Grandmother Elsie by Martha Finley
Chapter XXI. Rebellion
The next morning Violet began her housekeeping; a not very arduous undertaking, as competent servants had been brought from Ion for her establishment as well as for that next door.
It was pleasant to her and the captain to sit down to a well-appointed table of their own.
Max and Lulu too, coming in fresh and rosy from a stroll along the beach, thought it extremely nice that at last they had a home of their own with their father and so sweet and pretty a new mamma to take the head of the table.
The oysters and fish, just out of the ocean that morning, and Aunt Phillis's corn-bread and muffins were very delicious to the keen young appetites, and as Gracie was reported much better, every one was in good spirits.
The captain and Violet had both been in to see her and ask how she had passed the night, before coming down to the breakfast-room.
Immediately after the meal the captain conducted family worship. That over, Max and Lulu seized their hats, and were rushing out in the direction of the beach, but their father called them back.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Down by the waves," said Lulu.
"To the beach, sir," said Max.
"Without a word to any one!" he remarked a little severely. "How do you know that you are not wanted by your mamma or myself? We are going directly for a drive on the beach and I had intended to take you both along. Now I am inclined to leave you behind."
The children hung their heads, looking crestfallen and disappointed.
"O Levis, please let them go!" pleaded Violet, laying her hand persuasively on her husband's arm. "I am sure they did not mean to do wrong."
"Well, my love," he answered, "I will overlook it for this time for your sake. But, Max and Lulu, you must understand that you are under authority and are not to leave the house without first reporting yourselves to your mother or me and asking permission, stating where you desire to go and about how long you expect or wish to stay."
"Yes, sir," said Max; "but if you and Mamma Vi should both happen to be out?"
"Then you may go to Grandpa Dinsmore or Grandma Elsie."
"Yes, sir," Max answered in a pleasant tone; adding, "I'm sorry to have displeased you, papa, and will be careful in future to obey the orders you've just given."
But Lulu remained silent, and her countenance was sullen. She had been so long in the habit of defying Mrs. Scrimp's authority that now she was disposed to resist even her father's control in small matters, and think she ought to be permitted to go and come at her own sweet will, and the thought of being subjected to the sway of her new mother and her relatives seemed to the proud, passionate child almost beyond endurance.
The expression of her face did not escape her father's observation, but he thought it best to take no notice of it, hoping her angry and rebellious feelings would soon pass away and leave her again the pleasant, lovable child she had been a few moments since.
The carriage was already at the door.
"I think the air would do Gracie good," he remarked to Vi, "and the drive not prove too fatiguing if I support her in my arms. We have room for one more than our party. Will not your mother go with us?"
"Thank you; I'll run in and ask her," Vi said, tripping away.
Elsie accepted the invitation, remarking gayly, "I have no housekeeping cares to prevent me. I'm just a daughter at home in her father's house," giving him a loving look and smile, "as I used to be in the glad, free days of my girlhood."
The captain came down with Gracie in his arms, hers about his neck, her little pale face on his shoulder. She looked thin and weak, but very happy.
Grandma Elsie and Mamma Vi greeted her with loving inquiries and tender kisses.
"Do you feel strong enough for the drive, dear?" asked the former.
"Yes, ma'am; with papa to hold me in his strong arms."
"Papa's dear baby girl!" murmured the captain low and tenderly, imprinting a gentle kiss on the pale forehead.
Mr. Dinsmore came over, handed the ladies and Lulu into the carriage, then held Gracie till her father was seated in it and ready to take her again.
It was a bright, fair morning with a delicious breeze from the sea, and all enjoyed the drive greatly, unless perhaps Lulu, who had not yet recovered her good humor. She sat by her father's side, scarcely speaking, but no one seemed to notice it.
Gracie was asleep when they returned, and her father carried her up to her room and laid her down so gently that she did not wake.
The others had paused in the veranda below. Zoe and Rosie came running over to say the bathing hour was near at hand, and to ask if they were going in.
"I am not," Elsie said.
