Elsie at Nantucket by Martha Finley
She is peevish, sullen, froward, Proud, disobedient, stubborn, lacking duty; Neither regarding that she is my child, Nor fearing me as If I were her father. --Shakespeare.
A day or two of bright, breezy weather had succeeded the storm, and another "squantum" had been arranged for; it was to be a more pretentious affair than the former one, other summer visitors uniting with our party; and a different spot had been selected for it.
By Violet's direction the maid had laid out, the night before, the dresses the two little girls were to wear to the picnic, and they appeared at the breakfast-table already attired in them; for the start was to be made shortly after the conclusion of the meal.
The material of the dresses was fine, they were neatly fitting and prettily trimmed, but rather dark in color and with high necks and long sleeves; altogether suitable for the occasion, and far from unbecoming; indeed, as the captain glanced at the two neat little figures, seated one on each side of him, he felt the risings of fatherly pride in their attractiveness of appearance.
And even exacting, discontented Lulu was well enough pleased with her mamma's choice for her till, upon leaving the table and running out for a moment into the street to see if the carriages were in sight, she came upon a girl about her own age, who was to be of the company, very gayly apparelled in thin white tarletan and pink ribbons,
"Good-morning, Sadie," said Lulu. "What a nice day for the 'squantum,' isn't it?"
"Yes; and it's most time to start, and you're not dressed yet, are you?" glancing a trifle scornfully from her own gay plumage to Lulu's plainer attire.
The latter flushed hotly but made no reply. "I don't see anything of the carriages yet," was all she said; then darting into the cottage occupied by their family, she rushed to her trunk, and throwing it open, hastily took from it a white muslin, coral ribbons and sash, and with headlong speed tore off her plain colored dress and arrayed herself in them.
She would not have had time but for an unexpected delay in the arrival of the carriage which was to convey her parents, brother and sister and herself to the "squantum" ground.
As it was, she came rushing out at almost the last moment, just as the captain was handing his wife into the vehicle.
Max met her before she had reached the outer door. "Lu, Mamma Vi says you will need a wrap before we get back; probably even going, and you're to bring one along."
"I sha'n't need any such thing! and I'm not going to be bothered with it!" cried Lulu, in a tone of angry impatience, hurrying on toward the entrance as she spoke.
"Whew! what have you been doing to yourself?" exclaimed Max, suddenly noting the change of attire, while Grace, standing in the doorway, turned toward them with a simultaneous exclamation, "Why, Lulu--" then broke off, lost in astonishment at her sister's audacity.
"Hush, both of you! can't you keep quiet?" snapped Lulu, turning from one to the other; then as her father's tall form darkened the doorway, and a glance up into his face showed her that it was very grave and stern, she shrank back abashed, frightened by the sudden conviction that he had overheard her impertinent reply to her mamma's message, and perhaps noticed the change in her dress.
He regarded her for a moment in silence, while she hung her head in shame and affright; then he spoke in tones of grave displeasure, "You will stay at home to-day, Lulu; we have no room for disrespectful, disobedient children--"
"Papa," she interrupted, half pleadingly, half angrily, "I haven't been disobedient or disrespectful to you."
"It is quite the same," he said; "I require you to be obedient and respectful to your mamma; and impertinence to her is something I will by no means allow or fail to punish whenever I know of it. Sorry as I am to deprive you of an anticipated pleasure, I repeat that you must stay at home; and go immediately to your room and resume the dress she directed you to wear to-day."
So saying he took Grace's hand and led her to the carriage, Max following after one regretful look at Lulu's sorely disappointed face.
Grace, clinging about her father's neck as he lifted her up, pleaded for her sister. "Oh, papa, do please let her go; she hasn't been naughty for a long while, and I'm sure she's sorry and will be good."
"Hush, hush, darling!" he said, wiping the tears from her eyes, then placing her by Violet's side.
"What is wrong?" inquired the latter with concern; "is Gracie not feeling well?"
"Never mind, my love," the captain answered, assuming a cheerful tone; "there is nothing wrong except that Lulu has displeased me, and I have told her she cannot go with us to-day."
"Oh, I am sorry!" Violet said, looking really pained; "we shall all miss her. I should be glad, Levis, if you could forgive her, for--"
"No, do not ask it," he said hastily; adding, with a smile of ardent affection into the azure eyes gazing so pleadingly into his; "I can scarcely bear to say no to you, dearest, but I have passed sentence upon the offender and cannot revoke it."
