"What is it, Daisy?" whispered Nora.
"Why, he has got a letter," said Daisy.
"Is that newspaper the letter?"
"Make believe it is," said Daisy.
"But what are they doing?"
"Why, this man, Bassanio, has just got a letter that says his dearest friend is going to be killed, because he owes money that he cannot pay; and as the money was borrowed for his own sake, of course he feels very badly about it."
"But people are not killed because they cannot pay money," said Nora. "I have seen people come to papa for money, and they didn't do anything to him because he hadn't it."
"No, but those were different times," said Daisy, "and Bassanio lived in a different country. His friend owed money to a dreadful man, who was going to cut out two pounds of his flesh to pay for it. So of course that would kill him."
"Oh, look at Theresa now!" said Nora.
The young lady had brought her muscles into order; and being clever enough in her merry way, she had taken the look of the character and was giving it admirably. It was hardly Theresa; her moveable face was composed to such an expression of simple inquiry and interest and affectionate concern. The spectators applauded eagerly; but Nora whispered, "What does she look like that, for?"
"Why, it's the picture," said Daisy.
"But what does she look so for?"
"She is Bassanio's wife they have just got married; and she looks so because he looks so, I suppose. She does not know what is in the letter."
"Is he going to tell her?"
"Not in the picture " said Daisy, feeling a little amused at Nora's simplicity. "He did tell her in the story."
"But why don't we have all the story?" insisted Nora.
"Oh, these are only pictures, you know; that is all; people dressed up to look like pictures."
"They don't look like pictures a bit, I think," said Nora; "they look just like people."
Daisy thought so too, but had some faith in Preston's and Mrs. Sandford's powers of transforming and mystifying the present very natural appearance of the performers. ]However, she was beginning to be of the opinion that it was good fun even now.
"Now, Daisy, come, we must practise putting you in position," said Mrs. Sandford. "We will take something easy first what shall it be? Come! we will try Priscilla's courtship. Where is your John Alden, Preston?"
Preston quietly moved forward Alexander Fish and seated him. Daisy began to grow warm with trepidation.
"You must let your hair grow, Sandie and comb out your long curls into your neck; so, do you see? And you will have to have a dress as much as Priscilla. This tableau will be all in the dress, Mrs. Sandford."
"We will have it. That is easy."
"Now, Alexander, look here, at the picture. Take that attitude as nearly as you can, and I will stroke you into order. That is pretty well, lean over a little more with that elbow on your knee, you must be very much in earnest."
"What am I doing?" said Alexander, breaking from his prescribed attitude to turn round and face the company.
"You are making love to Priscilla; but the joke is, you have been persuaded to do it for somebody else, when all the time you would like to do it for yourself."
"I wouldn't be such a gumph as that!" muttered Alexander, as he fell back into position. "Who am I, to begin with?"
"A highly respectable old Puritan. The lady was surprised at him and he came to his senses, but that is not in the picture. Now Daisy take that chair a little nearer you are to have your hand on your spinning wheel, you know; I have got a dear little old spinning wheel at home for you, that was used by my grandmother. You must look at Alexander a little severely, for he is doing what you did not expect of him, and you think he ought to know better. That attitude is very good. But you must look at him, Daisy! Don't let your eyes go down."
There was a decided disposition to laugh among the company looking on, which might have been fatal to the Puritan picture had not Preston and Mrs. Sandford energetically crushed it. Happily Daisy was too much occupied with the difficulty of her own immediate situation to discover how the bystanders were affected; she did not know what was the effect of her pink little cheeks and very demure downcast eyes. In fact Daisy had gone to take her place in the picture with something scarcely less than horror; only induced to do it, by her greater horror of making a fuss and so showing the feeling which she knew would be laughed at if shown. She showed it now, poor child; how could she help it? she showed it by her unusually tinged cheeks and by her persistent down-looking eyes. It was very difficult indeed to help it; for if she ventured to look at Alexander she caught impertinent little winks, most unlike John Alden or any Puritan, which he could execute with impunity because his face was mostly turned from the audience; but which Daisy took in full.
"Lift your eyes, Daisy! your eyes! Priscilla was too much astonished not to look at her lover. You may be even a little indignant, if you choose. I am certain she was."
Poor Daisy it was a piece of the fortitude that belonged to her thus urged, did raise her eyes and bent upon her winking coadjutor a look so severe in its childish distaste and disapproval that there was a unanimous shout of applause. "Capital, Daisy! capital!" cried Preston. "If you only look it like that, we shall do admirably. It will be a tableau indeed. There, get up you shall not practise any more just now."
"It will be very fine," said Mrs. Sandford.
"Daisy, I did not think you were such an actress," said Theresa. "It would have overset me, if I had been John Alden " remarked Hamilton Rush.
Daisy withdrew into the background as fast as possible, and as far as possible from Alexander.
"Do you like to do it, Daisy?" whispered Nora.
"Are you going to have a handsome dress for that?"
"What sort, then?"
"Like the picture."
"Well what is that?"
"Brown, with a white vandyke."
"Vandyke? what is a vandyke?"
"Hush," said Daisy; "let us look."
Frederica Fish was to personify Lady Jane Grey, at the moment when the nobles of her family and party knelt before her to offer her the crown. As Frederica was a, fair, handsome girl, without much animation, this part suited her; she had only to be dressed and sit still. Mrs. Sandford threw some rich draperies round her figure, and twisted a silk scarf about the back of her head; and the children exclaimed at the effect produced. That was to be a rich picture, for of course the kneeling nobles were to be in costly and picturesque attire; and a crown was to be borne on a cushion before them. A book did duty for it just now, on a couch pillow.
"That is what I should like " said Nora. "I want to be dressed and look so."
"You will be dressed to be one of the queen's women in Esther and Ahasuerus, you know."
"But the queen will be dressed more won't she?"
"Yes, I suppose she will."
"I should like to be the queen; that is what I should like to be."
Daisy made no answer. She thought she would rather Nora should not be the queen.
"Doesn't she look beautiful?" Nora went on, referring again to Frederica.
Which Frederica did. The tableau was quite pretty, even partially dressed and in this off-hand way as it was.
Next Mrs. Sandford insisted on dressing Daisy as Fortitude. She had seen, perhaps, a little of the child's discomposure, and wished to make her forget it. In this tableau Daisy would be quite alone; so she was not displeased to let the lady do what she chose with her. She stood patiently, while Mrs. Sandford wound a long shawl skilfully around her, bringing it into beautiful folds like those in Sir Joshua Reynolds' painting; then she put a boy's cap, turned the wrong way, on her head, to do duty for a helmet, and fixed a nodding plume of feathers in it. Daisy then was placed in the attitude of the picture, and the whole little assembly shouted with delight.
"It will do, Mrs. Sandford," said Preston.
"Isn't it pretty?" said the lady.
"And Daisy does it admirably," said Theresa. "You are a fairy at dressing, Mrs. Sandford; your fingers are better than a fairy's wand. I wish you were my godmother; I shouldn't despair to ride yet in a coach and six. There are plenty of pumpkins in a field near our house, and plenty of rats in the house itself. Oh, Mrs. Sandford! let us have Cinderella!"
"What, for a tableau?"
"You must ask the manager. I do not know anything about that."
Preston and Theresa and Hamilton and Alexander now went into an eager discussion of this question, and before it was settled the party discovered that it was time to break up.
CHARITY AND VANITY.
"Well, Daisy," said Mr. Randolph that evening, "how do you like your new play that you are all so busy about?"
"I like it pretty well, papa."
"Only pretty well! Is that the most you can say of it? I understood that it was supposed to be an amusement of a much more positive character."
"Papa, it is amusing but it has its disagreeablenesses."
"Has it? What can they be? Or has everything pleasant its dark side?"
"I don't know, papa."
"What makes the shadows in this instance?"
It seemed not just easy for Daisy to tell, for her father saw that she looked puzzled how to answer.
"Papa, I think it is because people do not behave perfectly well."
It was quite impossible for Mr. Randolph to help bursting into a laugh at this; but he put his arms round Daisy and kissed her very affectionately at the same time.
"How does their ill behaviour affect your pleasure, Daisy?"
"Papa you know I have to play with them."
"Yes, I understand that. What do they do?"
"It isn't they, papa. It is only Alexander Fish or at least it is he most."
"What does he do?"
"Papa we are in a tableau together."
"Yes. You and he?"
"Yes, papa. And it is very disagreeable."
"Pray how, Daisy?" said Mr. Randolph, commanding his features with some difficulty. "What is the tableau?"
"Papa, you know the story of Priscilla?"
"I do not think I do. What Priscilla?"
"Priscilla and John Alden. It is in a book of engravings."
"Oh! the courtship of Miles Standish?"
"Miles Standish was his friend, papa."
"Yes, I know now. And are you Priscilla?"
"And who is Miles Standish?"
"Oh, nobody; he is not in the picture; it is John Alden."
"I think I remember. Who is John Alden, then?"
"Papa, they have put Alexander Fish in, because he has long curling hair; but I think Preston's hair would do a great deal better."
"Preston is under some obligation to the others, I suppose, because he is manager. But how does Alexander Fish abuse his privileges?"
"Papa," said Daisy, unwillingly, "his face is turned away from the other people, so that nobody can see it but me; and he winks."
Daisy brought out the last word with an accession of gravity impossible fully to describe. Mr. Randolph's mouth twitched; he bent his head down upon Daisy's, that she might not see it.
"That is very rude of him, Daisy," he said.
"Papa," said Daisy, who did not relish the subject, and chose a departure, "what is a Puritan?"
"Yes, papa. What is it? Priscilla was a Puritan."
"That was a name given to a class of people in England a long time ago."
"What did it mean?"
"They were a stiff set of people, Daisy; good enough people in their way, no doubt, but very absurd in it also."
"What did they do, papa?"
"Concluded to do without whatever is graceful and beautiful and pleasant, in dress or arts or manners. The more disagreeable they made life, they thought it was the better."
"Why were they called that name? Were they purer than other people?"
"I believe they thought themselves so."
"I think they look nice in the picture," said Daisy, meditatively. "Are there any Puritans now, papa?"
