"Oh, no, papa!"
"What was the purpose of it, then?"
"Only to get her to like me, papa."
"What were you going to do to make her happy?"
"Papa, if you lived in such a place, in such a way, wouldn't you like to have a friend come and see you sometimes?"
"Certainly! if you were the friend."
"I thought by and by she might learn to like it," Daisy said, in the most sedately meek way possible.
Her father could not forbear a smile.
"But, Daisy, from what you tell me, I am at a loss to understand the part that all this could have had in your happiness."
"Oh, papa she is so miserable!" was Daisy's answer.
Mr. Randolph drew her close and kissed her.
"You are not miserable?"
"No, papa but "
"I would like to give her a little bit of comfort."
There was much earnestness, and a little sorrow, in Daisy's eyes.
"I am not sure that it is right for you to go to such places."
"Papa, may I show you something?" said the child, with sudden life.
She rushed away; was gone a full five minutes; then came softly to Mr. Randolph's shoulder with an open book in her hand. It was Joanna's Bible, for Daisy did not dare bring her own; and it was open at these words
"Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
"What does this mean, Daisy? It seems very plain; but what do I want with it?"
"Only, papa, that is what makes me think it is right."
"What is right?"
"To do this, papa."
"Well, but, are you in want of somebody to come and make you happy?"
"Oh, no, papa but if I were in her place, then I should be."
"Do you suppose this commands us to do in every case what we would like ourselves in the circumstances?"
"Papa I suppose so if it wouldn't be something wrong."
"At that rate, I should have to let you go with your rose- bush," said Mr. Randolph.
"Oh, papa!" said Daisy, "do you think, if you asked her, mamma would perhaps say I might?"
"Can't tell, Daisy I think I shall try my powers of persuasion."
For answer to which, Daisy clasped her arms round his neck and gave him some very earnest caresses, comprised in one great kiss and a clinging of her little head in his neck for the space of half a minute. It meant a great deal; so much that Mr. Randolph was unable for the rest of the day to get rid of a sort of lingering echo of Daisy's Bible words; they haunted him, and haunted him with a strange sense of the house being at cross purposes, and Daisy's line of life lying quite athwart and contrary to all the rest. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you;" who else at Melbourne considered that for one moment?
However, Mr. Randolph had a fresh talk with his wife; the end of which was that he gave Daisy leave to do what she liked in the matter of Molly Skelton; and was rewarded on the spot by seeing the pink tinge which instantly started into the pale cheeks.
No lack of energy had Daisy for the rest of that day. She went off first to see what was the condition of her rose-bush; pretty fair; lying by the heels seemed to agree with it quite well. Then the pony chaise was ordered, and a watering-pot of water again; much to the boy's disgust who was to carry it; and Daisy took her dinner with quiet satisfaction. So soon as the afternoon had become pleasantly cool, Daisy's driving gloves and hat went on, the chaise was summoned, and rose-bush and all she set forth on her expedition. Mr. Randolph watched her off; acknowledging that certainly for the present the doctor was right; whether in the future Mrs. Randolph would prove to have been right also, he was disagreeably uncertain. Still, he was not quite sure that he wished Daisy anything other than she was.
Troubled by no fears or prognostications, meanwhile, the pony- chaise and its mistress went on their way. No, Daisy had no fears. She did doubt what Molly's immediate reception of her advances might be; her first experience bade her doubt; but the spirit of love in her little heart was overcoming; it poured over Molly a flood of sunny affections and purposes, in the warmth and glow of which the poor cripple's crabbedness and sourness of manner and temper were quite swallowed up and lost. Daisy drove on, very happy and thankful, till the little hill was gained, and slowly walking up it Loupe stopped, nothing loth, before the gate of Molly Skelton's courtyard.
A little bit of hesitation came over Daisy now, not about what was to be done, but how to do it. The cripple was in her flowery bit of ground, grubbing around her balsams as usual. The clear afternoon sunbeams shone all over what seemed to Daisy all distressing together. The ragged balsams the coarse bloom of prince's feather and cockscomb some straggling tufts of ribband grass and four-o'clocks and marigolds and the great sunflower nodding its head on high over all; while weeds were only kept away from the very growth of the flowers and started up everywhere else, and grass grew irregularly where grass should not; and in the midst of it all the poor cripple on her hands and knees in the dirt, more uncared-for, more unseemly and unlovely than her little plot of weeds and flowers. Daisy looked at her, with a new tide of tenderness flowing up in her heart, along with the doubt how her mission should be executed or how it would be received; then she gave up her reins, took the rose-tree in her hands, and softly opened the little wicket gate. She went up the path and stood beside the cripple, who hearing the gate shut had risen from her grubbing in the earth and sat back looking at who was coming. Daisy went on without hesitation now. She had prayed out all her prayer about it before setting out from home.
"I have brought you a rose-bush," she said simply. "Do you like roses? this is very sweet. I thought maybe you would like a rose. Where would you like to have it go?"
The answer was a very strange sort of questioning grunt inarticulate nevertheless expressive of rude wonder and incredulity, as far as it expressed anything. And Molly stared.
"Where shall I put this rose-tree?" said Daisy. "Where would it look prettiest? May I put it here, by these balsams?"
No answer in words; but instead of a sign of assent, the cripple after looking a moment longer at Daisy and the rose- tree, put her hand beyond the balsams and grubbed up a tuft of what the country people call "creepin' Charley;" and then sitting back as before, signified to Daisy by a movement of her hand that the rose-bush might go in that place. That was all Daisy wanted. She fell to work with her trowel, glad enough to be permitted, and dug a hole, with great pains and some trouble; for the soil was hard as soon as she got a little below the surface. But with great diligence Daisy worked and scooped, till by repeated trials she found she had the hole deep enough and large enough; and then she tenderly set the roots of the rose-tree in the prepared place and shook fine soil over them, as Logan had told her; pressing it down from time to time, until the job was finished and the little tree stood securely planted. A great feat accomplished. Daisy stayed not, but ran off to the road for the watering-pot, and bringing it with some difficulty to the spot without soiling herself, she gave the rose-bush a thorough watering; watered it till she was sure the refreshment had penetrated down to the very roots. All the while the cripple sat back gazing at her; gazing alternately at the rose-bush and the planting, and at the white delicate frock the child wore and the daintily neat shoes and stockings, and the handsome flat hat with its costly ribband. I think the view of these latter things must in some degree have neutralised the effect of the sweet rose looking at her from the top of the little bush; because Molly on the whole was not gracious.
Daisy had finished her work and set down her empty watering pot, and was looking with great satisfaction at the little rose-bush; which was somewhat closely neighboured by a ragged bunch of four-o'clocks on one side and the overgrown balsams on the other; when Molly said suddenly and gruffly, "Now go 'long!"
Daisy was startled, and turned to the creature who had spoken to see if she had heard and understood aright. No doubt of it. Molly was not looking at her, but her face was ungenial; and as Daisy hesitated she made a little gesture of dismissal with her hands. Daisy moved a step or two off, afraid of another shower of gravel upon her feet.
"I will come to-morrow and see how it looks" she said gently.
Molly did not reply yes or no, but she repeated her gesture of dismissal, and Daisy thought it best and wisest to obey. She bid her a sweet "good-bye," to which she got no answer, and mounted into her chaise again. There was a little disappointment in her heart; yet when she had time to think it all over she was encouraged too. The rose-tree was fairly planted; that would keep on speaking to Molly without the fear of a rebuff; and somehow Daisy's heart was warm towards the gruff old creature. How forlorn she had looked, sitting in the dirt, with her grum face!
"But perhaps she will wear a white robe in heaven!" thought Daisy.
Seeing that the rose-tree had evidently won favour, Daisy judged she could not do better than attack Molly again on her weak side, which seemed to be the love of the beautiful! in one line at least. But Daisy was not an impatient child; and she thought it good to see first what sort of treatment the rose-bush got, and not to press Molly too hard. So the next day she carried nothing with her; only went to pay a visit to the garden. Nothing was to be seen but the garden; Molly did not show herself; and Daisy went in and looked at the rose. Much to her satisfaction, she saw that Molly had quite discarded the great bunch of four-o'clocks which had given the little rose tree no room on one side; they were actually pulled up and gone; and the rose looked out in fair space and sunshine, where its coarse-growing neighbour had threatened to be very much in its way. An excellent sign. Molly clearly approved of the rose. Daisy saw with great pleasure that another bud was getting ready to open and already showing red between the leaves of its green calyx; and she went home happy.
Next morning she went among the flower-beds, and took a very careful survey of all the beauties there to see what best she might take for her next attack upon Molly. The beauties in flower were so very many, and so very various, and so delicious all to Daisy's eye, that she was a good deal puzzled. Red and purple, and blue and white and yellow, the beds were gay and glorious. But Daisy reflected that anything which wanted skill in its culture or shelter from severities of season would disappoint Molly, because it would not get from her what would be necessary to its thriving. Some of the flowers in bloom, too, would not bear transplanting. Daisy did not know what to do. She took Logan into her confidence, so far as she could without mentioning names or circumstances.
