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 visiter'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? 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 gallopped 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 shewing 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 done 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.
"O 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.
"O, because she has hard work to do, I suppose."
"What is Fortitude, Preston?"
"O 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.
"O 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.
"O 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?"
"O 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."
"O 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?"
"O 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."
"O 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. O don't you know the story? Bassanio was Antonio's friend, and—O 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."
"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 lend 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."
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 shewn 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 eye wandering over the strange place, was 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.
"O 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 fall 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 fall 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 shewed 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 fingers.
"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.
"O 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."
"H—n?"—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; bow, 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."
"H—n?" 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 tea-pot, 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.
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.
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—O 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?"
"O, 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 shew her the picture.
"What are those men going to do?" said Nora.
"They are going to kill the little princes. They have got a featherbed or something there, and they are going to smother them while they are asleep."
"But I don't want the featherbed 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 shew 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 angel's 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 be 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!
"What is it, Daisy?" whispered Nora.
"Why, he has got a letter,"—said Daisy.
"Is that newspaper the letter?"
"Make believe it is," said Daisy.
"But what are they doing!"
"Why, this man, Bassanio, has just got a letter that says his dearest friend is going to be killed, because he owes money that he cannot pay; and as the money was borrowed for his own sake, of course he feels very badly about it."
"But people are not killed because they cannot pay money," said Nora. "I have seen people come to papa for money, and they didn't do anything to him because he hadn't it."
"No, but—those were different times," said Daisy—"and Bassanio lived in a different country. His friend owed money to a dreadful man, who was going to cut out two pounds of his flesh to pay for it. So of course that would kill him."
"O, look at Theresa now!" said Nora.
The young lady had brought her muscles into order; and being clever enough in her merry way, she had taken the look of the character and was giving it admirably. It was hardly Theresa; her moveable face was composed to such an expression of simple inquiry and interest and affectionate concern. The spectators applauded eagerly; but Nora whispered,
"What does she look like that, for?"
"Why, it's the picture," said Daisy. "But what does she look so for?"
"She is Bassanio's wife—they have just got married; and she looks so because he looks so, I suppose. She does not know what is in the letter."
"Is he going to tell her?"
"Not in the picture—" said Daisy, feeling a little amused at Nora's simplicity. "He did tell her in the story."
"But why don't we have all the story?" insisted Nora.
"O, these are only pictures, you know; that is all; people dressed up to look like pictures."
"They don't look like pictures a bit, I think," said Nora; "they look just like people."
Daisy thought so too, but had some faith in Preston's and Mrs. Sandford's powers of transforming and mystifying the present very natural appearance of the performers. However, she was beginning to be of the opinion that it was good fun even now.
"Now, Daisy,—come, we must practise putting you in position," said Mrs. Sandford. "We will take something easy first—what shall it be?—Come! we will try Priscilla's courtship. Where is your John Alden, Preston?"
Preston quietly moved forward Alexander Fish and seated him. Daisy began to grow warm with trepidation.
"You must let your hair grow, Sandie—and comb out your long curls into your neck; so,—do you see? And you will have to have a dress as much as Priscilla. This tableau will be all in the dress, Mrs. Sandford."
"We will have it. That is easy."
"Now, Alexander, look here, at the picture. Take that attitude as nearly as you can, and I will stroke you into order.—That is pretty well,—lean over a little more with that elbow on your knee,—you must be very much in earnest."
"What am I doing?" said Alexander, breaking from his prescribed attitude to turn round and face the company.
"You are making love to Priscilla; but the joke is, you have been persuaded to do it for somebody else, when all the time you would like to do it for yourself."
"I wouldn't be such a gumph as that!" muttered Alexander as he fell back into position. "Who am I, to begin with?"
"A highly respectable old Puritan. The lady was surprised at him and he came to his senses, but that is not in the picture. Now Daisy—take that chair—a little nearer;—you are to have your hand on your spinning wheel, you know; I have got a dear little old spinning wheel at home for you, that was used by my grandmother. You must look at Alexander a little severely, for he is doing what you did not expect of him, and you think he ought to know better. That attitude is very good. But you must look at him, Daisy! Don't let your eyes go down."
