It was a wild old wood, which nobody had ever meddled with. Things were just as nature's work had made them. The path the little party were travelling was a wood road merely, where country wagons had made a track; or more properly, where the country people had made a track for their wagons. It was but a rough way; stumps of trees that had been cut down stood right in the middle of it; and rocks and stones were in some places very thickly strewn over it. After some time of wandering over level ground, the path took a turn and began to get among the hills. It wound up and down and was bordered now by steep hillsides and sharp-rising rocks. It was all the wilder and prettier. The house Dr. Sandford spoke of had been passed; the turn had been taken; there was nothing to do now but follow on till they found the lake; but there were no signs of it yet, nor any sound of voices to be heard in the distance. Even the boys were gone on out of sight; the stillness of summer noon was all through the deep woods, for it is a time of day when the birds do not feel like ringing much. Daisy enjoyed it. She thought no one of all their company was having a better time probably than she.
Suddenly Sam, who was foremost of the bearers, gave a great shout; and at the same instant dropped his end of Daisy's chair and sprang to one side. Then stood still.
"What for air ye playing capers like that?" inquired Logan, with an air of great disgust and a strong Scotch accent. Sam stood still, drawing his countenance into all manner of grimaces.
"Speak then, can't ye! What ails ye? Don't stand there like a Merry Andrew, boy!"
"I've hurted myself!" Sam groaned.
"And how did ye hurt yourself? When ye were walking along, couldn't ye go for'rard quietly? Where's the hurt?"
"My foot!" said Sam bending down to it. "I can't stir it. Oh!"
"Did ye hurt yourself before or after ye gave such a loup?" Logan grunted, going over however now to bring his own wisdom to bear on Sam's causes of trouble. "Whatever possessed ye boy, with the end of the chair in your hand?"
"I see a sarpent—" said Sam submissively.
"A sarpent!" echoed Logan—"it's not your pairt to be frighted if you see a sarpent. What hurt would the sight of the brute do ye? There's no harm come to ye, boy, but the start."
"I can't move it—" repeated Sam under his breath.
"Logan, perhaps he has sprained his ankle," said Daisy from her chair; where at first she had been pretty well frightened.
"Weel—I don't see it," replied Logan slowly and unbelievingly.
"How does it feel, Sam?" Daisy asked.
"It don't feel without I stir it, Miss Daisy—and then, it's like a knife."
"He has sprained it, I am afraid, Logan," said Daisy getting out of her chair and coming to the consultation. "I think it is swelling now."
Sam had bared his unfortunate ankle, Logan looked up from it to the little speaker whose words were so quietly wise, with unspoken admiration.
"Can't ye walk then, Sam?" he urged. "Here is Miss Daisy in the middle of the road and wanting to be at the Lake—and how much farther it may be to the Lake is a subject unknown to me. Can't ye bear your foot surely?"
Sam's reply was sorrowful but decided; he could not bear it at all, with any weight upon it.
"Never mind, Logan," said Daisy; "I can wait. You had better go forward and see if you can find the boys. They can take care of me."
Logan felt the justness of this proposition, and at once put his long legs in swift motion to overtake the advance party; exercising a good strong voice too presently in hallooing to them. Daisy was left with Sam. The thought crossed her mind that this was getting to be an odd party of pleasure; but her real concern was for the sprained ankle. That, she was very sorry for. Her own delay and disappointment she took patiently.
Logan's halloos brought the boys to a stand. They waited till he came up to them, not deeming it necessary on their part to go back to see what was the matter. When they heard his news there was a disagreeable pause. What was to be done?
"Daisy can walk the rest of the way," was the decision of her brother.
"How far is it?" said Preston.
"I don't know!—it's no great things of a walk anyhow. Girls are always getting into trouble!"
"But what has got to be done with Sam?" said Preston.
"He can take care of himself," said Sam's young master.
"He can't move, sir, on his own feet," said Logan.
"You'll have to carry him, then. I suppose we cannot leave him in the woods, for humanity."
"There's Miss Daisy, sir."
"What a plague!" exclaimed Ransom. "Daisy can walk. She must at any rate; and you can bring her chair along to make firewood. Boys we ought to be there this minute—at the Lake. We shall be cheated out of all our fishing before dinner. That's along of mounting guard on a girl! And after dinner there won't be two inches of time."
"Hush, Ransom!" said Preston.
At this point the consultation was enlarged, and its character somewhat modified by the coming of Dr. Sandford upon the scene. From a height not far off, where he was roaming with his gun, he had perceived the group discerned that something was wrong, and come down with a quick step to reach them. His eye rather than his voice asked what was the matter. He was answered in various styles by the different members of the group.
"Here is a muss!" said Ransom.
"Miss Daisy, sir, she is left standing in the middle o' the forest!"—said Logan.
"Sam has very stupidly sprained his ankle," said Preston, "and cannot move."
The doctor without a word turned in the direction from which Logan had come. "Follow me, young gentlemen," said he, looking over his shoulder,—-"I shall need your help." So unwillingly enough, the boys, fishing tackle and all, turned back upon their steps, and followed. They soon came to Daisy's emptied chair, where she stood mounting guard over Sam.
The ankle was badly sprained; there was no doubt of that. Sam not only could carry nobody; he must himself be carried. The doctor ordered that Logan should take him on his back and convey him as far as the poor little house they had passed on the way. A good lift it was, for Sam was a well grown, stout fellow; but Logan was a long-limbed, sinewy, brawny Scotchman, and he made no difficulty of the job. The doctor in the first place deposited his gun against a tree, and did what was needful for the hurt ankle.
"Now," said he to Daisy, "how are you going to get forward?"
"I can walk the rest of the way," said Daisy.
"Pardon me. Not with my leave. Boys, which, of you will take the honour of being chair-bearers? I have my gun to care for."
"I will be one," said Preston.
"And Ransom will be the other. Come, sir!"
"Honour!"—said Ransom as he moved sullenly forward. "I think girls ought to stay at home when there is anything going on. They are plaguily in one's way!"
"That is a very womanish speech," said the doctor; "in so far as that it is very unmanly."
Ransom's temper nowise improved by this reply, he took up sulkily his ends of the chair poles; and once more the party set forward. It was not quite so pleasant now for Daisy; her chair was no longer carried smoothly. Preston, who was in advance, did his part perfectly well; but Ransom, behind her, let the chair go up and go down and sway about very unsteadily, besides that every step was with a jolting motion. It kept Daisy in constant uneasiness. Dr. Sandford walked on just before with his gun; Alexander Fish came after, laughing and jesting with the other boys.
"How does it go, Daisy?" said the doctor, stopping after a while to inquire.
"Mayn't I get out and walk, Dr. Sandford?"
"I should like it very much!"
"Do you not ride easily?"
"Not quite," said Daisy. "It throws me about a good deal."
"Ah! Did it do so when Logan and Sam carried you?"
"I did not feel it then," said Daisy unwillingly.
"Your porters are unskilled."
The doctor took his station by Ransom's hand, remarking that he would see that he did his work well. And he was as good as his word. He kept a constant eye on the management of the chair: and when Ransom neglected his duty, gave him a word of admonition or advice, so keen and contemptuous in its rebuke, though slight and dry, that even Ransom's thickness of apprehension felt it, and sheered off from meeting it. The last part of the distance Daisy was thoroughly well cared for, and in silence; for the doctor's presence had put a stop to all bantering between the boys. In furious silence on Ransom's part this last portion of the way was accomplished.
At the lake at last! And in Daisy's breast at least, everything but pleasure was now forgotten. A very beautiful sheet of water, not very small either, with broken shores, lay girdled, round with the unbroken forest. Close to the edge of the lake the great trees rose up and flung their arms over; the stems and trunks and branches were given back again in the smooth mirror below. Where the path came out upon the lake, a spread of greensward extended under the trees for a considerable space; and this was spotted and variegated now with the scattered members of the pleasure party. Blue and pink and white and green, the various light muslins contrasted with the grey or the white dresses of the gentlemen; while parasols were thrown about, and here and there a red shawl lay upon the ground, for somebody's reclining carpet. To add to all this, which made already a very pretty picture under the canopy of the great trees, a boat lay moored at a little point further on; baskets and hampers congregated with great promise in another quarter under guard of James and one or two of his helpers; and upon it all the sunlight just peeped through the trees, making sunny flecks upon the ground. Nobody wanted more of it, to tell the truth; everybody's immediate business upon reaching the place had been to throw himself down and get cool. Daisy and Dr. Sandford were the two signal exceptions.
Nora and Ella came running up, and there was a storm of questions. "O Daisy, isn't it beautiful!" "How came you to be so long getting here?" "Did you have a nice ride?" "O Daisy, what are we going to do, you and Ella, and I? Everybody else is going to do something."
"What are they going to do?" said Daisy.
"O I don't know! everything. Mr. Randolph is going out in the boat to fish, and all the ladies are going with him—Mrs. Sandford and Mrs. Stanfield and your mother; only Mrs. Fish isn't going; but Mr. Sandford is. And Eloise, your cousin, is going to see about having the dinner ready; and Theresa Stanfield is in that too; I think they have got the most fun; but nobody is doing anything yet. It's too hot. Are you hot, Daisy?"
"O Daisy," said Ella Stanfield, "couldn't we fish?"
"There are so many boys—" said Daisy; "I do not believe there will be any fishing tackle for us."
"Can you fish, Daisy?" asked the doctor, who stood near, looking after his gun.
"No, sir. I did catch a fish once—but it was only my line caught it."