"Weel, Miss Daisy," said the gardener, "if ye're bent on being a Lady Flora to the poor creature, I'll tell ye what ye'll do ye'll just take her a scarlet geranium."
"A geranium?" said Daisy.
"Ay. Just that."
"But it would want to be in the greenhouse when winter comes."
"Any place where it wouldn't freeze," said Logan. "You see, it'll be in a pot e'en now, Miss Daisy and you'll keep it in the pot; and the pot you'll sink in the ground till frost comes; and when the frost comes, it'll just come up as it is and go intil the poor body's house, and make a spot of summer for her in her house till summer comes again."
"Oh, Logan, that is an excellent thought!"
"Ay, Miss Daisy I'm glad ye approve it."
"And then she would have the flowers all winter."
"Ay if she served it justly."
The only thing now was to choose the geranium. Daisy was some time about it, there were so many to choose from. At last she suited herself with a very splendid new kind called the "Jewess" a compact little plant with a store of rich purple- red blossoms. Logan murmured as he took up the pot in which it was planted "Less than the best will never serve ye, Miss Daisy" but he did not grumble about it after all, and Daisy was content.
She was very content when she had got it in her pony-chaise and was driving off, with the magnificent purple-red blossoms at her feet. How exquisitely those delicate petals were painted, and marked with dashes of red and purple deeper than the general colour. What rich clusters of blossoms. Daisy gave only half an eye to her driving; and it was not till she had almost reached Melbourne gate that she discovered her trowel had been forgotten. She sent her attendant back for it and waited.
Loupe was always willing to stand, lazy little fat fellow that he was; and Daisy was giving her undivided attention to the purple "Jewess," with a sort of soft prayer going on all the while in her heart that her errand might be blessed; when she was suddenly interrupted.
"Why, where are you going, Daisy?"
"Where have you been, Preston?" said Daisy, as suddenly drawing up.
"Little Yankee!" said Preston. "Answer one question by another in that fashion? You mustn't do it, Daisy. What are you doing?"
"Nothing. I am waiting."
"What are you going to do, then?"
"I am going to drive."
"Do you usually carry a pot of geraniums for company?"
"No, not usually," said Daisy, smiling at him.
"Well, set out the pot of geraniums, and we will have a glorious ride, Daisy. I am going to the Fish's, to see some of Alexander's traps; and you shall go with me."
"Oh, Preston I am sorry; I cannot."
"I cannot this afternoon."
"Yes, you can, my dear little Daisy. In fact you must. Consider I shall be going away before very long, and then we cannot take rides together. Won't you come?"
"Not now I cannot, Preston! I have got something to do first."
"Something which will take me an hour or two. After that I could go."
"Scarcely, this afternoon. Daisy, it is a long drive to the Fish's. And they have beautiful things there, which you would like to see, I know you would. Come! go with me that's my own little Daisy."
Preston was on horseback, and looked very much in earnest. He looked very gay and handsome too, for he was well mounted, and knew how to manage himself and his horse. He wanted to manage Daisy too; and that was difficult. Daisy would have been tempted, and would have gone with him at the first asking; but the thought of Molly and her forlornness, and the words warm at her heart, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you" and a further sense that her visitations of Molly were an extraordinary thing and very likely to be hindered on short notice, kept her firm as a rock. She had an opportunity now in hand; she would not throw it away; not for any self- gratification. And to tell the truth, no sort of self- gratification could balance for a moment in Daisy's mind the thought of Molly's wearing a crown of gold in heaven.. That crown of gold was before Daisy's eyes; nothing else was worth a thought in comparison.
"Are you going to see that wretched old being?" said Preston, at last.
"Daisy dear Daisy I do not know what to do with you. Do you like, is it possible that you can like, dirt and vulgarity?"
"I don't think I do," Daisy said, gently; "but, Preston, I like the poor people."
"You do!" said Preston. "Then it is manifest that you cannot like me." And he dashed spurs into his horse and sprung away, with a grace and life that kept Daisy looking after him in admiration, and a plain mood of displeasure which cast its shadow all over her spirit.
"Here is the trowel, Miss Daisy."
Her messenger had come back, and Daisy, recalled to the business in hand, took up her reins again and drove on; but she felt deeply grieved. Now and then her gauntleted hand even went up to her face to brush away a tear that had gathered. It was not exactly a new thing, nor was Daisy entirely surprised at the attempt to divert her from her purpose. She was wise enough to guess that Preston's' object had been more than the pleasure of her company; and she knew that all at home, unless possibly her father might be excepted, neither liked nor favoured her kindness to Molly, and would rejoice to interrupt the tokens of it. All were against her; and Daisy's hand went up again and again. "It is good I am weak and not very well," she thought; "as soon as I grow strong mamma will not let me do this any more. I must do all I can now."
So she came to the cripple's gate; and by that time the tears were all gone.
Nobody was in the little courtyard; Daisy went in first to see how the rose looked. It was all safe and doing well. While she stood there before it, the cottage door opened and the poor inmate came out. She crawled down the walk on hands and knees till she got near Daisy, and then sat back to look at her.
"What do you want?" she said, in a most uninviting and ungracious tone of voice.
"I came to see you," said Daisy, venturing to let her eyes rest for the first time on those poor, restless, unloving eyes opposite her "and I wanted to see the rose, and I have brought you another flower if you will let me bring it in."
Her words were sweet as honey. The woman looked at her, and answered again with the unintelligible grunt, of unbelieving wonder, which Daisy had heard once before. Daisy thought on the whole the safest way was not to talk, but to fetch her beautiful "Jewess" flowers to speak for themselves. So she ran off and brought the pot, and set it on the ground before Molly. It was a great attraction; Daisy could see that at once. The cripple sat back gazing at it. Daisy prudently waited till her eyes came round again from the flowers and rested on her little visitor's face.
"Where shall I put it?" said Daisy. "Where would you like to have it go?"
Molly's eyes presently followed hers, roaming over the little flower plot in search of room for the geranium, which did not appear; prince's feather and marigolds so choked up the ground where balsams did not straggle over it. Molly looked as Daisy did at the possibilities of the case, looked again at the strange sweet little face which was so busy in her garden; and then made a sudden movement. With two or three motions of hands and knees she drew herself a few steps back to one of the exclusive bunches of balsams, and began with her two hands to root it up. Actually she was grubbing, might and main, at the ungainly stalks of the balsams, pulling them up as fast as she could and flinging them aside, careless where. Daisy came to help with her trowel, and together they worked, amicably enough but without a word, till the task was done. A great space was left clear, and Molly threw herself back in her wonted position for taking observations. Daisy wasted no time. In hopeful delight she went on to make a hole in the ground in which to sink the pot of geraniums. It was more of a job than she thought, and she dug away stoutly with her trowel for a good while before she had an excavation sufficient to hold the pot. Daisy got it in at last; smoothed the surface nicely all round it; disposed of the loose soil till the bed was trim and neat, as far as that was concerned; and then stood up and spoke. Warm, how warm she was! her face was all one pink flush, but she did not feel it, she was so eager.
"There," she said, "that will stand there nicely; and when the cold weather comes, you can take the pot up and take it into the house, just as it is; and if you do not let it freeze, it will have flowers for you in the winter."
"Cold?" said Molly.
"Yes by and by, when the cold weather comes, this must be taken up. The cold would kill it, if it was cold enough to freeze. It would have to go in the house. The rose can stay out all winter if you like; but this must be kept warm. This is a geranium. And it will give you flowers in the winter."
"J'anium?" said Molly.
"Yes. This is called the 'Jewess' there are so many kinds that they have to be named. This is the 'Jewess' geranium."
"Water?" said Molly.
"Water? No, this does not need water, because the roots are in a pot, you know, and have not been disturbed. It will want water if rain don't come, by and by."
"What's you?" was Molly's next question, given with more directness.
"Me? I am Daisy Randolph. And I love flowers; and you love flowers. May I come and see you sometimes? Will you let me?"
Molly's grunt this time was not unintelligible. It was queer, but there was certainly a tone of assent in it. She sat looking now at the "Jewess" blossoms and now at Daisy.
"And I love Jesus," the child went on. "Do you love Him?"
The grunt was of pure question, in answer to this speech. Molly did not understand. Daisy stooped down to face her on more equal terms.
"There is a great King up in heaven, who loves you, Molly. He loves you so well that He died for you. And if you love Him, He will take you there when you die and give you a white robe and a crown of gold, and make you blessed."
