The Two Elsies by Martha Finley
"For what I will, I will, and there's an end." SHAKESPEAKE.
Shortly after breakfast the next morning, and before the hour for setting out for school, Elsie called Lulu aside, and in a gentle, affectionate way asked if she were now willing to do as directed by Mr. Dinsmore.
"Grandma Elsie," said the little girl, "I am ready to do anything he bids me if it is not to take lessons of that horrid man who dared to strike me after being told by Grandpa Dinsmore himself that he must never do so."
"I am grieved, my child, that you have no better answer than that to give me," Elsie said, "and I think you know that it will not satisfy my father; he will have those committed to his care obedient in everything; and he bade me tell you that if you will not submit to his authority in this matter--if you do not to-day obey his order to finish that interrupted music-lesson--you must, on returning home, go directly to your own room and stay there; and as long as you continue rebellious, all your time at home is to be spent in that room and alone."
She paused for a reply, but none came. Lulu sat with eyes cast down and cheeks hotly flushing, her countenance expressing anger and stubborn resolve.
Elsie sighed involuntarily.
"Lulu, my dear child," she said, "do not try this contest with my father. I warn you that to do so will only bring you trouble and sorrow; he is a most determined man, and because he feels that he has right on his side in this thing, you will find him unconquerable."
"I think that is what he will find me, Grandma Elsie," replied the determinately self-willed little girl.
"Surely you are showing scant gratitude for the many kindnesses received at my father's hands," Elsie said; "but I will not upbraid you with them. You may go now."
Feeling somewhat ashamed of herself, yet far from prepared to submit, Lulu rose and hastened from the room.
She knew nothing of what had passed between Mr. Dinsmore and Professor Manton after her dismissal the night before, and it was with a quaking heart she entered the schoolroom at Oakdale that morning.
Yet though in fear and dread, she had not the slightest intention of abandoning her position in regard to the music-lessons.
Nothing, however, was said to her on the subject till the hour for meeting the signor. Then Miss Diana directed her to go and finish her lesson of the previous day; but on receiving a refusal, merely remarked that it should be reported to her guardians and her punishment left to them.
Evelyn gave her friend an entreating look, but Lulu shook her head, then fixed her eyes upon her book.
As they drove home to Viamede in the afternoon, Grace was waiting for them on the veranda there.
"Oh, Lulu," she cried, as the latter came up the steps, "mamma has been helping me to fix up my baby-house, and it is so pretty! Do come right up to the play-room and see it."
"I can't, Gracie," Lulu answered, coloring and looking vexed and mortified.
"Why not?" asked Grace in a tone of surprise and keen disappointment.
But before Lulu could reply, Mr. Dinsmore stepped from the door and inquired, "What report have you to give me, Lulu?"
"I have not taken a music-lesson to-day," she answered.
"Were you not told to do so?"
"And did not choose to obey? You know the consequence; you must go immediately to your room and stay there alone during the hours spent at home, until you are ready to obey."
Lulu assumed an air of indifference as she walked slowly away, but Grace burst into tears, crying, "Oh, Grandpa Dinsmore! you won't keep me, her own sister, away from her, will you? oh, please don't. I can't do without her."
"My dear little girl," he said soothingly, and taking her hand in his, "I am truly sorry to distress you so, but Lulu must be made obedient. She is now in a very rebellious mood, and I should do wrong to indulge her in it."
"Grandpa Dinsmore," she said, looking up pleadingly into his face; with the tears streaming over her own, I'd be frightened 'most to death if I had to take lessons of that cross, bad man. How can you want to make poor Lulu do it?"
"Lulu is not the timid little creature you are," he said, bending down to kiss her forehead, "and I am sure is not really afraid of the man; nor need she be after what I have said to him about striking her or any of the pupils I send him."
"It'll be a long, long while before she'll give up," said Grace; "maybe she never will. Mayn't I go and talk to her a little and bid her good-by? You know it's 'most as if she's going far away from us all."
She ended with a sob that quite touched Mr. Dinsmore's heart; also he thought it possible that her grief over the separation from Lulu, and her entreaties to her to be submissive and obedient, might have a good effect. So after a moment's cogitation he granted her request.
"Thank you, sir," said Grace, and hurried upstairs to her sister's door.
"Please, Lu, let me in," she cried. "Grandpa Dinsmore said I might come."
"Did he?" returned Lulu, admitting her. "Well, it must have been altogether for your sake, not a bit for mine; his heart's as hard as stone to me."
"Oh, Lu, dear Lu, don't talk so; do give up, so we won't be separated!" cried Grace, throwing her arms round her sister and giving her a vigorous hug. "I never can do without you; and don't you care to be with me?"
"Of course I do," said Lulu, twinkling away a tear, for they were raining from Grace's eyes now, and her bosom heaving with sobs, "and it's just the cruelest thing that ever was to separate us!"
"But they won't if you'll only give up; and Grandpa Dinsmore says that horrid man sha'n't strike you again."
"Grandpa Dinsmore is an old tyrant!" said Lulu. "Nobody but a tyrant would want to force me to put myself in the way of being again treated in the cruel and insulting way Signor Foresti has treated me once already; and I won't go back to him; no, not if they kill me!"
