He made no answer to that, but presently said in moved tones, “What if I had come back that night to find the dear little daughter I had left a few hours before in full health and strength, lying a crushed and mangled corpse? killed without a moment’s time to repent of her disobedience to her father’s known wishes and commands? Could I have hoped to have you restored to me even in another world, my child?”
“No, papa,” she said, half under her breath; “I know I wasn’t fit to go to heaven, and that I’m not fit now; but would you have been really very sorry to lose such a bad, troublesome child?”
“Knowing that, as you yourself acknowledge, you were not fit for heaven, it would have been the heaviest blow I have ever had,” he said. “My daughter, you are fully capable of understanding the way of salvation, therefore are an accountable being, and, so long as you neglect it, in danger of eternal death. I shall never be easy about you till I have good reason to believe that you have given your heart to the Lord Jesus, and devoted yourself entirely to His blessed service.”
He ceased speaking, gave her a few moments for silent reflection, then setting her on her feet, rose, took her hand, and led her back toward the village.
“Are you going to punish me, papa?” she asked presently, in a half-frightened tone.
“I shall take that matter into consideration,” was all he said, and she knew from his grave accents that she was in some danger of receiving what she felt to be her deserts.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”—Prov. 29: 15.
Lulu hated suspense; it seemed to her worse than the worst certainty; so when they had gone a few steps farther she said, hesitating and blushing very deeply, “Papa, if you are going to punish me as—as I—said I ’most wished you would, please don’t let Mamma Vi or anybody know it, and—”
“Certainly not; it shall be a secret between our two selves,” he said as she broke off without finishing her sentence; “if we can manage it,” he added a little doubtfully.
“They all go down to the beach every evening, you know, papa,” she suggested in a timid, half-hesitating way, and trembling as she spoke.
“Yes, that would give us a chance; but I have not said positively that I intend to punish you in that way.”
“No, sir; but—oh, do please say certainly that you will or you won’t.”
The look he gave her as she raised her eyes half fearfully to his face was very kind and affectionate, though grave and judicial. “I am not angry with you,” he said, “in the sense of being in a passion or out of patience—not in the least; but I feel it to be my duty to do all I possibly can to help you to be a better child, and noticing, as I have said, for the last two or three days what a wilful, wicked temper you were indulging, I have been considering very seriously whether I ought not to try the very remedy you have yourself suggested, and I am afraid I ought indeed. Do you still think, as you told me a while ago, that this sort of punishment might be a help to you in trying to be good?”