It is impossible to describe the simple earnestness of this speech. Daisy said it, not as a philosopher nor as even a preacher would have done; she said it as a child. As she had received, she gave. The utter certainty and sweetness of her faith and love went right from one pair of eyes to the other. Nevertheless, Molly's answer was only a most ignorant and blank, "What?" but it told of interest.
"Yes," said Daisy. "Jesus loved us so well that He came and died for us He shed His blood that we might be forgiven our sins. And now He is a Great King up in heaven; and He knows all we do and all we think; and if we love Him He will make us good and take us to be with Him, and give us white robes and crowns of gold up there. He can do anything, for He raised up dead people to life, when He was in the world."
That was a master-stroke of Daisy's. Molly's answer was again a grunt of curiosity; and Daisy, crouching opposite to her, took up her speech, and told her at length and in detail the whole story of Lazarus. And if Daisy was engaged with her subject, so certainly was Molly. She did not stir hand or foot; she sat listening movelessly to the story, which came with such loving truthfulness from the lips of her childish teacher. A teacher exactly fitted, however, to the scholar; Molly's poor closed-up mind could best receive any truth in the way a child's mind would offer it; but in this truth, the undoubting utterance of Daisy's love and belief won entrance for her words where another utterance might not. Faith is always catching.
So Daisy told the wonderful story, and displayed the power and love and tenderness of the Lord with the affection of one who knew Him her Lord, and almost with the zeal of an eye-witness of his work. It was almost to Daisy so; it seemed to her that she had beheld and heard the things she was telling over; for faith is the substance of things not seen; and the grief of the sisters, and their joy, and the love and tenderness of the Lord Jesus, were all to her not less real than they were to the actors in that far distant drama. Molly heard her throughout, with open mouth and marvelling eyes.
Neither of them had changed her position, and indeed Daisy had scarce finished talking, when she heard herself hailed from the road. She started. Preston was there on horseback, calling to her. Daisy got up and took up her trowel.
"Good-bye," she said, with a little sigh for the lost vision which Preston's voice had interrupted "I'll come again, I hope." And she ran out at the gate.
"It is time for you to go home, Daisy. I thought you did not know how late it is."
Daisy mounted into her pony-chaise silently.
"Have I interrupted something very agreeable?"
"You would not have thought it so," said Daisy, diplomatically.
"What were you doing, down there in the dirt?"
"Preston, if you please, I cannot talk to you nicely while you are so high and I am so low."
Preston was certainly at some height above Daisy, being mounted up in his saddle on a pretty high horse, while the pony-chaise was hung very near the ground. He had been beside her; but at her last words he laughed and set off at a good pace in advance, leaving the chaise to come along in Loupe's manner. Daisy drove contentedly home through the afternoon sunlight, which laid bands of brightness across her road all the way home. They seemed bands of joy to Daisy.
Preston had galloped ahead, and was at the door ready to meet her. "What kept you so long at that dismal place?" he asked, as he handed her out of the chaise.
"You were back very soon from the Fish place, I think," said Daisy.
"Yes Alexander was not at home; there was no use in my staying. But what were you doing all that while, Daisy?"
"It was not so very long," said Daisy. "I did not think it was a long time. You must have deceived yourself."
"But do you not mean to tell me what you were about? What could you do, at such a place?"
Daisy stood on the piazza, in all the light of the afternoon sunbeams, looking and feeling puzzled. How much was it worth while to try to tell Preston of her thoughts and wishes?
"What was the attraction, Daisy? only tell me that. Dirt and ignorance and rudeness and disorder and you contented to be in the midst of it! Down in the dirt! What was the attraction?"
"She is very unhappy, Preston."
"I don't believe it. Nonsense! All that is not misery to such people, unless you make it so by showing them something different. Marble tables are not the thing for them, Daisy."
"Marble tables!" echoed Daisy.
"Nor fuchsias and geraniums either. That old thing's old flowers do just as well."
Daisy was silent. She could have answered this. Preston went on.
"She won't be any better with her garden full of roses and myrtles, than she is with her sunflowers now. What do you expect to do, little Daisy?"
"I know what I would like if I were in her place," said Daisy.
"You, but she is not you. She has not your tastes. Do you mean to carry her a silver cup and fork, Daisy? You would certainly like that, if you were in her place. Dear little Daisy, don't you be a mad philosopher."
But Daisy had not been thinking of silver cups and forks, and she was not misled by this argument.
"Daisy, do you see you have been under a mistake?"
"No, Preston," she said, looking up at him.
"Daisy, do you think it is right for you to go into houses and among people where my uncle and aunt do not wish you to go? You know they do not wish it, though they have given consent, perhaps because you were so set upon it."
Daisy glanced behind her at the windows of the library; for they were at the back entrance of the house; and then seizing Preston's hand, and saying, "Come with me," she drew him down the steps and over the grass till she reached one of the garden seats under the trees, out of hearing of any one. There they sat down; Preston curious, Daisy serious and even doubtful.
"Preston" she began with all her seriousness upon her, "I wish I had the book here, but I will tell you. When the Lord Jesus comes again in glory, and all the angels with Him, He will have all the people before Him, and He will separate them into two sets. One will be on the right and one on the left. One set will be the people that belong to Him, and the other set will be the people that do not belong to Him. Then He will welcome the first set, and bless them, because they have done things to the poor and miserable such as they would have liked to have done to themselves. And He will say 'Inasmuch as ye have clone it to one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me.' " Daisy's eyes were full of water by this time.
"So you are working to gain heaven, Daisy?" said Preston, who did not know how to answer her.
"Oh, no!" said the child. "I don't mean that."
"Yes, you do."
"No, that would be doing it for oneself, not for the Lord Jesus" said Daisy, gravely looking at Preston.
"Then I don't see what you mean by your story."
"I mean only, that Jesus likes to have us do to other people what we would want in their place."
"Suppose you were in my aunt and uncle's place do you not think you would like to have a little daughter regard their wishes?"
Daisy looked distressed.
"I think it is time to go in and get ready for dinner, Preston," she said.
If she was distressed, Preston was displeased. They went in without any more words. But Daisy was not perplexed at all. She had not told Preston her innermost thought and hope that Molly Skelton might learn the truth and be one of that blessed throng on the right hand in the Great Day; but the thought and hope were glowing at her heart; and she thought she must carry her Master's message, if not positively forbidden, to all whom she could carry it to. Preston's meditations were different.
"I have tried my best," he said that evening, when Daisy was gone to bed, "and I have failed utterly. I tried my best and all I got was a rebuke and a sermon."
"A sermon!" said Mrs. Randolph.
"An excellent one, aunt Felicia. It was orderly, serious, and pointed."
"And she went to that place?"
"Yes, ma'am. The sermon was afterwards."
"What do you mean, Preston! Speak intelligibly."
"Daisy did, ma'am. I am speaking sober truth, aunt Felicia."
"What is her motive in going to that horrid place? can you understand?"
"Its disagreeableness, ma'am so far as I can make out."
"It is very singular," said Mrs. Gary.
"It is very deplorable," said Mrs. Randolph. "So at least it seems to me. There will be nothing in common soon between Daisy and her family."
"Only that this kind of thing is apt to wear out, my dear. You have that comfort."
"No comfort at all. You do not know Daisy. She is a persistent child. She has taken a dose of fanaticism enough to last her for years."
"I am sure nevertheless that Dr. Sandford is right in his advice," said Mr. Randolph; "both as a physician and as a philosopher. By far the best way is not to oppose Daisy, and take as little notice as possible of her new notions. They will fade out."
"I do not believe it," said the lady "I do not believe it in the least. If she had not your support, I would have an end of this folly in a month."
"Indirect ways" said Mrs. Gary "indirect ways, my dear; those are your best chance. Draw off Daisy's attention with other things. That is what I would do."
And then the ladies put their heads together and concerted a scheme; Preston joining eagerly in the discussion, and becoming the manager-in-chief intrusted with its execution. Mr. Randolph heard, but he gave no help and made no suggestion. He let the ladies alone.
Daisy came down to breakfast the next morning, looking so very bright and innocent and fresh, that perhaps Mr. Randolph thought his wife and sister were taking unnecessary trouble upon themselves. At least Mrs. Randolph so interpreted his manner, as she saw him put his arm round Daisy and bend down his head to hers. The gay visitors were still at Melbourne, but they had not come down yet to breakfast that morning.
"Did you go to see your old woman yesterday?" Mr. Randolph said.
"Did you enjoy your visit?"
"Very much, papa."
Mrs. Randolph's head made a motion of impatience, which however those two did not see.
"How was that, Daisy? I do not comprehend in this instance the sources of pleasure."
"Papa" said Daisy, hesitating "I think I gave pleasure."
She could not explain to him much more, but Mr. Randolph at least understood that. He gave Daisy another kiss, which was not disapproving, the child felt. So her breakfast was extremely happy.