"Not your hand at the end of the line?"
"My hand was not there. The line was lying on the bank and my hook in the water."
"Oh! that was it!"
Away went the doctor with his gun, and the boys sped off with their fishing rods. The heat was too great for anybody else to move. Nevertheless, what are parties of pleasure for but pleasure? they must not let the whole day slip away with nothing done but lying in the shade of the trees. There was a little island in the lake, well wooded like its shores. It was proposed that the ladies' fishing party should row over to the island, and there, under another shady grove, carry on their designs against the pickerel. Daisy's wish was to go with that party in the boat and watch their sport; especially as Mr. Randolph was the leader and manager of it. She was not asked to go; there was no room for the little people; so they stood on the shore and saw the setting-off, and watched the bright dimples every stroke of the oars made in the surface of the lake.
The people were pretty well scattered now. Nobody was left on the ground but Mrs. Gary and Mrs. Fish, sitting under a tree at some distance, talking; and Eloise and Theresa, who were charged to superintend the laying of the cloth. Having nothing particular to do, the three children became hangers-on, to watch how this business would be conducted; ready to help if they got a chance.
It was found a difficult business to arrange places for so many people on the grass; and the girls finally and wisely gave it up. They determined to set out the eatables only, on a tablecloth spread to receive them; but to let everybody eat where he felt disposed, or where he could find the best bit of shade. Shade was the best thing that day, Theresa Stanfield declared. But the first thing of all was to light a fire; for coffee must be boiled, and tea made. The fire was not a troublesome thing to have, for dead wood was in plenty for the gathering. James and Logan, who had come to the scene of action, soon had that going; and the children forgot that it was hot, in the beauty and the novelty of the thing, and laughed at Theresa's red cheeks as she stooped over the coals with her coffee-pot. About coffee Daisy was ignorant. But tea had been made in her behalf by Juanita too many times for her not to have the whole proceeding fixed in her memory.
"O Eloise, you must not make that tea now!" she exclaimed.
"No. It will be spoiled."
"Some other things have had the same fate," said Eloise.
"It will not be good for anything, Eloise," Daisy persisted gently. "It should not be made but just before you want it—just a few minutes."
"You are wise, Daisy," returned her cousin. "I do not know so much as you do, you see."
Daisy fell back a little. Eloise and Theresa went to unpacking the hampers; and James, acting under their direction, carried and placed the various articles they took out, placed and replaced; for as new and unlooked-for additions were made to the stock of viands, the arrangement of those already on the tablecloth had to be varied. There was a wonderful supply; for a hamper had come from every house that had sent members to the party.
"What shall we do with it all?" said Eloise.
"Find out what people like—or are expected to like. Just look at the cold chickens! and the ham! I am so thankful for that red lobster, to make a variety. There are three boxes of sardines—and what is that?"
"Well!—and look at the other things! We want an army to eat them. There is a dog, to begin with."
Theresa said it with comical coolness; but Eloise screamed, as a little spaniel was perceived to be snuffing round the tablecloth.
"It's Ransom's dog! Run, Daisy, run, and keep him off. Just stay there and keep watch of him, or he'll be all over everything. Daisy, run!"
Daisy left the hampers, and walked, or indeed obeyed orders and ran, to where the little spaniel was threatening a rout among the whole army of cold chickens. Daisy called him off, and then stood by to take care of him. It was very amusing to see Eloise and Theresa unpack the hampers; and Ella and Nora, finding it so, made no move to join Daisy in her distant watch. The men were busy running to and fro with the unpacked eatables, and keeping up the fire, and setting piles of plates everywhere, and laying glasses all round the tablecloth—for they would not stand up—and putting wine in coolers, that is to say, in pails of ice water. Daisy felt alone again, left out of the play. She looked at Nora and Ella in the distance—that is, just far enough away to be out of her society, eagerly standing over the hampers; and for a moment felt not very well pleased, either with them or her cousin Eloise. But then she remembered that she was tired, and sat down with her back against a tree; resolved to take all things patiently, if she could; and she very soon found enough to do, and amusing enough, in ordering the arrangement of the dishes on the tablecloth. Logan was sure to set a thing down in the wrong place, if he set it anywhere; and even James was confused in such a very novel state of his department. Daisy found exercise for all her wisdom, and full content came with full employment, naturally.
You can make pleasure out of almost anything, if you set about it. In the intervals she rested, and watched the distant figures of the fishing party on the island; and gladdened herself with the beauty and the sweet air of the wood, and the flecks of sunshine and moving shadow on the ground beneath the trees. I am afraid nobody else found the air sweet, unless it were the doctor. He was hardy, and besides had a philosophical way of looking at things. Daisy watched for his coming, afraid that he might wander off beyond luncheon time; but he did not come. The three boys, however, a less welcome sight, had recollected that there was something forward besides fishing; and came strolling along through the trees towards the tablecloth. Preston was stopped to speak to his mother; the other two approached Daisy.
"Hello!" said Ransom, "here we are! now where's everybody else? I'm furious as a lion."
"A hungry lion," said Alexander Fish. "I wish we had got some fish for the people to cook. That's fun. I tell you, Ransom, it's fun to see the work they make with it."
"Fish is no count, I think," said Ransom. "It's only good to catch. I can stand a lobster salad, though. But I can't stand long without something. What's the use of waiting? They aren't coming back yonder till night. They haven't stirred yet."
Ransom's eyes indicated the party on the island. And acting upon his announced opinion, Ransom, paid his respects in a practical form, not to cold chicken and bread, but to a dish of cream cakes which stood conveniently near. And having eaten one, in three mouthfuls, he stretched out his hand and took another. Happily then some meringues attracted his attention; and he stood with a cream cake in one hand and a meringue in the other, taking them alternately or both together. The meringues began to disappear fast. Daisy warned him that the only dish of those delicacies in all the entertainment was the one into which he was making such inroads. Ransom paid her no heed and helped himself to another.
"Ransom, that is not fair," said his sister. "There are no more but those, and you will have them all gone. Just look, now, how the dish looks!"
"How the dish looks!" said Ransom mockingly. "None of your business."
"It is not right. Don't Ransom!" Daisy said, as his hand was extended for a fourth meringue.
"Want 'em for yourself?" said Ransom sneeringly. "I say, Alexander—here's a game! Here's something just fit for a man's luncheon in a summer day—something nice and light and nourishing. Here's a lark pie—I know what it is, for I saw Joanna making it. Now we'll have this and be off."
"You must not, Ransom," Daisy urged anxiously. But Ransom seized the pie from its place and proceeded to cut into it, seeing that nobody was near to hinder him.
"Ransom, you ought not to do it," pleaded Daisy. "You ought to wait your turn. You are worse than Fido."
"Am I?" said Ransom fiercely. "Take that! Mind your own affairs, and let mine alone. You are not queen here yet, if you think you are."
A tolerably smart box on the ear was the accompaniment to this speech. Nobody was near. Alexander, after joining his friend in a meringue or two with a cream cake, not feeling quite comfortable in the connection, had moved off. So did Ransom now, but he carried his pie with him and called the other two boys to bear him company in making lunch of it. Preston was much too gentlemanly a fellow to take part even of a lark pie in such circumstances; he walked off in disdain, leaving Ransom and Alexander to do what they liked. And they liked the pie so well that I am bound to say nothing of it remained very soon excepting the dish. Even the bones were swallowed by Fido.
Daisy was left alone under the tree with her occupation gone; for Fido was after the lark bones. Her ear rang a few minutes from the application of Ransom's hand; but that effect had passed off long before Daisy's mind was quieted. For gentle as she was, Daisy was a little lady who had a very deep and particular sense of personal dignity; she felt wronged as well as hurt. Her father and mother never indulged in that method of punishment; and if they had, Ransom's hand was certainly not another one to inflict it.
Daisy was quite as much stung by the insult as by the unkindness; but she felt both. She felt both so much that she was greatly discomposed. Her watch over the feast was entirely forgotten; luckily Fido had gone off with his master, and chickens were no longer in immediate danger. Daisy rubbed away first one tear and then another, feeling a sort of bitter fire hot at her heart; and then she began to be dissatisfied at finding herself so angry. This would not do; anger was something she had no business with; how could she carry her Lord's message, or do anything to serve him, in such a temper? It would not do; but there it was, offended dignity and pride, hot at her heart. Nobody would have thought perhaps that Daisy was proud; but you never can tell what is in a person's heart till it is tried; and then the kinds of pride are various. It does not follow because you have none of one sort that you have not plenty of another sort. However, finding this fire at her heart quite too much for her to manage, Daisy went away from her watching-place; crept away among the trees without any one's observing her; till she had put some distance between her and the party, and found a further shelter from them in a big moss-grown rock and large tree. There was a bed of moss, soft and brown, on the other side of the rock; and there Daisy fell down on her knees and began to remember—"Thou therefore endure hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
Certainly the sun was very hot that day. The fishers on the island found it so, notwithstanding that they had sought out every one for himself the shadiest, freshest nook that could be found. Nothing was fresh; and if the trees did hinder the sunshine from falling on some parts of the ground, they kept off none of it from the water; and the glare from that was said to be unendurable. Even where there was not much glare strictly speaking; people were not particular in their speech that day. At last they voted that holding lines in the water was of no use; fish could not be expected to leave their cool depths below to seek the sunny regions near the surface of the water; "they would be fools if they did," one of the ladies remarked. Fish never were supposed to be very wise creatures, Mr. Sandford informed her; but nevertheless, it was resolved not to reckon upon their want of wisdom at this time, but to put up and go back to shore, and try what cold chicken would do. So just about the hour when the sun's work for the day verges towards the hottest, the little boat was seen again stealing over the sunny surface of the lake, back to where the tablecloth lay spread for the tired people.