"There are people that are called Puritans. It is a term apt to be applied to people that are stiff in their religion."
"Papa," said Daisy when an interval of five minutes had passed, "I do not see how people can be stiff in their religion."
"Don't you. Why not?"
"Papa, I do not see how it can be stiff, to love God and do what He says."
"No " said Mr. Randolph; "but people can be stiff in ways of their own devising."
"Ways that are not in the Bible, papa?"
"But papa, it cannot be stiff to do what God says we must do?"
"No, of course not," said Mr. Randolph, getting up.
He left her, and Daisy sat meditating; then with a glad heart ran off and ordered her pony-chaise. If tableaux were to be the order of the day every afternoon, she must go to see Molly in the morning. This time she had a good deal to carry and to get ready. Molly was in want of bread. A nice little loaf, fresh baked, was supplied by Joanna, along with some cold rolls.
"She will like those, I dare say," said Daisy. "I dare say she never saw rolls in her life before. Now she wants some meat, Joanna. There was nothing but a little end of cold pork on the dish in her cupboard."
"Why, I wonder who cooks for the poor wretch?" said Joanna.
"I think she cooks for herself, because she has a stove, and I saw iron things and pots to cook with. But she can't do much, Joanna, and I don't believe she knows how."
"Sick, is she too?" said Joanna.
"Sick with rheumatism, so that she did not like to stir."
"I guess I must go take a look at her; but maybe she mightn't let me. Well, Miss Daisy, the way will be for you to tell me what she wants, if you can find out. She must have neighbours, though, that take care of her."
"We are her neighbours," said Daisy.
Joanna looked, a look of great complacency and some wonder, at the child; and packed forthwith into Daisy's basket the half of a cold chicken and a broken peach-pie. A bottle of milk Daisy particularly desired, and a little butter; and she set off at last, happier than a queen Esther or any other to go to Molly with her supplies.
She found not much improvement in the state of affairs. Molly was gathered up on her hearth near the stove, in which she had made a fire; but it did not appear, for all that Daisy could see, that anything else had been done, or any breakfast eaten that morning. The cripple seemed to be in a down-hearted and hopeless state of mind; and no great wonder.
"Molly, would you like another cup of tea?" said her little friend.
"Yes, it's in there. You fix it," said the poor woman, pointing as before to the cupboard, and evidently comforted by Daisy's presence and proposal. Daisy could hear it in the tone of her voice. So, greatly pleased herself, Daisy went to work in Molly's house just as if she was at home. She fetched water in the kettle again and made up the fire. While that was getting ready, she set the table for breakfast. The only table that Molly could use was a piece of board nailed on a chair. On this Daisy put her plate and cup and saucer, and with secret glee arranged the cold chicken and loaf of bread. For the cupboard, as she saw, was as empty as she had found it two days before. What Molly had lived on in the mean time was simply a mystery to Daisy. To be sure, the end of cold pork was gone, the remains of the cake had disappeared, and nothing was left of the peaches but the stones. The tea-kettle did not boil for a time; and Daisy looked uneasily at Molly's cup and saucer and plate meanwhile. They had not been washed, Daisy could not guess for how long; certainly no water had touched them since the tea of two nights ago, for the cake crumbs and peach stones told the tale. Daisy looked at them with a great feeling of discomfort. She could not bear to see them so; they ought to be washed; but Daisy disliked the idea of touching them for that purpose more than I can make you understand. In all matters of nicety and cleanliness Daisy was notional; nothing suited her but the most fastidious particularity. It had been a trial to her to bring those unwashed things from the cupboard. Now she sat and looked at them; uneasily debating what she should do. It was not comfortable, that Molly should take her breakfast off them as they were; and Molly was miserable herself, and would do nothing to mend matters. And then "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you," As soon as that came fairly into Daisy's head, she knew what she ought to be about. Not without an inward sigh, she gathered up the pieces again.
"What you going to do?" said Molly.
"I'll bring them back," said Daisy. "I will be ready directly. The water is not boiling yet."
For she saw that Molly was jealously eager for the hoped-for cup of tea. She carried the things out into the shed, and there looked in vain for any dish or vessel to wash them in. How could it be that Molly managed? Daisy was fain to fetch a little bowl of water and wash the crockery with her fingers, and then fetch another bowl of water to rinse it. There was no napkin to be seen. She left the things to drain as they could, and went to the spring to wash her own fingers; rejoicing in the purifying properties of the sweet element. All this took some time, but Daisy carried in her clean dishes with a satisfied heart.
"It's bi'lin', " said Molly, as soon as she entered.
So the little kettle was. Daisy made tea, and prepared Molly's table with a little piece of butter and the bottle of milk. And no little girl making an entertainment for herself with tiny china cups and tea-set, ever had such satisfaction in it. Twenty dinners at home could not have given Daisy so much pleasure, as she had now to see the poor cripple look at her unwonted luxuries, and then to see her taste them. Yet Molly said almost nothing; but the grunt of new expression with which she set down the bottle of milk the first time, went all through and through Daisy's heart with delight. Molly drank tea and spread her bread with butter, and Daisy noticed her turning over her slice of bread to examine the texture of it; and a quieter, soothed, less miserable look, spread itself over her wrinkled features. They were not wrinkled with age; yet it was a lined and seamed face generally, from the working of unhappy and morose feelings.
"Ain't it good! " was Molly's single word of comment as she finished her meal. Then she sat back and watched Daisy putting all the things nicely away. She looked hard at her.
"What you fetch them things here for?" she broke out suddenly. "H n?"
The grunt with which her question concluded was so earnest in its demand of an answer, that Daisy stopped.
"Why, I like to do it, Molly," she said. Then seeing the intent eyes with which the poor creature was examining her, Daisy added, "I like to do it; because Jesus loves you."
"H n?" said Molly, very much at a loss what this might mean, and very eager to know. Daisy stood still, with the bread in her hands.
"Don't you know, Molly?" she said. "He does. It is. Jesus, that I told you about. He loves you, and He came and died for you, that He might make you good and save you from your sins; and He loves you now, up in heaven."
"What's that?" said Molly.
"Heaven? that is where God lives, and the angels, and good people."
"There ain't none," said Molly.
"There ain't no good people."
"Oh, yes, there are. When they are washed in Jesus' blood, then they are good. He will take away all their sins."
Molly was silent for a moment, and Daisy resumed her work of putting things away; but as she took the peach pie in her hands, Molly burst out again.
"What you bring them things here for?"
Daisy stopped again.
"I think it is because Jesus is my King," she said, "and I love Him. And I love what He loves, and so I love you, Molly."
Daisy looked very childish and very wise, as she said this; but over Molly's face there came a great softening change. The wrinkles seemed to disappear; she gazed at Daisy steadily, as if trying to find out what it all meant: and when the eyes presently were cast down, Daisy almost thought there was a little moisture about them. She had no further interruption in her work. The dishes were all put away, and then she brought her book. Daisy had her Bible with her this time, that she might give Molly more than her own words. And Molly she found as ready to listen as could be desired. And she was persistent in desiring to hear only of that incredible Friend of whom Daisy had told her. That name she wanted; wherever that name came in, Molly sat silent and attentive; if the narrative lost it, she immediately quickened Daisy's memory to the knowledge of the fact that nothing else would do. At last Daisy proposed that Molly herself should learn to read. Molly stared very hopelessly at first; but after getting more accustomed to the idea, and hearing from Daisy that it was by no means an impossible thing, and further that, if she could learn to read, the Bible would be forthcoming for her own use, she took up the notion with an eagerness far exceeding all that Daisy had hoped for. She said very little about it; nevertheless it was plain that a root of hope had struck down into the creature's heart. Daisy taught her two letters, A and B, and then was obliged to go home.
It was quite time, for little Daisy was tired. She was not accustomed to making fires and boiling kettles, neither to setting tables and washing dishes. Yet it was not merely, nor so much, the bodily exertion she had made, as the mind work. The excitement both of pleasure and responsibility and eager desire. Altogether, Daisy was tired; and sat back in her chaise, letting the reins hangs languidly in her hands and Loupe go how he would. But Loupe judged it was best to get home and have some refreshment, so he bestirred himself. Daisy had time to lie down a little while before her dinner; nevertheless she was languid and pale, and disposed to take all the rest of the day very quietly.
The rest of the day was of course devoted to the tableaux. The little company had got warmed to the subject pretty well at the first meeting; they all came together this fine afternoon with spirits in tone for business. And Daisy, though she was tired, presently found her own interest drawn in. She was not called upon immediately to take any active part; she perched herself in the corner of a couch, and looked on and listened. Thither came Nora Dinwiddie, too much excited to sit down, and stood by Daisy's elbow. They had been practising "Alfred in the neatherd's cottage;" Nora had been called upon to be the girl blowing the burnt cakes; she had done it, and everybody had laughed, but the little lady was not pleased.
"I know I look horrid!" she said to Daisy, "puffing out my cheeks till they are like a pair of soapbubbles!"
"But soapbubbles are not that colour," said Daisy. "Your cheeks didn't look like soapbubbles."
"Yes, they did. They looked horrid, I know."
"But the picture is so," urged Daisy, quietly. "You want to be like the picture."
"No, I don't. Not that picture. I would like to be something handsome. I don't like that picture."
Daisy was silent, and Nora pouted.
"What are you going to be, Daisy?" said Ella Stanfield.
"I am going to be Priscilla. No, I don't know whether I am or not; but I am going to be Fortitude, I believe."
"That's pretty," said Ella. "What else? Oh, you are going to be the angel, aren't you? I wonder if that will be pretty. It will be queer. Nora, shall you like to be one of the little princes in the Tower? with that feather-bed coming over us? But we shall not see it, I suppose, because our eyes have got to be shut; but I shall be afraid every minute they will let it fall on us."
"My eyes won't be shut," said Nora.
"Oh, they must. You know, the little princes were asleep, when the men came to kill them. Your eyes must be shut and you must be asleep. Oh, what are they doing to Theresa?"
"Dressing her " said Daisy.
"What is she going to be?"
"Portia " said Daisy.
