“I think,” said Edward, “that Lulu really had no idea what it was she was kicking at. I happened to be out in the grounds, and coming round the corner of the house just in time to catch her look of horror and despair as she half turned her head and saw the baby fall.”
“Thank you,” the captain said feelingly. “It is some relief to her unhappy father to learn of the least extenuating circumstance.”
“Anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”—Eccles. vii. 9.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”—PROV. xxii. 15.
“He seems to feel terribly about it, poor man!” remarked Zoe with a backward glance at the retreating form of Capt. Raymond, as he left them and pursued his way to the house.
“Yes, and no wonder,” said Edward. “Not for worlds would I be the father of such a child as Lulu!”
“Nor I her mother,” said Zoe. “So I’m glad it was you I got for a husband instead of Capt. Raymond.”
“Only for that reason?” he queried, facing round upon her in mock astonishment and wrath.
“Oh, of course!” she returned, laughing, then sobering down with a sudden recollection of the sorrow in the house. “But, O Ned! how heartless we are to be joking and laughing when poor Vi and the captain are in such distress!”
“I’m afraid you are right,” he assented with a sigh. “Yet I am quite sure we both feel deeply for them, and are personally grieved for the injury to our darling little niece.”
“Yes, indeed! the pretty pet that she is!” returned Zoe, wiping her eyes.
Gracie was on the veranda looking for her father, and, catching sight of him in the avenue, ran to meet him.
“How is baby now? Can you tell me?” he asked, taking her hand, and stooping to give her a kiss.
“Just the same, I suppose, papa,” she said. “Oh, it’s very hard to see it suffer so! isn’t it, papa?”
He nodded a silent assent.
“Papa,” she asked, lifting her tearful eyes to his face with a pleading look, “have you seen Lulu yet?”
“O papa! do go now! It must be so hard for her to wait so long to see you, when you’ve just come home.”
“I doubt if she wants to see me,” he said, with some sternness of look and tone.
“O dear papa! don’t punish her very hard. She didn’t hurt the baby on purpose.”
“I shall try to do what is best for her, my little girl, though I very much doubt if that is exemption from punishment,” he said with an involuntary sigh. “But if she is in haste to see me,” he added, “there is nothing, so far as I am aware, to prevent her from coming to me.”
“But she’s afraid, papa, because she has been so very, very naughty.”
“In that case, is it not kinder for me to keep away from her?”