"Nor I," said Violet, "I'm a little tired and should prefer to sit here and chat with mamma."
"I'd like to go in," said Max. "When papa comes down I'll ask if I may."
"Mamma," said Rosie, "I don't care to go in to-day, but may I go down on the beach and watch the bathers?"
"Yes, daughter. Take a servant with you to carry some camp-chairs and to watch over Walter, if he wants to go with you."
"You'll come too, won't you?" Rosie said to Lulu; "it's good fun to watch the people in the water."
"I'll have to ask leave first," replied Lulu in a sullen tone. "Can you wait till papa comes down?"
"That is not necessary since your father has invested me with authority to give you permission," remarked Violet pleasantly. "You may go if you will keep with Rosie and the others. But, Lulu, my dear, I wish you would first go up to your room, take off those coral ornaments and put them away carefully. They do not correspond well with the dress you have on, and are not suitable for you to wear down on the beach at this time of day."
She had noticed, on first seeing the child that morning, that she had them on, but said nothing about it till now.
"You said you gave them to me to keep!" cried Lulu, turning a flushed and angry face toward her young step-mother; "and if they are my own, I have a right to wear them when and where I please, and I shall do so."
"Lucilla Raymond, to whom were you speaking?" asked her father sternly, stepping into their midst from the open door-way.
The child hung her head in sullen silence, while Vi's face was full of distress; Elsie's but little less so.
"Answer me!" commanded the captain in a tone that frightened even insolent Lulu. "I overheard you speaking in an extremely impertinent manner to some one. Who was it?"
"Your new wife," muttered the angry child.
The captain was silent for a moment, trying to gain control over himself. Then he said calmly, but not less sternly than he had spoken before, "Come here."
Lulu obeyed, looking pale and frightened.
He leaned down over her, unclasped the coral ornaments from her neck and arms, and handing them to Violet, said, "My dear, I must ask you to take these back. I cannot allow her to keep or wear them."
"O Levis!" began Vi in a tone of entreaty; but a look and a gentle "Hush, love!" silenced her.
"Now, Lucilla," he said, resuming his stern tone of command, "ask your mamma's pardon for your impertinence, and tell her you will never be guilty of the like again."
"I won't!" exclaimed Lulu passionately.
At that, her father, with a look of utter astonishment at her presumption, took her by the hand and led her into the house, upstairs and to her own room.
"My daughter," he said, "I must be obeyed. I could not have believed you would be so naughty and disobedient so soon after my return to you, for I thought you loved me."
He paused for a reply, and Lulu burst out with passionate vehemence, "You don't love me, papa! I knew you wouldn't when you got a new wife. I knew she'd steal all your love away from your own children!"
In that moment of fierce, ungovernable anger all Vi's sweet kindness was forgotten and old prejudices returned in full force.
The captain was too much shocked and astonished to speak for a moment. He had not dreamed that his child possessed so terrible a temper.
"You were never more mistaken, Lulu," he said at length in a moved tone; "I never loved my children better than I love them now. Are you not sorry for your rebellious reply to me a moment since? will you not tell me so, and do at once what I have bidden you?"
"No; I'll never ask her pardon!"
"You will stay in this room in solitary confinement until you do, though it should be all summer," he said firmly, went out, locked the door on the outside, and put the key into his pocket.
Zoe and Rosie had hastened away the moment the captain appeared upon the scene in the veranda, and as he led Lulu into the house Violet burst into tears.
"O mamma!" she sobbed, "what shall I do? I wish I had not said a word about the ornaments, but just let her wear them! I never meant to make trouble between my husband and his children! I never should have done so intentionally."
"My dear child, you have no cause to blame yourself," Elsie said soothingly.
"No, not a bit of it, Mamma Vi," cried Max, coming to her side. "I love Lu dearly, but I know she has a very bad temper, and I think it's for her own good that papa has found it out already, so that he can take means to help her conquer it. Dear me! I should never dare to say 'I won't' to him. Nor I shouldn't want to, because he's such a good father to us, and I love him dearly."