"Isn't that beautiful! " said Nora, with a deep breath. "Oh, what a splendid dress! How rich-looking it is. What a lovely purple. Oh, how beautiful Theresa is in it. Oh! Isn't that splen did?"
A very prolonged, though low, breath of admiring wonder testified to the impressive power, upon the children at least, of Theresa's new habiliments. The purple brocade was upon her; its full draperies swept the ground in gorgeous colouring; a necklace of cameos was bound with great effect upon her hair; and on the arms, which were half bare, Mrs. Sandford was clasping gold and glittering jewels. Theresa threw herself slightly back in her prescribed attitude, laid her arms lightly across each other, and turned her head with a very saucy air towards the companion figure, supposed to be Bassanio. All the others laughed and clapped her.
"Not that, Theresa, not that; you have got the wrong picture. You are going with the Prince of Arragon now, to the caskets; and you ought to be anxiously asking Bassanio about his letter."
Theresa changed attitude and expression on the instant; bent slightly forward, lost her sauciness, and laid her hand upon Bassanio's arm with a grave, tender look of inquiry. They all shouted again.
"Bravo, Theresa! capital!" said Preston.
"Hamilton, can you act up to that?" said Mrs. Sandford.
"Wait till I get my robes on, ma'am. I can make believe a great deal easier when I am under the persuasion that it is not me Hamilton Rush."
"I'd like to see Frederica do as well as that," said Alexander Fish, in a fit of brotherly concern.
"Let us try her " said good-natured Mrs. Sandford. Mrs. Sandford certainly was good-natured, for she had all the dressing to do. She did it well, and very patiently.
"There," said Nora, when Ella had left the couch to go to her sister, "that is what I like. Didn't she look beautiful, Daisy?"
"Her dress looked beautiful " said Daisy.
"Well, of course; and that made her look beautiful. Daisy, I wish I could have a nice part. I would like to be the queen in that fainting picture."
"You are going to be in that picture."
"But, I mean, I would like to be the queen. She will have the best dress, won't she?"
"I suppose she will be the most dressed," said Daisy.
"I don't want to be one of the women I want to be the queen. Hamilton Rush said I would be the best one for it, because she was a Jewess; and I am the only one that has got black eyes and hair."
"But her eyes will not be seen," said Daisy. "She is fainting. When people faint, they keep their eyes shut."
"Yes, but I am the only one that has got black hair. That will show. Her hair ought to be black."
"Why, will not other hair do just as well?" said Daisy.
"Why, because she was a Jewess."
"Do Jewesses always have black hair?"
"Of course they ought to have black hair," said Nora; "or Hamilton Rush would not have said that. And my hair is black."
Daisy was silent. She said nothing to this proposition. The children were both silenced for a little while the practising for "Marie Antoinette" was going on. The principal part in this was taken by Frederica, who was the beauty of the company. A few touches of Mrs. Sandford's skilful hands transformed her appearance wonderfully. She put on an old- fashioned straight gown, which hung in limp folds around her; and Mrs. Sandford arranged a white handkerchief over her breast, tying it in the very same careless loose knot represented in the picture; but her management of Frederica's hair was the best thing. Its soft fair luxuriance was, no one could tell how, made to assume the half-dressed, half- undressed air of the head in Delaroche's picture; and Frederica looked the part well.
"She should throw her head a little more back," whispered Hamilton Rush to the manager; "her head or her shoulders. She is not quite indignant enough."
"That handkerchief in her hand is not right " said Preston, in a responding whisper. "You see to it while I get into disguise.
"That handkerchief, Mrs. Sandford " Hamilton said, softly.
"Yes. Frederica, your hand with the pocket-handkerchief, it is not quite the thing."
"You hold it like a New York lady."
"How should I hold it?"
"Like a French queen, whose Austrian fingers may hold anything any way." This was Hamilton's dictum.
"But how do I hold it?"
"You have picked it up in the middle, and show all the flower work in the corners."
"You hold it too daintily, Frederica," said Theresa. "You must grasp it grasp it loosely but as the distinguished critic who has last spoken has observed."
Frederica dropped her handkerchief, and picked it up again exactly as she had it before.
"Try again " said Mrs. Sandford. "Grasp it, as Theresa says. Never mind how you are taking it up."
"Must I throw it down again?"
"If you please."
"Take it up any way but in the middle," said Hamilton.
Down went the handkerchief on a chair, and then Frederica's fingers took it up, delicately, and with a little shake displayed as before what Hamilton called the flowers in the corners. It was the same thing. They all smiled.
"She can't hold a handkerchief any but the one way I don't believe," said her brother Alexander.
"Isn't it right?" said Frederica.
"Perfect, I presume, for Madison Square or Fifth Avenue but not exactly for a revolutionary tribunal," said Hamilton.
"What is the difference?"
"Ah, that is exactly what it is so hard to get at. Hollo! Preston is it Preston? Can't be better, Preston. Admirable! admirable!"
"Well, Preston, I do not know you!" said Mrs. Sandford.
Was it Preston? Daisy could hardly believe her ears. Her eyes certainly told her another story. Was it Preston? in the guise and with the face of an extremely ugly old woman vicious and malignant, who? taking post near the deposed queen, peered into her face with spiteful curiosity and exultation. Not a trace of likeness to Preston could Daisy see. She half rose up to look at him in her astonishment. But the voice soon declared that it was no other than her cousin.
"Come," said he, while they were all shouting, "fall in. You, Hamilton, and Theresa, come and take your positions."
Hamilton, with a glance at the picture, went behind Preston; and putting on a savage expression, thrust his clenched fist out threateningly towards the dignified figure of Frederica; while Theresa, stealing up into the group, put her hands upon a chair-back to steady herself and bent towards the queen a look of mournful sympathy and reverence, that in the veritable scene and time represented would undoubtedly have cost the young lady her life. The performers were good; the picture was admirable. There was hardly anybody left to look when George Linwood and Alexander had taken post as the queen's guards; and to say truth they did not in their present state of undisguised individuality add much to the effect; but Mrs. Sandford declared the tableau was very fine, and could be made perfect.
The question of Cinderella came up then; and there was a good deal of talk. Finally it was decided that little Ella should be Cinderella, and Eloise the fairy godmother, and Jane Linwood and Nora the wicked sisters. A little practising was tried, to get them in order. Then Esther was called for. Daisy submitted.
Hamilton Rush was made magnificent and kingly by a superb velvet mantle and turbaned crown the latter not perfect, but improvised for the occasion. For a sceptre he held out a long wooden ruler this time; but Preston promised a better one should be provided. The wooden ruler was certainly not quite in keeping with the king's state, or the queen's. Daisy was robed in a white satin dress of her mother's; much too long, of course, but that added to the rich effect; it lay in folds upon the floor. Her head was covered with a rose-coloured silken scarf wound artistically round it, and the ends floating away; and upon this drapery diamonds were bound, that sparkled very regally over Daisy's forehead. But this was only the beginning. A zone of brilliants at her waist made the white satin dazzling, and gathered its folds together; bracelets of every colour and of great beauty loaded Daisy's little arms; till she was, what Mrs. Sandford had said Esther must be, a spot of brilliancy. Her two maids, Nora and Jane Linwood, at this time were not robed in any other than their ordinary attire; perhaps that was one reason why their maintenance of their characters was not quite so perfect as that of the principal two. Hamilton stretched forward his wooden sceptre to the queen with benignant haste and dignity. Daisy, only too glad to shrink away, closed her eyes and lay back in the arms of her attendants in a manner that was really very satisfactory. But the attendants themselves were not in order.
"Jane, you must not laugh " said her brother.
"I ain't laughing!"
"Yes, but you were."
"The queen is fainting, you know," said Mrs. Sandford. "You are one of her maids, and you are very much distressed about it."
"I am not distressed a bit. I don't care."
"Nora, do not forget that you are another attendant. Your business is with your mistress. You must be looking into her face, to see if she is really faint, or if you can perceive signs of mending. You must look very anxious."
But Nora looked very cross; and as Jane persisted in giggling, the success of that picture was not quite excellent this time.
"Nora is the most like a Jewess " Theresa remarked.
"Oh, Nora will make a very good maid of honour by and by," Mrs. Sandford replied.
But Nora had her own thoughts.
"Daisy, how shall I be dressed?" she inquired, when Daisy was disrobed of her magnificence and at leisure to talk.
"I don't know. Oh, in some nice way," said Daisy, getting into her corner of the couch again.
"Yes, but shall I shall Jane and I have bracelets, and a girdle, and something on our heads too?"
"No, I suppose not. The queen, of course, is most dressed, Nora; you know she must be."
"I should like to have one dress," said Nora. "I am not anything at all. All the fun is in the dress. You are to have four dresses."
"Well, so are you to have four."
"No, I am not. What four?"
"This one, you know; and Red Riding-hood and the Princes in the Tower and Cinderella."
"I am to be only one of the ugly sisters in Cinderella I don't believe aunt Frances will give her much of a dress; and I hate Red Riding-hood; and the Princes in the Tower are not to be dressed at all. They are covered up with the bed- clothes."
"Nora," said Daisy, softly, "would you like to be dressed as John Alden?"
"As what?" said Nora, in no very accommodating tone of voice.
"John Alden that Puritan picture, you know, with the spinning-wheel. I am to be Priscilla."
"A boy! Do you think I would be dressed like a boy?" cried Nora, in dudgeon. And Daisy thought she would not, if the question were asked her; and had nothing more to answer.
So the practising went on, with good success on the whole. The little company met every other day; and dresses were making, and postures were studied, and costumes were considered and re-considered. Portia and Bassanio got to be perfect. So did Alfred in the neatherd's cottage very nearly. Nora, however she grumbled, blew her cakes energetically; Preston and Eloise made a capital old man and woman, she with a mutch cap and he with a bundle of sticks on his head; while Alexander Fish, with his long hair and rather handsome face, sat very well at the table hearing his rebuke for letting the cakes burn. Alexander was to have a six-foot bow in hand, which he and Hamilton were getting ready; and meanwhile practised with an umbrella. But the tableau was very good. Most of the others went very well. Still Daisy was greatly tried by John Alden's behaviour, and continued to look so severe in the picture as to draw out shouts of approving laughter from the company, who did not know that; Alexander Fish was to be thanked for it. And Nora was difficult to train in Queen Esther. She wore obstinately a look of displeased concern for herself, and no concern at all for her fainting mistress. Which, on the whole, rather impaired the unity of the action, and the harmony of the general effect.
