Chapter XXIII.


Before two days had passed Zoe was quite herself again, and as full of delight at the prospect of going away for a little trip as any child could have been. She wore so bright a face, was so merry and frolicsome, that it was a pleasure to watch her, especially when with her husband, and not aware that any other eye was upon her.

His face, too, beamed with happiness.

Elsie's eyes resting upon them would sometimes fill with tears--half of joy in their felicity, half of sorrowful yet tender reminiscence. In his present mood Edward was very like his father in looks, in speech, in manner.

Tuesday morning came, bringing with it delightful weather; Edward had decided to take a later train than when starting before, because he would not have Zoe roused too soon from sleep.

They took breakfast with the family at the usual hour, an open barouche waiting for them at the door; then with a gay good-by to all set out upon their journey, driving to the nearest station, and there taking the cars.

"I wish I was going, too!" sighed Lulu, as she and Rosie stood looking after the barouche.

"Mamma would have let us drive over to the station with them," said Rose; "Edward asked if we might, but Ben had some errands to do in town, and couldn't bring us back in time for lessons."

"Lessons! I'm sick and tired of them!" grumbled Lulu. "Other children had holidays last week, but we had to go right on studying."

"But we are to take ours in a week or two, visiting at the Oaks and the Laurels, perhaps two weeks at each place, and I'm sure that will be nicer than to have had Easter holidays at home."

"There, it's out of sight," said Lulu. "I'd like to be Aunt Zoe, just starting off on a journey. Let's take a run down the avenue, Rosie."

"I would, but I must look over my Latin lesson, or I may not be ready for grandpa."

With the last words she turned and went into the house.

Lulu knew that she was not ready for Mr. Dinsmore either, but she was in no mood for study, and the grounds looked so inviting that she yielded to the temptation to take a ramble instead.

Max, from his window, saw her wandering about among the shrubs and flowers and longed to join her. He was bearing his punishment in a very good spirit, making no complaint, spending his time in study, reading, writing and carving.

Mr. Dinsmore came to him to hear his recitations, and was always able to commend them as excellent. He treated the boy in a kind, fatherly manner, talking to him of his sin and the way to obtain forgiveness and deliverance from it, very much as Elsie and Violet had.

Yet he did not harp continually upon that, but dwelt often upon other themes, trying so to treat the lad that his self-respect might be restored.

Max appreciated the kindness shown him, and was strengthened in his good resolutions. He was privately very much troubled about his losses, particularly that of the watch, supposing it to be in Ralph's possession, for Mr. Dinsmore had said nothing to him on the subject.

Being very fond of his sisters, Max felt the separation from them no small part of his punishment; he followed Lulu's movements this morning with wistful eyes.

She looked up, and seeing his rather pale, sad face at the window, drew nearer and called softly to him, "Max, how are you? I'm so sorry for you."

He only shook his head and turned away.

Then Mr. Dinsmore's voice spoke sternly from a lower window, "Lulu, you are disobeying orders. Go into the house and to the school-room immediately. You ought to have been there fully a quarter of an hour ago."

Lulu was a little frightened, and obeyed at once.

"You are late, Lulu. You must try to be more punctual in future," Elsie said in a tone of mild rebuke, as the little girl sat down at her desk.

"I don't care if I am," she muttered, insolently.

Rose darted at her a look of angry astonishment, Gracie looked shocked, and little Walter said, "It's very, very naughty to speak so to my mamma."

But Elsie did not seem to have heard; her face still wore its usual sweet, placid expression. Lulu thought she had not heard, but found out her mistake when she went forward to recite. She was told in a gentle, quiet tone, "You are not my pupil, to-day, Lulu," and returned to her seat overwhelmed with embarrassment and anger.

No further notice was taken of her by any one excerpt Gracie, who now and then stole a troubled, half-pitying look at her, until Mr Dinsmore came to hear the Latin lessons.

Lulu had sat idly at her desk nursing her anger and discontent, her eyes on the book open before her, but her thoughts elsewhere, so was not prepared for him.

She was frightened, but tried to hide it, made an attempt to answer the first question put to her, but broke down in confusion.

He asked another; she was unable to answer it; and with a frown he said, "I perceive that you know nothing about your lesson to-day. Why have you not learned it?"

"Because I didn't want to," muttered the delinquent.

Rosie opened her eyes wide in astonishment. She would never have dared to answer her grandfather in that manner.

"Take your book and learn it now," he said in his sternest tone.

Lulu did not venture to disobey, for she was really very much afraid of Mr. Dinsmore.

He heard Rosie's lesson, assigned her task for the next day, and both left the room. The others had gone about the time Mr. Dinsmore came in, so Lulu was left alone.

She thought it best to give her mind to the lesson, and in half an hour felt that she was fully prepared with it.

But Mr. Dinsmore did not come back, and she dared not leave the room, though very impatient to do so.

The dinner bell rang, and still he had not come.

Lulu was hungry and began to fear that she was to be made to fast; but at length a servant brought her a good, substantial, though plain dinner, set it before her, and silently withdrew.

"It's not half as good as they've got," Lulu remarked half aloud to herself, discontentedly eying her fare, "but it's better than nothing."

With that philosophical reflection she fell to work, and speedily emptied the dishes.

Mr. Dinsmore came to her shortly after, heard the lesson, gave her a little serious talk and dismissed her.

Feeling that she owed an apology to Grandma Elsie, but still too stubborn and proud to make it, Lulu was ashamed to join the others, so went off alone into the grounds. She was not Grandma Elsie's pupil, she understood, until the morning's impertinence had been atoned for.

