he would get well, took little interest in any kind of recreation, and was often found hovering about the door of his room, eager to learn how he was and if possible gain admission to his presence, or permission to do something for his relief.

She was a changed child from that time, perfectly respectful, obedient, and affectionate toward both her father and Violet.

When the captain had once begun to mend, the improvement was very rapid, and he was soon able to share in the drives and other recreations of their party.

During his illness Grandma Elsie had been very kind to his children, acting a mother's part by them, attending to their wants, comforting and encouraging them with hope of his recovery, and they had grown very fond of her.

At first Lulu shrank from all her new mamma's relatives, and even from Max and Gracie, ashamed of her misconduct and expecting to receive unpleasant reminders of it.

But she met with nothing of the kind, except that Max, when she first came downstairs, said. "It does seem strange, Lulu, that when so many men have to obey papa the instant he speaks, his own little girl should stand out so long and stubbornly against his authority;" and Gracie, with her arms about her sister's neck, sobbed, "O Lu how could you make dear papa so sorry for so many days?"

"Was he so sorry?" sobbed Lulu.

"Yes, indeed; sometimes he hardly ate anything, and looked so sad that the tears came in my eyes, and in Mamma Vi's too."

"Oh, I hope that wasn't what made him sick!" cried Lulu, the tears streaming down her face. "I'll never, never behave so to him again."

Lulu was still more remorseful as time went on and everybody was so kind to her, seeming never to remember her naughtiness and disgrace, but giving her a share in all the pleasures devised for themselves which were suitable to her age.

She was especially touched and subdued by the interest Violet took in seeing her provided with new dresses made and trimmed in the fashion (which, to her extreme vexation, Mrs. Scrimp had always disregarded), and with many other pretty things.

When she thanked her new mamma, she was told, "Your father pays for them all, dear."

Then she went to him with tears in her eyes, and putting her arms round his neck, thanked him for all his goodness, confessing that she did not deserve it.

"You are very welcome nevertheless, daughter," he said, "and all I ask in return is that you will be good and obedient."

Vi wished to return to Lulu the pink coral ornaments, but that he would not allow.

It was a great disappointment to Lulu, for she admired them extremely, but she showed herself entirely submissive under it.