"How is your task proceeding?" Mrs. Randolph asked one evening, when Mrs. Sandford was staying to tea.
"Excellently well. We shall make a good thing, I confidently expect."
"Hamilton is a good actor," said Preston.
"And Master Gary also," said Mrs. Sandford. "Your old French wife is perfect, Preston."
"Much obliged, ma'am."
"Not to me. My dressing has nothing to do with that. But Preston, what shall we do with Frederica's handkerchief? She can not hold it right."
"Like a queen " said Preston. "I do not know unless we could scare her out of her propriety. A good fright would do it, I think. But then the expression would not suit. How is the Game, Mrs. Sandford?"
"Perfect! admirable! You and Hamilton do it excellently and Daisy is a veritable angel."
"How does she like it all?" Mrs. Randolph inquired.
"Aunt Felicia, she is as much engaged as anybody."
"And plays as well," added Mrs. Sandford.
"She has found out to-day, aunt Felicia," Preston went on, speaking rather low, "that she ought to have a string of red stones round her head instead of white ones."
Mrs. Randolph smiled.
"She was quite right," said Mrs. Sandford. "It was a matter of colour, and she was quite right. She was dressed for Queen Esther, and I made her look at herself to take the effect; and she suggested, very modestly, that stones of some colour would do better than diamonds round her head. So I substituted some very magnificent rubies of yours, Mrs. Randolph; quite to Daisy's justification."
"Doesn't she make a magnificent little 'Fortitude,' though!" said Eloise.
"The angel will be the best," said Mrs. Sandford. "She looks so naturally troubled. But we have got a good band of workers. Theresa Stanfield is very clever."
"It will do Daisy a world of good," said Mrs. Gary.
All this while Daisy's days were divided. Silks and jewels and pictures and practising, in one part; in the other part, the old cripple Molly Skelton, and her basket of bread and fruit, and her reading in the Bible. For Daisy attended as regularly to the one as to the other set of interests, and more frequently; for the practising party met only three times a week, but Daisy went to Molly every day.
Molly was not sick now. Daisy's good offices in the material line were confined to supplying her with nice bread and butter and fruit and milk, with many varieties beside. But in that day or two of rheumatic pains, when Molly had been waited upon by the dainty little handmaiden who came in spotless frocks and trim little black shoes to make her fire and prepare her tea, Daisy's tenderness and care had completely won Molly's heart. She was a real angel in that poor house; no vision of one. Molly welcomed her so, looked at her so, and would perhaps have obeyed her as readily. But Daisy offered no words that required obedience, except those she read out of the Book; and Molly listened to them as if it had been the voice of an angel. She was learning to read herself; really learning: making advances every day that showed diligent interest; and the interest was fed by those words she daily listened to out of the same book. Daisy had got a large-print Testament for her at Crum Elbow; and a new life had begun for the cripple. The rose-bush and the geranium flourished brilliantly, for the frosts had not come yet; and they were a good setting forth of how things were going in the house.
One lovely October afternoon, when air and sky were a breath and vision of delight, after a morning spent in dressing and practising, Daisy went to Molly. She went directly after luncheon. She had given Molly her lesson; and then Daisy sat with a sober little face, her finger between the leaves of the Bible, before beginning her accustomed reading. Molly eyed her wistfully.
"About the crowns and the white dresses," she suggested.
"Shall I read about those?" said Daisy. And Molly nodded. And with her little face exceedingly grave and humble, Daisy read the seventh chapter of the Revelation, and then the twenty- first chapter, and the twenty second; and then she sat with her finger between the leaves as before, looking out of the window.
"Will they all be sealed?" said Molly, breaking the silence.
"What is that?"
"I don't know exactly. It will be a mark of all the people that love Jesus."
"A mark in their foreheads?"
"Yes, it says so."
"I don't know, Molly; it says, 'His name shall be in their foreheads.' " And Daisy's eyes became full of tears.
"How will that be?"
"I don't know, Molly; it don't tell. I suppose that everybody that looks at them will know in a minute that they belong to Jesus."
Daisy's hand went up and brushed across her eyes; and then did it again.
"Do they belong to Him?" asked Molly.
"Oh, yes! Here it is don't you remember? 'they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' "
"So they are white, then?" said Molly.
"Yes. And His mark is on them."
"I wish," said the cripple, slowly and thoughtfully, "I wish 'twas on me. I do!"
I do not think Daisy could speak at this. She shut her book and got up and looked at Molly, who had put her head down on her folded arms; and then she opened Molly's Testament and pressed her arm to make her look. Still Daisy did not speak; she had laid her finger under some of the words she had been reading; but when Molly raised her head she remembered the sense of them could not be taken by the poor woman's eyes. So Daisy read them, looking with great tenderness in the cripple's face.
" 'I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.' That is what it says, Molly."
"Why, Jesus says it. He came and died to buy the life for us and now He will give it to us, He says, if we want it."
"What life?" said Molly, vaguely.
"Why, that, Molly; that which you were wishing for. He will forgive us, and make us good, and set His mark upon us; and then we shall wear those robes that are made white in His blood, and be with Him in heaven. And that is life."
"You and me?" said Molly.
"Oh, yes! Molly anybody. It says 'whosoever is athirst.' "
"Where's the words?" said Molly.
Daisy showed her; and Molly made a deep mark in the paper under them with her nail; so deep as to signify that she meant to have them for present study or future reference or both. Then, as Molly seemed to have said her say, Daisy said no more and went away.
It was still not late in the afternoon; and Daisy drove on, past the Melbourne gates, and turned the corner into the road which led to Crum Elbow. The air was as clear as October could have it; and soft, neither warm nor cold; and the roads were perfect; and here and there a few yellow and red maple leaves, and in many places a brown stubble field, told that autumn was come. It was as pleasant a day for a drive as could possibly be; and yet Daisy's face was more intent upon her pony's ears than upon any other visible thing. She drove on towards Crum Elbow, but before she reached it she turned another corner, and drew up before Juanita's house.
It was not the first visit she had made here since going home; though Daisy had in truth not come often nor stayed long. All the more glad were Juanita and she to see each other now. Daisy took off her flat and sat down on the old chintz couch, with a face of content. Yet it was grave content; not joyous at all. So Juanita's keen eyes saw, through all the talking which went on. Daisy and she had a great deal to say to each other; and among other things the story of Molly came in, and was enlarged upon; though Daisy left most of her own doings to be guessed at. She did not tell them more than she could well help. However, talk went on a good while, and still when it paused Daisy's face looked thoughtful and careful. So Juanita saw.
"Is my love quite well?"
"Oh, yes, Juanita. I am quite well. I think I am getting strong, a little."
Juanita's thanksgiving was earnest. Daisy looked very sober.
"Juanita, I have been wanting to talk to you."
Now they had been talking a good deal; but this, the black woman saw, was not what Daisy meant.
"What is it, my love?"
"I don't know, Juanita. I think I am puzzled."
The fine face of Mrs. Benoit looked gravely attentive, and a little anxiously watchful of Daisy's.
"The best way will be to tell you. Juanita, they are I mean, we are playing pictures at home."
"What is that, Miss Daisy?"
"Why, they take pictures pictures in books, you know and dress up people like the people in the pictures, and make them stand so, or sit so, and look so, as the people in the pictures do; and so they make a picture of living people."
"Yes, Miss Daisy."
"They are playing pictures at home. I mean, we are. Mamma is going to give a great party next week; and the pictures are to be all made and shown at the party. There are twelve pictures; and they will be part of the entertainment. There is to be a gauze stretched over the door of the library, and the pictures are to be seen behind the gauze."
"And does Miss Daisy like the play?" the black woman inquired, not lightly.
"Yes, Juanita I like some things about it. It is very amusing. There are some things I do not like."
"Did Miss Daisy wish to talk to me about those things she not like?"
"I don't know, Juanita no, I think not. Not about those things. But I do not exactly know about myself."
"What Miss Daisy not know about herself?"
"I do not know exactly whether it is right."
"Whether what be right, my love?"
Daisy was silent at first, and looked puzzled.
"Juanita I mean I don't know whether I am right."
"Will my love tell what she mean?"
"It is hard, Juanita. But I don't think I am quite right. I want you to tell me what to do."
Daisy's little face looked perplexed and wise. And sorry.
"What troubles my love?"
"I do not know how it was, Juanita I did not care at all about it at first; and then I began to care about it a little and now "
"What does my love care about?"
"About being dressed, Juanita; and wearing mamma's jewels, and looking like a picture."
"Will Miss Daisy tell Juanita better what she mean?"
"Why, you know, Juanita," said the child, wistfully, "they dress up the people to look like the pictures; and they have put me in some very pretty pictures; and in one I am to be beautifully dressed to look like Queen Esther with mamma's jewels all over me. And there is another little girl who would like to have that part, and I do not want to give it to her."
Juanita sat silent, looking grave and anxious. Her lips moved, but she said nothing that could be heard.
"And, Juanita," the child went on "I think, somehow, I like to look better than other people, and to have handsomer dresses than other people, in the pictures, you know."
Still Juanita was silent.
"Is it right, Juanita?"
"Miss Daisy pardon me. Who Miss Daisy think be so pleased to see her in the beautiful dress in the picture?"
"Juanita it was not that I meant. I was not thinking so much of that. Mamma would like it, I suppose, and papa; but I like it myself."
Juanita was silent again.
"Is it right, Juanita?"
"Why do Miss Daisy think it not right?"
Daisy looked undecided and perplexed.
"Juanita I wasn't quite sure."
"Miss Daisy like to play in these pictures r"
"Yes, Juanita and I like Juanita, I like it!"
"And another little girl, Miss Daisy say, like it too?"
"Yes, I think they all do. But there is a little girl that wants to take my part."
"And who Miss Daisy want to please?"