The carriage drove off; the others had already gone, and Lulu was left alone in the house, the one maid-servant left behind having already wandered off to the beach.
"There!" cried Lulu, stamping her foot with passion, then dropping into a chair, "I say it's just too bad! She isn't old enough to be my mother, and I won't have her for one; I sha'n't mind her! Papa had no business to marry her. He hardly cares for anybody else now, and he ought to love me better than he does her; for she isn't a bit of relation to him, while I'm his own child.
"And I sha'n't wear dowdy, old-womanish dresses to please her, along with other girls of my size that are dressed up in their best. I'd rather stay at home than be mortified that way, and I just wish I had told him so."
She was in so rebellious a mood that instead of at once changing her dress in obedience to her father's command, she presently rose from her chair, walked out at the front door and paraded through the village streets in her finery, saying to herself, "I'll let people see that I have some decent clothes to wear."
Returning after a little, she was much surprised to find Betty Johnson stretched full length on a lounge with a paper-covered novel in her hand, which she seemed to be devouring with great avidity.
"Why, Betty!" she exclaimed, "are you here? I thought you went with the rest to the 'squantum.'"
"Just what I thought in regard to your highness," returned Betty, glancing up from her book with a laugh. "I stayed at home to enjoy my book and the bath. What kept you?"
"Papa," answered Lulu with a frown; "he wouldn't let me go."
"Because you put on that dress, I presume," laughed Betty. "Well, it's not very suitable, that's a fact. But I had no idea that the captain was such a connoisseur in matters of that sort."
"He isn't! he doesn't know or care if it wasn't for Mamma Vi," burst out Lulu vehemently. "And she's no business to dictate about my dress either. I'm old enough to judge and decide for myself."
"Really, it is a great pity that one so wise should be compelled to submit to dictation," observed Betty with exasperating irony.
Lulu, returning a furious look, which her tormentor feigned not to see, then marching into the adjoining room, gave tardy obedience to her father's orders anent the dress.
"Are you going in this morning?" asked Betty, when Lulu had returned to the little parlor.
"I don't know; papa didn't say whether I might or not."
"Then I should take the benefit of the doubt and follow my own inclination in the matter. It's ten now; the bathing hour is eleven; I shall be done my book by that time, and we'll go in together if you like."
"I'll see about it," Lulu said, walking away.
She went down to the beach and easily whiled away an hour watching the waves and the people, and digging in the sand. When she saw the others going to the bath-houses she hastened back to her temporary home.
As she entered Betty was tossing aside her book. "So here you are!" she said, yawning and stretching herself. "Are you going in?"
"Yes; if papa is angry I'll tell him he should have forbidden me if he didn't want me to do it."
They donned their bathing-suits and went in with the crowd; but though no mishap befell them and they came out safely again, Lulu found that for some reason her bath was not half so enjoyable as usual.
She and Betty dined at the hotel where the family had frequently taken their meals, then they strolled down to the beach and seated themselves on a bench under an awning.
After a while Betty proposed taking a walk.
"Where to?" asked Lulu.
"To Sankaty Lighthouse."
"Well, I'm agreed; it's a nice walk; you can look out over the sea all the way," said Lulu, getting up. But a sudden thought seemed to strike her; she paused and hesitated.
"Well, what's the matter?" queried Betty.
"Nothing; only papa told me I was to stay at home to-day."
"Oh, nonsense! what a little goose!" exclaimed Betty; "of course that only meant you were not to go to the 'squantum'; so come along."
Lulu was by no means sure that that was really all her father meant, but she wanted the walk, so suffered herself to be persuaded, and they went.
Betty had been a wild, ungovernable girl at school, glorying in contempt for rules and daring "larks." She had not improved in that respect, and so far from being properly ashamed of her wild pranks and sometimes really disgraceful frolics, liked to describe them, and was charmed to find in Lulu a deeply interested listener.
It was thus they amused themselves as they strolled slowly along the bluff toward Sankaty.
When they reached there a number of carriages were standing about near the entrance, several visitors were in the tower, and others were waiting their turn.
"Let us go up too," Betty said to her little companion; "the view must be finer to-day than it was when we were here before, for the atmosphere is clearer."
"I'm afraid papa wouldn't like me to," objected Lulu; "he seemed to think the other time that I needed him to take care of me," she added with a laugh, as if it were quite absurd that one so old and wise as herself should be supposed to need such protection.
"Pooh!" said Betty, "don't be a baby; I can take care of myself and you too. Come, I'm going up and round outside too; and I dare you to do the same."