"Dear Max," Violet said, smiling through her tears as she took his hand and pressed it affectionately in hers. "I am sure he is a good, kind, loving father; his children could never doubt it if they had heard all he has said to me about them, and I trust you will never do anything to give him pain."
The captain rejoined them presently, asking the ladies with an assumed cheerfulness if they intended bathing.
They answered in the negative, and turning to Max he said kindly, "My son, if you wish to do so, I will take you with me. The surf is fine this morning and I feel inclined to go in."
"Oh, thank you, papa!" cried Max, "it will be splendid to go in with you!"
The captain re-entered the house and Violet followed. He turned at the sound of her quick, light step, saw the distress in her face, the tears in her eyes, and was much moved thereby.
"My love, my darling!" he said, taking her in his arms, "do not let this thing trouble you. Ah, it pains me deeply that a child of mine should have already brought tears to those sweet eyes."
"O Levis!" she sobbed, hiding her face on his breast, "forgive her for my sake. Don't insist on her asking my pardon. I would not have her so humiliated."
"There are few things you would ask, love, that I would not grant," he said tenderly, softly smoothing the golden hair; "but for my daughter's own sake I must compel her obedience. What would become of her if left to the unrestrained indulgence of such a temper and spirit of insubordination as she has shown this morning?"
"I know you are right," she sighed, "but I cannot help feeling sorry for her, and oh it almost breaks my heart to think that I was the cause of the trouble."
"Ah, but in that you are mistaken, sweet wife," he said, repeating his caresses; "Lulu's own evil temper was the exciting cause. I could see that she was in a sullen, rebellious mood from the time that I called her in before our drive. That I must begin already to discipline one of my children gives me a sad heart, but I must try to do my duty by her at what ever cost of pain to her or myself."
As her father turned the key in the lock, Lulu stamped with passion, and clenched her fists until the nails were buried in the flesh. "I'll never do it!" she hissed between her tightly-shut teeth, "no, never! if he keeps me here till I die. I just wish I could die and make him sorry for treating me so!"
Then throwing herself on the bed she sobbed herself to sleep.
She must have slept several hours, for she was waked by the opening of her door, and starting up found her father standing beside her with a small salver in his hand. On it were a plate of graham bread, a china bowl containing milk, and a silver spoon.
"Here is your dinner, Lucilla," he said, speaking in a quiet, grave tone, as he set the salver on a little stand in a corner between the windows; "unless you are ready to obey me. In that case, I shall take you down to your mamma, and when you have begged her pardon and told me you are sorry for your rebellious words and conduct toward me, you can eat your dinner with us."
"I don't want to go downstairs, papa," she said, turning her face away from him. "I'd rather stay here. But I should think you'd feel mean to eat all sorts of good things and give me nothing but skim-milk and that black bread."
"I give you that bread because it contains more nutriment than the white," he said. "As to the good things the rest of us may have to eat, you shall share them as soon as you are ready to submit to my authority, but not till then."
He waited a moment for a reply, but receiving none, went out and locked the door.
When he came again at tea-time, bringing a fresh supply of the same sort of fare, he found the first still untouched.
Lulu was very hungry, and really for the last hour had quite longed to eat the bread and milk, but from sheer obstinacy would not touch it. She thought if she held out long enough in her refusal to eat it, something better would be furnished her.
But now she fairly quailed before the glance of her father's eye as he set the second salver down and seating himself said, "Come here to me!"
She obeyed, looking pale and frightened.
He drew her in between his knees, put one arm round her, and taking the bowl he had just brought in the other hand, held it to her lips, with the command, "Drink this! every drop of it!"
When that was done, he commanded, "Now break this bread into that other bowl of milk, take your spoon and eat it."
Now thoroughly frightened, she did not dare disobey.
He sat and watched her till the meal was finished, she feeling that his stern eye was upon her, but never once venturing to look at him.
"Have you anything to say to me, Lucilla?" he asked as he rose to go.
"No, sir," she answered, with her eyes upon the carpet.
"My child, you are grieving me very much," he said, took up the salver and went out.