She had a new plan in her head now about Molly. She wanted to get established on the footing of a friend in that poor little house; and she thought she had better perhaps not confine her line of advance to the garden. After breakfast she sought the housekeeper's room, and let Joanna know that she was in want of a nice little cake of some sort to carry to a poor creature who could make nor buy none. Daisy was a great favourite with Miss Underwood, especially ever since the night when she had been summoned in her night dress to tell the child about the words of the minister that day. Joanna never said "no" to Daisy if it was possible to say "yes;" nor considered anything a trouble that Daisy required. On this occasion she promised that exactly what Daisy wanted should be in readiness by the afternoon; and having thus secured her arrangements Daisy went with a perfectly light heart to see what the morning was to bring forth.
"Daisy!" shouted Preston, as she was going down the piazza steps, "Daisy! where are you bound?"
"Out " said Daisy, who was vaguely seeking the September sunshine.
"Well, 'out' is as good as anywhere. Wait till I get my hat. Come, Daisy! we have business on hand."
"What business?" said Daisy, as she was led along through the trees.
"Great business," said Preston, "only I shall want help, Daisy I want a great deal of help. I cannot manage it alone. Wait till we get to a real good place for a talk. Here, this will do. Now sit down."
"How pretty it is to-day!" said Daisy.
For indeed the river opposite them looked a bright sheet of glass; and the hills were blue in the morning light, and the sunshine everywhere was delightsome. The beautiful trees of Melbourne waved overhead; American elms hung their branches towards the ground; lindens stood in masses of luxuriance; oaks and chestnuts spotted the rolling ground with their round heads; and English elms stood up great towers of green. The September sun on all this and on the well kept greensward; no wonder Daisy said it was pretty. But Preston was too full of his business.
"Now, Daisy, we have got a great deal to do!"
"Have we?" said Daisy.
"It is this. Aunt Felicia has determined that she will give a party in two or three weeks."
"A party! But I never have anything to do with parties mamma's parties Preston."
"No. But with this one I think you have."
"How can I?" said Daisy. She was very pleasantly unconcerned as yet, and only enjoying the morning and Preston and the trees and the sunshine.
"Why, little Daisy, I have got to furnish part of the entertainment; and I can't do it without you."
Daisy looked now.
"Aunt Felicia wants me to get up some tableaux."
"Some what?" said Daisy.
"Tableaux. Tableaux vivants. Pictures, Daisy; made with living people."
"What do you mean, Preston?"
"Why, we will choose some pictures, some of the prettiest pictures we can find; and then we will dress up people to represent all the figures, and place them just as the figures are grouped in the engraving; and then they look like a most beautiful large painted picture."
"But pictures do not move?"
"No more do the people. They hold still and do not stir, any more than if they were not real."
"I should think they would look like people though, and not like a picture," said Daisy. "No matter how still you were to keep, I should never fancy you were painted."
"No," said Preston, laughing; "but you do not understand. The room where the spectators are is darkened, and the lights for the picture are all set on one side, just as the light comes in the picture, and then it all looks just right. And the picture is seen behind a frame, too, of the folding doors or something."
Daisy sat looking at Preston, a little curious but not at all excited.
"So I shall want your help, Daisy."
"First, to choose what pictures we will have. We must look over all the books of engravings in the house, and see what would do. Shall we go at it?"
Daisy consented. They repaired to the library and took position by a large portfolio of engravings.
" 'Fortitude'! Capital!" cried Preston, as he turned over the first sheet in the portfolio. "Capital; Daisy! That's for you. You would make an excellent 'Fortitude.' "
"I! " said Daisy.
"Capital couldn't be better. This is Sir Joshua Reynolds' 'Fortitude' and you will do for it wonderfully well. You have half the look of it now. Only you must be a little more stern."
"Why must Fortitude look stern?" said Daisy.
"Oh, because she has hard work to do, I suppose."
"What is Fortitude, Preston?"
"Oh, Daisy, Daisy! are you going through life like that? Why you'll turn all your play into work."
"Why? But what is it?"
"Fortitude? Why, it is, let me see, it is the power of endurance."
"The power of bearing pain, Daisy," said Mr. Randolph, who was walking through the room.
"I do not think Fortitude ought to look stern."
"The old gentleman thought so. I suppose he knew. You must, anyhow, like the picture."
"But, Preston, how could I look like that? My dresses are not made so."
"I hope not!" said Preston, laughing. "But, Daisy, we'll get some of aunt Felicia's riggings and feathers, and set you out in style."
"But you can't put feathers on my head like those," said Daisy. "They wouldn't stay on. And I don't see why Fortitude should be dressed in feathers."
"Why, it is the crest of her helmet, Daisy! Fortitude must have something strong about her, somewhere, and I suppose her head is as good a place as any. We'll make a helmet for you. And I will make Dolce lie down at your feet for the lion."
"You couldn't, Preston."
"I could make him do anything." Dolce was Preston's dog; a great shaggy St. Bernard.
"Well! " said Daisy, with a half-sigh.
"I think you'll make a beautiful Fortitude. Now let us see what next. That is for one."
"How many pictures do you want?" said Daisy.
"Oh, a good many. Plenty, or it wouldn't be worth taking all the trouble, and shutting the people up in a dark room. 'Alfred in the neat-herd's cottage' getting a scolding for his burnt cakes. How splendid that would be if we could get Dr. Sandford to be Alfred!"
"Who would be that scolding old woman?"
"No matter, because we can't get Dr. Sandford. We are not to have grown folks at all. It is a pity Ransom is not here. We shall have to get Alexander Fish or Hamilton! Hamilton will do. He's a good-looking fellow."
"You would do a great deal better," said Daisy. "And Alexander would not do at all. He has not a bit the look of a king about him."
"I must be that old man with the bundle of sticks on his head," said Preston, who was, however, immensely flattered.
"But his beard?" said Daisy.
"Oh, I'll put that on. A false beard is easy. You won't know me, Daisy. That will be an excellent picture. See that girl blowing the burnt cakes and making her face into a full moon!"
"Will you have her in the picture?"
"Certainly! Most assuredly."
"But, who will you get to do that, Preston?"
"Nora Dinwiddie, I reckon."
"Will she come?"
"We shall want all we can get. All Mrs. Stanfield's young ones, and Mrs. Fish's and Linwood's and everybody. Now, Daisy, here you are! This is the very thing."
"For what?" said Daisy.
"Don't you see? For you. This is Queen Esther before Ahasuerus you know the story?"
"Oh, yes! when he stretched out the golden sceptre to her. She is fainting, isn't she?"
"Exactly. You can do that glorious, because you have always a pair of pale cheeks on hand."
"I?" said Daisy, again. "Do you want me to be two things?"
"A dozen things, perhaps. You must be Queen Esther at any rate. Nobody but you."
"And who will be Ahasuerus?"
"I don't know. Hamilton Rush, I reckon; he's a nice fellow."
"Oh, Preston, why don't you be Ahasuerus?"
"I am manager, you know, Daisy; it won't do for the manager to take the best pieces for himself. Ahasuerus is one of the best. See how handsome the dress is and the attitude, and everything."
"I don't see where you will find the dresses," said Daisy. "All those are robes of silk and velvet and fur; and then the jewels, Preston!"
"Nonsense, Daisy. Aunt Felicia will let us take all her stores of satins and velvets and feathers, and jewellery too. It won't hurt them to be looked at."
"I think," said Daisy, slowly, "I think I will not be Queen Esther."
"Why not? don't you like her looks?"
"Oh, yes. That's no matter; but I would rather somebody else would be it."
"Why, little Daisy? You are the one; nobody can be Esther but you."
"I think I will not," said Daisy, thoughtfully.
"What's the matter, Daisy? You must. I want you for Esther and nobody else. What is the objection?"
"I would rather not," said Daisy. "I don't know Hamilton Rush much."
This was said with extreme demureness, and Preston bit his lips almost till the blood came to prevent the smile which would have startled Daisy.
"You won't know him at all when he is dressed and with his crown on. It's all a play. You can imagine he is the real old Persian king, who looked so fiercely on the beautiful Jewess when she ventured unsummoned into his presence."
"I could not stand like that," said Daisy.
"Yes, you could. That's easy. You are fainting in the arms of your attendants."
"Who will the attendants be?"
"I don't know. Who do you think?"
"I think I would rather not be in this picture, " said Daisy.
"Yes, you will. I want you. It is too good to be given to somebody else. It is one of the prettiest pictures we shall have, I reckon."
"Then you must be the king."
"Well we will see," said Preston. "What comes next? 'Canute and his courtiers.' That won't do, because we could not have the sea in."
"Nor the horse," said Daisy.
"Not very well. What a stupid collection of portraits! Nothing but portraits."
"There are fortune-tellers."
"That won't do not interest enough. There! here's one. 'Little Red Riding-hood.' That will be beautiful for you, Daisy."
"But, Preston, I mustn't be everything."