There was a decided disposition to laugh among the company looking on, which might have been fatal to the Puritan picture had not Preston and Mrs. Sandford energetically crushed it. Happily Daisy was too much occupied with the difficulty of her own immediate situation to discover how the bystanders were affected; she did not know what was the effect of her pink little cheeks and very demure down-cast eyes. In fact Daisy had gone to take her place in the picture with something scarcely less than horror; only induced to do it, by her greater horror of making a fuss and so shewing the feeling which she knew would be laughed at if shewn. She shewed it now, poor child; how could she help it? she shewed it by her unusually tinged cheeks and by her persistent down-looking eyes. It was very difficult indeed to help it; for if she ventured to look at Alexander she caught impertinent little winks,—most unlike John Alden or any Puritan,—which he could execute with impunity because his face was mostly turned from the audience; but which Daisy took in full.
"Lift your eyes, Daisy! your eyes! Priscilla was too much astonished not to look at her lover. You may be even a little indignant, if you choose. I am certain she was."
Poor Daisy—it was a piece of the fortitude that belonged to her—thus urged, did raise her eyes and bent upon her winking coadjutor a look so severe in its childish distaste and disapproval that there was a unanimous shout of applause. "Capital, Daisy!—capital!" cried Preston. "If you only look it like that, we shall do admirably. It will be a tableau indeed. There, get up—you shall not practise any more just now."
"It will be very fine," said Mrs. Sandford.
"Daisy, I did not think you were such an actress," said Theresa.
"It would have overset me, if I had been John Alden—" remarked Hamilton Rush.
Daisy withdrew into the background as fast as possible, and as far as possible from Alexander.
"Do you like to do it, Daisy?" whispered Nora.
"Are you going to have a handsome dress for that?"
"What sort, then?"
"Like the picture."
"Well—what is that?"
"Brown, with a white vandyke."
"Vandyke? what is a vandyke?"
"Hush," said Daisy; "let us look."
Frederica Fish was to personify Lady Jane Grey, at the moment when the nobles of her family and party knelt before her to offer her the crown. As Frederica was a fair, handsome girl, without much animation, this part suited her; she had only to be dressed and sit still. Mrs. Sandford threw some rich draperies round her figure, and twisted a silk scarf about the back of her head; and the children exclaimed at the effect produced. That was to be a rich picture, for of course the kneeling nobles were to be in costly and picturesque attire; and a crown was to be borne on a cushion before them. A book did duty for it just now, on a couch pillow.
"That is what I should like—" said Nora. "I want to be dressed and look so."
"You will be dressed to be one of the queen's women in Esther and Ahasuerus, you know."
"But the queen will be dressed more—won't she?"
"Yes, I suppose she will."
"I should like to be the queen; that is what I should like to be."
Daisy made no answer. She thought she would rather Nora should not be the queen.
"Doesn't she look beautiful?" Nora went on, referring again to Frederica.
Which Frederica did. The tableau was quite pretty, even partially dressed and in this off hand way as it was.
Next Mrs. Sandford insisted on dressing Daisy as Fortitude. She had seen perhaps a little of the child's discomposure, and wished to make her forget it. In this tableau Daisy would be quite alone; so she was not displeased to let the lady do what she chose with her. She stood patiently, while Mrs. Sandford wound a long shawl skilfully around her, bringing it into beautiful folds like those in Sir Joshua Reynolds' painting; then she put a boy's cap, turned the wrong way, on her head, to do duty for a helmet, and fixed a nodding plume of feathers in it. Daisy then was placed in the attitude of the picture, and the whole little assembly shouted with delight.
"It will do, Mrs. Sandford," said Preston.
"Isn't it pretty?" said the lady.
"And Daisy does it admirably," said Theresa. "You are a fairy at dressing, Mrs. Sandford; your fingers are better than a fairy's wand. I wish you were my godmother; I shouldn't despair to ride yet in a coach and six. There are plenty of pumpkins in a field near our house—and plenty of rats in the house itself. O, Mrs. Sandford! let us have Cinderella!"
"What, for a tableau?"
"You must ask the manager. I do not know anything about that."
Preston and Theresa and Hamilton and Alexander now went into an eager discussion of this question, and before it was settled the party discovered that it was time to break up.
"Well Daisy," said Mr. Randolph that evening, "how do you like your new play that you are all so busy about?"
"I like it pretty well, papa."
"Only pretty well! Is that the most you can say of it? I understood that it was supposed to be an amusement of a much more positive character."
"Papa, it is amusing—but it has its disagreeablenesses."
"Has it? What can they be? Or has everything pleasant its dark side?"
"I don't know, papa."
"What makes the shadows in this instance?"
It seemed not just easy for Daisy to tell, for her father saw that she looked puzzled how to answer.
"Papa, I think it is because people do not behave perfectly well."