Daisy hesitated, and her eyes reddened; she sat a minute still; then looked up very wistfully.
"Juanita, I think I want to please myself."
"Jesus please not Himself," said the black woman.
Daisy made no answer to that. She bent over and hid her little head in Mrs. Benoit's lap. And tears undoubtedly came, though they were quiet tears. The black woman's hand went tenderly over the little round head.
"And He say to His lambs 'Follow me.' "
"Juanita" Daisy spoke without raising her head "I want to please him most."
"How Miss Daisy think she do that?"
Daisy's tears now, for some reason, came evidently, and abundantly. She wept more freely in Juanita's lap than she would have done before father or mother. The black woman let her alone, and there was silent counsel-taking between Daisy and her tears for some time.
"Speak to me, Juanita" she said at last.
"What my love want me to say?"
"It has been all wrong, hasn't it, Juanita? Oh, have I, Juanita?"
"What, my love?"
"I know I have," said Daisy. "I knew it was not right before."
There was yet again a silence; a tearful silence on one part. Then Daisy raised her head, looking very meek.
"Juanita, what ought I to do?"
"What my love said," the black woman replied very tenderly. "Please the Lord."
"Yes; but I mean, how shall I do that?"
"Jesus please not Himself; and He say, 'Follow me.' "
"Juanita, I believe I began to want to please myself very soon after all this picture work and dressing began."
"Then it not please the Lord," said Juanita, decidedly.
"I know," said Daisy; "and it has been growing worse and worse. But Juanita, I shall have to finish the play now I cannot help it. How shall I keep good? Can I?"
"My love knows the Good Shepherd carry His lamb in His bosom, if she let Him. He is called Jesus, for He save His people from their sins."
Daisy's face was very lowly; and very touching was the way she bent her little head and passed her hand across her eyes. It was the gesture of penitent gentleness.
"Tell me some more, Juanita."
"Let the Lord speak," said the black woman, turning ever her well-used Bible. "See, Miss Daisy 'Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own ' "
"I was puffed up," said Daisy, "because I was to wear those beautiful things. I will let Nora wear them. I was seeking my own, all the time, Juanita. I didn't know it."
See, Miss Daisy 'That women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.' "
"Is there any harm in those pretty things, Juanita? They are so pretty!"
"I don't know, Miss Daisy; the Lord say He not pleased with them; and the Lord knows."
"I suppose," said Daisy but what Daisy supposed was never told. It was lost in thought.
"My love see here what please the Lord 'the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.' "
Daisy lifted her little face and kissed the fine olive cheek of her friend.
"I know now, Juanita," she said with her accustomed placidness. "I didn't know what was the matter with me. I shall have to play in the pictures I cannot help it now but I will let Nora be Queen Esther."
It was quite late by this time, and Daisy after a little more talk went home; a talk which filled the child's heart with comfort. Daisy went home quite herself again, and looked as happy and busy as a bee when she got there.
"Daisy! what late doings!" exclaimed her father. "Out all the afternoon and practising all the morning Where have you been?"
"I have been visiting, papa."
"Molly, papa and Juanita," Daisy said, not very willingly, for Mrs. Randolph was within hearing.
"A happy selection!" said she. "Go and get ready for dinner, Daisy."
"Have you been all the afternoon at those two places, Daisy." asked her father, within whose arms she stood.
He let her go; and a significant look passed between him and his wife.
"A little too much of a good thing," said Mr. Randolph.
"It will be too much, soon," the lady answered.
Nevertheless Daisy for the present was safe, thanks to her friend Dr. Sandford; and she passed on upstairs with a spirit as light as a bird. And after she was dressed, till it was time for her to go in to the dinner-table, all that while a little figure was kneeling at the open window, and a little round head was bowed upon the sill. And after that, there was no cloud upon Daisy's face at all.
In the drawing-room, when they were taking tea, Daisy carried her cup of milk and cake to a chair close by Preston.
"Well, Daisy, what now?"
"I want to talk to you about the pictures, Preston."
"We did finely to-day, Daisy! If only I could get the cramp out of Frederica's fingers."
"Cramp!" said Daisy.
"Yes. She picks up that handkerchief of hers as if her hand was a bird's claw. I can't get a blue jay or a canary out of my head when I see her. Did you ever see a bird scratch its eye with its claw, Daisy?"
"Well, that is what she puts me in mind of. That handkerchief kills Marie Antoinette, dead. And she won't take advice or she can't. It is a pity you hadn't it to do; you would hold it right queenly. You do Esther capitally. I don't believe a Northern girl can manage that sort of thing."
Daisy sipped her milk and eat crumbs of cake for a minute without making any answer.
"Preston, I am going to let Nora be Queen Esther."
"What!" said Preston.
"I am going to let Nora be Queen Esther."
"Nora! Not if I know it," said Preston.
"Yes, but I am. I would like it better. And Nora would like to be Queen Esther, I know."
"I dare say she would! Like it! Of course. No, Daisy; Queen Esther is yours and nobody's else. What has put that into your head?"
"Preston, I think Nora would like it; and you know, they said she was most like a Jewess of all of us; I think it would be proper to give it to her."
"I shall not do it. We will be improper for once."
"But I am going to do it, Preston."
"Daisy, you have not liberty. I am the manager. What has come over you? You played Esther beautifully only this morning. What is the matter?"
"I have been thinking about it," said Daisy; "and I have concluded I would rather give it to Nora."
Preston was abundantly vexed, for he knew by the signs that Daisy had made up her mind; and he was beginning to know that his little cousin was exceedingly hard to move when once she was fully set on a thing. He debated within himself an appeal to authority; but on the whole dismissed that thought. It was best not to disgust Daisy with the whole affair; and he hoped coaxing might yet do the work. But Daisy was too quick for him.
"Nora," she said at the next meeting, "if you like, I will change with you in the fainting picture. You shall be the queen, and I will be one of the women."
"Shall I be the queen?" said Nora.
"Yes, if you like."
"But why don't you want to do it?"
"I would rather you would, if you like it."
"Well, I'll do it," said Nora; "but Daisy, shall I have all the dress you were going to wear?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Because, if I don't, I won't. I must have just exactly what you were going to wear."
"Why you will of course, I suppose," said Daisy, a good deal astonished.
"Every bit," said Nora. "Shall I have that same white satin gown?"
"Yes, I suppose so. Of course you will. It is only you and I that change; not the dress."
"And shall I have the ornaments too?"
"Just the same, I suppose; unless Mrs. Sandford thinks that something else will look better."
"I won't have anything else. I want that same splendid necklace for my girdle shall I?"
"I suppose so, Nora."
"You say 'I suppose so' to everything. I want to know. Shall I have that same pink silk thing over my hair?"
"That scarf? yes."
"And the red necklace on it? and the bracelets? and the gold and diamonds round my neck? I won't be Esther if I don't have the dress."
"I suppose you will have the dress," said Daisy; "of course you will. But if you say you do not want to be Esther, they will make me do it."
A hint that closed Nora's mouth. She did not say she did not want to be Esther. Mrs. Sandford was astonished at the change of performers; but Daisy's resignation was so simply made and naturally, and Nora's acceptance was so manifestly glad, that nobody could very well offer any hindrance. The change was made; but Preston would not suffer Daisy to be one of the attendants. He left her out of the picture altogether, and put Jane Linwood in Nora's vacated place. Daisy was content; and now the practising and the arrangements went on prospering.
There was a good deal of preparation to be made, besides what the mantua-maker could do. Mr. Stilton was called into the library for a great consultation; and then he went to work. The library was the place chosen for the tableaux; the spectators to be gathered into the drawing-room, and the pictures displayed just within the wide door of communication between the two rooms. On the library side of this door Mr. Stilton laid down a platform, slightly raised and covered with green baize cloth, and behind the platform a frame-work was raised and hung with green baize to serve as a proper background for the pictures. A flower-stand was brought in from the greenhouse and placed at one side, out of sight from the drawing-room; for the purpose, as Preston informed Daisy, of holding the lights. All these details were under his management, and he managed, Daisy thought, very ably indeed. Meantime the dresses were got ready. Fortitude's helmet was constructed of pasteboard and gilt paper; and Nora said it looked just as if it were solid gold. The crown of Ahasuerus, and Alfred's six-foot bow were also made; and a beautiful old brown spinning-wheel was brought from Mrs. Sandford's house for Priscilla. Priscilla's brown dress was put together, and her white vandyke starched. And the various mantles and robes of velvet and silk which were to be used, were in some way accommodated to the needs of the young wearers. All was done well, and Preston was satisfied; except with Daisy.
Not that Daisy did not enter into the amusement of what was going forward; for perhaps nobody took so much real share in it. Even Mr. Stilton's operations interested her. But she was not engrossed at all. She was not different from her usual self. All the glory of the tableaux had not dazzled her, so far as Preston could see. And daily, every morning, she stepped into that little pony-chaise with a basket and drove off Preston was at the pains to find out to spend a couple of hours with Molly Skelton. Preston sighed with impatience. And then, in the very act of dressing and practising for the pictures, Daisy was provokingly cool and disengaged. She did her part very well, but seemed just as much interested in other people's parts, and as much pleased with other people's adornment. Queen Esther in particular was Daisy's care, since she had given up the character; and without putting herself forward, she had once or twice made a suggestion to Mrs. Sandford, of something that she either thought would please Nora or that she felt called for by her own tastes; and in each case Mrs. Sandford declared the suggestion had been an improvement.
But with a pleasure much greater and keener, Daisy had seen the pot containing the 'Jewess' geranium taken up out of the ground, and set, with all the glory of its purple-red blossoms, in Molly's poor little room. There it stood, on a deal table, a spot of beauty and refinement, all alone to witness for the existence of such things on the earth. And heeded by Molly as well as by Daisy. Daisy knew that. And all the pleasure of all the tableaux put together could give nothing to Daisy equal to her joy when Molly first began to read. That day, when letters began really to be put together into words to Molly's comprehension, Daisy came home a proud child. Or rather, for pride is a bad word, she came home with a heart swelling with hope and exultation; hope and exultation that looked forward confidently to the glory to be revealed.
