The Two Elsies by Martha Finley
"For what I will, I will, and there's an end." SHAKESPEAKE.
Max was on the veranda, waiting, like the little gentleman he was, to hand the girls into the carriage.
Hardly were they seated therein and the door closed upon them, when he exclaimed, "Why, what's the matter?"
"Why do you think anything is?" queried Rosie, with an attempt to laugh.
"Because you all look so excited, and--what's your hand wrapped up for, Lu?"
She removed the handkerchief and held the hand out before him.
"Who did that? Who dared do such a thing to my sister?" he asked hotly, his face crimsoning with anger and indignation.
"Never mind who," said Lulu.
"Signor Foresti," said Rosie. "I hope grandpa will have him fined and imprisoned for it--such a cowardly, savage attack as it was!"
"I only wish I was big enough and strong enough to flog him well for it," growled Max, clenching his fists and speaking between his shut teeth. "If papa were here, I think the cowardly villain wouldn't escape without a sound drubbing."
Lulu laughed rather hysterically as she said, "I took the law into my own hands, Max, and punished him pretty well for it, I believe."
"You did!" he exclaimed in utter astonishment; "how? I shouldn't think you had the strength to grapple with him."
"I didn't, exactly, but before he knew what was coming I hit him a blow that I think nearly knocked him down;" and she went on to repeat the whole story for Max's benefit.
The occurrence was the theme of conversation all the way home; and on their arrival, Mr. Dinsmore and the ladies being found on the veranda, the case was at once laid before them in all its details.
All were indignant at the treatment Lulu had received, but somewhat shocked, also, at her retaliation.
"You should not have done that," Mr. Dinsmore said reprovingly; "it was by no means lady-like. I should not have blamed you for at once vacating the piano-stool and walking out of the room; but his punishment should have been left to older and wiser hands."
"There's enough more owing him for older and wiser hands to attend to," remarked Lulu; "and I hope it won't be neglected."
An amused smile trembled about the corners of Mr. Dinsmore's mouth; but only for an instant.
"Measures shall be taken to prevent a recurrence of the unpleasantness of to-day," he said with becoming gravity. "I shall myself call upon the signor and warn him to beware of ever repeating it."
"He won't repeat it to me, because I shall never take another lesson from him," said Lulu, steadily, looking straight into Mr. Dinsmore's eyes as she spoke.
"The choice is not with you," he answered somewhat sternly; "you are under orders and must do as you are bid. But we will not discuss the matter further at present," he added with a wave of the hand, as dismissing her.
She turned to go, in no very amiable mood.
"Lulu, dear," said Grandma Elsie, rising and following her, "those poor fingers must be attended to. I have some salve which will be soothing and healing to them; will you come with me and let me dress them with it?"
"Yes, ma'am, thank you," the child answered half chokingly, the kind sympathy expressed in the words and tones quite overcoming her with a strong reaction from the stubborn, defiant mood into which Mr. Dinsmore's closing remarks had thrown her.
Mr. Dinsmore's decision was truly a disappointment to all the children; for once even Rosie was inclined to warmly espouse Lulu's cause. Though standing in considerable awe of her grandfather, she ventured upon a mild remonstrance.
"Grandpa, don't you think that man has behaved badly enough to deserve to lose his pupil?"
"I do most decidedly," he answered; "but Lulu is improving wonderfully under his tuition, and should not, I think, be allowed to lose the advantage of it while we remain here."
"I very much fear his usefulness is over so far as she is concerned," sighed Violet. "And, grandpa, I dread the struggle you will certainly have with her if you insist upon her continuance in his class. I never saw a more determined look than she wore when she said that she would never take another lesson of him."
"Do not trouble yourself," he said; "I think I am fully equal to the contest. I should gladly avoid it if it seemed to me right to do so, but it does not. It is high time Lulu was taught proper submission to lawful authority."
Max, standing with averted face, a little apart from the speaker, heard every word that was said.
The boy was sorely troubled. He turned and walked away, saying to himself, "She will never do it; I don't believe any power on earth can make her, and Grandpa Dinsmore is about as determined as she; so what is to come of it I can't tell. Oh, if papa were only here! nobody else can manage Lu when she gets into one of her stubborn fits, and I don't believe he'd make her go back to that horrid savage of a music-teacher. I've a notion to write and tell him all about it. But no, where would be the use? I dare say the whole affair will be over before my letter could reach him and an answer come back."
Very tenderly and carefully Elsie bound up the wounded fingers; then taking the little girl in her arms she kissed her kindly, saying, "You were treated very badly, my dear child, but it is not likely the man will venture to act so again after my father has spoken to him and warned him of the consequences of such behavior."
"I think he won't to me," Lulu answered, the stubborn, defiant look returning to her face.
"Do the fingers feel better?" Elsie asked gently.
"Yes, ma'am; and I am very much obliged. Grandma Elsie, do you know where Gracie is?"
"I think you will find her in the playroom."