It was quite impossible for Mr. Randolph to help bursting into a laugh at this; but he put his arms round Daisy and kissed her very affectionately at the same time.
"How does their ill behaviour affect your pleasure, Daisy?"
"Papa—you know I have to play with them."
"Yes, I understand that. What do they do?"
"It isn't they, papa. It is only Alexander Fish—or at least it is he most."
"What does he do?"
"Papa—we are in a tableau together."
"Yes. You and he?"
"Yes, papa. And it is very disagreeable."
"Pray how, Daisy?" said Mr. Randolph, commanding his features with some difficulty. "What is the tableau?"
"Papa, you know the story of Priscilla?"
"I do not think I do. What Priscilla?"
"Priscilla and John Alden. It is in a book of engravings."
"O!—the courtship of Miles Standish?"
"Miles Standish was his friend, papa."
"Yes, I know now. And are you Priscilla?"
"And who is Miles Standish?"
"O, nobody; he is not in the picture; it is John Alden."
"I think I remember. Who is John Alden, then?"
"Papa, they have put Alexander Fish in, because he has long curling hair; but I think Preston's hair would do a great deal better."
"Preston is under some obligation to the others, I suppose, because he is manager. But how does Alexander Fish abuse his privileges?"
"Papa," said Daisy unwillingly,—"his face is turned away from the other people, so that nobody can see it but me;—and he winks."
Daisy brought out the last word with an accession of gravity impossible fully to describe. Mr. Randolph's mouth twitched; he bent his head down upon Daisy's, that she might not see it.
"That is very rude of him, Daisy," he said.
"Papa," said Daisy, who did not relish the subject, and chose a departure,—"what is a Puritan?"
"Yes, papa. What is it? Priscilla was a Puritan."
"That was a name given to a class of people in England a long time ago."
"What did it mean?"
"They were a stiff set of people, Daisy; good enough people in their way, no doubt, but very absurd in it also."
"What did they do, papa?"
"Concluded to do without whatever is graceful and beautiful and pleasant, in dress or arts or manners. The more disagreeable they made life, they thought it was the better."
"Why were they called that name? Were they purer than other people?"
"I believe they thought themselves so."
"I think they look nice in the picture," said Daisy meditatively. "Are there any Puritans now, papa?"
"There are people that are called Puritans. It is a term apt to be applied to people that are stiff in their religion."
"Papa," said Daisy when an interval of five minutes had passed,—"I do not see how people can be stiff in their religion."
"Don't you. Why not?"
"Papa, I do not see how it can be stiff, to love God and do what he says."
"No—" said Mr. Randolph; "but people can be stiff in ways of their own devising."
"Ways that are not in the Bible, papa?"
"But papa, it cannot be stiff, to do what God says we must do?"
"No,—of course not," said Mr. Randolph getting up.
He left her, and Daisy sat meditating; then with a glad heart ran off and ordered her pony chaise. If tableaux were to be the order of the day every afternoon, she must go to see Molly in the morning. This time she had a good deal to carry and to get ready. Molly was in want of bread. A nice little loaf, fresh baked, was supplied by Joanna, along with some cold rolls.
"She will like those, I dare say," said Daisy. "I dare say she never saw rolls in her life before. Now she wants some meat, Joanna. There was nothing but a little end of cold pork on the dish in her cupboard."
"Why I wonder who cooks for the poor wretch?" said Joanna.
"I think she cooks for herself, because she has a stove, and I saw iron things and pots to cook with. But she can't do much, Joanna, and I don't believe she knows how."
"Sick, is she too?" said Joanna.
"Sick with rheumatism, so that she did not like to stir."
"I guess I must go take a look at her; but maybe she mightn't let me. Well, Miss Daisy, the way will be for you to tell me what she wants, if you can find out. She must have neighbours, though, that take care of her."
"We are her neighbours," said Daisy.
Joanna looked, a look of great complacency and some wonder, at the child; and packed forthwith into Daisy's basket the half of a cold chicken and a broken peach pie. A bottle of milk Daisy particularly desired, and a little butter; and she set off at last, happier than a queen—Esther or any other—to go to Molly with her supplies.
She found not much improvement in the state of affairs. Molly was gathered up on her hearth near the stove, in which she had made a fire; but it did not appear, for all that Daisy could see, that anything else had been done or any breakfast eaten that morning. The cripple seemed to be in a down-hearted and hopeless state of mind; and no great wonder.
"Molly, would you like another cup of tea?" said her little friend.