The great day came, and the evening of the day; and June dressed Daisy for the party. This was a simple dressing, however, of a white cambrick frock; no finery, seeing that Daisy was to put on and off various things in the course of the evening. But Daisy felt a little afraid of herself. The perfected arrangements and preparations of the last few days had, she feared, got into her head a little; and when June had done and was sent away, Daisy kneeled down by her bedside and prayed a good while that God would help her not to please herself, and keep her from caring about dress and appearance and people's flatteries. And then she got up and looked very wistfully at some words of the Lord Jesus which Juanita had showed her first and which she found marked by Mr. Dinwiddie's pencil. "The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please Him."
Daisy was beginning to learn that to please God is not always to seek one's own gratification or that of the world. She looked steadily at the words of that Friend in heaven whom she loved and wished to obey; and then it seemed to Daisy that she cared nothing at all about anything but pleasing Him.
"Miss Daisy " said June, "Miss Nora is come."
Away went Daisy, with a bound, to the dressing-room; and carried Nora off, as soon as she was unwrapped from her mufflings, to see the preparations in the library.
"What is all that for?" said Nora.
"Oh, that is to show the pictures nicely. They will look a great deal better than if all the room and the books could be seen behind them."
"I suppose they will look more like pictures. By and by all those lights on the stand will be lighted. And we shall dress in the library, you know, nobody will be in it, and in the room on the other side of the hall. All the things are brought down there."
"Daisy," said Nora? looking at the imposing green baize screen, "aren't you afraid?"
"Are you?" said Daisy.
"Yes I am afraid I shall not do something right, or laugh, or something."
"Oh, but you must not laugh. That would spoil the picture. And Mrs. Sandford and Preston will make everything else right. Come and see the crown for Ahasuerus!"
So they ran across the hall to the room of fancy dresses. Here Ella presently joined them with her sister, and indeed so many others of the performers that Preston ordered them all out. He was afraid of mischief, he said. They trooped back to the library.
"When are they going to begin?" said Nora.
"I don't know. Oh, by and by. I suppose we shall have tea and coffee first. People at a party must get through that."
To await this proceeding, and indeed to share in it, the little company adjourned to the drawing-room. It was filling fast. All the neighbourhood had been asked, and all the neighbourhood were very glad to come, and here they were, pouring in. Now the neighbourhood meant all the nice people within ten miles south and within ten miles north; and all that could be found short of some seven or eight miles east. There was one family that had even come from the other side of the river. And all these people made Melbourne House pretty full. Happily it was a very fine night.
Daisy was standing by the table, for the little folks had tea at a table, looking with a face of innocent pleasure at the scene and the gathering groups of people, when a hand laid gentle hold of her, and she found herself drawn within the doctor's arm and brought up to his side. Her face brightened.
"What is going on, Daisy?"
"Preston has been getting up some tableaux, Dr. Sandford, to be done by the young people."
"Are you one of the young people?"
"They have got me in," said Daisy.
"Misled by your appearance? What are you going to play, Daisy?"
Daisy ran off to a table and brought him a little bill of the performances. The doctor ran his eye over it.
"I shall know what it means, I suppose, when I see the pictures. What is this 'Game of Life?"
"It is Retsch's engraving," Daisy answered, as sedately as if she had been forty years old.
"Retsch! yes, I know him but what does the thing mean?"
"It is supposed to be the devil playing with a young man for his soul," Daisy said, very gravely.
"Who plays the devil?"
"And who is to be the angel?"
"I am to be the angel," said Daisy.
"Very judicious. How do you like this new play, Daisy?"
"It is very amusing. I like to see the pictures."
"Not to be in them?"
"I think not, Dr. Sandford."
"Daisy, what else are you doing, besides playing tableaux, all these days?"
"I drive about a good deal," said Daisy. Then looking up at her friend with an entirely new expression, a light shining in her eye and a subdued sweetness coming into her smile, she added "Molly is learning to read, Dr. Sandford."
"Molly!" said the doctor.
"Yes. You advised me to ask leave to go to see her, and I did, and I got it."
Daisy's words were a little undertone; the look that went with them the doctor never forgot as long as he lived. His questions about the festivities she had answered with a placid, pleased face; pleased that he should ask her; but a soft irradiation of joy had beamed upon the fact that the poor cripple was making a great step upwards in the scale of human life. The doctor had not forgotten his share in the permission Daisy had received, which he thought he saw she suspected. Unconsciously his arm closed upon the little figure it held and brought her nearer to him; but his questions were somehow stopped. And Daisy offered no more; she stood quite still, till a movement at the table seemed to call for her. She put her hand upon the doctor's arm, as a sign that it must hold her no longer, and sprang away.
And soon now all the young people went back again to the library. Mrs. Sandford came with them to serve in her arduous capacity of dresser. June attended to give her help.
"Now what are we going to do?" whispered Nora, in breathless excitement. "What is to be the first picture? Oh, Daisy, I wish you would get them to have my picture last of all."
"Oh, because. I think it ought to come last. Aren't you afraid? Whew! I am."
"No, I don't think I am."
"But won't you want to laugh?"
"Why?" said Daisy. "No, I do not think I shall want to laugh."
"I shall be too frightened to laugh," said Jane Linwood.
"I don't see, Daisy, how you will manage those queer wings of yours," Nora resumed.
"I have not got to manage them at all. I have only to keep still."
"I can't think how they will look," said Nora. "They don't seem to me much like wings. I think they will look very funny."
"Hush, children run away; you are not wanted here. Go into the drawing-room and I will ring this hand-bell when I want you."
"What comes first, aunt Sandford?"
"Run away! you will see."
So the younger ones repaired to the drawing-room, for what seemed a weary time of waiting. Nora expressed her entire disapprobation of being shut out from all the fun of the dressing; she wanted to see that. She then declared that it would be impossible to show all the twelve pictures that evening, if it took so long to get ready for one. However, the time was past at length; the signal was given; the lights in the drawing-room were put down, till the room was very shadowy indeed; and then, amid the breathless hush of expectation, the curtain that hung over the doorway of the library was drawn back.
The children thought it was fairy-land.
Frederica Fish sat there facing the company, quaintly dressed in antique costume; and before her knelt, on one knee, two grand-looking personages, very richly attired, presenting a gilt crown upon a satin cushion. Lady Jane Grey and the lords who came to offer her the kingdom. The draperies were exceedingly well executed and did Mrs. Sandford great credit. They were the picture.
"Isn't she beau-tiful!" Nora exclaimed under her breath.
"Isn't it like a picture!" said Daisy.
"How funnily those boys kneel and twist themselves round!" said Jane. "Who are they?"
"Daisy, wouldn't you like to be dressed every day like that?" said Nora.
"I don't think it would be convenient," said Daisy. "I think a white frock is nicer."
"Oh, but it makes people look so handsome! Frederica looks like she is a real beauty! I should like to be dressed so. Daisy, don't you suppose queens and ladies, like those in the pictures, are always dressed so?"
"I suppose they put on nightgowns when they go to bed," said Ella Stanfield, soberly. "They can't always be dressed so."
"Oh, but, I mean when they are up. And I dare say they wear beautiful nightgowns Daisy, don't you think they do? I dare say they have splendid lace and ribbands; and you call make a white dress very handsome, if you put plenty of lace and ribbands."
"Oh, it's gone!" exclaimed Jane and Ella. The curtain had fallen. The company clapped their hands and cheered.
"What's that for?" said Nora.
"That means that they like it, I suppose," said Daisy.
"You will have to go now, Nora, I know. Little Red Riding-Hood comes next. Come we'll all go."
"Horrid Little Red Riding-Hood!" said Nora. "I hate that picture!"
"Why do you hate it?"
"Because! It is nothing but a red hood."
Mrs. Sandford's bell sounded.
"Oh, Daisy!" said Nora, as they went, "won't you get them to leave Esther to the last? They will do whatever you ask them. Do!"
"Oh, because! "
What Nora's "because" meant, Daisy did not know; that it had reference to some supposed advantage of place, was pretty certain. Daisy stood thinking about it while she saw Nora dressed, and then ran into the drawing-room to take the effect of the tableau. The curtain was withdrawn; Daisy was astonished; she had no idea that Nora could be so changed by a little arrangement of lights and dress. The picture was exceeding pretty. Nora's black hair and bright cheeks peeped out from under the shadowing red cardinal, which draped her arms also Mrs. Sandford had mysteriously managed it. She had got over her hatred of the part, for she looked pleased and pleasant; and the little basket in her hand and the short petticoat and neat little feet completed a tidy Red Riding- Hood. The applause was loud. "Lovely!" the ladies said. "What a sweet little thing! how beautiful she looks!" Nora did not smile, for that would have hurt her picture; but she stood with swelling complacency and unchanging red cheeks as long as the company were pleased to look at her.
"Who is that, Daisy?" asked her father, near whom Daisy had stationed herself.
"It is Nora Dinwiddie, papa."
"She is a pretty little girl. When does your turn come?"
"I do not know, papa."
"Not know! Why, I thought all this was your affair."
"Oh, no, papa; it is Preston's affair."
Off ran Daisy, however, when the curtain fell, or rather when it was drawn, to see the getting ready of the next tableau. There was something of a tableau on hand already. June stood holding up a small feather-bed, and two little figures in white nightgowns were flying round, looking and laughing at two exceedingly fierce, bearded, moustached, black-browed individuals, on whose heads Mrs. Sandford was setting some odd-looking hats.
"Who are those, Nora?" said Daisy to Little Red Riding-Hood.
"Daisy, did you like it? Did I stand well?"
"Yes, I liked it very much; it was nice. Nora, who are those two?"
"Why, one of 'em is Preston I don't know who the other is. Daisy, did you ask about Esther?"
Could it be possible that Preston had so transformed himself? Daisy could hardly see that it was he. His fellow she did not recognise at all. It was big George Linwood.
"Now are the little princes ready?" said Preston. "Because we will finish up this business."
"Oh, you won't let the feather-bed come down on us?" cried Jane Linwood.
"If you don't be quiet and keep still, I will," said Preston. "Let only your eye wink or your mouth move to smile and you are an unlucky prince! I am a man without mercy."