Lulu immediately resorted thither, and found Grace playing happily with her dolls.
"Oh, Lu, I'm so glad you have come!" she cried, glancing up at her sister as she entered.
"I do miss you so all day long while you are at school! But what's the matter with your hand?" she asked with concern.
"Nothing very serious," Lulu answered carelessly. "That villain of a music-teacher snapped his pointer on my fingers and blistered them; that's all."
"Oh, Lu, what a shame! Did it hurt you very much?"
"Quite a good deal; but of course it was the insult, not the pain, that I cared for."
She went on to give the details of the occurrence to this new listener, who heard them with tears of sympathy and indignation.
"I think somebody ought to whip him," she said; "and I hope he'll never have a chance to strike you again."
"I don't intend he shall. I've said I won't take another lesson from him, and I don't intend to. But Grandpa Dinsmore says I must; so there'll be another fight."
"Oh, Lu, don't!" cried Grace, in terror; "don't try to fight him. Don't you remember how he 'most made Grandma Elsie die when she was a little girl, 'cause she wouldn't do what he told her to?"
Lulu nodded. "But I'm another kind of girl," she said; "and I'm not his child, so I think he wouldn't dare be quite so cruel to me."
"How brave you are, Lulu!" Grace exclaimed in admiration. "But, oh, I am so sorry for you! I'd be frightened 'most to death, I think; frightened to think of going back to that signor, and dreadfully afraid to refuse if Grandpa Dinsmore said I must."
"Yes, you poor little thing! but I'm not so timid, you know. Grandpa Dinsmore can't frighten me into breaking my word."
"But, you know, Lu," said Max, coming in at that moment, "that papa has ordered us to obey Grandpa Dinsmore, and if we refuse we are disobeying our father too."
"I am sure papa never thought he would want me to go on taking lessons of a man that struck me," cried Lulu, indignantly. "Besides, I've said I won't, and nothing on earth shall make me break my word."
"I wish papa was here," sighed Max, looking sorely troubled.
"So do I," responded Lulu. "I'm sure he wouldn't make me go back to that hateful old Signor Foresti."
That evening Max, Lulu, Rosie, and Evelyn were in the schoolroom at Viamede, preparing their lessons for the morrow, when a servant came up with a message for Lulu; she was wanted in the library.
Flushing hotly, and looking a good deal disturbed, Lulu pushed aside her books and rose to obey the summons.
"Only Miss Lulu? nobody else, Jim?" asked Rosie.
"I 'spects so, Miss Rosie; dat's all Massa Dinsmore say."
"Oh, Lu, I'm sorry for you!" whispered Evelyn, catching Lulu's hand and pressing it affectionately in hers.
"You're very kind, but I'm not afraid," Lulu answered, drawing herself up with dignity; then she hurried to the library, not giving herself time to think what might be in store for her there.
She started with surprise, and paused for an instant on the threshold, as she perceived that Professor Manton was there with Mr. Dinsmore, who was the only other occupant of the room.
"Come in, Lulu," Mr. Dinsmore said, seeing her hesitation; "you have nothing to fear if you are disposed to be good and docile."
As he spoke he pointed to a low chair by his side.
Lulu came quietly forward and took it.
"I'm not afraid, Grandpa Dinsmore," she said in low, even tones. "Good-evening, Professor Manton."
"Good-evening," he replied, with a stiff nod. "I am sorry to be brought here by so unpleasant a duty as laying a complaint against you."
"You needn't care; I don't," she said with the utmost nonchalance.
He lifted his eyebrows in astonishment, and had nearly forgotten his dignity so far as to utter a low whistle, but caught himself just in time.
Mr. Dinsmore frowned darkly.
"What is the meaning of such talk, Lulu?" he inquired. "If you do not care for the displeasure of teachers and guardians you are indeed a naughty girl."
He paused for a reply, but none came, and he went on: "Professor Manton has brought me a report of your conduct to-day, agreeing substantially with the one given by yourself, and I have called you down to tell him in your presence that you are to go on taking lessons of Signor Foresti."
Lulu's cheeks crimsoned, and she looked from one to the other with flashing eyes.
"Grandpa Dinsmore and Professor Manton, I have said several times, and I say it again, I will never take another lesson from that man!"
"Then you deliberately defy the authority of both the professor and myself?" Mr. Dinsmore queried sternly.
"In this one thing I do."
"The consequences may be very unpleasant," he said significantly and with rising anger.
"I know the consequences of giving up and taking lessons again from Signor Foresti would be very unpleasant," she retorted.
"Leave the room!" he commanded, with a stamp of the foot that sent Lulu's heart up into her throat, though she tried to appear perfectly calm and unconcerned as she silently rose and obeyed the order.
"Really the most amazingly audacious, impertinent child I ever saw!" muttered the professor. Then aloud, "What is to be done with her, sir?" he asked.
"She must be made to obey, of course," replied Mr. Dinsmore.
"Yes, yes, certainly; but what measure would you have me take to bring her to submission?"