A little while before it reached that place, Dr. Sandford arrived upon the scene. He locked a little warm in the face; but his white shooting coat did not seem less affected by the state of the weather than the doctor's temper. Mrs. Gary and Mrs. Fish he found sunk in somnolency at the foot of the tree where they had been talking. The young ladies were sitting by the emptied hampers, deep in confab. The boys and Fido, over against the outspread feast, were arranging fishing tackle, and watching the return of the boat; with eyes of anticipation. To them came the doctor.
"Where is your sister, Ransom?"
"I don't know." The tone meant, I don't care.
"I do not see her anywhere."
"No more do I," said Ransom, without raising his eyes from his fishing line.
"Where is she?"
"I told you, I don't know."
"Did she go with the fishing party?"
"No sir; she was here when we came," Alexander Fish spoke up.
"Yes, I remember she was here," said Preston. "I remember seeing her. She cannot be far off. It's hot enough to keep people from straying far."
The doctor, being not absolutely satisfied with this reasoning, and having nothing better to do, occupied himself with a search after the missing Daisy. It lasted some time, and he was beginning to be not quite easy in his mind; when, being a sportsman, his eye detected something at a distance which was not moss nor stone. In two minutes the doctor came up with it. It was Daisy, fast asleep on her moss bed behind the rock. Her head lay on her arm which was curled up under it; and profound slumber had left the little pale face as serene as usual. The doctor was warm by this time. He sat down on the moss beside her; and putting his arm under Daisy's shoulders lifted her up, by way of waking her, speaking to her at the same moment. But to his amusement, Daisy no sooner got her eyes well open than she shook herself free of him, and sat as demure as possible opposite to him on the moss.
"Dr. Sandford!—I believe—I got asleep," she said in a bewildered kind of way.
"How did you get here, Daisy?"
"I came here, sir."
"What for did you come here?"
Daisy looked troubled; glanced at the doctors face, and then rested her head on her hand.
"Who has been vexing you now?" said he at haphazard.
"I am not vexed," said Daisy in the gentlest of all possible tones.
"I think I am tired."
"Honour bright, Daisy!—has not some one been vexing you?"
"I ought not to have been vexed," said Daisy slowly.
"I will wager that you are wrong there, and that you ought to have been vexed. Who was it, Daisy?"
"Never mind, please, Dr. Sandford! It is no matter at all now."
She put her little hand confidingly in the doctor's as she spoke and looked very earnest. He could not resist her.
"I wish I had come sooner," he said. "I shall be suspicious of everybody, Daisy. Come—you and I must go to dinner, or there will be a hue and cry after us."
Indeed by this time the whole party were gathered, and in impatient expectation that the dinner would make up to them in some degree for the various disappointments of the morning. All were gathered and had arranged themselves conveniently upon the grass, around the feast which was spread out upon the tablecloth, before anybody knew that two of their number were wanting. The cry was just raised, "Where is the doctor?"—when the doctor hove in sight with Daisy by his side. Everybody was placed already; and it was very natural that the doctor keeping hold of Daisy's hand, led her with him to the spot that seemed to be left for his occupancy, and seated her there beside him. On the other side of Daisy was Mrs. Stanfield. She was very well satisfied with this arrangement, seeing that her father was surrounded by people and busy besides; and that Nora and Ella were with Alexander and Ransom.
What a gay tableful they were! all talking and laughing, though everybody declared himself exceeded by the heat and bored by the fishing, and generally tired of everything but eating and drinking. But iced champagne was now at the parched lips, and boned turkey and jellied ham were waiting attention, and a good time had come. It was some while, of course, before Daisy could be served. She waited, feeling very happy and amused; for a party of people taking a cold dinner out of doors do not look nor act exactly like the same people taking a hot dinner in the house. Daisy never dreamed that anybody was noticing her. She had a disagreeable surprise.
"Daisy," said Mrs. Randolph from a little distance, and across several people,—"Daisy, what did you do that for?"
"Mamma!"—said Daisy. "What, mamma?"
"Have you a headache?"
"O no, mamma."
"What did you put up your hand to your brow for?"
"Mamma?"—said Daisy, very much bewildered. For she knew nothing was the matter, and she could not guess what her mother was thinking of. Moreover, somehow, Mrs. Randolph's words or manner had acted to stop the voices of all the company in her neighbourhood; and everybody was waiting and looking to see what the subject of interest might be. Mrs. Randolph's words could come now with their usual calm distinctness; and Daisy's answers, no matter how softly spoken, could be well heard. In a good deal of wonder Daisy repeated, "Mamma?"
"You put up your hand and sat with your eyes covered—did you not, just now?"
"Yes, mamma."—No need to bid anybody look and listen now; the rosy flush that had spread itself all over Daisy's pale cheeks sufficiently aroused curiosity.
"I notice that you do so before every meal—is it not the case?"
Dr. Sandford could hear the caught breath. He did not look, except by a glance, but he listened.
"What does that mean, Daisy?"
"Mamma?"—said the child in distress.
"I ask you, what that means? what is it for?"
"Mamma—may I come round there and speak to you?"
"Certainly not. Sit still in your place and answer."
But Daisy was silent, very flushed.
"Do you hear, Daisy? what does that action mean? I wish to know."
"Mamma, may I speak to you in private and tell you?"
"Are you ashamed of it? are you ashamed to tell me?"
"Then do it at once."
But everybody waited in vain to hear the answer. It did not come.
"I shall not ask you again, Daisy."
"Mamma," said the child low and modestly, but with steadiness,—"I was praying."
"Praying! were you! Why do you choose that particular time for your private devotions?"
It was almost too much. The tears started in Daisy's eyes; but presently she answered,—"Because God is good to us, mamma."
"He is always good," said Mrs. Randolph. "That is a very silly practice of yours, Daisy, and very unbecoming. There is a proper way of doing everything."
The lady's manner said that the subject was dismissed, and her guests returned to their ordinary conversation. Except the doctor and Daisy. She was overwhelmed, and he was gravely unsocial.
Was it silly?—that bound her heart had made up to the feet of her King? That joyful thanksgiving, and expression of love, and pledge of obedience, and prayer for help? It was something better than the meal often to Daisy; something sweeter and happier. Was it silly? and must she do so no more except when she was alone?
Daisy had quite forgotten that eating and drinking was part of the present matter in hand, when Dr. Sandford softly asked her what she would like to have. Daisy said anything he pleased; not caring herself, and indeed in too much confusion of mind yet to know or think about the business. And her appetite was gone. Dr. Sandford provided for her with kind care, what she liked too; but nothing was good to Daisy. She broke bread and swallowed milk mechanically; the more substantial food she refused utterly. Bread and milk and grapes were Daisy's dinner.
"It's good to be somebody's favourite," Ransom said to her after the meal was over. "Nobody got any grapes but you."
"Nobody? Why Ransom, I thought everybody had them."
"I didn't,—nor Preston, nor Alexander—not a berry; and Nora and Ella Stanfield didn't. You are the favourite."
"O Nora," said Daisy, "didn't you have any grapes? I'm sorry!"
"I had peaches," said Nora. "I like peaches a great deal the best. Daisy, what shall we do now?"
"Suppose we sit down and have a talk."
"A talk?" said Nora. "Suppose we have a game of hide and seek? It's such a good place."
"Or forfeits?" said Ella. "It is too hot to play hide and seek."
"I don't think it is hot," said Nora. "The sun don't shine now."
"Daisy, don't you want to go out with me in the boat?" said Preston coming up. "We'll get in the shade, and see if you can catch a pickerel as well as you did a trout."
"O I should like that!" said Daisy eagerly. She saw the kindness of Preston's meaning. He wanted to make her forget her vexations.
"And may we go too?" Nora asked.
"Certainly; but Daisy and I are going to do the fishing. You must be content to look on. We will go round to the other side of the island, Daisy; it is pretty there, I know. And we shall have a better chance for the pickerel, for the sun is gone under a cloud."
So the sun had; but at that very moment the cloud passed off and the brilliant hot beams fell with what seemed renewed brilliancy on the lake, and on all the ground which they could touch.
"It will go under again," said Preston. "We do not mind trifles. Come, Daisy."
"Daisy, you must not go," said Dr. Sandford looking round. He was just moving away to see some one else, and was gone in a minute.
"The doctor is all very well when one is sick," said Preston; "but I never heard he had a right to command people when they are well. Daisy, we will not mind him."
"I must," said Daisy, meekly. "But you can go without me, if you want to."
"Nonsense, dear little Daisy! you are not obliged to do what everybody says," her cousin urged. "Dr. Sandford has no more business to say what you shall do than what I shall do. I will not let him rule you so. Come! we will go try for the pickerel. Go, Nora and Ella, run away with the baskets to the boat. Come, Daisy, come!"
"No, Preston, I cannot."
"Because of what that stupid man says? or don't you want to go!"
"I would like to go very much, thank you, Preston."
"Then you shall!"
"No. I cannot."
"Daisy, you might as well obey me as Dr. Sandford."
"I do not think so."
"Nora and Ella are going. You will be left alone."
"I hope you will catch some pickerel," said Daisy steadily.