"Plenty more things coming. You don't like Red Riding-hood? Then we will give it to Nora or Ella."
"Oh, I like it," said Daisy. "I like it much better than Esther unless you will play Ahasuerus."
"Well, I will put you down for both of 'em."
"But who's to be anything else?"
"Lots. Here. Splendid! 'Marie Antoinette going from the revolutionary tribunal' that will be capital."
"Who will take that?" said Daisy.
"Let me see. I think I think, Daisy, it must be Theresa Stanfield. She is a clever girl, and it must be a clever girl to do this."
"But she will not look as old as she ought."
"Yes, she will, when she is dressed. I know who will be our dresser, too; Mrs. Sandford."
"Will she?" said Daisy.
"Yes. She knows how, I know. You and I must go and give invitations, Daisy."
"Mamma will send the invitations."
"Yes, of course, to the party; but we have got to beat up recruits and get contributions for the tableaux. You and I must do that. I engaged to take all the trouble of the thing from aunt Felicia."
"Of people, Daisy. People for the tableaux, We must have all we can muster."
"I can't see how you will make Theresa Stanfield look like that."
"I cannot," said Preston, laughing, "but Mrs. Sandford will do part, and Theresa herself will do the other part. She will bring her face round, you will see. The thing is, who will be that ugly old woman who is looking at the queen with such eyes of coarse fury I think I shall have to be that old woman."
"You, Preston!" And Daisy went off into a fit of amusement. "Can you make your eyes look with coarse fury?"
"You shall see. That's a good part. I should not like to trust it to anybody else. Alexander and Hamilton Rush will have to be the Queen's guards how we want Ransom! Charley Linwood is too small. There's George, though."
"What does that woman look at the queen so for?"
"Wants to see her head come down which it did soon after."
"Her head come down?"
"It had come down pretty well then, when the proud, beautiful queen was exposed to the looks and insults of the rabble. But they wanted to see it come down on the scaffold."
"What had she been doing, to make them hate her?"
"She had been a queen; and they had made up their minds that nobody ought to be queen, or anything else but rabble; so her head must come off. A great many other heads came off; for the same reason."
"Preston, I don't think the poor would hate that kind of thing so, if the rich people behaved right."
"How do you think rich people ought to behave." said Preston, gravely, turning over the engravings.
Daisy's old puzzle came back on her; she was silent.
"Common people always hate the uncommon, Daisy. Now what next? Ah! here is what will do. This is beautiful."
"What is it?"
"Portia and Bassanio. He has just got that letter, you know."
"Why, Antonio's letter. Oh, don't you know the story? Bassanio was Antonio's friend, and Oh, dear, it is a long story, Daisy. You must read it."
"But what is the picture about?"
"This: Bassanio has just this minute been married to Portia, the loveliest lady in all the world; that he knew of; and now comes a letter, just that minute, telling him that his dear friend Antonio is in great danger of being cut to pieces through the wickedness of a fellow that he had borrowed money from. And the money had been borrowed for Bassanio, to set him up for his courtship so no wonder he feels rather bad."
"Does she know?"
"No; she is just asking what is the matter. That will be a capital picture."
"But you couldn't stand and look like that," said Daisy.
"I shall not," said Preston, "but Hamilton Rush will. I shall give it to him. And let me see for Portia that Fish girl cannot do it, she is not clever enough. It will have to be Theresa Stanfield."
"I should like to see anybody look like that," said Daisy.
"Well, you will. We shall have to go to another book of engravings. Hollo! here you are again, Daisy. This will do for you exactly. Exactly!"
"What is it?"
"Why, Daisy, these are two old Puritans; young ones, I mean, of course; and they are very fond of each other, you know, but somehow they don't know it. Or one of them don't, and he has been goose enough to come to ask Priscilla if she will be his friend's wife. Of course she is astonished at him."
"She does not look astonished."
"No, that is because she is a Puritan. She takes it all quietly, only she says she has an objection to be this other man's wife. And then John finds what a fool he is. That's capital. You shall be Priscilla; you will do it and look it beautifully."
"I do not think I want to be Priscilla," said Daisy, slowly.
"Yes, you do. You will. It will make such a beautiful picture. I reckon Alexander Fish will make a good John Alden he has nice curly hair."
"So have you," said Daisy; "and longer than Alexander's, and more like the picture."
"I am manager, Daisy. That wouldn't do."
"I shall not be in that picture if Alexander is the other one," said Daisy.
"Well we will see. But Daisy, it is only playing pictures, you know. It will not be Daisy and Alexander Fish not at all it will be Priscilla and John Alden."
"I should think it was Alexander Fish," said Daisy.
"But Preston, what is that word you said just now? what is a Puritan?"
"I don't know. I think you are one. I do not know another."
"You said these were Puritans?"
"Yes, so they were. They were very good people, Daisy, that liked wearing plain dresses. We shall have to have a stuff dress made for you I reckon you have not one of anything like a Puritan cut."
"Then, how am I a Puritan, Preston?"
"Sure enough. I mean that you would be one, if you got a chance. How many pictures have we chosen out? Six? That is not half enough."
The search went on, through other books and portfolios. There was good store of them in Mr. Randolph's library, and Daisy and Preston were very busy the whole morning till luncheon- time. After Daisy's dinner, however, her mind took up its former subject of interest. She went to Joanna, and was furnished with a nice little sponge-cake and a basket of sickle pears for Molly Skelton. Daisy forgot all about tableaux. This was something better. She ordered the pony- chaise and got ready for driving.
"Hollo, Daisy!" said Preston, as she came out upon the piazza; "what now?"
"I am going out."
"No, I have business, Preston."
"So have I; a business that cannot wait, either. We must go and drum up our people for the tableaux, Daisy. We haven't much time to prepare, and lots of things to do."
"First, arrange about the parts everybody is to take; and then the dresses, and then practising."
"Practising what, Preston?"
"Why, the pictures! We cannot do them at a dash, all right; we must drill, until every one knows exactly how to stand and how to look, and can do it well."
"And must the people come here to practise?"
"Of course. Where the pictures and the dresses are, you know. Aunt Felicia is to give us her sewing woman for as much time as we want her; and Mrs. Sandford must be here to see about all that; and we must know immediately whom we can have, and get them to come. We must go this afternoon, Daisy."
"Must I ?"
"Certainly. You know or you would know if you were not a Puritan, little Daisy, that I cannot do the business alone. You are Miss Randolph."
"Did the Puritans not know much?" inquired Daisy.
"Nothing about the ways of the world."
Daisy looked at the pony-chaise, at the blue hills, at her basket of pears; and yielding to what seemed necessity, gave up Molly for that day. She went with Preston, he on horseback, she in her pony-chaise, and a very long afternoon's work they made of it. And they did not get through the work, either. But by dint of hearing the thing talked over, and seeing the great interest excited among the young folks, Daisy's mind grew pretty full of the pictures before the day was ended. It was so incomprehensible, how Theresa Stanfield could ever bring her merry, arch face, into the grave proud endurance of the deposed French queen; it was so puzzling to imagine Hamilton Rush, a fine, good-humoured fellow, something older than Preston, transformed into the grand and awful figure of Ahasuerus; and Nora was so eager to know what part she could take; and Mrs. Sandford entered into the scheme with such utter good-nature and evident competence to manage it. Ella Stanfield's eyes grew very wide open; and Mrs. Fish was full of curiosity, and the Linwoods were tumultuous.
"We shall have to tame those fellows down," Preston remarked as he and Daisy rode away from this last place, "or they will upset everything. Why cannot people teach people to take things quietly!"
"How much that little one wanted to be Red Riding-hood," said Daisy.
"Yes. Little Malapert!"
"You will let her, won't you?"
"I reckon I won't. You are to be Red Riding-hood unless, I don't know; perhaps that would be a good one to give Nora Dinwiddie. I shall see."
That day was gone. The next day there was a great overhauling, by Preston and his mother and Daisy, of the stores of finery which Mrs. Randolph put at their disposal. Mrs. Randolph herself would have nothing to do with the arrangements; she held aloof from the bustle attending them; but facilities and materials she gave with unsparing hand. Daisy was very much amused. Mrs. Gary and Preston had a good deal of consultation over the finery, having at the same time the engravings spread out before them. Such stores of satin and lace robes, and velvet mantles, and fur wrappings and garnishings, and silken scarfs, and varieties of adornment, old and new, were gathered into one room and displayed, that it almost tired Daisy to look at them. Nevertheless, she was amused. And she was amused still more, when later in the day, after luncheon, Mrs. Sandford arrived, and was taken up into the tiring room, as Preston called it. Here she examined the pictures, and made a careful survey of the articles with which she must work to produce the desired effects. Some of the work was easy. There was an old cardinal, of beautiful red cloth, which doubtless would make up Red Riding-hood with very little trouble. There were beautiful plumes for Fortitude's head; and Daisy began to wonder how she would look with their stately grace waving over her. Mrs. Sandford tried it. She arranged the plume on Daisy's head; and with a turn or two of a dark cashmere scarf imitated beautifully the classic folds of the drapery in the picture. Then she put Daisy in the attitude of the figure; and by that time Daisy felt so strange that her face was stern and grave enough to need no admonishing. Preston clapped his hands.