"None; you will please leave all that to me."
"Then if to-morrow she refuses to finish that interrupted lesson, you would have me simply report the fact to you?"
"No, sir; even that will be quite unnecessary; she will tell me herself. I am proud to be able to say of her that she is a perfectly truthful and honest child."
"I am glad to learn that she has at least one virtue as an offset to her very serious faults," observed the professor, dryly, then rising, "Allow me to bid you good-evening, sir," and with that he took his departure.
Mr. Dinsmore saw him to the outer door, then returning, began pacing the floor with arms folded on his breast and a heavy frown on his brow.
But presently Elsie and Violet came in, both looking anxious and disturbed, and stopping his walk he sat down with them and reported all that had passed during the call of Professor Manton; after which they held a consultation in regard to the means to be taken to induce Lulu to be submissive and obedient.
"Shall we not try mild measures at first, papa?" Elsie asked with a look of entreaty.
"I approve of that course," he answered; "but what shall they be? Have you anything to suggest?"
"Ah," she sighed, "it goes hard with me to have her disciplined at all; why will she not be good without it, poor, dear child!"
"Let us try reasoning, coaxing, and persuading," suggested Violet, with some hesitation.
"Very well," her grandfather said; "you and your mother may try that to-night. If it fails, tell her that so long as she is rebellious all her time at home must be spent in her own room and alone."
"Dear grandpa," Violet said pleadingly, "that punishment would fall nearly as heavily upon Gracie as upon Lulu; and a better child than Grace is not to be found anywhere."
"Yes, yes, and it is a pity; but I don't see that it can be helped. It is a hard fact that in this sinful world the innocent have very often to suffer with the guilty. You are suffering yourself at this moment, and so is your mother, entirely because of the misconduct of this child and that fiery little Italian."
"Lulu is extremely fond of her little sister," remarked Elsie; "so let us hope the thought of Grace's distress, if separated from her, may lead her to give up her self-will in regard to this matter. Take courage, Vi; all is not lost that is in danger."
Each of the two had a talk with Lulu before she went to bed that night, using all their powers of argument and persuasion; but in vain: she stubbornly persisted in her resolve never again to be taught by Signor Foresti.
Violet was almost in despair. She was alone with the little girl in her dressing-room.
"Lulu," she said, "it will certainly give great distress to your father when he learns that you have become a rebel against grandpa's authority. You seem to love your papa very dearly; how can you bear to pain him so?"
"I am quite sure papa would not order me to take another lesson of a man who has struck me," was the reply, in a half-tremulous tone, which told that the appeal had not failed to touch the child's heart. "I do love my father dearly, dearly, but I can't submit to such insulting treatment; and nothing on earth will make me."
"You are not asked or ordered to do that," Violet answered gently; "the man is to be utterly forbidden to ill-treat you in any way.
"Perhaps I should hardly try to hire you to do right, but I think there is nothing I would refuse you if you will but do as grandpa bids you. What would you like to have which it is in my power to bestow--a new dress? a handsome set of jewelry? books? toys? What will you have?"
"Nothing, thank you," returned Lulu, coldly.
"I will double your pocket-money," was Violet's next offer; but Lulu heard it in silence and with no relaxing of the stubborn determination of her countenance.
"I will do that and give you both dress and jewelry besides," Violet said, with a little hesitation, not feeling sure that she was doing quite right.
Lulu's eyes shone for an instant, but the stubborn look settled down on her face again.
"Mamma Vi, I don't want to be bribed," she said. "If anything at all would induce me to do as you wish and break my word, love for papa and Gracie and Max would do it alone."
Violet sighed. Drawing out her watch, "It is past your bedtime," she said. "Lulu, dear," and she drew the child caressingly toward her, "when you say your prayers to-night will you not ask God to show you the right and help you to do it?"
"Mamma Vi, it can't be right to tell a lie, and what else should I be doing if I went back to Signor Foresti for lessons after I've said over and over that I never would again?"
"Suppose a man has promised to commit murder; should he keep that promise or break it?" asked Violet.
"Break it, of course," replied Lulu; "but this is quite another thing, Mamma Vi."
"I'm not so clear about that," Violet answered seriously. "In the case we have supposed, the promise would be to break the sixth commandment; in yours it is to break the fifth."
"I'm not disobeying papa," asserted Lulu, hotly.
"Are you not?" asked Violet; "did he not bid you obey my grandfather while he is not here to direct you himself?"
"Yes, ma'am," acknowledged Lulu, reluctantly; "but I'm sure he never thought your grandpa would be so unreasonable as to say I must take lessons of a man like Signor Foresti who had struck me: and that when I did not deserve it at all."
"Lulu," said Violet, a little severely, "your father made no reservation. But now good-night," she added in a more affectionate tone.
"I trust you will wake to-morrow morning in a better frame of mind."
"But I won't," muttered Lulu, as she left the room and retired to her own; "I'll not be driven, coaxed, or hired."