"And I am another," said George. "I say, old fellow, I suppose I'm all right for that French pikeman now, hey? After this smothering business is attended to."
"You think the trade is the thing, and the costume a matter of indifference?" said Preston. "In the matter of morals I dare say you are right; in tableaux before spectators it's not exactly so. Here, June hand on your big pillow there."
Mrs. Sandford was laughing at him, and in fact there was a good deal of hilarity and some romping before the actors in the tableau could be settled in their places.
"Don't keep us long," said Preston. "I never knew before what an uninteresting thing a featherbed is when you are obliged to hold it in your arms. Everything in its place, I find. I used to have a good opinion of them."
Daisy ran back to the drawing-room, and was utterly struck with wonder at the picture over which all this fun had been held. It was beautiful, she thought. The two children lay so naturally asleep, one little bare foot peeping out from under the coverings; and the grim faces that scowled at them over the feather-bed with those strange hats overshadowing, made such a contrast; and they were all so breathlessly still, and the lights and shadows were so good; Daisy was disposed to give her verdict that there never was a play like this play. The "Princes in the Tower " was greatly applauded.
"Have you asked about my picture?" said Nora, who stood beside Daisy.
"No, I have not had a chance."
"Do, Daisy! I want that to be the last."
Daisy thought she was unreasonable. Why should Nora have the best place, if it was the best? She was not pleased with her.
The next picture was Marie Antoinette; and that drew down the house. Frederica Fish had nothing to do but to stand as she was put, and Mrs. Sandford had seen to it that she stood right; another person might have done more in the picture, but that was all that could be got from Frederica. Her face was coldly impassive; she could come no nearer to the expression of the indignant queen. But Preston's old woman, and Theresa's pretty young French girl; one looking as he had said, with eyes of coarse fury, the other all melting with tenderness and reverent sympathy; they were so excellent that the company were delighted. Frederica's handkerchief, it is true, hung daintily in her fingers, showing all the four embroidered corners; Mrs. Sandford had not seen it till it was just too late; and Preston declared afterwards the "fury" in his face was real and not feigned as he glared at her. But the company overlooked the handkerchief in favour of the other parts of the picture; and its success was perfect.
"Alfred in the neat-herd's cottage" followed next, and would have been as good; only that Nora, whose business it was to blow her cheeks into a full moon condition over the burnt cakes, would not keep her gravity; but the full cheeks gave way every now and then in a broad grin which quite destroyed the effect. Preston could not see this, but Daisy took her friend to task after it was over. Nora declared she could not help it.
"You don't know how it felt, Daisy, to keep my cheeks puffed out in that way. I couldn't do it; and whenever I let them go, then I couldn't help laughing. Oh, Daisy! is my picture to be the last?"
"I will see, as soon as I can, Nora," Daisy said, gravely. It was her own turn now, and while Mrs. Sandford was dressing her she had no very good chance to speak of Esther. How wonderfully Mrs. Sandford arranged the folds of one or two long scarfs, to imitate Sir Joshua Reynolds' draperies. Preston declared it was beautiful, and so did Hamilton Rush; and when the little helmet with its plumes was set on Daisy's head, Mrs. Sandford smiled and Preston clapped his hands. They had still a little trouble to get Dolce into position. Dolce was to enact the lion, emblem of courage and strength, lying at Fortitude's feet. He was a sensible dog, but knowing nothing about playing pictures, naturally, did not immediately understand why it should be required of him to lie down there, on that platform of green baize, with his nose on his paws. However, more sensible than some animals of higher order are apt to be, he submitted patiently to the duty of obedience where he did not understand; and laid down accordingly his shaggy length at Daisy's feet.
The curtain was drawn aside, and the company shouted with delight. No picture had been so good yet as this one. The little grave figure, the helmet with its nodding plumes in mock stateliness; the attitude, one finger just resting on the pedestal of the broken column (an ottoman did duty for it), as if to show that Fortitude stood alone, and the shaggy St. Bernard at her feet, all made in truth an extremely pretty spectacle. You could see the faintest tinge of a smile of pleasure on the lips of both Mr. and Mrs. Randolph; they were silent, but all the rest of the people cheered and openly declared their delight. Daisy stood like a rock. Her mouth never gave way; not even when Dolce, conceiving that all this cheering called upon him to do something, rose up and, looking right into Daisy's face, wagged his tail in the blandest manner of congratulation. Daisy did not wince; and an energetic "Down, Dolce, down!" brought the St. Bernard to his position again, in the very meekness of strength; and then the people clapped for Daisy and the dog together. At last the curtain fell.
"Well, that will do," said Mrs. Sandford.
"Dolce you rascal!" said Preston, as the great creature was now wagging his tail in honour of his master, "how came you to forget your business in that style, sir?"
"I do not think it really hindered the effect at all, Preston," said Mrs. Sandford. "Daisy kept her countenance so well."
"Yes, if Fortitude had smiled! " said Theresa. "Mrs. Sandford, is it out of character for Fortitude to smile?"
"It would be out of character for Portia, just at this crisis so take care of her."
"What made them make such a great noise, Daisy?" said Nora, while Daisy was getting undressed.
"I suppose they liked the picture," said Daisy.
"But they made a great deal more noise than they did for anybody else," said Nora.
"I suppose they liked the picture better than they liked any of the others," said Ella Stanfield. "I know they did, for I was in the other room. Come, let's go see this picture!"
"Not you, Daisy," said Mrs. Sandford, as the children were running off "I want you. Priscilla comes next."
So Daisy had to stay and be dressed for Priscilla. She missed Portia and Bassanio. It was not much missed, for her little heart began to be beating with excitement; and she wished very much that Priscilla might be as much liked as Fortitude. The dressing was an easy matter, for the costume had been prepared for her and a gown and vandyke made on purpose. Would Alexander dare to wink this time, she wondered? And then she remembered, to her great joy, that he could not; because his face would be in full view of the people behind the scenes in the library. The little brown spinning-wheel was brought on the platform; a heap of flax, at which Priscilla is supposed to have been working, was piled together in front of it; and she and Alexander took their places. The curtain was drawn aside, and a cry of pleasure from the company testified to the picturesque prettiness of the representation. It was according to the fact, that Priscilla should be looking in John Alden's face; it was just at the moment when she is supposed to be rebuking him for bringing to her his friend's suit and petition. Thinking herself safe, and wishing to have the picture as good as possible, Daisy had ventured to direct her eyes upon the face of Alexander Fish, who personified the Puritan suitor. To her horror, Alexander, wholly untouched by the poetry of the occasion, and unawed by its hazards, dared to execute a succession of most barefaced and disagreeable winks right at Priscilla's eyes. Poor Daisy could not stand this. Forgetting her character and the picture and everything, her eyes went down; her eyelids drooped over them; and the expression of grave displeasure would have done for a yet more dissatisfied mood of mind than Priscilla is supposed to have known at the time. The company could not stand this, either; and there burst out a hearty chorus of laughter and cheers together, which greatly mortified Daisy. The curtain was drawn, and she had to face the laughing comments of the people in the library. They were unmerciful, she thought. Daisy grew very pink in the face.
Cinderella was the next picture, in which she had also to play. Dresses were changed in haste; but meanwhile Daisy began to think about herself. Was she all right? Mortified at the breaking of her picture; angry at Alexander; eager to get back praise enough to make amends for this loss; whom was little Daisy trying to please? Where was the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit now? was it on?
They had after all given her place in the Cinderella tableau; she was one of the two wicked sisters; and she looked dissatisfied enough for the character. She wanted to get away to be alone for two minutes; but she had this part to fill first. It is very hard to play when one's heart is heavy. Daisy could not go on so. She could not bear it. Without waiting till June could undress her, she slipped away, the moment the curtain was drawn, and ran across the hall to the dressing-room. People were coming and going everywhere; and Daisy went out upon the piazza. There, in a dark spot, she kneeled down and prayed; that this terrible spirit of pleasing herself might be put away from her. She had but a minute; she knew she must be back again immediately; but she knew too it takes but a minute for ever so little a prayer to go all the way to heaven; and the answer does not take any longer to come, if it pleases God. Daisy was very much in earnest, and quite well knew all that. She went back to the library feeling humbled and ashamed, but quiet. The library was all in commotion.
Nora was begging that Esther might be put off till the last. Mrs. Sandford and Preston objected. They chose that it should come next.
"Here is Priscilla," said Hamilton Rush, "I beg pardon! it is Cinderella's wicked sister I don't know what her name was. Let us have your vote, my angel; I will address you in your prospective character; will you put on your wings at once? Or shall we get done with the terrestrial first? What do you say? I hope you are going to make Miss Stanfield the queen, Mrs. Sandford; she has done one part so well that I should like to see her in another."
"Why, you are going to be Ahasuerus yourself!" said the lady.
"Am I?" said Hamilton; who it must be noticed had not met for the practisings as often as the other people, being held not to need them. "Then I must respectfully be allowed to choose my own queen. I vote for Miss Theresa."
"It is a capital idea," said Preston.
"I think so too," said Mrs. Sandford. "Theresa, my dear, I wonder we did not think before of something so much to our advantage; but these children seemed to have got the picture into their own hands. You will do it far better. Come! let me robe you."
"I would rather be Vashti," murmured Theresa. "I don't like submissive characters. Mrs. Sandford, Vashti is far more in my line. Go off, boys, and get ready! What a pity we didn't think of having Vashti, Mrs. Sandford."
However, Theresa made no objection to be dressed for Esther.
"Who will be your supporters? Ella is too short. Jane and Nora? Where is Nora?"
Nora was in the furthest corner of the room, seated in gloom.
"I am not going to play any more " said Nora.
"You must come and be one of the queen's women I want you for that."
"I am not going to play " repeated Nora; but nobody heard except Daisy. "I am Esther myself! nobody else has any right to be it. I have practised it, and I know how to do it; and I am Esther myself. Nobody else has any right to be Esther!"
Daisy stood by in dismay. She did not know what comfort to bring to this distress.