But Preston was vexed. He did not like it that his word should not have as much weight with his little cousin as any other person's, after her father and mother. Like other boys, and men, for the most part, he was fond of having his own way even in little things; though he sought it in a polite fashion. And Daisy was very fond of him, and always followed his lead; but now he could not move her. He went off at a bound, and soon was out upon the water, with the girls and Alexander and Ransom also who had joined him.
Daisy would have liked the shelter of her mossy hiding-place again. She stood in the shade of a tree looking after the boat; feeling very much left alone and greatly disposed to have a good crying time; but that was not her way of meeting trouble. What a strange day of pleasure this Silver Lake business had turned out! Yet Daisy had enjoyed many things in it; but her mother's attack upon her at luncheon had sobered her completely. It was such a sign of what she might expect. Daisy presently fell to considering what she should do; and then remembered her old refuge, prayer; and then concluded that she was a very happy little girl after all. And instead of being hurt that Nora had been with her so little that day, it was very natural, Daisy said to herself. Of course, Nora wanted to go in the boat with Preston after fish; it was too good an opportunity to be lost; and of course she had liked to walk in the morning with the larger and gayer party. It was all right, Daisy decided, although not what she herself would have done in the circumstances. Would her note to her father have been reckoned "silly" too? Very likely. Daisy turned her wistful eyes to where he was; sitting in a group of ladies and gentlemen, talking. Daisy could not go to him. Further along, Mrs. Gary was fighting the heat under a tree by herself. No attraction there. Still further—the doctor was standing talking to the two young ladies. As Daisy looked, he quitted them and came towards her.
"Have I spoiled all your pleasure, Daisy?"
"Are you angry with me?"
The answer this time was given with such an affectionate bright smile that the doctor must have been hard not to feel it.
"You do not seem to have much pleasure on hand just now," said he; "would you like to take a little walk with me, and see if we can find any wonderful things?"
Daisy's face was quite answer enough, it was so full of content. The doctor had no intention to tire her; be strolled along the borders of the lake, which was wild and lovely all the more as they got further away from the pic-nic ground. Firs and oaks stood thick all along, with many other trees also; the ground was carpeted with layers of moss; great rocks rose up by the water's edge, grey and brown with lichens. It was not so hot now. The sun's glare was shielded off. On a mossy carpet beside the water's edge the doctor and Daisy sat down. Undoubtedly the doctor had never taken so much trouble with a child before; but Daisy was a study to him.
"We do not find the wonderful things, Daisy," he remarked, throwing himself back upon the moss with his hands under his head. His cap fell off; his blue eyes looked at her with a sort of contented laziness; never sleepily. Daisy smiled at him.
"I do," she said.
"You do! What have you found!"
"I think everything is wonderful."
"A profound truth," said the doctor; "but you are very young to find it out. Instance, Daisy."
"But you want to go to sleep, sir."
"How dare you say so? No, I don't. I want to have a talk with you about something wonderful."
Daisy thought he looked a little sleepy, for his eyelids drooped well over his eyes; nevertheless the eyes saw keenly enough the start of pleasure into hers. And they had seen the pale, subdued look of the face that it had worn before. Nevertheless, in spite of that start, Daisy remained as quiet as a mouse, looking at him.
"Don't you think I can talk while I am enjoying myself in this fashion?" said the doctor.
"I think you can talk any way," said Daisy; "but you look a great deal more like sleeping, sir."
"None of that. Go on, Daisy. Only do not say anything about the sun, now that it has gone under a cloud. Let us forget it for a little while."
"What shall I take, then?"
"I don't care. Something green and refreshing."
Daisy looked around her. On every side she saw things that she had no doubt would be very interesting to talk about; she did not know which to choose. There were the trees; the firs and hemlocks, and the oaks and maples, growing thick on every hand. No doubt those beautiful structures had uses and characters of wonder; she had a great mind to ask the doctor to tell her about them. But the great boulder beside which they were hid from view, divided her attention; it was very large, and rounded off on all sides, lying quietly on the ground; and Daisy was curious to know how it came to be so grown over with green things; mosses and ferns draped it all over; how could they grow on the bare rock?
"Well, Daisy?" said her friend, watching how Daisy's countenance woke up from its subdued expression.
"Dr. Sandford, how could these things grow on the rock? these green things?"
"What green things?"
"Why, ever so many sorts. Here is moss, a great deal of it, of different kinds; and there is beautiful brake at the top, like plumes of feathers. How can they grow there?"
"I thought everything wanted some earth to grow in."
"Have they none?"
"I don't know. I thought not. They must have very little indeed, Dr. Sandford."
"Very little will do, I suppose."
"But I do not see how any earth got there," said Daisy. "It was only a bare rock at first, of course."
"At first," repeated the doctor. "Well, Daisy, I suppose it was no more. But there is something else growing there, which you have not spoken of."
"Is there?" said Daisy. "I do not see anything else."
"Pardon me—you do see it."
"Then I do not know what it is," said Daisy laughing. Absolutely, the sober, sober little face had forgotten its care, and the eyes were alight with intelligence and curiosity, and the lips were unbent in good honest laughter. The doctor raised himself up to a sitting posture.
"What do you call those grey and brown patches of colour that hide your rock all over?"
"Grey and brown?" said Daisy wistfully—"those are just the colours of the rock, aren't they?"
"No. Look close."
"Why, Dr. Sandford, what is it? It is not the rock—some of it is not—but here is a spot of yellow that is nothing else, I think."
"You must learn not to trust your eyes, Daisy. That is something that grows; it is not rock; it is a vegetable. If I had my pocket lens here I would shew you; but I am afraid—yes, I have left it at home."
"Why it is!" cried Daisy. "I can see now—it is not rock. What is it, Dr. Sandford?"
"What is that, sir?"
"It is one of the lowest forms of vegetable life. It is the first dress the rocks wear, Daisy."
"But what does it live on?"
"Air and water, I suppose."
"I never knew that was a vegetable," said Daisy musingly. "I thought it was the colour of the rock."
"That goes to prepare soil for the mosses, Daisy."
"O how, Dr. Sandford?"
"In time the surface of the rock is crumbled a little by its action; then its own decay furnishes a very little addition to that. In favourable situations a stray oak leaf or two falls and lies there, and also decays, and by and by there is a little coating of soil or a little lodgment of it in a crevice or cavity, enough for the flying spores of some moss to take root and find home."
"And then the moss decays and makes soil for the ferns?"
"I suppose so."
Daisy stood looking with a countenance of delighted intelligence at the great boulder, which was now to her a representative and witness of natural processes she had had no knowledge of before. The mosses, the brakes, the lichen, had all gained new beauty and interest in her eyes. The doctor watched her and then scrambled up to his feet and came to her side.
"Look here, Daisy," said he, stooping down at the foot of the rock and shewing her where tufts of a delicate little green plant clustered, bearing little umbrella-like heads on tiny shafts of handles.
"What is that Dr. Sandford?"
"Is it? It is pretty. What is it, sir?"
"It is a plant somewhere between the mosses and the lichens in its character—it is one of the liverworts, and they are some of the first plants to go in advance of superior vegetation. This is called Marchantia."
"And is it wonderful, Dr. Sandford?"
"If I could shew it to you, you would think so. Look here, Daisy—on the surface of this leaf do you see little raised spots here and there?"
"Yes, I see them."
"Those are, when they are finished, little baskets."
"Baskets?" exclaimed Daisy delightedly. "I can't see anything like a basket now."
"No, it is too small for you to see; you must take it on my word, who have seen it. They are baskets, and such baskets as you never dreamed of. The shape is elegant, and round the edge, Daisy, they are cut into a fringe of teeth, and each tooth is cut again into teeth, making a fringe around its tiny edge."
"I wish I could see it," said Daisy.
"Now if you were my little sister, and lived with me, I could shew you these things in the evenings."
Daisy responded to this with a very grateful and somewhat wistful smile, but immediately went on with the business in hand.
"Do these little baskets hold anything, Dr. Sandford"
"Yes. Baskets are always made to hold something."
"What do they hold?"
"They hold what are called spores; that is, little bits of things which, whenever they get a chance, begin to grow and make new plants."
"Seeds?" said Daisy.
"They answer the purpose of seeds."
"How do they get out of the basket? do the winds blow them out?"
"Or the rain washes them out. If they lie long enough in the basket, they will take root there, and then there is a new plant seen growing out of the old one."
"How wonderful it is!" said Daisy.
"There is another wonder about it. It does not matter which way these little spores lie on the ground or in the basket; but the side that happens to be exposed to the light, after a time, prepares itself to expand into the surface of a frond, while the dark side sends down a tiny root."
"And it does not matter which side lies uppermost?"
"No, not in the beginning."
"What is a frond, Dr. Sandford?"
"This sort of seed-bearing leaf is called so."
"How pretty it is!" said Daisy. "What are these little things like umbrellas?"
"These carry the real seed vessels of the plant."
"Other seeds. Dr. Sandford, is everything wonderful?"
"What do you think about it?"
"I do not know but a very little," said Daisy; "but I never should have thought this little green moss—or what did you say it was?"
"Liverwort. Its name is Marchantia."
"This liverwort; I never should have supposed it was anything but pretty, and of course good for something; but now I never heard anything so wonderful."
"More than the sun?" said Dr. Sandford smiling.
"It is more surprising, I think," said Daisy.
"Pray, what makes you conclude so securely that this little Marchantia is good for something?"
Daisy gave him a quick look of wisdom and suspicion mingled. The doctor was getting a very good amusement himself, and quite entered into the matter. He waited for Daisy's answer. It came diplomatically.
"Isn't everything good for something, sir?"
