Stammering Dan and Lulu Du Lit

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Stammering Dan Weber was a soldier long before he became a senator.  He served as a sergeant in the Indiana State Militia during the Menominee Uprising of 1843, and suffered a grave wound at the Battle of French Lick  when a fourteen and a half pound cannon ball struck his body two inches above his navel.  He was carried to a field hospital, and his torso was surgically removed.  He retired from the army as his new condition made it difficult for him to salute, point toward enemy positions, and to properly aim a rifle.

He began a prosperous career as a side show attraction after several years spent on the road in a futile search for his once beloved fiancee’, Delores Del Frio.  (She had fled French Lick shortly after visiting him in a field hospital where he lay in bed recovering from his traumatic disfigurement.)  As his enthusiasm for the entertainment profession gradually waned his interest in law grew stronger.  He intended to earn large sums of money trying medical malpractice lawsuits, to use his profits to hire Pinkerton detectives to find Delores, and to sue her for breach of promise.  Daniel believed that her flight was a cowardly abandonment of him at his lowest point, and he wanted to see her grovel in the dust as he demanded her last penny.

He studied at Harvard, and as a law student he became all too familiar with the seedier bars and clubs of Boston.  He drank to dull the chronic pain from his war wounds and to drown his spiteful longing to reunite with Delores.  One night he happened to spy Lulu Juteux, or Lulu Du Lit as she was billed on her signboard, dancing in the Chez Piaf.  Lulu’s ample beauty, for a moment, dispelled Dan’s fixation on his wayward fiancee’.  She stirred nearly forgotten feelings inside him even though he no longer had insides capable of being stirred.

Lulu was a calculating young woman with ambitions for her future.  She noticed Dan’s striking lack of physique, his persistent obsession with her figure (he sat down front at every one of her appearances), and the quality of his clothes.  She could spot a gentleman of means at fifty yards.  She invited him back stage one night for a chance to get acquainted and offered him brandy.  He sat at a little table in her dressing room and sipped his drink through a straw as she changed clothes behind a screen. She took a chair beside him after she had donned a revealing dress made of loosely woven peacock feathers.  She toyed with the curls in his hair above his ears, drank from his cup, and listened to his war stories. She kissed him on his forehead after he told her how it felt to be struck by a cannonball (“Bad–most unpleasant.”).  When the bottle was empty Dan led her away to his carriage and told his man to drive them to his rooms. They spent the night together, and in the morning he proposed marriage.

They lived happily as man and wife by following a few simple rules:  she was allowed lovers as long as she was discreet and didn’t cause a scandal;  he was the only one permitted to enjoy her dancing as long as he refrained from mentioning Delores Del Frio’s name.  Dan had confessed his lingering obsession shortly before their wedding, and Lulu had surprised herself by becoming passionately jealous of the fugitive fiancee’.

Dan became a prosperous lawyer even though he acquired the affliction of stammering when speaking in public.  He compensated by taking a ponderous long time to utter each word, and developed a reputation for gravity and wisdom as an unintended consequence.  Word of his growing stature spread beyond Boston and throughout New England, and he was eventually elected the United States Senator from Massachusetts.

He served his state and country to the best of his abilities with the support of Lulu, his beloved wife, until one fateful day in 1851.  As he delivered a speech to the Senate he happened to spy Delores Del Frio seated in the gallery.  He lost his composure, began to speak rapidly in an attempt to finish his speech quickly as possible, and stammered his way through a five minute address that should have lasted twenty.  Delores, true to her character, ran out the door as soon as Daniel spluttered the last word.

The senator, his obsession fully reawakened, would have pursued her to the ends of the earth if he hadn’t been accosted in the lobby of the Senate building by Lulu.  She too had been seated in the gallery and had seen him lose his self-command as he stared with bulging eyes at a strange woman.  Lulu knelt before him on the marble tiles as legislators and pages passed by.  She looked him in the eye and demanded, “Was that Delores?”  He nodded his great head and nearly toppled over, and then he collapsed in her arms.

She carried him home, sat him down in a kitchen chair, and left him for a week.  She considered divorce but found that she missed the sound of his rasping voice and the sight of his boulder like head.  She had grown accustomed to his pate.  When she returned she found him passed out on the kitchen table.  The floor was littered with broken bottles of brandy and bent and shredded straws.

He was never the same again.  Lulu tried to nurse him back to health, but he fell into a deep spell of melancholy and soon took to his bed.  She danced before him in an attempt to arouse his spirits, but failed.  She brought him newspapers to try to keep him interested in current events, but he let them fall from his lap unread.  She invited fellow politicians such as John C. Freemint to argue with Daniel about the state of the union, but even the most spirited repartee with his friends and rivals failed to inspire a lasting passion capable of sustaining his life.

What Lulu didn’t know, and Dan refused to tell her, was that Miss Del Frio’s unexpected visitation had filled Daniel with a hopeless longing for the simpler days he had enjoyed before the Battle of French Lick.   Her second appearance and flight dealt him his final wound, one more dire than the cannonball’s, and soon he wasted away until he was nothing more than a shriveled, gnarled head.  Lulu laid him to rest in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston.

Daniel’s widow donated a portion of his burial policy’s dispensation to a war veteran’s relief fund.  The undersized casket had cost half as much as expected.  And then she went off in search of Delores.  She didn’t know how she would manage it, but she intended to dance on Del Frio’s grave while wearing a white bustier trimmed with a beaded leather fringe.  Dan had asked her to wear it when she had shimmied for him on their wedding night, and she had, of course, complied.

 

 

 

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