"If you will only look like that, Daisy, in the tableau!"
"Look how?" said Daisy.
"Mrs. Sandford, did you ever see anything so perfect?"
"It is excellent," said that lady.
"If they will all do as well, we shall be encored. But there is no dress here for Bassanio, Mrs. Sandford."
"You would hardly expect your mother's or your aunt's wardrobe to furnish that."
"Hardly. But I am sure uncle Randolph's wardrobe would not do any better. It will have to be made."
"I think I have something at home that will do something that was used once for a kindred purpose. I think I can dress Bassanio as far as the slashings are concerned. The cap and plume we can manage here and I dare say your uncle has some of those old-fashioned long silk hose."
"Did papa ever wear such things?" said Daisy.
"Portia will be easy," said Preston, looking round the room.
"Who is to be Portia?"
"Theresa Stanfield, I believe."
"That will do very well, I should think. She is fair suppose we dress her in this purple brocade."
"Was Portia married in purple?" said Preston.
Mrs. Sandford laughed a good deal. "Well" she said "white if you like; but Theresa will look most like Portia if she wears this brocade. I do not believe white is de rigueur in her case. You know, she went from the casket scene to the altar. If she was like me, she did not venture to anticipate good fortune by putting on a bridal dress till she knew she would want it."
"Perhaps that is correct," said Preston.
"How come you to know so much about the dresses?" said the lady. "That is commonly supposed to be woman's function."
"I am general manager, Mrs. Sandford, and obliged to act out of character."
"You seem to understand yourself very well. Priscilla! we have no dress for her."
"It will have to be made."
"Yes. Who is there to make it?"
The seamstress was now summoned, and the orders were given for Priscilla's dress, to be made to fit Daisy. It was very amusing, the strait-cut brown gown, the plain broad vandyke of white muslin, and etceteras that Mrs. Sandford insisted on.
"She will look the part extremely well. But are you going to give her nothing but Fortitude and Prudence, Preston? is Daisy to do nothing gayer."
"Yes ma'am she is to be the queen of the Persian king here what is his name? Ahasuerus! She is Esther."
Daisy opened her lips to say no, but Preston got her into his arms, and softly put his hand upon her mouth before she could speak the word. The action was so coaxing and affectionate, that Daisy stood still, silent, with his arms round her.
"Queen Esther!" said Mrs. Sandford. "That will tax the utmost of our resources. Mrs. Randolph will lend us some jewels, I hope, or we cannot represent that old Eastern court."
"Mrs. Randolph will lend us anything and everything," said Preston.
"Then we can make a beautiful tableau. I think Esther must be in white."
"Yes ma'am it will add to the fainting effect."
"And we must make her brilliant with jewels; and dress her attendants in colours, so as to set her off; but Esther must be a spot of brilliancy. Ahasuerus rich and heavy. This will be your finest tableau, if it is done well."
"Alfred will not be bad," said Preston.
"In another line. Your part will be easy, Daisy you must have a pair of strong-armed handmaidens. What do you want Nora for, Preston?"
"Could she be one of them, Mrs. Sandford?"
"Yes, if she can be impressed with the seriousness of the occasion; but the maids of the queen ought to be wholly in distress for their mistress, you know. She could be one of the princes in the tower, very nicely."
"Yes, capitally," said Preston. "And Mrs. Sandford wouldn't she make a good John Alden?"
"Daisy for Priscilla! Excellent!" said Mrs. Sandford. "If the two could keep their gravity, which I very much doubt."
"Daisy can keep anything," said Preston. "I will tutor Nora."
"Well, I will help you as much as I can," said the lady. "But, my boy, this business takes time! I had no notion I had been here so long. I must run."
THE BASKET OF SPONGE-CAKE.
As she made her escape one way, so did Daisy by another. When Preston came back from attending Mrs. Sandford to her carriage he could find nothing of his little co-worker. Daisy was gone.
In all haste, and with a little self-reproach for having forgotten it, she had ordered her pony-chaise; and then examined into the condition of her stores. The sponge-cake was somewhat dry; the sickle pears wanted looking over. Part of them were past ripe. Indeed so many of them, that Daisy found her basket was no longer properly full, when these were culled out. She went to Joanna. Miss Underwood soon made that all right with some nice late peaches; and Daisy thought with herself that sponge-cake was very good a little dry, and would probably not find severe criticism at Molly's house. She got away without encountering her cousin, much to her satisfaction.
Molly was not in her garden. That had happened before. Daisy went in, looked at the flowers, and waited. The rose-tree was flourishing; the geranium was looking splendid; with nothing around either of them that in the least suited their neighbourhood. So Daisy thought. If all the other plants the ragged balsams and "creeping Charley" and the rest could have been rooted up, then the geranium and the rose would have shown well together. However, Molly did not doubtless feel this want of suitability; to her the tall sunflower was, no question, a treasure and a beautiful plant. Would Molly come out?
It seemed as if she would not. No stir, and the closed house door looking forbidding and unhopeful. Daisy waited, and waited, and walked up and down the bit of a path, from the gate quite to the house door; in hopes that the sound of her feet upon the walk might be heard within. Daisy's feet did not make much noise; but however that were, there was no stir of a sound anywhere else. Daisy was patient; not the less the afternoon was passing away, and pretty far gone already, and it was the first of October now. The light did not last as long as it did a few months ago. Daisy was late. She must go soon, if she did not see Molly; and to go without seeing her was no part of Daisy's plan. Perhaps Molly was sick. At any rate, the child's footsteps paused at the door of the poor little house, and her fingers knocked. She had never been inside of it yet, and what she saw of the outside was not in the least inviting. The little windows, lined with paper curtains to keep out sunlight and curious eyes, looked dismal; the weatherboards were unpainted; the little porch broken. Daisy did not like such things. But she knocked without a bit of fear or hesitation, notwithstanding all this. She was charged with work to do; so she felt; it was no matter what she might meet in the discharge of it. She had her message to carry, and she was full of compassionate love to the creature whose lot in life was so unlike her own. Daisy went straight on in her business.
Her knock got no answer, and still got none though it was repeated and made more noticeable. Not a sign of an answer. Daisy softly tried the door then to see if it would open. There was no difficulty in that; she pushed it gently, and gently stepped in.
It looked just like what she expected, though Daisy had not got accustomed yet to the conditions of such rooms. Just now, she hardly saw anything but Molly. Her eyes wandering over the strange place, were presently caught by the cripple, sitting crouching in a corner of the room. It was all miserably desolate. The paper shields kept out the light of the sunbeams; and though the place was tolerably clean, it had a close, musty, disagreeable, shut-up smell. But all Daisy thought of at first was the cripple. She went a little towards her.
"How do you do, Molly?" her little soft voice said. Molly looked glum, and spoke never a word.
"I have been waiting to see you," Daisy said, advancing a step nearer "and you did not come out. I was afraid you were sick."
One of Molly's grunts came here. Daisy could not tell what it meant.
"Are you sick, Molly?"
"It's me and not you" said the cripple, morosely.
"Oh, I am sorry!" said Daisy, tenderly. "I want to bring in something for you "
She ran away for her basket. Coming back, she left the door open to let in the sweet air and sun.
"What is the matter with you, Molly?"
The cripple made no answer, not even a grunt; her eyes were fastened on the basket. Daisy lifted the cover and brought out her cake, wrapped in paper. As she unwrapped it and came up to Molly, she saw what she had never seen before that minute, a smile on the cripple's grum face. It was not grum now; it was lighted up with a smile, as her eyes dilated over the cake.
"I'll have some tea!" she said.
Daisy put the cake on the table and delivered a peach into Molly's hand. But she lifted her hand to the table and laid the peach there.
"I'll have some tea."
"Are you sick, Molly?" said Daisy again; for in spite of this declaration, and in spite of her evident pleasure, Molly did not move.
"I'm aching all through."
"What is the matter?"
"Aching's the matter rheumatiz. I'll have some tea."
"It's nice and warm out in the sun," Daisy suggested.
"Can't get there," said Molly. "Can't stir. I'm all aches all over."
"How can you get tea, then, Molly? Your fire is quite out."
"Ache and get it " said the cripple, grumly.
Daisy could not stand that. She at first thought of calling her groom to make a fire; but reflected that would be a hazardous proceeding. Molly perhaps, and most probably, would not allow it. If she would allow her, it would be a great step gained. Daisy's heart was so full of compassion she could not but try. There was a little bit of an iron stove in the room, and a tea-kettle, small to match, stood upon it; both cold of course.
