Mrs. Ellsworthy kept up her offence for twenty-four hours, then she began to soften, and to agree with her husband, whose solitary remark was, “My dear, you cannot coerce the children, and upon my word it’s a plucky notion, and if those girls are brave enough to carry it out they must have real stuff in them.”
“They may have plenty of stuff, and the plan may be as plucky as you like, Joseph,” replied his excitable little wife. “I am quite willing to admire it in the abstract, but I am quite determined, if I have any influence whatever, to prevent them carrying it through.”
Then she went off to Miss Martineau, invading the schoolmistress in the sacred hour when she was engaged with her pupils. Mrs. Ellsworthy carried Miss Martineau away from her school, and shutting the door of that lady’s little parlor, clasped the governess’s thin hands, and poured her troubles into her ears.
“Joseph calls it plucky,” said Mrs. Ellsworthy at the end of her narrative.
But Miss Martineau’s face was perfectly aghast.
“Plucky!” she ejaculated. “Dear Mrs. Ellsworthy, pardon me, but your husband is a man—what can a man know about the intricate workings which go on within the breast of a perverse girl? Plucky!—I call it wicked—I call it wanting in all decorum, in all right sense. Primrose Mainwaring has disappointed me deeply; she showed undue temper when I spoke to her here the other day—oh yes, this thing must be prevented by main force, if necessary.”
Miss Martineau’s pupils could not imagine what was the matter with her that morning. She was known to be a most strict disciplinarian, she was reported to have the sharpest eyes, and the quickest ears; her pupils believed that nothing ever could pass Miss Martineau’s observation; nevertheless, after Mrs. Ellsworthy’s visit she was distrait, she was indifferent to mistakes, and she allowed her naughtiest and most troublesome scholar to gabble through her French translation without once correcting her. School over, Miss Martineau discovered that she had no appetite for her dinner; she left quite a nice little repast, cooked in French style, untasted on the table, and hurrying up to her bedroom, put on her mantle and poke bonnet and went out. She had made up her mind to visit the Mainwarings, and to expostulate with these headstrong and naughty girls on their daring scheme. “Wicked, I call it,” she ejaculated many times under her breath!—“a wicked scheme, wicked, and a tempting of Providence. Oh, my poor orphan children, I must do my utmost to prevent your having your own perverse way in this matter!”
She arrived at Woodbine Cottage to find the neat little house already in sad confusion. Hannah favored her with an expressive look, and a grave shaking of her head.
“I don’t know if they’ll see you,” she said—“they won’t see you if it is on a lecturing errand you’ve come, ma’am. Their minds is made up, ma’am, and obstinate is no word for them. Dear Miss Martineau, you means well, and you has known them most of their lives, poor darlings, so sit you down in the hall, and I’ll see if I can get them to have a word with you.”