"But oh, Lu, think of me!" sobbed Grace. "Max can see you and talk with you every day, going and coming in the carriage, but I'm afraid I won't see you at all."
"Oh, Grade, I have a thought!" exclaimed Lulu. "Ask Mamma Vi if you mayn't ride back and forth with us every morning and afternoon. There's room enough in the carriage, and the rides would be good for you. You'd have to ride alone, one way each time, but you wouldn't mind that, would you?"
"Oh no, indeed!" exclaimed Grace, smiling through her tears; "it's a bright thought, Lu. I'll ask mamma, and I'm 'most sure she'll say yes, she's so good and kind."
Violet did say yes at once, making one condition only--that neither her mother nor grandfather should object.
They did not, and every morning and afternoon Grace was ready in good season for her drive to Oakdale.
The other children were glad of her company, and as by common consent always gave her the seat next to Lulu.
For two weeks those short drives yielded the sisters all the intercourse they had. They met with a warm embrace in the morning just before stepping into the carriage, and parted in the same way on their return to Viamede in the afternoon. Then Lulu went directly to her own room, shut herself in, and was seen no more by the other children till the next day.
During that fortnight the confinement and solitude were her only punishment; her meals were brought to her and consisted of whatever she desired from the table where the family were seated; also books and toys were allowed her.
Every night Violet and Elsie, her mother, came, separately, for a few words with the little girl; always kind, gentle, loving words of admonition and entreaty that she would return to her former dutiful and docile behavior. But they were always met by the same stubborn resolve.
At length, one evening she was summoned to Mr. Dinsmore's presence,--in the library as before,--again asked if she were ready to obey, and on answering in the negative was told that, such being the case, she was to be sent to Oakdale as a boarding scholar, and not to return home at all until ready to give up her wilfulness and do as she was bidden.
She heard her sentence with dismay, but resolved to endure it rather than submit.
"I'm not ready to break my word yet, Grandpa Dinsmore," she said with a lofty air; "and perhaps Oakdale won't be a worse prison than those the martyrs went to for conscience' sake."
"Lulu," he said sternly, "do not deceive yourself with the idea that you are suffering for conscience' sake; a wicked promise--a promise to break one of God's commands--is better broken than kept; the sin was in making it."
"I don't know any commandment that says I must take lessons of Signor Foresti, or obey somebody who is no relation to me," returned Lulu, half trembling at her own temerity as she spoke.
"You are an extremely impertinent little girl," said Mr. Dinsmore, "and not altogether honest in pretending such ignorance; you know that you are commanded to obey your father, that he has directed you to be obedient to me in his absence, and that I have ordered you to take lessons of Signor Foresti."
He paused a moment, then went on: "If tomorrow you do as you are ordered you will be at once restored to favor, and all the privileges you formerly enjoyed in this house; otherwise you will not return from Oakdale with the others in the afternoon."
He waved his hand in dismissal, and she left the room full of anger and defiance, a most unhappy child.
In the hall she halted for a moment and glanced toward the outer door. A sudden impulse moved her to run away. But what good would that do? Where could she go? How find shelter, food, clothing? And should she ever see father, brother, sisters again?
She moved on again down the hall, and slowly climbed the broad stairway leading to the one above.
Violet met her there and felt her heart sink as she glanced at the sullen, angry countenance. She stopped, laid her hand kindly on the child's shoulder, and said,
"Lulu, dear, I know pretty well what you have just been told by grandpa, and, my child, it distresses me exceedingly to think of you being sent away from us all."
"You needn't care, Mamma Vi; I don't," interrupted Lulu, angrily. "I'd rather be away from people that ill-treat me so; I only wish I could go thousands of miles from you all, and never, never come back."
"Poor, dear, unhappy child!" Violet said, tears trembling in her beautiful eyes; "I know you cannot be other than miserable while indulging in such wrong feelings. If I have ill-treated you in any way I have not been conscious of it, and am truly sorry, for it is my strong desire to be all that I should to my husband's dear children. Come into my dressing-room and let us have a little talk together about these matters."
She drew Lulu into the room as she spoke, and made her sit down on a sofa by her side.
"No, Mamma Vi, you have never ill-treated me," answered Lulu, her sense of justice asserting itself; "but I think Grandpa Dinsmore has, and so I'd rather go away from him."
"I am sorry you feel so little gratitude to one who has done so much for you, Lulu," Violet said, not unkindly. "Surely you cannot deny that it has been a very great kindness in him to take you into his own family--giving you the best of homes--and instruct you himself, for no reward but the pleasure of doing you good and seeing your improvement: that, too, in spite of having to bear with much ill-behavior from you."
Lulu tried hard to think herself unjustly accused, but in her heart knew very well that every word of Violet's reproof was richly deserved. She made no reply, but hung her head, while a vivid blush suffused her cheeks.
Silence in the room for several minutes; then Lulu said, "I think my bedtime has come, Mamma Vi; may I go now?"
"Yes; good-night," said Violet, bending down to give her a kiss.
Lulu returned both the kiss and the good-night, then rose to leave the room.