"I won't play at all!" said Nora. "If I can't be Esther I won't be anything. You have all the good things, Daisy! you have all the prettiest pictures; and I might have had just this one. Just Esther. I just wanted to be Esther! It's mean."
"Why, you've been plenty of things I think," said Jane Linwood, coming near this corner of gloom.
"I haven't! I have been that hateful prince in the tower and Cinderella's ugly sister only hateful things."
"But you were Little Red Riding-Hood."
"Red Riding-Hood!" exclaimed Nora, in unspeakable disdain. "Red Riding-Hood was nothing at all but a red cloak! and Daisy wore feathers, and had the dog "
And the vision of Queen Esther's jewels and satin gown and mantle here overcame Nora's dignity if not her wrath; she began to cry.
"But won't you come and be one of the queen's maids? They will be very nicely dressed too," Daisy ventured, gently.
"No! I won't be anybody's maid, I tell you," sobbed the disconsolate child.
"Bring her along, Daisy," Mrs. Sandford called from the other side of the room. "I am almost ready for her."
Daisy made another vain effort to bring Nora to reason, and then went sorrowfully to Mrs. Sandford. She thought tableaux were on the whole a somewhat troublesome amusement.
"Will I do, Mrs. Sandford?" she said. "Nora does not want to play."
"In dudgeon, hey?" said the lady. "I expected as much. Well, Daisy I will take you. I might perch you up on a foot- cushion to give you a little more altitude. However I don't know but it will do. Theresa will be letting down her own height."
"I think I am letting myself down altogether, Mrs. Sandford, in allowing Ahasuerus to pick me out in that lordly style. But never mind I shan't touch his sceptre any way. Boys, boys! are you ready?"
"Splendid, Theresa!" said Preston, as he came in. "Splendid! You are the very thing."
"I am diamonds and satin, you mean. I thank you. I know that is what I am at present."
"You look the character," said Hamilton.
Theresa made him a mock little courtesy. It was admirably done. It was the slightest gesture of supercilious disdain excellent pantomime. The boys laughed and shouted, for Theresa's satin and diamonds gave effect to her acting, and she was a good actor.
This picture had been delayed so long, that at last, hearing the shout of applause behind the scenes, the audience began to call for their share. In haste, but not the less effectively, Theresa and the rest threw themselves into attitude, and the curtain was pulled aside.
Daisy wished she could have been in the drawing-room to see the picture; she knew it must be beautiful; but she was supporting one jewelled arm of Queen Esther, and obliged by her duty to look only at the Queen's face. Daisy thought even that was a good deal to look at, it was so magnificently surrounded with decoration: but at the same time she was troubled about Nora and sorry for her own foolishness, so that her own face was abundantly in character for the grave concern that sat upon it. This picture met with great favour. The people in the library were in much glee after it was over; all but Daisy and Nora.
"It is all spoiled!" said the latter. "The evening has been hateful. I wish I hadn't come."
"Oh, Nora! don't say that," Daisy urged. "The pictures are almost over now; and then we shall have supper."
"I don't want supper! I only wanted to be Queen Esther; and you said I might. It was the prettiest picture of the whole lot."
"But I couldn't help it, Nora."
"I could have done it just as well as Theresa! She didn't look handsome a bit."
"Oh, Nora, I think she did for a picture."
"She didn't a bit; the things she had on looked handsome."
Daisy was called away. Her last dressing was to be done now, and the one of which Daisy was most doubtful. She was to stand for the angel in the "Game of Life." Other people had no doubt about it. Mrs. Sandford was sure that the angel's wings would make a good representation, which Daisy was slow to believe; near by, they looked so very like gauze and pasteboard! They were arranged, at any rate, to appear as if they grew out of her shoulders; she was arrayed in flowing white draperies over her own little cambrick frock; and then she was ready. Hamilton came in. He was to be the young man in the picture. Daisy liked his appearance well. But when Preston followed him, she felt unspeakably shocked. Preston was well got up, in one respect; he looked frightful. He wore a black mask, ugly but not grotesque; and his whole figure was more like the devil in the picture than Daisy had imagined it could be. She did not like the whole business at all. There was no getting out of it now; the picture must be given; so the performers were placed.
Hamilton and Preston sat on two sides of a chess-board, and behind them the little angel stood watching the game. Mrs. Sandford was right. By a skilful placing and shielding of the lamps, the lights were thrown broadly where they ought to be, on faces and draperies, leaving the gauze wings of the angel in such obscurity that they just showed as it was desired they should. The effect was extremely good, and even artistic. The little angel herself was not in full light; it was through a shade of gloom that her grave face of concern looked down upon the game on the chess-board. Truly Daisy looked concerned and grave. She thought she did not like to play such things as this, One of the figures below her was so very wicked and devilish in its look; and Hamilton leaned over the pieces on the board with so well-given an expression of doubt and perplexity, his adversary's watch was so intent, and the meaning of the whole was so sorrowfully deep; that Daisy gazed unconsciously most like a guardian angel who might see with sorrow the evil one getting the better over a soul of his care. For it was real to Daisy. She knew that the devil does in truth try to bewitch and wile people out of doing right into doing wrong. She knew that he tries to get the mastery of them; that he rejoices every time he sees them make a "false move;" that he is a great cunning enemy, all the worse because we cannot see him, striving to draw people to their ruin; and she thought that it was far too serious and dreadful a thing to be made a play of. She wondered if guardian angels did really watch over poor tempted souls and try to help them. And all this brought upon Daisy's face a shade of awe, and sorrow, and fear, which was strangely in keeping with her character as an angel, and very singular in its effect on the picture. The expressions of pleasure and admiration which had burst from the company in the drawing-room at the first sight of it, gradually stilled and ceased; and it was amid a profound and curious silence and hush that the curtain was at length drawn upon the picture. There were some people among the spectators not altogether satisfied in their minds.
"How remarkable!" was the first word that came from anybody's lips in the darkened drawing-room.
"Very remarkable!" somebody else said. "Did you ever see such acting?"
"It has all been good," said a gentleman, Mr. Sandford; "but this was remarkable."
"Thanks, I suppose you know to whose management," said the soft voice of the lady of the house.
"Management is a good thing," said the gentleman; "but there was more than management here, Mrs. Randolph. It was uncommon, upon my word! I suppose my wife came in for the wings, but where did the face come from?"
"Daisy," said Mr. Randolph, as he found his little daughter by his side again, "are you here?"
Her father put his arm round her, as if to assure himself there were no wings in the case.
"How do you like playing pictures?"
"I think I do not like them very much " Daisy said, sedately, nestling up to her father's side.
"Not? How is that? Your performance has been much approved."
Daisy said nothing. Mr. Randolph thought he felt a slight tremor in the little frame.
"Do you understand the allegory of this last tableau, Daisy?" Dr. Sandford asked.
"I do not know what an allegory is, Dr. Sandford."
"What is the meaning of the representation, then, as you think of it?"
"This last picture?"
"It is a trial of skill, Dr. Sandford."
The room was still darkened, and the glance of intelligence and amusement that passed between her friend and her father, their own eyes could scarcely catch. Daisy did not see it. But she had spoken diplomatically. She did not want to come any nearer the subject of the picture in talking with Dr. Sandford. His mind was different, and he went on.
"What is the trial of skill about, Daisy?"
The child hesitated, and then said, speaking low and most un- child-like "It is about a human soul."
"And what do you understand are the powers at work or at play?"
"It is not play," said Daisy.
"Answer Dr. Sandford, Daisy," said her father.
"Papa," said the child, "it isn't play. The devil tries to make people do wrong and if they try to do right, then there is a "
"I don't know a fight, papa."
Mr. Randolph again felt a tremor, a nervous trembling, pass over Daisy.
"You do not suppose, my darling," he said, softly, "that such a fight goes on with anything like this horrible figure that your cousin Preston has made himself?"
"I do not suppose he looks like that, papa."
"I do not think there is such a personage at all, Daisy. I am sure you need not trouble your little head with thinking about it."
Daisy made no answer.
"There is a struggle always going on, no doubt, between good and evil; but we cannot paint good and evil without imagining shapes for them."
"But papa, " said Daisy, and stopped. It was no place or time for talking about the matter, though her father spoke low. She did not want even Dr. Sandford to hear.
"What is it, Daisy?"
"Yes," said the doctor, "I should like to know what the argument is."
"Papa," said Daisy, awesomely, "there is a place prepared for the devil and his angels."
Mr. Randolph was silent now. But he felt again that Daisy was nervously excited, by the quiver that passed over her little frame.
"So you think, Daisy," said the doctor leaning towards her, "that the white and the black spirits have a fight over the people of this world?"
Daisy hesitated, struggled, quivered with the feeling and the excitement which were upon her, tried for self-command and words to answer. Mr. Randolph saw it all and did not hurry her, though she hesitated a good deal.
"You think they have a quarrel for us?" repeated the doctor.
"I don't know, Dr. Sandford " Daisy answered, in a strangely tender and sober voice. It was strange to her two hearers.
"But you believe in the white spirits, I suppose, as well as in the other branch of the connexion?"
"Papa," said Daisy, her feeling breaking a little through her composure so much as to bring a sort of cry into her voice "there is joy among the angels of heaven whenever anybody grows good! "
She had turned to her father as she spoke and threw her arms round his neck, hiding her face, with a clinging action that told somewhat of that which was at work in her mind. Mr. Randolph perhaps guessed at it. He said nothing; he held her close to his breast; and the curtain drew at that moment for the last tableau. Daisy did not see it, and Mr. Randolph did not think of it; though people said it was very good. It was only the head and shoulders of Theresa Stanfield as an old country schoolmistress, seen behind a picture frame, with her uplifted finger and a bundle of rods. Theresa was so transformed that nobody would have known her; and while the company laughed and applauded, Daisy came back to her usual self; and slid out of her father's arms when the show was over, all ready for supper and Nora Dinwiddie.
There was a grand supper, and everybody was full of pleasure and complimentary speeches and discussion and praise of the tableaux. That was among the elder portion of the company. The four or five children were not disposed to such absolute harmony. Grapes and ices and numberless other good things were well enjoyed, no doubt; but amidst them all a spirit of criticism was rife.