"'Pon my word, I don't know," said the doctor. "My enquiry was for the grounds of your opinion, Daisy."
"It was not an opinion. I do not think I am old enough to have an opinion."
"What was it, Daisy?"
The doctor was still crouching down by the side of the rock examining carelessly whatever he found there. Daisy looked at him and waited, and felt at last that good manners required her to speak.
"You said, sir, that baskets were made to hold something."
"So your remark was an inference from mine?"
"Go on, Daisy."
"I only said it, sir, because I knew it was true."
There was an odd contrast between the extreme modesty of Daisy's manner and the positiveness of her words.
"It is said to be a great philosophical truth, Daisy; but what I want to know is how you, not being a philosopher, have got such firm hold of it?"
He faced Daisy now, and she gave way as usual before the searching blue eyes. One soft look, and her eyes fell away.
"I only thought it. Dr. Sandford, because in the beginning—when God had made everything—the Bible says he saw that it was all good."
"Daisy, how came you to be such a lover of the Bible?"
Daisy did not speak at once, and when she did it was a departure from the subject.
"Dr. Sandford, I felt a drop of rain on my face!"
"And here is another," said the doctor getting up. "This is what I have expected all day. Come, Daisy—you must be off in your chaise-a-porteurs without delay."
"But Nora, and Ella, and the boys!—they are away off on the lake."
"They will scuttle home now," said the doctor, "but I have nothing to do with them. You are my business, Daisy."
Accordingly he carried her back to the lunching place, not indeed in his arms, but with a strong hand that made her progress over the stones and moss very rapid, and that gave her a great flying leap whenever occasion was, over any obstacle that happened to be in the way. There was need enough for haste. The light veil of haze that had seemed to curtain off the sunlight so happily from the lake and the party, proved now to have been only the advancing soft border of an immense thick cloud coming up from the west. No light veil now; a deep, dark covering was over the face of the sky, without break or fold; the drop or two of rain that had been felt were merely the outriders of an approaching storm. Low threatening, distant mutterings of thunder from behind the mountains, told the party what they might expect before long.
There was sudden confusion. Nobody wanted to be out in the storm, and to avoid it seemed a difficult problem. Hastily the ladies caught up their scarfs and bags, and set off upon a scattering flight through the woods to the shore, those who were nearest or first ready not stopping to wait for the others. Quickly the luncheon ground was deserted; fast the blue and white flutter of muslins disappeared in the enveloping woods; hastily the remainder of the packing went on to get the hampers again in readiness to move. In the midst of all this, who was to carry Daisy's chair?
"You say there is a house somewhere on the way," said Mr. Randolph to the doctor. "If you will go forward with Daisy at once, I will stay to look after those children in the boat. They are coming now as fast as they can."
"Can you carry my gun?"
"Certainly. Doctor, I will take that office, if you will stay behind till the boat gets to land."
"Thank you—it is better arranged the other way. The storm will be upon us before the ladies get to the shore, I fear."
"Then they had better take the other route."
Mr. Randolph in haste despatched one of the men to recall the fleeing members of the party, and bring them, round by the other road to the house. But before that, the doctor had put Daisy in her chair, and with Logan at the other end of it had set off to reach shelter. It grew very dark; and it was sultrily still in the woods. Not a leaf trembled on its stem. The steps of the two chair-bearers sounded ominously in the entire hush of everything. The gloom still deepened. The doctor and Logan with swift, steady strides carried the chair along at a goodly rate; not as it had come in the morning. In the midst of this, and after it had gone on some time in silence, Daisy twisted herself round to look at the doctor and give him a smile.
"You do not seem concerned, Daisy, in the view of getting wet?"
"Why no," said Daisy twisting round, again, "it is nice. I am only sorry for the people who are so frightened."
"What is nice? getting wet?"
"O no," said Daisy. "Maybe I shall not get wet—you go so fast."
But at this moment there came a nearer growl of thunder, and the leaves in the tops of the trees rustled as if a breath had passed over them. Then were still.
"Can you mend your pace, Logan?" said the doctor.
"Ay, sir!"—came in the deep, cheery utterance of Logan's Scotch voice.
"Hold fast, Daisy"—said the doctor; and the two chair-bearers changed their pace for a swinging trot. It was needful to hold on now indeed, for this gait jolted the chair a good deal; but it got over the ground, and Daisy found it excessively amusing. They passed the thick-standing tree stems in quick succession now; the rocks uprising from the side of the path were left behind one after another; they reached the sharp bend in the road; and keeping up the swinging trot with a steadiness which shewed good wind on the part of both the chair-bearers, at last the little house where Sam had been left hove in view. Time it was; full time. One and another sough of the wind had bowed the tree-tops with a token of what was coming; one and another bright flash of lightning had illumined the woody wilderness; and now just as the chair stopped, drops began to fall which seemed as large as cherry-stones, mingled with hail a good deal larger. Their patter sounded on the leaves a minute or two; then ceased.
"That will do, Logan," said the doctor. "Bring the chair in under shelter if you can; and come in yourself. This will be a shower." And he led Daisy into the house.
If ever you saw a dark-looking place, that was the room into which the house door admitted them. Two little windows seemed at this instant to let in the darkness rather than the light; they were not very clean, besides being small. A description which Daisy would have said applied to the whole room. She stood still in the middle of the floor, not seeing any place to sit down, that she could make up her mind to take. The doctor went to the window. Logan took a chair. Sam was sitting disconsolately in a corner. It was hard to say to what class of people the house belonged; poor people they were of course; and things looked as if they were simply living there because too poor to live anywhere else. A slatternly woman stared at the intruders; a dirty child crawled over the hearth. Daisy could not endure to touch anything, except with the soles of her shoes. So she stood upright in the middle of the floor; till the doctor turned round.
"Daisy!—are you going to stand there till the shower is over?"
"Yes, sir,"—Daisy answered patiently. A smile curled the doctor's lips. He opened the door and lifted in the chair with its long poles, which indeed half filled the little room; but Daisy sat down. The woman looked on in astonishment.
"Be she weakly, like?" she asked at length of the doctor.
"Has been—" he answered.
"And what be that thing for?"
"It is for going up and down mountains."
"Have you come from the mountings!" she asked in great surprise. The doctor was in for it. He was obliged to explain. Meanwhile the darkness continued and the rain did not yet fall. A breath of wind now and then brushed heavily past the house, and sunk into silence. The minutes passed.
"It will be a happiness if they get here before it begins," said Dr. Sandford; "it will come when it comes!"
"Be there more comin'?" said the woman.
"A houseful. We are only the beginning."
She moved about now with somewhat of anxiety to get sundry things out of the way, which yet there seemed no other place for; a frying pan was set up in a corner; a broom took position by the fire place; a pail of water was lifted on the table; and divers knives and forks and platters hustled into a chimney cupboard. Little room enough when all was done. At last the woman caught up the sprawling baby and sat down with it opposite the broom, on the other side the fire, in one of the three chairs the place contained. Sam had another. Logan was on a box. The woman's eyes said, "Now I am ready to see all that comes."
It was some time first, and the rain still did not fall. It was very black, and flashes from distant lightning with mutterings of the thunder were frequent and threatening; still no rain unless a few ominous drops. At last voices and fluttering muslins came down the road; the flutter came near, and in poured a stream of gay people at the door of the poor little room. Gay as to their dress and attire, that is; for gayety was not to be found at present in their words and behaviour. The woman in the chimney corner hugged up closer her dirty baby with the delight of so unwonted a feast to her eyes.
"Is there nothing better than this to be had?" said Mrs. Fish. And her tone was indescribable.
"How long have we got to remain here, doctor?" said a more cheery voice.
"Mrs. Stanfield, until the rain has come, and gone."
"It would be better to be out in it," whispered Theresa to her mother.
"My love, there is no other shelter on this side the river."
"There will not be standing room for us all presently—" said Eloise Gary.
Pretty nearly so; for when the second detachment of the party arrived, in a minute more, people looked at each other across a throng of heads. They got in; that was all. To sit down or to move much was out of the question.
"Daisy, you can't have this big chair of yours in here," said Ransom in an energetic whisper. "Don't you see there is no room for it?"
Daisy saw there was very little. She got up patiently and stood, though feeling very tired; while her chair was got out of the door with a good deal of difficulty.
"Are you tired, my darling?" said her father bending down to the pale little face.
"A little, papa," said Daisy sighing.
No more words, but Mr. Randolph lifted Daisy in his arms and gave her a resting place there. Daisy was afraid she was too heavy for him, but it was very comfortable to sit there, with her arm on his shoulder. Her face looked its content; the only face in which such an expression could be seen at present; though the gentlemen took the thing coolly, and Mr. Randolph and the two Sandfords looked as usual. But now the delayed storm drew near. The thunder notified with every burst the fact that it was coming speedily; the lightning became vivid and constant. A premonitory sweep of the wind—and the clouds gave out their treasures of rain and hail with tremendous fury. The lightning was terrible now, and the darkness of the intervals between so great that the company could scarcely see each other's faces. This was more than some of the party had bargained for, and there was a degree of confusion. Screams from a few of the ladies and exclamations of terror from others were mixed now and then with words that sounded very like an oath to Daisy's ear, though they were not spoken in levity. She bent her head round to look in the face of the lady who had last used them, as if to assure herself what was meant; and then her head went down on Mr. Randolph's shoulder and her face was hidden.
"Daisy—" whispered her father.
"Are you afraid?"
"No, papa—not for myself."
"What? Look up here, Daisy."