"Yes, it's in there. You fix it,"—said the poor woman, pointing as before to the cupboard, and evidently comforted by Daisy's presence and proposal. Daisy could hear it in the tone of her voice. So, greatly pleased herself, Daisy went to work in Molly's house just as if she was at home. She fetched water in the kettle again and made up the fire. While that was getting ready, she set the table for breakfast. The only table that Molly could use was a piece of board nailed on a chair. On this Daisy put her plate and cup and saucer, and with secret glee arranged the cold chicken and loaf of bread. For the cupboard, as she saw, was as empty as she had found it two days before. What Molly had lived on in the mean time was simply a mystery to Daisy. To be sure, the end of cold pork was gone, the remains of the cake had disappeared, and nothing was left of the peaches but the stones. The tea-kettle did not boil for a time; and Daisy looked uneasily at Molly's cup and saucer and plate meanwhile. They had not been washed, Daisy could not guess for how long; certainly no water had touched them since the tea of two nights ago, for the cake crumbs and peach stones told the tale. Daisy looked at them with a great feeling of discomfort. She could not bear to see them so; they ought to be washed; but Daisy disliked the idea of touching them for that purpose more than I can make you understand. In all matters of nicety and cleanliness Daisy was notional; nothing suited her but the most fastidious particularity. It had been a trial to her to bring those unwashed things from the cupboard. Now she sat and looked at them; uneasily debating what she should do. It was not comfortable, that Molly should take her breakfast off them as they were; and Molly was miserable herself and would do nothing to mend matters. And then—"Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,"—As soon as that came fairly into Daisy's head, she knew what she ought to be about. Not without an inward sigh, she gathered up the pieces again.
"What you going to do?" said Molly.
"I'll bring them back," said Daisy. "I will be ready directly. The water is not boiling yet."
For she saw that Molly was jealously eager for the hoped-for cup of tea. She carried the things out into the shed, and there looked in vain for any dish or vessel to wash them in. How could it be that Molly managed? Daisy was fain to fetch a little bowl of water and wash the crockery with her fingers, and then fetch another bowl of water to rinse it. There was no napkin to be seen. She left the things to drain as they could, and went to the spring to wash her own fingers; rejoicing in the purifying properties of the sweet element. All this took some time, but Daisy carried in her clean dishes with a satisfied heart.
"It's bi'lin',—" said Molly as soon as she entered.
So the little kettle was. Daisy made tea, and prepared Molly's table with a little piece of butter and the bottle of milk. And no little girl making an entertainment for herself with tiny china cups and tea-set, ever had such satisfaction in it. Twenty dinners at home could not have given Daisy so much pleasure, as she had now to see the poor cripple look at her unwonted luxuries and then to see her taste them. Yet Molly said almost nothing; but the grunt of new expression with which she set down the bottle of milk the first time, went all through and through Daisy's heart with delight. Molly drank tea and spread her bread with butter, and Daisy noticed her turning over her slice of bread to examine the texture of it; and a quieter, soothed, less miserable look, spread itself over her wrinkled features. They were not wrinkled with age; yet it was a lined and seamed face generally, from the working of unhappy and morose feelings.
"Ain't it good!—" was Molly's single word of comment as she finished her meal. Then she sat back and watched Daisy putting all the things nicely away. She looked hard at her.
"What you fetch them things here for?" she broke out suddenly. "H—n?"
The grunt with which her question concluded was so earnest in its demand of an answer, that Daisy stopped.
"Why I like to do it, Molly," she said. Then seeing the intent eyes with which the poor creature was examining her, Daisy added,—"I like to do it; because Jesus loves you."
"H—n?"—said Molly, very much at a loss what this might mean, and very eager to know. Daisy stood still, with the bread in her hands.
"Don't you know, Molly?" she said. "He does. It is Jesus, that I told you about. He loves you, and he came and died for you, that he might make you good and save you from your sins; and he loves you now, up in heaven."
"What's that?" said Molly.
"Heaven? that is where God lives, and the angels, and good people."
"There ain't none," said Molly.
"There ain't no good people."
"O yes, there are. When they are washed in Jesus' blood, then they are good. He will take away all their sins."
Molly was silent for a moment and Daisy resumed her work of putting things away; but as she took the peach pie in her hands Molly burst out again.
"What you bring them things here for?"
Daisy stopped again.
"I think it is because Jesus is my king," she said, "and I love him. And I love what he loves, and so I love you, Molly."