Poor proud Lulu was one of the silly people who are not brave enough to refuse to do a wrong or unwise thing if anybody dares them to do it.
"I'm not a bit afraid, Miss Johnson; you need not think that," she said, bridling; "and I can take care of myself. I'll go."
"Come on then; we'll follow close behind that gentleman, and the keeper won't suppose we are alone," returned Betty, leading the way.
Lulu found the steep stairs very hard to climb without the help of her father's hand, and reached the top quite out of breath.
Betty too was panting. But they presently recovered themselves. Betty stepped outside just behind the gentleman who had preceded them up the stairs, and Lulu climbed quickly after her, frightened enough at the perilous undertaking, yet determined to prove that she was equal to it.
But she had advanced only a few steps when a sudden rush of wind caught her skirts and nearly took her off her feet.
Both she and Betty uttered a cry of affright, and at the same instant Lulu felt herself seized from behind and dragged forcibly back and within the window from which she had just emerged.
It was the face of a stranger that met her gaze as she looked up with frightened eyes.
"Child," he said, "that was a narrow escape; don't try it again. Where are your parents or guardians, that you were permitted to step out there with no one to take care of you?"
Lulu blushed and hung her head in silence. Betty, who had followed her in as fast as she could, generously took all the blame upon herself.
"Don't scold her, sir," she said; "it was all my doing. I brought her here without the knowledge of her parents, and dared her to go out there."
"You did?" he exclaimed, turning a severe look upon the young girl (he was a middle-aged man of stern aspect). "Suppose I had not been near enough to catch her, and she had been precipitated to the ground from that great height--how would you have felt?"
"I could never have forgiven myself or had another happy moment while I lived," Betty said, in half tremulous tones, "I can never thank you enough, sir, for saving her," she added, warmly.
"No, nor I," said the keeper. "I should always have felt that I was to blame for letting her go out; but you were close behind, sir, and the other gentleman before, and I took you to be all one party, and of course thought you would take care of the little girl."
"She has had quite a severe shock," the gentleman remarked, again looking at Lulu, who was very pale and trembling like a leaf. "You had better wait and let me help you down the stairs. I shall be ready in a very few moments."
Betty thanked him and said they would wait.
While they did so she tried to jest and laugh with Lulu; but the little girl was in no mood for such things; she felt sick and dizzy at the thought of the danger she had escaped but a moment ago. She made no reply to Betty's remarks, and indeed seemed scarcely to hear them.
She was quite silent, too, while being helped down the stairs by the kind stranger, but thanked him prettily as they separated.
"You are heartily welcome," he said; "but if you will take my advice you will never go needlessly into such danger again."
With that he shook hands with her, bowed to Betty, and moved away.
"Will you go in and rest awhile, Lu?" asked Betty.
"No, thank you; I'm not tired; and I'd rather be close by the sea. Tell me another of your stories, won't you? to help me forget how near I came to falling."
Betty good-naturedly complied, but found Lulu a less interested listener than before.
The "squantum" party were late in returning, and when they arrived Betty and Lulu were in bed; but the door between the room where Lulu lay and the parlor, or sitting-room, as it was indifferently called, was ajar, and she could hear all that was said there.
"Where is Lulu?" her father asked of the maid-servant who had been left behind.
"Gone to bed, sir," was the answer.
Then the captain stepped to the chamber door, pushed it wider open, and came to the bedside.
Lulu pretended to be asleep, keeping her eyes tight shut, but all the time feeling that he was standing there and looking down at her.
He sighed slightly, turned away, and went from the room; then she buried her face in the pillows and cried softly but quite bitterly.
"He might have kissed me," she said to herself; "he would if he loved me as much as he used to before he got married."
Then his sigh seemed to echo in her heart, and she grew remorseful over the thought that her misconduct had grieved as well as displeased him.
And how much more grieved and displeased he would be if he knew how she had disregarded his wishes and commands during his absence that day!
And soon he would be ordered away again, perhaps to the other side of the world; in danger from the treacherous deep and maybe from savages, too, in some of those far-away places where his vessel would touch; and so the separation might be for years or forever in this world; and if she continued to be the bad girl she could not help acknowledging to herself she now was, how dared she hope to be with her Christian father in another life? She had no doubt that he was a Christian; it was evident from his daily walk and conversation; and she was equally certain that she herself was not.
And what a kind, affectionate father he had always been to her; she grew more and more remorseful as she thought of it; and if he had been beside her at that moment would certainly have confessed all the wrong-doing of the day and asked forgiveness.