Lulu did love her father--though not nearly so well as her own self-will--and his parting words brought a gush of tears from her eyes. She was half inclined to call to him to come back, and say she would obey.
But no! her heart rose up in fierce rebellion at the thought of asking pardon of his "new wife." "I'll never do it!" she repeated half aloud, "and when I get sick and die from being kept shut up here papa will wish he hadn't tried to make me."
So she hardened her heart day after day and refused to yield.
Her fare continued the same, her father bringing it to her three times daily, now in silence, now asking if she were ready to obey.
She saw no one else but the maid who came each morning to put her room in order; except as she caught sight of one or another from the window. She liked to look at the sea and watch the vessels sailing by, but was often seized with a great longing to get down close to the waves.
After the second day she grew very, very weary of her imprisonment and indulged in frequent fits of crying as she heard the gay voices of Max and the young Travillas at sport on the veranda, in the yards below, or knew from the sound of wheels, followed by an hour or more of quiet, that drives were being taken.
She knew she was missing a great deal of enjoyment. Being of an active temperament, extremely fond of out-door exercise, made this close confinement even more irksome to her than it would have been to many another.
She had nothing to do. She had turned over the contents of her trunk several times, had found her doll, and tried to amuse herself with it, but there was little fun in that without a playmate. She had no book but her Bible, and that she did not care to read; there was too much in it to condemn her.
"Papa," she said, when he came with her breakfast on the fourth day, "mayn't I go and run on the beach for ten minutes and then come back?"
"What did I tell you about leaving this room?" he asked.
"I know you said I shouldn't do it till I asked her pardon," she replied, bursting into a fit of passionate weeping, "but I'll never do that, and if I get sick and die you'll be sorry for keeping me shut up so."
"You must not talk to your father in that impertinent manner," he said sternly. "It is not I who keep you here, it is your own self-will; and just so long as that lasts you will remain here."
"I haven't a friend in the world," she sobbed; "my own father is cruel to me since he----"
"Hush!" he said in stern indignation. "I will have no more of that impertinence! Will you force me to try the virtue of a rod with you, Lucilla?"
She started and looked up at him with frightened eyes.
"I should be very loath to do so, but advise you to be very careful how you tempt me to it any farther," he said, and left her.
He went down with a heavy heart to the breakfast-room where his wife, Max and Gracie awaited his coming.
All three greeted his entrance with loving smiles. Vi was looking very lovely, and he noticed with gratitude that Gracie's eyes were bright and her cheeks faintly tinged with pink. She was improving rapidly in the bracing sea-air and winning all hearts by her pretty ways.
She ran to meet him, crying, "Good-morning, my dear papa!"
He took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly two or three times, longing to be able to do the same by the other one upstairs, put her in her place at the table and took his own.
A tempting meal was spread upon it, but he felt that he could scarcely enjoy it because it must not be shared with Lulu.
Vi read it all in his face, and her heart bled for him. She had seen through all these days of conflict with his stubborn, rebellious child, that his heart was sore over it, though he made great efforts to appear as usual, and never spoke of Lulu except when it was quite necessary.
He had had to explain to Gracie why her sister was not to be seen, and to entreat Vi not to grieve over her unintentional share in occasioning the struggle, or let it hinder her enjoyment.
Elsie had made a generous settlement upon each of her married children; so Vi had abundant means of her own. She longed to spend some of her money on her husband's children, especially in pretty, tasteful dress for the two little girls. She asked his consent, deeming it mot right to act without it.
He seemed pleased that she had it in her heart to care for them in that way, but said nothing could be done for Lulu at present, she might do what she would for Gracie, but the expense must be his; nor could she move him from that decision.
She had begun to carry out her plans for Gracie, delighting herself in making her look as pretty as possible, and each day hoping that Lulu's submission would make it possible to do the same by her.
She knew this morning, by her husband's countenance and his coming in alone, that that hope had again failed, and her heart sank; but for his sake she assumed an air of cheerfulness and chatted of other things with a sprightliness and gayety that won him from sad thoughts in spite of himself.