She lifted her face; it was wistful and troubled.
"Are you concerned about the storm, my darling?"
"No, papa; not myself."
"How then, Daisy?"
She shuddered. "Papa, I wish they would not scream so!"
"Why does that trouble you?" said Mr. Randolph smiling.
But Daisy's face was unutterably grave, as a new brilliant band of forked lightning glittered outside the windows, and the burst of the thunderbolt sounded as if at their very feet, making a renewal of the same cries and exclamations.
"Why does it trouble you, Daisy?" said Mr. Randolph soothingly, feeling the quiver of the child's frame.
"Papa," said Daisy with intense expression,—"they do not love Jesus!"—And her head went down again to be hid on her father's shoulder.
Mr. Randolph did nothing to bring it up again; and Daisy lay quite still, while the storm raged in full fury, and the screams and ejaculations of the ladies were joined now and then by a word of impatience from one of the gentlemen, or a "Hech, sirs!" in Logan's smothered Scotch brogue. Once Mr. Randolph felt Daisy's lips pressed against his face, and then her other arm came round his neck and nestling there closely she was after that as still as a mouse. The storm lasted a long time. The lightning and thunder at last removed their violence some distance off; then the wind and the rain did their part, which they had not fully done before. And all the while the poor party of pleasure sat or stood as thick as bees in a hive, in the miserable shelter of the cottage. Miserable yet welcome. Very tired and impatient the people became as they grew less frightened. Daisy had long been fast asleep. The day waned and drew near its ending. When sunset was, nobody could tell by the light; but that night was at hand was at last evident from the darkness.
"Your arms must be weary, Mr. Randolph," said Dr. Sandford. "Let me relieve you of your burden."
"I cannot let you do that."
"I will," said the doctor. "Daisy being my charge as well as yours, gives me a right." And the transfer was actually made before Daisy was aware of it. She waked up however, with a feeling of some change and a doubt upon her mind as to what custody she was in; but she was not sure, till the woman of the house lit a miserable dip candle, which threw a light that mocked the darkness over the weary company. Daisy did not like the arrangement at all.
"Dr. Sandford!" she exclaimed. "I shall tire you. Please put me on the floor and let me stand."
"No—you cannot," said the doctor decidedly. "Be a good child, Daisy. Lay your head down and go to sleep again."
And greatly to Daisy's astonishment the doctor's moustache brushed her lip. Now Daisy had always thought to herself that she would never allow anybody that wore a moustache to kiss her; here it was done, without leave asked; and if the doctor was so independent of rules as that, she thought she had best not provoke him. Besides, she remembered that her father must be tired with carrying her so long; and moreover, if Dr. Sandford liked her well enough to kiss her, maybe he would not care for the trouble of holding her for a while. At any rate Daisy submitted peaceably to the necessity; put her arm over the doctor's shoulder to support herself and laid her head down; though not to sleep. She watched everything that was going on now. What a roomful of weary and impatient people they were! packed like cattle in a pen, for closeness; and how the rain poured and beat outside the house! The shelter was something to be thankful for, and yet how unthankful everybody looked. Some of the gentlemen shewed calm fortitude under their trials; but the poor ladies' chagrined faces said that days of pleasure were misnamed. Alexander Fish had gone to sleep; Ransom looked cross; Preston as usual gentlemanly, though bored. From one to another Daisy's eye roved. Nora and Ella were sitting on the table; in full confab. Other people were sitting there too; the table was full.
"The storm is slackening—" Mr. Randolph remarked to the doctor.
"It will be over in a little while more."
"What do you think of it, Daisy?" said her father noticing her look.
"Of what, papa?"
"Parties of pleasure in general."
"Papa,—I have had a very nice time."
"You have had a nice sleep," said her father laughing; "and that colours your views of things. The rest of us have not had that advantage."
"Daisy, I am surprised to hear you say what you do," the doctor remarked as Mr. Randolph turned away. He spoke softly.
"I thought your day had not been altogether agreeable?"
"Do you think anything is apt to be altogether agreeable, Dr. Sandford?" Daisy said, with a demure waiving of the subject which was worthy of much older years. The quaintness of this remark was infinite.
"What has been the agreeableness to-day, for instance?"
"O, a great deal; my ride in the chair,—that was nice! and all our walk, and what you were telling me; and coming over the river—" Daisy paused.
"And what do you think of being carried in the arms of gentlemen," said Mrs. Gary, who had overheard a few words,—"while other little girls have to get along as they can? as tired as you are, I dare say."
"I cannot help it, aunt Gary," said Daisy. But the remark served to justify her view of things; for what had in truth been altogether agreeable up to that minute was so no longer. Daisy was uneasy.
"Dr. Sandford," she whispered after a few moments,—"I am rested—I can stand now. I am tiring you. Please set me down."
"No. Be quiet, Daisy," said her friend peremptorily. And as the little head went down again obediently on his shoulder, he gave again a gentle kiss to her lips. Daisy did not mind Mrs. Gary after that.
The storm slackened off now rapidly. The patter of the rain lessened and grew still; a sweet reviving air blew in at the windows. Of course the road was drenched with wet and every tree dripping; nevertheless the journey must be made to the boats, and the poor ladies were even glad to set out to undertake it. But it would not be an easy journey either, on the whole. Some time before this the doctor had despatched Logan on an errand. He now declared he must wait for his return; and desired Mr. Randolph to go forward and help take care of the rest of the party and have no concern about Daisy; he would keep her in charge.
"Shall I do that, Daisy?" said Mr. Randolph, fearing it might trouble her. But Daisy said, "Yes, papa"—with no hesitation; and the plan was acted upon. Gathering up their floating muslin dresses, tying handkerchiefs over their heads, with shrinking and yet eager steps, one by one they filed out at the door of the little hut. Just as the last one went, Logan came; he had been to the boats and brought thence the doctor's cloak, which, with more providence than the rest of the party who were less used to travelling, he had taken the precaution to bring. Now this, by the doctor's order, was spread over Daisy's chair, which having been pushed out of doors, had got wet; she was placed in it then, and the folds of the cloak brought well round and over her, so that nothing could be more secure than she was from the wet with which every leaf and bough was dripping overhead, and every foot of soil loaded underneath. Dr. Sandford took one end of the poles and Logan the other, and the last of the party they set forth. Why Dr. Sandford had made this arrangement, was best known to himself. Perhaps he preferred it to having Mrs. Fish on his arm, who was a very fine lady; perhaps he preferred it to the attentions he might have had to pay to the younger damsels of the party, who would all three have been on his hands at once, very likely. At all events he did prefer to be one of the chair-bearers, and Daisy was very glad of it.
The rest of the party were well in advance, out of sight and hearing. Tramp, tramp, the steady regular footfall of her bearers, and the light plashing of rain drops as they fell, and the stir of the wind in the leaves, were all the sounds that Daisy heard. No rain fell now; on the contrary the heaven was clear as a bell, and light enough came through the woods to shew the way with comfortable certainty. Overhead the stars were shining down with wonderful brilliancy, through the air which the storm had cleansed from all vapours; the moon was coming up somewhere, too. The smell of the trees and other green things was exceedingly sweet after the rain; and the delicious soft air was very delicious after the sultry day. Never in her life after did Daisy forget that night's work. This ride from the cottage to the shore was something she enjoyed with all her might. It was so wild and strange as well as sweet. Rocks and tree trunks, and the turnings of the road had all such a mysterious new look, different from what daylight shewed them; it was an endless pleasure. Till the walk ended. It came out at last upon the shore of the river and into the moonlight. High in the eastern sky the moon hung, shedding her broad light down all over the river which crisped and sparkled under it; and there by the water's edge the members of the party of pleasure were huddled together preparing to embark. Over their heads the sails of Mr. Randolph's boat stood up in the moonlight. The doctor and Logan set down their burden and waited. The Fish's were getting on board their little vessel, which was moved by oars alone.
"Mrs. Stanfield, you had better come with us," Mr. Randolph said. "There is plenty of room. Your boat is too small. You would find it unpleasantly rough in mid-channel."
"O, is it rough?" exclaimed the lady.
"For your little row-boat—I am afraid you would find it so. The wind has roughened the water considerably, and it has not had time to get quiet. Come with us, and we will all take supper together at Melbourne."
It was arranged so. The party were stowed away in the large sail-boat, which held them all well enough; the children being happy at finding themselves seated together.
"What are we waiting for?" said Mrs. Gary when all had been in their places some minutes, and conversation was the only thing moving. "What are we staying here for?"
"He is yonder—in our late place of shelter. James and Michael have gone to fetch him with Daisy's chair."
"Sam! Why, he might have stayed there till to-morrow and no hurt. Have we got to wait till the men go there and bring him back? We shall be late at supper!"
"The river will be all the quieter, Mrs. Gary," said Mr. Randolph mischievously.
"The river? You don't mean to say it is not quiet?"
"It was not, quiet a while ago, I assure you."
"Well, I do think, if ever there was a misnamed thing, it is a party of pleasure," said the lady disconsolately.
"They are very pleasant when they are over, sister Gary," said Mr. Randolph.
"Daisy," Nora whispered, "are you afraid?"
"Your father says it is rough."
"He knows how to manage the boat," said Daisy.
"It isn't rough, I don't believe," said Ella Stanfield. "It isn't rough now."
"I wish we were at the other side," said Nora.
"O Nora, I think it is nice," said Daisy. "How bright the moonlight is! Look—all over the river there is a broad strip. I hope we shall sail along just in that strip. Isn't it wonderful, Nora?"