But he was probably in bed now; all was darkness and silence in the house; so she lay still, and presently forgot all vexing thought in sound, refreshing sleep.
When she awoke again the morning sun was shining brightly, and her mood had changed.
The wrong-doings of the previous day were the merest trifles, and it would really be quite ridiculous to go and confess them to her father; she supposed, indeed was quite sure, that ha would be better pleased with her if she made some acknowledgment of sorrow for the fault for which he had punished her; but the very thought of doing so was so galling to her pride that she was stubbornly determined not to do anything of the kind.
She was thinking it all over while dressing, and trying hard to believe herself a very ill-used, instead of naughty, child. It was a burning shame that she had been scolded and left behind for such a trifling fault; but she would let "papa" and everybody else see that she didn't care; she wouldn't ask one word about what kind of a time they had had (she hoped it hadn't been so very nice); and she would show papa, too, that she could do very well without caresses and endearments from him.
Glancing from the window, she saw him out on the bluff back of the cottage; but though her toilet was now finished, she did not, as usual, run out to put her hand in his, and with a glad good-morning hold up her face for a kiss.
She went quietly to the dooryard looking upon the village street, and peeped into the window of the room where Grace was dressing with a little help from Agnes, their mamma's maid.
"Oh, Lu, good-morning," cried the little girl. "I was so sorry you weren't with us yesterday at the 'squantum;' we had ever such a nice time; only I missed you very much."
"Your sympathy was wasted, Grace," returned Lulu, with a grand air. "I had a very pleasant time at home."
"Dar now, you's done finished, Miss Gracie," said Agnes, turning to leave the room; then she laughed to herself as she went, "Miss Lu she needn't think she don't 'ceive nobody wid dem grand airs ob hers; 'spect we all knows she been glad nuff to go ef de cap'n didn't tole her she got for to stay behin'."
Grace ran out and joined her sister at the door. "Oh, Lu, you would have enjoyed it if you had been with us," she said, embracing her. "But we are going to have a drive this morning. We're to start as soon as breakfast is over, and only come back in time for the bath; and papa says you can go too if you want to, and are a good girl; and you--"
"I don't want to," said Lulu, with a cold, offended air. "I like to be by myself on the beach; I enjoyed it very much yesterday, and shall enjoy it to-day; I don't need anybody's company."
Her conscience gave her a twinge as she spoke, reminding her that she had passed but little of her day alone on the beach.
Grace gazed at her with wide-open eyes, lost in astonishment at her strange mood; but hearing their father's step within the house, turned about and ran to meet him and claim her morning kiss.
"Where is your sister?" he asked when he had given it.
"The little one is asleep, papa," she answered gayly; "the other one is at the door there."
He smiled. "Tell her to come in," he said; "we are going to have prayers."
Lulu obeyed the summons, but took a seat near the door, without so much as glancing toward her father.
When the short service was over Grace seated herself upon his knee, and Max stood close beside him, both laughing and talking right merrily; but Lulu sat where she was, gazing in moody silence into the street.
At length, in a pause in the talk, the captain said, in a kindly tone, "One of my little girls seems to have forgotten to bid me good-morning."
"Good-morning, papa," muttered Lulu, sullenly, her face still averted.
"Good-morning, Lucilla," he said; and she knew by his tone and use of her full name that he was by no means pleased with her behavior.
At that moment they were summoned to breakfast.
Lulu took her place with the others and ate in silence, scarce lifting her eyes from her plate, while everybody else was full of cheerful chat.
A carriage was at the door when they left the table.
"Make haste, children," the captain said, "so that we may have time for a long drive before the bathing hour."
Max and Grace moved promptly to obey, but Lulu stood still.
"I spoke to you, Lulu, as well as to the others," her father said, in his usual kindly tone; "you may go with us, if you wish."
"I don't care to, papa," she answered, turning away.
"Very well, I shall not compel you; you may do just as you please about it," he returned. "Stay at home if you prefer it. You may go down to the beach if you choose, but nowhere else."
"Yes, sir," she muttered, and walked out of the room, wondering in a half-frightened way if he knew or suspected where she had been the day before.
In fact, he did neither; he believed Lulu a more obedient child than she was, and had no idea that she had not done exactly as he bade her.