"Where is there some wood, Molly?" said Daisy, over the stove; "some wood and kindling? I'll try if I can make the fire for you, if you will let me, please."
"In there " said the cripple, pointing.
Daisy looked, and saw nothing but an inner door. Not liking to multiply questions, for fear of Molly's patience, she ventured to open the door. There was a sort of shed-room, where Daisy found stores of everything she wanted. Evidently the neighbours provided so far for the poor creature, who could not provide for herself. Kindling was there in plenty, and small wood stacked. Daisy got her arms full and came back to the stove. By using her eyes carefully she found the matches without asking anything, and made the fire, slowly but nicely; Molly meanwhile having reached up for her despised peach was making her teeth meet in it with no evidence of disapprobation. The fire snapped and kindled and began immediately to warm up the little stove. Daisy took the kettle and went into the same lumber shed to look for water. But though an empty tin pail stood there, the water in it was no more than a spoonful. Nothing else held any. Daisy looked out. A worn path in the grass showed the way to the place where Molly filled her water-pail a little basin of a spring at some distance from the house. Daisy followed the path to the spring, filled her pail and then her kettle, wondering much how Molly ever could crawl to the place in rainy weather; and then she came in triumphant and set the tea-kettle on the stove.
"I am very sorry you are sick, Molly," said Daisy, anew.
Molly only grunted; but she had finished her peach, and sat there licking her finger.
"Would you like to see Dr. Sandford? I could tell him."
"No!" said the poor thing, decidedly.
"I'll pray to the Lord Jesus to make you well."
"Humph?" said Molly, questioning.
"You know, He can do everything. He can make you well; and I hope He will."
"He won't make me well " said Molly.
"He will make you happy, if you will pray to Him."
"Happy!" said Molly; as if it were a yet more impossible thing.
"Oh, yes. Jesus makes everybody happy that loves Him. He makes them good too, Molly; He forgives all their sins that they have done; and in heaven He will give them white robes to wear, and they will not do wrong things nor have any pain any more."
One of Molly's grunts came now; she did not understand this, or could not believe. Daisy looked on, pitiful and very much perplexed.
"Molly, you have a great Friend in heaven," said the child; "don't you know it? Jesus loves you."
"Hn?" said Molly again.
"Don't you know what He did, for you and me and everybody!"
Molly's head gave sign of ignorance. So Daisy sat down and told her. She told her the story at length; she painted the love of the few disciples, the enmity of the world, the things that infinite tenderness had done and borne for those who hated goodness and would not obey God. Molly listened, and Daisy talked; how, she did not know, nor Molly neither; but the good news was told in that poor little house; the unspeakable gift was made known. Seeing Molly's fixed eyes and rapt attention, Daisy went on at length and told all. The cripple's gaze never stirred all the while, nor stirred when the story came to an end. She still stared at Daisy. Well she might!
"Now, Molly," said the child, "I have got a message for you."
"Hn?" said Molly, more softly.
"It is from the Lord Jesus. It is in His book. It is a message. The message is, that if you will believe in Him and be His child, He will forgive you and love you; and then you will go to be with Him in heaven."
"Me?" said Molly.
"Yes," said Daisy, nodding her little head with her eyes full of tears. "Yes, you will. Jesus will take you there, and you will wear a white robe and a crown of gold, and be with Him."
Daisy paused, and Molly looked at her. How much of the truth got fair entrance into her mind, Daisy could not tell. But after a few minutes of pause, seeing that Daisy's lips did not open, Molly opened hers, and bade her "Go on."
"I am afraid I haven't time to-day," said Daisy. "I'll bring my book next time and read you the words. Can you read, Molly?"
Whether Molly knew what reading was, may be questioned.
"Molly," said Daisy, lowering her tone in her eagerness, "would you like to learn to read yourself? Then, when I am not here, you could see it all in the book. Wouldn't you like it?"
"Where's books?" said the cripple.
"I will bring the book. And now I must go."
For Daisy knew that a good while had passed; she did not know how long it was. Before going, however, she went to see about the fire in the stove. It was burnt down to a few coals; and the kettle was boiling. Daisy could not leave it so. She fetched more wood and put in, with a little more kindling; and then, leaving it all right, she was going to bid Molly good- bye, when she saw that the poor cripple's head had sunk down on her arms. She looked in that position so forlorn, so lonely and miserable, that Daisy's heart misgave her. She drew near.
"Molly " said her sweet little voice, "would you like your tea now? the water is boiling."
Molly signified that she would.
"Would you like to have me make it?" said Daisy, doubtfully, quite afraid of venturing too far or too fast. But she need not have been afraid. Molly only pointed with her finger to a wall cupboard, and said as before, "In there."
The way was clear for Daisy, time or no time. She went to the cupboard. It was not hard to find the few things which Molly had in constant use. The tea-pot was there, and a paper of tea. Daisy made the tea, with a good deal of pleasure and wonder; set it to draw, and brought out Molly's cup and saucer and plate and knife and spoon. A little sugar she found too; not much. She put these things on the low table which was made to fit Molly's condition. She could have it before her as she sat on the floor.
"I don't see any milk for your tea, Molly."
"Milk? no. It's all gone," said Molly.
"I am sorry. You'll have to take your tea without milk then. Here it is. I hope it is good."
Daisy poured out a cup, set the sugar beside it, and cut slices of sponge-cake. She was greatly pleased at being allowed to do it. Molly took it as a very natural thing, and Daisy sat down to enjoy the occasion a few minutes longer, and also to give such attentions as she could.
"Won't you have some?" said Molly.
"No, I thank you. Mamma does not let me drink tea, except when I am sick."
Molly had discharged her conscience, and gave herself now to her own enjoyment. One cup of tea was a mere circumstance; Daisy filled and refilled it; Molly swallowed the tea as if cupfuls had been mouthfuls. It was a subject of question to Daisy whether the poor creature had had any other meal that day; so eager she was, and so difficult to satisfy with the sponge-cake. Slice after slice; and Daisy cut more, and put a tiny fresh pinch of tea into the teapot, and waited upon her with inexpressible tenderness and zeal. Molly exhausted the tea-pot and left but a small remnant of the cake. Daisy was struck with a sudden fear that she might have been neglected and really want things to eat. How could she find out?
"Where shall I put this, Molly?" she said, taking the plate with the morsel of cake. "Where does it go?"
"In there " said Molly.
"Here? or here?" touching the two doors of the cupboard.
" 'Tother one."
So Daisy opened the other door of the cupboard, just what she wanted to do. And there she saw indeed some remnants of food, but nothing more than remnants; a piece of dry bread and a cold muffin, with a small bit of boiled pork. Daisy took but a glance, and came away. The plate and cup and saucer she set in their place; bid good-bye to Molly, and ran out.
Time indeed! The sun was sending long slant bright beams against the cottage windows and over the pony-chaise, and the groom had got the pony's head turned for home, evidently under the impression that Daisy was staying a long time. A little fearful of consequences if she got home after sundown, Daisy gathered up her reins and signified to Loupe that he was expected to move with some spirit.
But Daisy was very happy. She was thoroughly at home now with Molly; she was fairly admitted within the house and welcome there; and already she had given comfort. She had almost done as Nora said; as near as possible she had taken tea with Molly. Besides, Daisy had found out what more to do for her. She thought of that poor cupboard with mixed feelings; not pity only; for next day she would bring supplies that were really needed. Some nice bread and butter Daisy had seen no sign of butter, and some meat. Molly needed a friend to look after her wants, and Daisy now had the freedom of the house and could do it; and joyfully she resolved that she would do it, so long as her own stay at Melbourne should be prolonged. What if her getting home late should bring on a command that would put a stop to all this!
But nobody was on the piazza or in the library when she got home. Daisy went safely to her own room. There was June all ready to dress her; and making good speed, that business was finished and Daisy ready to go down to the dinner-table at the usual time.
SATIN AND FEATHERS.
She was a little afraid of questions at the dinner-table; but it happened that the older people were interested about some matter of their own and she was not noticed at all. Except in a quiet way by Mr. Randolph, who picked out nuts for her; and Daisy took them and thought joyfully of carrying a Testament to Molly's cottage and teaching her to read it. If she could do but that Daisy thought she would be happy.
The evening was spent by her and Preston over engravings again. Some new ones were added to the stock already chosen for tableaux; and Preston debated with her very eagerly the various questions of characters and dresses. Daisy did not care how he arranged them, provided she only was not called upon to be Priscilla to Alexander Fish, or Esther to Hamilton Rush. "I will not, Preston " she insisted quietly; and Preston was in difficulty; for as he truly said, it would not do to give himself all the best pieces.