Daisy looked very childish and very wise, as she said this; but over Molly's face there came a great softening change. The wrinkles seemed to disappear; she gazed at Daisy steadily as if trying to find out what it all meant: and when the eyes presently were cast down, Daisy almost thought there was a little moisture about them. She had no further interruption in her work. The dishes were all put away, and then she brought her book. Daisy had her Bible with her this time, that she might give Molly more than her own words. And Molly she found as ready to listen as could be desired. And she was persistent in desiring to hear only of that incredible Friend of whom Daisy had told her. That name she wanted; wherever that name came in, Molly sat silent and attentive; if the narrative lost it, she immediately quickened Daisy's memory to the knowledge of the fact that nothing else would do. At last Daisy proposed that Molly herself should learn to read. Molly stared very hopelessly at first; but after getting more accustomed to the idea and hearing from Daisy that it was by no means an impossible thing, and further that if she could learn to read, the Bible would be forthcoming for her own use, she took up the notion with an eagerness far exceeding all that Daisy had hoped for. She said very little about it; nevertheless it was plain that a root of hope had struck down into the creature's heart. Daisy taught her two letters, A and B, and then was obliged to go home.
It was quite time, for little Daisy was tired. She was not accustomed to making fires and boiling kettles, neither to setting tables and washing dishes. Yet it was not merely, nor so much, the bodily exertion she had made, as the mind work. The excitement both of pleasure and responsibility and eager desire. Altogether, Daisy was tired; and sat back in her chaise letting the reins hang languidly in her hands and Loupe go how he would. But Loupe judged it was best to get home and have some refreshment, so he bestirred himself. Daisy had time to lie down a little while before her dinner; nevertheless she was languid and pale, and disposed to take all the rest of the day very quietly.
The rest of the day was of course devoted to the tableaux. The little company had got warmed to the subject pretty well at the first meeting; they all came together this fine afternoon with spirits in tone for business. And Daisy, though she was tired, presently found her own interest drawn in. She was not called upon immediately to take any active part; she perched herself in the corner of a couch and looked on and listened. Thither came Nora Dinwiddie, too much excited to sit down, and stood by Daisy's elbow. They had been practising "Alfred in the neat-herd's cottage;" Nora had been called upon to be the girl blowing the burnt cakes; she had done it, and everybody had laughed, but the little lady was not pleased.
"I know I look horrid!" she said to Daisy,—"puffing out my cheeks till they are like a pair of soapbubbles!"
"But soapbubbles are not that colour," said Daisy. "Your cheeks didn't look like soapbubbles."
"Yes, they did. They looked horrid, I know."
"But the picture is so," urged Daisy quietly. "You want to be like the picture."
"No I don't. Not that picture. I would like to be something handsome. I don't like that picture."
Daisy was silent, and Nora pouted.
"What are you going to be, Daisy?" said Ella Stanfield.
"I am going to be Priscilla. No, I don't know whether I am or not; but I am going to be Fortitude, I believe."
"That's pretty," said Ella. "What else? O, you are going to be the angel, aren't you? I wonder if that will be pretty. It will be queer. Nora, shall you like to be one of the little princes in the Tower? with that featherbed coming over us? But we shall not see it, I suppose, because our eyes have got to be shut; but I shall be afraid every minute they will let it fall on us."
"My eyes won't be shut," said Nora.
"O, they must. You know, the little princes were asleep, when the men came to kill them. Your eyes must be shut and you must be asleep. O, what are they doing to Theresa?"
"Dressing her—" said Daisy.
"What is she going to be?"
"Portia—" said Daisy.
"Isn't that beautiful!—" said Nora with a deep breath. "O, what a splen—did dress! How rich-looking it is. What a lovely purple. O, how beautiful Theresa is in it. O—! Isn't that splen—did?"
A very prolonged, though low, breath of admiring wonder testified to the impressive power, upon the children at least, of Theresa's new habiliments. The purple brocade was upon her; its full draperies swept the ground in gorgeous colouring; a necklace of cameos was bound with great effect upon her hair; and on the arms, which were half bare, Mrs. Sandford was clasping gold and glittering jewels. Theresa threw herself slightly back in her prescribed attitude, laid her arms lightly across each other, and turned her head with a very saucy air towards the companion figure, supposed to be Bassanio. All the others laughed and clapped her.
"Not that, Theresa, not that; you have got the wrong picture. You are going with the Prince of Arragon now, to the caskets; and you ought to be anxiously asking Bassanio about his letter."
Theresa changed attitude and expression on the instant; bent slightly forward, lost her sauciness, and laid her hand upon Bassanio's arm with a grave, tender look of inquiry. They all shouted again.