"No. What?" said Nora.
"That there should be something like a looking-glass up in the sky to catch the sunlight and reflect it down to us when we cannot see the sun itself."
"Well, the moon catches the sunlight just so, as a looking glass would."
"How do you know, Daisy? I think it shines."
"I know because I have been told. It does not shine, any more than a looking-glass."
"Who told you?"
"Dr. Sandford," Daisy whispered.
"Did he! Then why don't we have the moon every night?"
"Because the looking-glass, if you can imagine that it is a looking-glass, does not always hang where it can catch the sun."
"Don't it? I don't like to think it is a looking-glass," said Nora. "I would a great deal rather think it is the moon."
"Well, so it is," said Daisy. "You can think so."
"Daisy, what should we do if it should be rough in the middle of the river?"
"I like it," said Ella Stanfield.
"Perhaps it will not be very rough," said Daisy.
"But suppose it should? And where the moon don't shine it is so dark!"
"Nora," said Daisy very low, "don't you love Jesus?"
Nora at that flounced round, and turning her face from Daisy and the moonlight, began to talk to Ella Stanfield on the other side of her. Daisy did not understand what it meant.
All this while, and a good while longer, the rest of the people were waiting with various degrees of patience and impatience for the coming of Sam and the men. It was pretty there by the shore, if they had not been impatient. The evening breeze was exceedingly fragrant and fresh; the light which streamed down from the moon was sparkling on all the surface of the water, and laid a broad band of illumination like a causeway across the river. In one or two places the light shewed the sails of a sloop or schooner on her way up or down; and along the shore it grew daintily hazy and soft. But impatience was nevertheless the prominent feeling on board the sail-boat; and it had good time to display itself before Michael and James could go all the distance back to the house and bring Sam away from it.
"Here he is!" "There they are at last!"—were the words of hail with which their appearance was greeted. "Now off"—and with all haste the three were received on board and the vessel pushed out into the stream. Immediately her sail caught the breeze which came fair down the river, and careening a little as she took it, her head began to make good speed across the causeway of moonlight. But then the ladies began to scream; for in mid-channel the wind was fresh and the waters had not quite forgotten yet the tumult of the late storm, which had tossed them well. The sail-boat danced bravely, up and down, going across the waves. Among the frightened people was Nora, who grasping Daisy's dress with one hand and some part of the boat with the other, kept uttering little cries of "Oh Daisy"—"Oh! Daisy"—with every fresh lurch of the vessel. Ella Stanfield had thrown herself down in her mother's lap. Daisy was very much tried.
"Nora," she said, "I wish you would not cry so!"
"But I am afraid!"
"I wish you would be comforted, and not cry out so," sighed Daisy. "Papa says there is no danger—didn't you hear him?"
"But oh, I am afraid!" re-echoed Nora.
Daisy folded her hands and tried to bide patiently the time of smooth water. It came, partially at least, as they neared the opposite bank. The boat went steadily; spirits revived; and soon the passage was brought to an end and the sail-boat laid alongside the little jetty, on which the party, men, women and children, stepped out with as sincere a feeling of pleasure as had moved them all day. Carriages were in waiting; a few minutes brought the whole company to Melbourne House.
Here they were to stay supper; and the ladies and gentlemen dispersed to various dressing rooms to prepare for it. Soonest of all ready and in the drawing room were the three children.
"I am so hungry!" said Nora.
"So am I!" said Ella Stanfield.
"We shall have supper presently," said Daisy.
"O Daisy, weren't you afraid in the boat, when it went up and down so?"
"I do not think I was afraid," said Daisy, "if other people had not been so disturbed."
"I don't see how they could help being disturbed," said Ella Stanfield. "Why the boat didn't sail straight at all."
"But that does not do any harm," said Daisy.
"How do you know?" said Nora. "I think it does harm; I do not think it is safe."
"But you know, Nora, when the disciples were in the boat, and thought it was not safe—the wind blew so, you know—they ought to have trusted Jesus and not been afraid."
Nora and Ella both looked at Daisy for a minute after this speech, and then by some train of association Nora started another subject.
"Daisy, have you got my Egyptian spoon yet?"
Now was Daisy in a great difficulty. She flushed; the little face which had been pale enough before, became of a delicate pink hue all over. Not knowing what to say she said nothing.
"Have you got it yet?" repeated Nora curiously.
"No, Nora. I have not."
"You have not? What have you done with it?"
"My Egyptian spoon! that Marmaduke gave me to give to you! You have not kept it! What did you do with it, Daisy?"
"I did nothing with it."
"Did you break it?"
"Did you give it away?"
"O Nora, I loved it very much," said poor Daisy; "but I could not keep it. I could not!"
"Why couldn't you? I would not have given it to you, Daisy, if I had thought you would not have kept it."
"I wanted to keep it very much—but I could not," said Daisy with the tears in her eyes.
"Why 'could not'? why couldn't you? did you give it away, Daisy? that spoon I gave you?"
"Nora, I could not help it! Somebody else wanted it very much, and I was obliged to let her have it. I could not help it."
"I shall tell Marmaduke that you did not care for it," said Nora in an offended tone. "I wish I had kept it myself. It was a beautiful spoon."
Daisy looked very much troubled.
"Who has got it?" Nora went on.
"It is no matter who has got it," said Daisy. "I couldn't keep it."
"She is right, Nora," said Preston, who came up just then, at the same time with the doctor. "She could not keep it, because it was taken away from her without any leave asked. I mean she shall have it back, too, one of these days. Don't you say another word to Daisy!—she has behaved like a little angel about it."
Preston's manner made an impression, as well as his words. Nora was checked.
"What is all that, Nora?" the doctor asked.
Now Nora had a great awe of him. She did not dare not answer.
"It is about a spoon I gave Daisy, that she gave away."
"She did not, I tell you!" said Preston.
"A spoon?" said the doctor. "Silver?"
"O no! A beautiful, old, very old, carved, queer old spoon, with a duck's bill, that came out of an old Egyptian tomb, and was put there ever so long ago."
"Did your brother give it to you?"
"Yes, to give to Daisy, and she gave it to somebody else."
"Nora, I did not give it as you think I did. I loved it very much. I would not have let anybody have it if I could have helped it."
"Who has got it, Daisy?" asked the doctor.
Daisy looked at him, looked perplexed, flushed a little, finally said with demure gentleness, "Dr. Sandford, I think I ought not to tell."
The doctor smiled, took Daisy's hand, and led her off to the supper room, whither they were now invited. So it happened that her seat at the table was again by his side. Daisy liked it. Just then she did not care about being with Nora.
The people gathered, bright and fresh, around the supper table, all seeming to have forgotten their fatigues and frights; and every face looked smiling or gracious. The day was over, the river was crossed; the people were hungry; and the most dainty and perfectly arranged supply of refreshments stood on the board. Coffee and tea steamed out their grateful announcements; ice cream stood in red and white pyramids of firmness; oysters and cold meats and lobster salad offered all that hungry people could desire; and everybody was in a peculiar state of gratified content and expectation. Daisy was no exception. She had let slip her momentary trouble about the Egyptian spoon; and in her quiet corner, quite unnoticed as she thought, looked at the bright scene and enjoyed it. She liked being under the doctor's care too, and his care of her was very thoughtful and kind. He did not forget the little quiet mouse at his elbow; but after he had properly attended to the other people whose claims came first, he served her nicely with whatever was good for her. Was Daisy going to omit her usual giving of thanks? She thought of her mother's interference with a moment's flash of hesitancy; but resolved to go on just as usual. She did not think she would be noticed, everybody was so busy; and at any rate there was a burden of gladness in her little heart that must speak. While the talking and laughing and click of knives and forks was thick all around her, Daisy's little head bent in a moment's oblivion of it all behind her hand.
She had raised her head and just taken her fork in her fingers when she heard her own name. She looked up.
"Daisy—" said her mother quietly—"come here."
Daisy left her seat and went round to her mother's side.
"You may go up stairs," said Mrs. Randolph.
"Go—and remain till I send for you."
Daisy slipped away quietly, before anybody could notice that she was gone or going. Then slowly went up the stairs and along the passages to her own room. It was empty and dark, except for the moonlight without; June had not expected her to be there, and had not made preparation. Daisy went and kneeled down in her old place by her window; her eyes filled as full of tears as they could hold. She bent her little head to brush them away, but they came again. Daisy was faint and tired; she wanted her supper very much; and she had enjoyed the supper-table very much; it was a great mortification to exchange it for the gloom and silence of her moonlit room. She had not a bit of strength to keep her spirits up. Daisy felt weak. And what was the matter? Only—that she had, against her mother's pleasure, repeated her acknowledgment of the hand that had given her all good things. How many good things that day! And was she not to make such acknowledgment any more? Ought she to please her mother in this? Had she really done wrong? Daisy could not tell; she thought not; she could not wish she had not done what she did; but at the same time it was very miserable to have Mrs. Randolph at odds with her on such a point as this.
Daisy shed some tears about it; yet not a great many, and without the least bitterness in them. But she felt faint and tired and disappointed. Here, however, at her own room window, and alone, there was no bar to thanksgivings; and Daisy had them in her heart, as well as prayers for the people who had them not. She was too tired to pray at last; she only knelt at the window with her arms on the sill, (Daisy was raised up on an ottoman) and looked out at the moonlight, feeling as if she was going into a dream.
"Miss Daisy!"—said the smothered voice of June behind her—"are you there, Miss Daisy?"