The next day, after luncheon, a general conclave assembled, of all the young people, to determine the respective parts and hold a little rehearsal by way of beginning. Mrs. Sandford was there too, but no other grown person was admitted. Preston had certainly a troublesome and delicate office in his capacity of manager.
"What are you going to give me, Preston?" said Mrs. Stanfield's lively daughter, Theresa.
"You must be Portia."
"Portia? let me see Oh, that's lovely! How will you dress me, Mrs. Sandford? I must be very splendid I have just been married, and I am worth any amount of splendour. Who's to be Bassanio? "
"George Linwood, I think. He must have dark hair, you know."
"What are wigs good for?" said Theresa. "But he has nothing to do but to hold the letter and throw himself backward he's surprised, you know, and people don't stand straight when they are surprised. Only that, and to look at Portia. I guess he can do it. Once fix him and he'll stay that's one thing. How will you dress Portia, Mrs. Sandford? Ah, let me dress her!"
"Not at all; you must be amenable to authority, Miss Stanfield, like everybody else."
"But what will you put on her, Mrs. Sandford? The dress is Portia."
"No, by no means; you must look with a very delicate expression, Miss Theresa. Your face will be the picture."
"My face will depend on my dress, I know. What will it be, Mrs. Sandford?"
"I will give you a very heavy and rich purple brocade."
"Of course. Mrs. Randolph lets us have whatever we want."
"That will do!" said Theresa, clapping her hands softly. "I am made up. What are you going to do with Frederica?"
"She has a great part. She must be Marie Antoinette going from the revolutionary tribunal."
"De la Roche's picture!" said Theresa.
"She's not dressed at all," remarked Frederica, coldly looking at the engraving.
"Marie Antoinette needed no dress, you know," Theresa answered.
"But she isn't handsome there."
"You will be standing for her," said Mrs. Sandford. "The attitude is very striking, in its proud, indignant impassiveness. You will do that well. I must dress your hair carefully, but you have just the right hair and plenty of it."
"Don't she flatter her!" whispered Theresa to Preston; then aloud, "How will you make up the rest of the tableau, Preston?"
"I am going to be that old cross-eyed woman Alexander will be one of the guards George Linwood another, I think. Hamilton Rush must shake his fist at the queen over my head; and Theresa, you must be this nice little French girl, looking at her unfortunate sovereign with weeping eyes. Can you get a tear on your cheek?"
"Might take an uncommon strong spoonful of mustard " said Theresa "I suppose that would do it. But you are not going to let the spectators come so near as to see drops of tears, I hope?"
"No matter your eyes and whole expression would be affected by the mustard; it would tell, even at a distance."
When they got through laughing, some one asked, "What is Daisy to be?"
"Oh, she is to be Priscilla here I thought nobody but Daisy would care about being a Puritan; but it is her chosen character."
"It'll be a pretty tableau," said Theresa.
"And what am I to be, Preston?" said Nora.
"You are to be several things. You and Ella must be the two young princes in the tower."
"What tower ?" said Nora.
There was another general laugh, and then Daisy, who was well at home in English history, pulled her little friend aside to whisper to her the story and show her the picture.
"What are those men going to do?" said Nora.
"They are going to kill the little princes. They have got a feather-bed or something there, and they are going to smother them while they are asleep."
"But I don't want the feather-bed on top of me!" said Nora.
"No, no, it is not to come down on you; but that is the picture; they will hold it just so; it will not come down."
"But suppose they should let it fall?"
"They will not let it fall. The picture is to have it held just so, as if they were going to smother the poor little princes the next minute."
"I think it is a horrid picture!" said Nora.
"But it will only last a little while. All you will have to do will be to make believe you are asleep."
"I don't want to make believe I am asleep. I would rather have my eyes open. What else am I going to be, Daisy?"
"Preston will tell. I believe you are to be one of Queen Esther's women, to hold her up when she fainted, you know."
"Let me see. Where is it?"
Daisy obtained the picture. Nora examined it critically.
"I would like to be the king, he is so handsome. Who will be the queen?"
"I don't know yet," said Daisy.
"Are you going to have any part where you will be dressed up?"
"We shall have to be dressed for them all. We cannot wear our own dresses, you know; it would not be a picture."
"But, I mean, are you going to be dressed up with nice things? not like this."
"This will be dressed up," said Daisy; "she will be very nicely dressed to be one of the queen's ladies, you know."
"Daisy! Daisy! " was now called from the larger group of counsel-takers, Daisy and Nora having separated themselves for their private discourse. "Daisy! look here come here! see what you are to be. You are to be an angel."
"You are to be an angel, Daisy," Theresa repeated, "with wonderful wings made of gauze on a light frame of whalebone."
Daisy came near, looking very attentive; if she felt any more she did not show it in her face.
"Daisy, you will do it delightfully," said Mrs. Sandford. "Come and look. It is this beautiful picture of the Game of Life."
"What is it, ma'am?" said Daisy.
"These two figures, you see, are playing a game of chess. The stake they are playing for, is this young man's soul; he is one of the players, and this other player is the evil one. The arch-fiend thinks he has got a good move; the young man is very serious but perplexed; and there stands his guardian angel watching how the game will go."
Daisy looked at the picture in silence of astonishment. It seemed to her impossible that anybody could play at such a subject as that.
"Whom will you have for the fiend, Preston?" the lady went on.
"I will do it myself, ma'am, I think."
Daisy's "Oh, no, Preston!" brought down such a shower of laughter on all sides, that she retreated into herself a little further than ever. They pursued the subject for a while, discussing the parts and the making of the angels wings; deciding that Daisy would do excellently well for the angel and would look the part remarkably.
"She has a good deal that sort of expression in ordinary times," said Mrs. Sandford "without the sadness; and that she can assume, I day say."
"I would rather not do it " Daisy was heard to say, very gently but very soberly. There was another laugh.
"Do what, Daisy? assume a look of sadness?" said Preston.
"I would rather not be the angel."
"Nobody else could do it so well," said Mrs. Sandford. "You are the very one to do it. It will he admirable."
"I should like to be the angel " murmured Nora, low enough to have no one's attention but Daisy's. The rest were agreeing that the picture would be excellent and had just the right performers assigned to it. Daisy was puzzled. It seemed to her that Nora had a general desire for everything.
"Ella will be one of the princes in the tower," Preston went on. "Nora will be Red Riding-Hood."
"I won't be Red Riding-Hood " said Nora.
"Why not? Hoity, toity!"
"It isn't pretty. And it has no pretty dress."
"Why, it is beautiful," said Mrs. Sandford; "and the dress is to be made with an exquisite red cashmere cardinal of Mrs. Randolph's. You will make the best Red Riding-Hood here. Though Daisy would be more like the lamb the wolf was after," continued the lady, appealing to the manager; "and you might change. Who is to be queen Esther? Nora would do that well with her black eyes and hair she is more of a Jewess than any other of them."
"Esther is fainting," said Preston. "Daisy's paleness will suit that best. Nora could not look faint."
"Yes, I could," said that damsel, promptly.
"You shall blow the cakes that Alfred has let burn," said Preston. "Capital! Look here, Nora. You shall be that girl taking up the burnt cakes and blowing to cool them; and you may look as fierce as you like. You will get great applause if you do that part well. Eloise is going to be the scolding old woman. She and I divide the old women between us."
"Too bad, Preston!" said Mrs. Sandford, laughing. "What else are you going to be?"
"I am going to be one of those fellows coming to murder the little princes."
"Who is Bassanio?"
"Hamilton says he will undertake that. George declines."
"Suppose we do some work, instead of so much talking," said the former person; who had hitherto been a very quiet spectator and listener. "Let us have a little practice. We shall want a good deal before we get through."
All agreed; agreed also that something in the shape of artistic draperies was needed for the practice. "It helps," as Hamilton Rush remarked. So Daisy went to desire the attendance of June with all the scarfs, mantles and shawls which could be gathered together. As Daisy went, she thought that she did not wish Nora to be queen Esther; she was glad Preston was firm about that.
The practising of Bassanio and Portia was so very amusing that she fairly forgot herself in laughter. So did everybody else; except Mrs. Sandford, who was intent upon draperies, and Preston whose hands held a burden of responsibility. Hamilton was a quiet fellow enough in ordinary; but now nobody was more ready for all the life of the play. He threw himself back into an attitude of irresolution and perplexity, with the letter in his hand which had brought the fatal news; that is, it was the make-believe letter, though it was in reality only the New York Evening Post. And Daisy thought his attitude was very absurd; but they all declared it was admirable and exactly copied from the engraving. He threw himself into all this in a moment, and was Bassanio at once; but Theresa was much too well disposed to laugh to imitate his example. And then they all laughed at Theresa, who instead of looking grave and inquiring, as Portia should, at her lord's unusual action and appearance, flung herself into position and out of position with a mirthfulness of behaviour wholly inconsistent with the character she was to personify. How they all laughed!