"I do not know what to do—" said Mrs. Sandford down stairs. There the lamps made a second bright day; and the two gentlemen were busy over the table with newspapers and books. Both of them looked up, at the sound of her perplexed voice.
"That child,—" said Mrs. Sandford. "She is not in bed yet."
The lady stood by the table; she had just come from Daisy's room.
"What is she doing?" her husband asked.
"I don't know. She is kneeling by the open window. She was there an hour ago, and she is there yet. She has not moved since."
"She has fallen asleep—" suggested Mr. Sandford. "I should say, wake her up."
"She is too wide awake now. She is lifting her little face to the sky, in a way that breaks my heart. And there she has been, this hour and more."
"Have some supper directly, and call her down,—" was the second suggestion of the master of the house. "It will be supper-time soon. Here—it's some time after nine."
"Grant, what is the matter with Mr. Randolph? Is it very serious?"
"Mrs. Randolph thinks so, I believe. Have you spoken to Daisy?"
"No, and I cannot. Unless I had good news to carry to her."
"Where is she?" said the doctor getting up.
"In the room next to yours."
So Mrs. Sandford sat down and the doctor went up stairs. The next thing he stood behind Daisy at her window. She was not gazing into the sky now; the little round head lay on her arms on the window-sill.
"What is going on here?" said a soft voice behind her.
"O! Dr. Sandford—" said the child jumping up. She turned and faced her friend, with a face so wistful and searching, so patient, yet so strained with its self-restraint and fear, that the doctor felt it was something serious with which he had to do. He did not attempt a light tone before that little face; he felt that it would not pass.
"I came up to see you" he said. "I have nothing new to tell, Daisy. What are you about?"
"Dr. Sandford," said the child, "won't you tell me a little?"
The inquiry was piteous. For some reason or other, the doctor did not answer it with a put-off, nor with flattering words, as doctors are so apt to do. Perhaps it was not his habit, but certainly in other respects he was not too good a man to do it. He sat down and let the moonlight show Daisy his face.
"Daisy," he said, "your father was stunned by his blow, and needs to be kept in perfect quiet for a time, until he is quite over it. People after such a fall often do; but I do not know that any other consequences whatever will follow."
"He was stunned—" repeated Daisy.
The child did not say any more, yet her eyes of searching eagerness plainly asked for fuller information. They were not content nor at rest.
"Can't you have patience and hope for other tidings to-morrow?"
"May I?—" said Daisy.
"May you? Certainly. It was your mother's wish to send you here—not mine. It was not needful; though if you could be content, I think it would be well."
She looked a little relieved; very little.
"Now what are you doing? Am I to have two patients on my hand in your family?"
"What are you doing then, up so late? Watching the stars?"
"I am your physician—you know you must tell me everything. What were you about, Daisy?"
"Dr. Sandford," said Daisy, in difficulty how to speak,—"I was seeking comfort."
And with the word, somehow, Daisy's self-restraint failed; her head went down on the doctor's shoulder; and when she lifted it up there were two or three tears that needed to be brushed away. No more; but the doctor felt the slight little frame tremble.
"Did you find comfort, Daisy?" he said kindly. "I ask as your physician; because if you are using wrong measures for that end I shall forbid them. What were you doing to get comfort?"
"I did not want to go to sleep, sir."
"Daisy, I am going to carry you down to have some supper."
"O, I do not want any, Dr. Sandford!"
"Are you ready to go down?"
"No sir—in a minute,—I only want to brush my hair."
"Brush it, then."
Which Daisy did; then coming to her friend with a face as smoothly in order as the little round head, she repeated humbly,
"I do not want anything, Dr. Sandford."
"Shall I carry you down?"
"O no, sir."
"Come then. One way or the other. And Daisy, when we are down stairs, and when you come up again, you must obey my orders."
The supper-table was laid. Mrs. Sandford expressed delight at seeing Daisy come in, but it would maybe have been of little avail had her kindness been the only force at work. It was not. The doctor prescribed peaches and bread, and gave Daisy grapes and a little bit of cold chicken; and was very kind and very imperative too; and Daisy did not dare nor like to disobey him. She eat the supper, which tasted good when he made her eat it; and then was dismissed up stairs to bed, with orders to go straight to sleep. And Daisy did as she was told.
The doctor's horse was before the door, and Daisy was on the piazza. The doctor came out, ready for his day's work.
"Do you want me to do anything for you at Melbourne, Daisy?"
"Cannot I go home to-day, Dr. Sandford?"
"I do not know. Supposing that you be still kept in banishment—what then?"
Daisy struggled with herself—succeeded, and spoke calmly.
"I should like to have Loupe sent, Dr. Sandford, if you please."
"Loupe? what is that? What is Loupe, Daisy?"
"My pony, sir. My pony chaise."
