“By thy words thou shalt
be justified, and by thy words thou
shalt be condemned.”—Matt. 12:37.
As they drew near the house Max came to meet them.
“I’ve been to the post-office since the mail came in, papa,” he said, “and there is no government letter for you yet. I’m so glad! I hope they’re going to let us keep you a good deal longer.”
“I’m not sorry to prolong my stay with wife and children,” the captain responded, “but cannot hope to be permitted to do so very much longer.”
“Grandpa Dinsmore has come back from taking Harold and Herbert to college,” pursued Max, “and we’re all to take tea in there, Mamma Vi says; because grandpa wants us all about him this first evening.”
“That is kind,” said the captain, opening the gate and looking smilingly at Violet, who, with little Grace, was waiting for him on the veranda. He stopped there to speak with them, while Lulu hurried on into the house and up to her own room, Max following.
“Where’s my book, Lu?” he asked.
“O Max, I couldn’t help it—but papa caught me reading it and took it away from me. And he told me when you asked me for it I should send you to him.”
Max’s face expressed both vexation and alarm. “I sha’n’t do that,” he said, “if I never get it. But was he very angry, Lu?”
“No; and you needn’t be afraid to go to him, for he won’t punish you; I asked him not to, and he said he wouldn’t. But he threw the book into the sea, and said neither you nor I should ever read such poisonous stuff with his knowledge or consent.”
“Then, where would be the use of my going to him for it? I’ll not say a word about it.”
He went out, closed the door and stood irresolutely in the hall, debating with himself whether to go up-stairs or down. Up-stairs in his room was another dime novel which he had been reading that afternoon; he had not quite finished it, and was eager to do so; he wanted very much to know how the story ended, and had meant to read the few remaining pages now before the call to tea. But his father’s words, reported to him by Lulu, made it disobedience.
“It’s a very little sin,” whispered the tempter; “as having read so much, you might as well read the rest.”
“But it will be disobeying wilfully the kind father who forgave a heedless act of disobedience not very long ago,” said conscience; “the dear father who must soon leave you to be gone no one knows how long, perhaps never to come back.”
Just then the captain came quickly up the stairs. “Ah, Max, are you there?” he said, in a cheery tone, then laying his hand affectionately on the boy’s shoulder. “Come in here with me, my son, I want to have a little talk with you while I make my toilet.”
“Yes, sir,” said Max, following him into the dressing-room.
“What have you been reading to-day?” asked the captain, throwing off his coat, pouring water into the basin from the pitcher, and beginning his ablutions.