It was against rules to go beyond the boundary of the grounds without permission; yet after wandering through them for a while, she did so, and entering a shady, pleasant road, walked on without any settled purpose, till she reached a neighboring plantation where lived some little girls with whom she had a slight acquaintance.

They were playing croquet on the lawn, and espying Lulu at the gate, invited her to come in and join them.

She did so, became much interested in the sport, and forgot to go home until the lengthening shadows warned her that it must be very near the tea hour at Ion.

She then bade a hasty good-by and retraced her steps with great expedition and in no tranquil state of mind. In truth, she was a good deal alarmed as she thought of the possible consequences to herself of her bold disregard of rules.

She arrived at Ion heated and out of breach, and, as a glance at the hall clock told her, fully fifteen minutes late.

Hair and dress were in some disorder, but not thinking of that, in her haste and perturbation, she went directly to the supper-room, where the family were in the midst of their meal.

They all seemed busily engaged with it or in conversation, and she hoped to slip unobserved into her seat.

But to her consternation she perceived, as she drew near, that neither plate nor chair seemed to have been set for her; every place was occupied.

At the same instant Mr. Dinsmore, turning a stern look upon her, remarked, "We have no place here for the rebellious and insubordinate, therefore I have ordered your plate removed; and while you continue to belong to that class, you will take your meals in your own room."

He dismissed her with a wave of the hand as he spoke, and, filled with anger and chagrin, she turned and flew from the room, never stopping till she had gained her own and slammed the door behind her.

"Before Mr. Lilburn and everybody!" she exclaimed aloud, stamping her foot in impotent rage.

Then catching sight of her figure in the glass, she stood still and gazed, her cheeks reddening more and more with mortification. Hair and dress were tumbled, the latter slightly soiled with the dust of the road, as were her boots also, and the frill about her neck was crushed and partly tucked in.

She set to work with energy to make herself neat, and had scarcely completed the task when her supper was brought in. It consisted of abundance of rich sweet milk, fruit, and the nicest of bread and butter.

She ate heartily; then as Agnes carried away the tray, seated herself by the window with her elbows on the sill, her chin in her hands, and half involuntarily took a mental review of the day.

The retrospect was not agreeable.

"And I'll have to tell papa all about it in my diary," she groaned to herself. "No, I sha'n't; what's the use? it'll just make him feel badly. But he said I must, and he trusted me, he trusted me to tell the truth and the whole truth, and I can't deceive him; I can't hide anything after that."

With a heavy sigh she took her writing-desk, set it on the sill to catch the fading light, and wrote:

"It has been a bad day with me. I didn't look over my lessons before school, as I ought to have done, but went out in the grounds instead. While I was there, I broke a rule. Grandpa Dinsmore reproved me and called me in. I went up to the school-room. Grandma Elsie said I was late and must be more punctual, and I gave her a saucy answer. She wouldn't hear my lessons, and I was cross and wouldn't study, and wasn't ready for Grandpa Dinsmore, and was saucy to him. So I had to stay up there in the school-room and learn my lesson over and eat my dinner there by myself.

"After that, when he let me out, I took a long walk and played croquet with some other girls--all without leave.

"They were eating supper when I got back, and I went in without making myself neat, and my plate and chair had been taken away, and I was sent up here to take my supper and stay till I'm ready to behave better."

She read over what she had written.

"Oh, what a bad report! How sad it will make papa feel when he reads it!" she thought, tears springing to her eyes.

She pushed the desk aside and leaned on the sill again, her face hidden in her hands. Her father's words about the kindness and generosity of Mr. Dinsmore and his daughter in offering to share their home with his children, came to her recollection, and all the favors received at the hands of these kindest of friends passed in review before her. Could her own mother have been kinder than Grandma Elsie? and she had repaid her this day with ingratitude, disobedience and impertinence. How despicably mean!

Tears of shame and penitence began to fall from her eyes, and soon she was sobbing aloud.

Violet heard her from the next room, and came to her side.

"What is it, Lulu, dear? are you sorry for your misconduct?" she asked in gentle, affectionate tones, smoothing the child's hair with her soft white hand as she spoke.

"Yes, Mamma Vi," sobbed the little girl. "Won't you please tell Grandma Elsie I'm sorry I was saucy and disobedient to her this morning?"

"Yes, dear, I will. And--have you not a message for grandpa also?"

"Yes; I'm sorry I was naughty and impertinent to him, and for breaking his rules, too. Do you think they'll forgive me, Mamma Vi, and try me again?"

"I am sure they will," Violet said. "And will you not ask God's forgiveness, also, dear child?"

"I do mean to," Lulu said. "And I've told papa all about it. I wish he didn't have to know, because it will make him very sorry."

"Yes," sighed Violet, "it grieves him very much when his dear children do wrong. I hope, dear Lulu, that thought will help you to be good in future. Still more, that you will learn to hate and forsake sin because it is dishonoring and displeasing to God, because it grieves the dear Saviour who loves you and died to redeem you."

Forgiveness was readily accorded by both Mr. Dinsmore and his daughter, and Lulu went to bed comparatively happy after a short visit and kind motherly talk from Grandma Elsie.

Two days later Max was released from his imprisonment. He more than half dreaded to make his appearance below stairs, thinking every one would view him askance, but was agreeably surprised by being greeted on every hand with the utmost kindness and cordiality.

On the following Monday he and the other children were sent to the Oaks to make the promised visit.

Gracie alone needed some persuasion to induce her to go of her own free will, and that only because mamma was not going. Gracie was not at all sure that she could live two whole weeks without her dear mamma.

Just before they started, Mr. Dinsmore made Max very happy by the restoration of his money and watch. He added an admonition against gambling, and Max replied with an earnest promise never to touch a card again.