"Oh!—Not to drive to Melbourne?"
Daisy met the doctor's blue eye full, and answered with guileless submission. "No, sir."
"I will send Loupe. By the way—Daisy, have you business on hand?"
"So much that you can do none for me?"
"O no, sir. I have not a great deal of business. What may I do, Dr. Sandford?"
"Can you go to Crum Elbow?"
"Yes, sir. I have got to go there."
"All right, then. Daisy, there is a poor family down by the railway that were burnt out a night or two ago; they have lost everything. The neighbours will have to supply them with a few things. Will you go to the village and buy clothing for two little children, six and seven years old? One is a girl, the other a boy."
The doctor took out his pocket-book and began to look over bank bills.
"Dresses, do you mean, Dr. Sandford?—and a boy's dress?"
"I mean, everything they need to put on—dresses and petticoats, and jacket and trowsers, and a shirt or two for the boy. Here is money, Daisy; spend whatever you find needful."
"But, Dr. Sandford—"
"I don't believe Mr. Lamb keeps those things ready made."
"I am sure he does not. Buy the stuff, Daisy—all the stuff—we will see about getting it made afterwards. You can consult my sister, Mrs. Sandford, about quantities and all that; or I dare say the storekeeper can tell you."
So away went the doctor. Daisy felt in great need of consulting somebody; but Mrs. Sandford was busy, and so engaged that there was no chance for several hours. Not indeed before the pony chaise came; and Daisy resolved then to wait no longer, but to do some other business first.
The news that she eagerly asked for from Melbourne was not much when she got it. Sam knew little; he believed Mr. Randolph was better, he said; but his tone of voice was not very encouraging, and Daisy drove off to Juanita's cottage. There was one person, she knew, who could feel with her; and she went with a sort of eagerness up the grassy pathway from the road to the cottage door, to get that sympathy.
Juanita was within, busy at some ironing. The work fell from her hands and the iron was set down with an expression of pleasure as she saw Daisy come in. The next minute her tone changed and her look.
"What ails my love?"
"Juanita—" said Daisy standing still and pale by the ironing table, "—haven't you heard? Papa—"
"What, Miss Daisy?"
"Papa—he was knocked off his horse yesterday—and they won't let me see him!"
So far Daisy's power of composure went, and no further. With that last word her voice failed. She threw her arms around Juanita, and hiding her face in her gown, burst into such tears as Daisy rarely shed at all; very rarely under any one's observation. Juanita, very much startled, sat down and drew the child into her arms, so far as she could; for Daisy had sunk on her knees, and with her face in Juanita's lap was weeping all her heart out. Mrs. Benoit hardly knew how to ask questions.
"Why must not Miss Daisy see her papa?"
"I don't know!—I suppose—he's not well enough."
Juanita breathed more freely.
"Let us pray for him, Miss Daisy."
"O yes, Juanita, do!—"
There was an intensity of meaning in these words and in Daisy's hurried assuming of another place and posture to leave Juanita free to kneel too, that almost took away the black woman's power of speech. She read what was breaking the child's heart; she knew what for was that suppressed cry of longing. For a moment Juanita was silent. But she had long known not only trouble but the refuge from trouble; and to that refuge she now went, and carried Daisy. As one goes who has often been there; who has many a time proved it a sure refuge; who knows it sure and safe and unfailing. So she prayed; while Daisy's sobs at first were excessive, and then by degrees calmed and quieted and ceased. They were quite still before Juanita finished; and when they rose up from their knees Daisy's face was composed again. Then, she came and stood with her hand on Juanita's shoulder, both of them silent; till Daisy put her lips to the fine olive-dark cheek of the old woman and kissed it. Juanita drew her into her arms, and Daisy sat there, nestling and tired.
"Can Miss Daisy trust the Lord?"
"Trust him,—how. Juanita?"
"That he do no harm to his little child?"
"O it isn't me, Juanita—" Daisy said with a very tender and sad accent.
"When Joseph—my love knows the story—when he was sold away from his father and home, to be servant of strangers far off—maybe he thought it was hard times. But the Lord meant it for good, and the father and the child came together again, in a happy day."
Daisy rose up, or rather raised her head, and looked steadily in her friend's face as if to see what this might mean.
"The Lord knoweth them that trust in him," said the black woman.
Daisy's head went down again; and there was a long silence. It was broken at last by Juanita's offering her some refreshment; and then Daisy started up to the business on hand. She explained to Juanita where she was staying, and what she had that morning to do. Meanwhile Juanita made her take some bread and milk.
"So how much must I get, Juanita? can you tell me? how much for two little frocks, and two little petticoats, and one suit of boy's clothes?"
"My love knows, it must be accordin' to the stuff. If the stuff narrow, she want more; if wide, she want less."
"Then you cannot tell me;—and Mrs. Sandford could not either. And I cannot tell. What shall I do?"