June's accent was doubtful and startled. Daisy turned round.
"Miss Daisy!—I thought you was in the supper-room."
"No, June—I'm here."
"Will you go to bed, Miss Daisy?"
"I wish, June, you would get me something to eat, first," said Daisy languidly.
"Didn't you get your supper, Miss Daisy?"
"No, and I'm hungry. I haven't had anything since the dinner at the lake. I wish you'd make haste, June."
June knew from Daisy's way of speaking, as well as from the facts of the case, that there was some trouble on foot. She went off to get supper, and as she went along the passages the mulatto woman's hand was clenched upon itself, though her face shewed only its usual wrinkles.
Small delay was there before she was back again, and with her June had brought a supply of very nearly everything there had been on the supper-table. She set down her tray, prepared a table for Daisy, and placed a chair. The room was light now with two wax candles. Daisy sat down and took a review.
"What will you have now, Miss Daisy? here's some hot oysters—nice and hot. I'll get you some ice cream when you're ready to eat it—Hiram's got it in the freezer for you. Make haste, Miss Daisy—these oysters is good."
But Daisy did not make haste. She looked at the supper tray thoughtfully.
"June," she said with a very gentle pure glance of her eyes up at the mulatto woman's face—"I am very much obliged to you—but I don't think mamma means me to eat these things to-night—Will you just get me some milk and some bread? I'll take some bread and milk!"
"Miss Daisy, these oysters is good for you," said June.
"I'll take some bread and milk to-night—if you will please make haste. Thank you, June."
"Miss Daisy—then maybe take a sandwich."
"No—I will have nothing but bread and milk. Only quick, June."
June went off for the bread and milk, and then very unwillingly carried her supper-tray down stairs again. Going through one of the passages she was met by her master.
"Where is that coming from, June?" he asked her in surprise.
"From Miss Daisy's room, sir."
"Has she been taking supper up there?"
"No, sir—Miss Daisy wouldn't touch nothing."
"Is she unwell?" Mr. Randolph asked in a startled tone.
"No, sir." June's tone was dry. Mr. Randolph marched at once to the room in question, where Daisy was eating her bread and milk.
"What are you doing, Daisy?"
"Papa!"—said the child with a start; and then quietly—"I am taking my supper."
"Were you not at the table down stairs?"
"How came you not to have your supper there?"
"I had to come away, papa."
"Are you not well, Daisy?" said Mr. Randolph tenderly, bending down over her chair.
"Yes, papa—quite well."
"Then why did you come away?"
Daisy's spoon lay still in her fingers and her eyes reddened.
"Mamma sent me."
If the child was to have any supper at all, Mr. Randolph saw, he must forbear his questioning. He rose up from leaning over her chair.
"Go on, Daisy—" he said; and he left her, but did not leave the room. He walked up and down the floor at a little distance, while Daisy finished her bread and milk She was too much in want of it not to do that. When it was done she got out of her chair and stood on the floor looking at her father, as gentle as a young sparrow. He came and wheeled her chair round and sat down upon it.
"What is the matter, Daisy?"
"Mamma was displeased with me." The child dropped her eyes.
"Papa"—said Daisy slowly, trying for words and perhaps also for self-command—"mamma was displeased with me because—I—"
"Papa—because I did what she did not like at dinner."
"At dinner? what was that?"
The child lifted her eyes now to her father's face, a little wistfully.
"Papa—don't you know?—I was only praying a minute."
Mr. Randolph stretched out his arm, drew Daisy up to him, placed her on his knee, and looked down into her face.
"Did you have no supper down stairs?"
"Do you like bread and milk better than other things?"
"I met June with a great tray of supper things, and she said you would not eat them. Why was that?"
"Papa," said Daisy, "I thought mamma did not mean me to have those things to-night."
"She did not forbid you?"
Mr. Randolph's arm was round Daisy; now he wrapped both arms about her, bringing her up close to his breast, and putting down his lips to her face, he kissed her over and over, with a great tenderness.
"Have you had a pleasant day?"
"Papa, I have had a great many pleasant things," said Daisy eagerly. Her voice had changed and a glad tone had come into it.
"Dr. Sandford took proper care of you?"
"Papa, he is very good!" said Daisy strongly.
"I rather think he thinks you are."
"He is nice, papa."
"Nice—" said Mr. Randolph. "He is pretty well. But now, Daisy, what do you think of going to bed and to sleep?"
"And to-morrow, if you have got into any difficulty, you may come to me and talk about it."
Daisy returned a very earnest caress to her father's good night kiss, and afterwards had no difficulty in doing as he had said. And so ended the day on Silver Lake.
Daisy reflected the next morning as to what was her right course with respect to the action that had troubled her mother so much. Ought she to do it? In the abstract it was right to do it; but ought she in these circumstances? And how much of a Christian's ordinary duty might she be required to forego? and where must the stand be made? Daisy did not know; she had rather the mind of a soldier, and was much inclined to obey her orders, as such, come what might. That is, it seemed to her that so she would be in the sure and safe way; but Daisy had no appetite at all for the fighting that this course would ensure. One thing she knew by experience; that if she drew upon herself a direct command to do such a thing no more, the order would stand; there would be no dealing with it afterwards except in the way of submission. That command she had not in this case yet received, and she judged it prudent not to risk receiving it. She went down to breakfast as usual, but she did not bow her little head to give any thanks or make any prayers. She hoped the breakfast would pass off quietly. So it did as to that matter. But another subject came up.
"What became of you last night at supper, Daisy?" her aunt asked. "Dr. Sandford was enquiring for you. I think you received quite your share of attention, for so young a lady, for my part."
"Daisy had more than anybody else, yesterday," remarked Eloise.
"A sprained or a broken ankle is a very good thing occasionally," said Mr. Randolph.
"Yes," said Mrs. Gary—"I think Daisy had quite the best time of anybody yesterday. A palanquin with gentlemen for her porters, and friendly arms to go to sleep in—most devoted care!"
"Yes, I was one of her porters," said Ransom. "I think Dr. Sandford takes rather too much on himself."
"Did he take you?" said Mr. Randolph.
"Yes, sir,—when there was no occasion."
"Why Ransom," said Daisy, "there was no one else to carry my chair but Preston and you."
"Did Preston feel aggrieved?" asked his uncle.
"Certainly not, sir," replied the boy. "It was a pleasure."
"It was not Ransom's business," said Mrs. Randolph.
"I suppose it was not the doctor's business either," said Mr. Randolph—"though he made it so afterwards."
"O, I dare say it was a pleasure to him, too," said Mrs. Gary. "Really, the doctor did not take care of anybody yesterday, that I saw, except Daisy. I thought he admired Frederica Fish—I had heard so—but there was nothing of it. Daisy was quite queen of the day."
Mr. Randolph smiled. Ransom seemed to consider himself insulted. "I suppose that was the reason," he said, "that she called me worse than a dog, because I took a meringue from the dinner-spread."
"Did you do that, Daisy?" asked her mother.
"No, mamma," said Daisy low. Her nice had flushed with astonishment and sorrow.
"You did," said Ransom. "You said just that."
"O no, Ransom you forget."
"What did you say, Daisy?" asked her mother.
"Mamma, I did not say that. I said something—I did not mean it for anything like that."
"Tell me exactly what you did say—and no more delay."
"Wait till after breakfast," said Mr. Randolph. "I wish to be present at the investigation of this subject, Felicia—but I would rather take it by itself than with my coffee."
So there was a lull in the storm which seemed to be gathering. It gave Daisy time to think. She was in a great puzzle. How she could get through the matter without exposing all Ransom's behaviour, all at least which went before the blow given to herself, Daisy did not see; she was afraid that truth would force her to bring it all out. And she was very unwilling to do that, because in the first place she had established a full amnesty in her own heart for all that Ransom had done, and wished rather for an opportunity to please than to criminate him; and in the second place, in her inward consciousness she knew that Mrs. Randolph was likely to be displeased with her, in any event. She would certainly, if Daisy were an occasion of bringing Ransom into disgrace; though the child doubted privately whether her word would have weight enough with her mother for that. Ransom also had time to think, and his brow grew gloomy. An investigation is never what a guilty party desires; and judging her by himself, Ransom had reason to dread the chance of retaliation which such a proceeding would give his little sister. So Daisy and Ransom wore thoughtful faces during the rest of breakfast-time; and the result of Ransom's reflections was that the investigation would go on most pleasantly without him. He made up his mind to slip away, if he had a chance, and be missing. He had the chance; for Mr. and Mrs. Randolph were engaged with a call of some neighbours immediately after breakfast; all thought of the children's affairs seemed to be departed. Ransom waited a safe time, and then departed too, with Preston, on an expedition which would last all the morning. Daisy alone bided the hour, a good deal disturbed in the view of what it might bring.
She was summoned at last to the library. Her father and mother were there alone; but just after Daisy came in she was followed by Dr. Sandford. The doctor came with a message. Mrs. Sandford, his sister, he said, sent by him to beg that Daisy might come to spend the day with Nora Dinwiddie, who much desired her presence. In the event of a favourable answer, the doctor said he would himself drive Daisy over, and would call for that purpose in another hour or two. He delivered his message, and Mrs. Randolph replied at once that Daisy could not go; she could not permit it.
Mr. Randolph saw the flush of hope and disappointment on Daisy's face and the witness of another kind in her eyes; though with her characteristic steady self-control she neither moved nor spoke, and suffered the tears to come no farther. Dr. Sandford saw it too, but he said nothing. Mr. Randolph spoke.