"Stay a moment, dear," Violet said in her gentlest, sweetest tone; "I am writing to your father: what shall I say about you?"
"Anything you please," Lulu answered coldly, and walked away with head erect, cheeks aflame, and eyes flashing.
"If she wants to tell tales on me, she may. I shan't try to stop her," she muttered to herself as she went into her own room and closed the door; then sending a glance around upon all the luxury and beauty of the apartment, the thought flashed painfully on her that these things, so delightful to her, would have to be exchanged for others far inferior and less enjoyable; for, of course, no boarding-school room would be furnished at anything like the expense that had been lavished upon this and others in this fine old mansion, so long owned and at times occupied by the possessors of vast wealth joined to refined and cultivated taste.
During the last fortnight, enforced confinement there had sometimes made the room seem like a prison; but now her heart swelled at the thought of leaving it, perhaps never to return, for certainly, unless she became submissive and obedient, she would be kept at the academy at least until the family were ready to leave for Ion.
Then it occurred to her that there were advantages, companionships, luxuries, to be given up, the resigning of which would be still harder. Now that she was to leave them, she found she had grown fond of both her young stepmother and the baby sister of whom she had once been so jealous; and that she loved Grandma Elsie also, Aunt Elsie too; and indeed, that almost every one in the family connection had proved agreeable in such intercourse as she had held with them.
Alas! what a sorry exchange from their society to that of the Mantons, and from all the loving care that had been bestowed upon her and the many privileges accorded her at Ion and Viamede, to the neglect and indifference to be expected from strangers! As she thought of all this she could not contemplate the carrying out of her sentence of banishment to Oakdale with anything like satisfaction.
Yet the idea of submitting to what she considered Mr. Dinsmore's tyranny being still more repugnant to her, she resolved to abide by her decision, risking all consequences.
She rose early the next morning, and busied herself for some time in gathering together such book and toys as she wished to take with her; then seeking her young step-mother, "Mamma Vi," she asked, "am I to pack my trunk myself?"
"You are quite resolved to leave us, then, Lulu?" Violet inquired.
"I am quite resolved never to take another lesson from Signor Foresti," returned Lulu doggedly.
Violet sighed. "I had hoped you would wake this morning in a better mood," she said. "No; you need not pack your trunk: Agnes shall do it under my supervision. But it shall not be sent till the return of the children from school this afternoon, as I still hope to see you with them."
Grace, who was present, stood listening in wide-eyed astonishment.
"What is it all about?" she asked in alarm. "Is Lulu going away?"
"Yes," Lulu answered for herself; "Grandpa Dinsmore says if I won't take lessons of Signor Foresti I must stay at Oakdale as a boarding-scholar."
"O Lu, Lu! do give up and come back home," entreated Grace, bursting into tears; "I can't do without you, you know I can't?"
Lulu drew her aside and whispered words of comfort.
"It can't be for so very long, I think, Grace; because we'll all be going back to Ion in two or three months. Besides, we can see each other every day, if you keep on coming in the carriage as you've been doing."
"But it will be only for a few minutes, and you won't have a bit nice time there."
"No, I suppose, not; but even if it's pretty hard, I'd rather stay there than give up to that old tyrant."
"Please don't say that," pleaded Grace; "I love Grandpa Dinsmore."
When the carriage came to the door after breakfast, and the children trooped down ready for school, Grandma Elsie joined them on the veranda, wishing them a happy and profitable day at their studies; then putting an arm about Lulu she said to her in an undertone,
"Lulu, dear child, I want to see you here with the rest to-night; you are one of my little girls, and I would not have you so rebellious that you must be shut out from my house. There! you need not answer, dear; only remember that Grandma Elsie loves you, and longs to see you good and happy."
"Thank you, ma'am; you're very good and kind," Lulu said a little tremulously, then hurried into the carriage, Max giving her the help of his hand.
The others were already in, and as Max took the only vacant seat, by Lulu's side, he noticed that her face was very red, and that Grace was crying.
"What's the matter?" he asked, glancing from one to the other.
"Lulu's not coming home with us to-night; she's going to board at Oakdale, she says," sobbed Grace.
"Is that so? What for?" asked Max, looking at Lulu.
"Because Grandpa Dinsmore says I must, if I won't take lessons of Signor Foresti."
It was news to Evelyn, Rose, and Walter as well as to Max, they having heard nothing of it before. There was a moment of surprised silence, broken by Rosie:
"Well, you may as well give up. Grandpa is not to be conquered, as I knew when the contest began."
Max and Evelyn were looking much distressed.
"Oh, Lulu, do!" entreated the latter; "you surely have held out long enough,"
"I should think so," said Max; "especially considering how kind Grandpa Dinsmore has been to us all, and that papa ordered us to be obedient to him."
"I'd give up," remarked Walter, "'cause there's no use fighting grandpa. Everybody has to mind him. Even mamma never does anything he asks her not to."
"The idea of not being your own mistress, even when you're a grandmother!" exclaimed Lulu scornfully.
"Mamma is her own mistress," retorted Rose. "It is only that she loves grandpa so dearly, and thinks him so wise and good, that she prefers to do just as he wishes her to."