This time she was so far obedient that she went nowhere except to the beach, but while wandering about there she was nursing unkind and rebellious thoughts and feelings; trying hard to convince herself that her father loved her less than he did his other children, and was more inclined to be severe with her than with them. In her heart of hearts she believed no such thing, but pretending to herself that she did, she continued her unlovely behavior all that day and the next, sulking alone most of the time; doing whatever she was bidden, but with a sullen air, seldom speaking unless she was spoken to, never hanging lovingly about her father, as had been her wont, but rather seeming to avoid being near him whenever she could.
It pained him deeply to see her indulging so evil a temper, but he thought best to appear not to notice it. He did not offer her the caresses she evidently tried to avoid, and seldom addressed her; but when he did speak to her it was in his accustomed kind, fatherly tones, and it was her own fault if she did not share in every pleasure provided for the others.
In the afternoon of the second day they were all gathered upon the beach as usual, when a young girl, who seemed to be a new-comer in 'Sconset, drew near and accosted Betty as an old acquaintance.
"Why, Anna Eastman, who would have expected to see you here?" cried Betty, in accents of pleased surprise, springing up to embrace the stranger.
Then she introduced her to Elsie, Violet, and Captain Raymond, who happened to be sitting near, as an old school friend.
"And you didn't know I was on the island?" remarked Miss Eastman laughingly to Betty, when the introductions were over.
"I hadn't the least idea of it. When did you arrive?"
"Several days since--last Monday; and this is Friday. By the way, I saw you on Tuesday, though you did not see me."
"How and where?" asked Betty in surprise, not remembering at the moment how she had spent that day.
"At Sankaty Lighthouse; I was in a carriage out on the green in front of the lighthouse, and saw you and that little girl yonder (nodding in Lulu's direction) come out on the top of the tower; then a puff of wind took the child's skirts, and I fairly screamed with fright, expecting to see her fall and be crushed to death; but somebody jerked her back within the window just in time to save her. Weren't you terribly frightened, dear?" she asked, addressing Lulu.
"Of course I was," Lulu answered in an ungracious tone; then rose and sauntered away along the beach. "What did she tell it for, hateful thing!" she muttered to herself; "now papa knows it, and what will he say and do to me?"
She had not ventured to look at him; if she had she would have seen his face grow suddenly pale, then assume an expression of mingled sternness and pain.
He presently rose and followed her, though she did not know it till he had reached her side and she felt him take her hand in his. He sat down, making her sit by his side.
"Is this true that I hear of you, Lulu?" he asked.
"Yes, papa," she answered in a low, unwilling tone, hanging her head as she spoke, for she dared not look him in the face.
"I did not think one of my children would be so disobedient," he said, in pained accents.
"Papa, you never said I shouldn't go to Sankaty Lighthouse," she muttered.
"I never gave you leave to go, and I have told you positively, more than once, that you must not go to any distance from the house without express permission. Also I am sure you could not help understanding, from what was said when I took you to the lighthouse, that I would be very far from willing that you should go up into the tower, and especially outside, unless I were with you to take care of you. Besides, what were my orders to you just as I was leaving the house that morning?"
"You told me to change my dress immediately and to stay at home."
"Did you obey the first order?"
Lulu was silent for a moment; then as her father was evidently waiting for an answer, she muttered, "I changed my dress after a while."
"That was not obeying; I told you to do it immediately," he said in a tone of severity, "What did you do in the mean time?"
"I don't want to tell you," she muttered.
"You must; and you are not to say you don't want to do what I bid you. What were you doing?"
"Walking round the town."
"Breaking two of your father's commands at once. What next? give me a full account of the manner in which you spent the day."
"I came in soon and changed my dress; then went to the beach till the bathing hour; then Betty and I went in together; then we had our dinner at the hotel and came back to the beach for a little while; then we went to Sankaty."
"Filling up the whole day with repeated acts of disobedience," he said.
"Papa, you didn't say I mustn't go in to bathe, or that I shouldn't take a walk."
"I told you to stay at home, and you disobeyed that order again and again. And you have been behaving very badly ever since, showing a most unamiable temper. I have overlooked it, hoping to see a change for the better in your conduct without my resorting to punishment; but I think the time has now come when I must try that with you."
He paused for some moments. Wondering at his silence, she at length ventured a timid look up into his face.
It was so full of pain and distress that her heart smote her, and she was seized with a sudden fury at herself as the guilty cause of his suffering.
"Lulu," he said, with a sigh that was almost a groan, "what am I to do with you?"
"Whip me, papa," she burst out; "I deserve it. You've never tried that yet, and maybe it would make me a better girl, I almost wish you would, papa," she went on in her vehement way; "I could beat myself for being so bad and hurting you so."
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.