"Mrs. Sandford maybe get the things for Miss Daisy."
"No, she must not. Dr. Sandford wants me to do it. I must get them, Juanita."
"Hm! Suppose I put up my irons and walk round to the village—and Miss Daisy go in her shay."
"To the store!" cried Daisy. "O yes, Juanita; get ready, and I will take you with me. Then you can tell me all about it."
Juanita demurred and objected to this proposal, but Daisy was greatly pleased and would have it so. Mrs. Benoit put up her ironing work, and arrayed her head in a new clean bright handkerchief, wonderfully put on; she was ready then; and Sam grinned to see the tall fine figure of the old coloured woman sitting in the pony chaise by the side of his little mistress. It was as good to Daisy as anything could have been that day. They drove into Crum Elbow, went to the store; and there she and Juanita had a pretty large morning's business in choosing the various goods Dr. Sandford had desired Daisy to get. Daisy got excited over it. Calico for a little frock, and muslin for the underclothes, and stuff for the boy's jacket and trowsers and shirt; Juanita knew the quantities necessary, and Daisy had only the trouble of choice and judgment of various kinds. But that was a great responsibility, seeing she was doing it for Dr. Sandford. It took a good while. Then Daisy drove Juanita home again, gave her another kiss, and with her carriage load of dry goods and a tired and hungry little body went home to Mrs. Sandford's.
It was then pretty late in the day, and the doctor not come in. Daisy dressed, and went down to the drawing-room to wait for him. Not long this time. There was a certain air of calm strength about Dr. Sandford's face and cool blue eye, that Daisy loved; she felt she loved it now, as she saw him come in; she trusted him. He spoke first to his brother and sister; then came where Daisy was standing, sat down on the sofa and placed her beside him.
"I have no bad news for you, Daisy," he said kindly,—"and not the good news neither that you are looking for. Your father is no worse, though it will require several days to let him recover from the immediate effects of his accident. The quieter he is meanwhile the better."
"And mamma—she said—?"
"She said—yes, you have guessed it; she would like to have you remain here for a few days longer. She thinks you are better under my care than under hers."
"Under my care, I think it is," said Mrs. Sandford.
"Can you bear it, Daisy?"
She looked up meekly and answered, "Yes, Dr. Sandford." So meekly that the doctor's eye took special note of her.
"Have you been to Crum Elbow to-day?"
"Yes, sir. I got all the things."
"All of them?"
"What reward shall I give you?"
She had been speaking with a sad meekness, a sober self restraint, unlike her years. If Dr. Sandford meant to break it up, which I think he did, he had partial success. Daisy looked up and smiled at him. But yet it was a meek smile, and sad even in its composed denial of any notion of reward. Not satisfactory to the doctor.
"I always repay anybody that does me any service," he went on.
"Ought one always to do that?" said Daisy.
"What is your judgment?"
"I think everybody could not."
"Some people have nothing to pay with,—for things that are done for them."
"I do not believe that."
"Some people, Dr. Sandford?"
"Whom do you know in that condition—for instance?"
"Why, I—for instance."
"You! What cannot you pay for?"
"A great many things," said Daisy slowly. "Hardly any thing. I am only a child."
"How is it about Molly Skelton? Does she pay you for the various attentions she receives from you?"
"Pay me, Dr. Sandford! I do not want pay."
"You are very unlike me, then," said the doctor; "that is all I have to say."
"Why Dr. Sandford, what pay could she give me?"
"Don't you get any, then?"
"Why no, sir," said Daisy, eagerly answering the doctor's blue eye. "Except—yes, of course, I get a sort of pay; but Molly does not—yes she does give it to me; but I mean, she does not mean to pay me."
The doctor smiled, one of those rare pleasant smiles, that shewed his white teeth in a way that Daisy liked; it was only a glimmer.
"What sort of pay is that?—which she gives, and does not mean to give, and you take and do not ask for?"
"O!—that sort of pay!" said Daisy. "Is it that sort you mean, Dr. Sandford?"
"That is one sort."
"But I mean, is it the sort that you always give, you say?"
"Always, when people deserve it. And then, do you not think it is natural to wish to give them, if you can, some other sort of pay?"
"I think it is," said Daisy sedately.
"I am glad you do not disapprove of it."
"But I do not think people want that other kind of pay. Dr. Sandford."
"Perhaps not. I suppose it is a selfish gratification of oneself to give it."
Daisy looked so earnestly and so curiously at him, as if to see what all this was about, that the doctor must have had good command of his lips not to smile again.
They went in to dinner just then and the conversation stopped. But though not talked to, Daisy was looked after; and when she had forgotten all about dinner and was thinking mournfully of what was going on at home, a slice of roast beef or a nice peach would come on her plate with a word from the doctor—"You are to eat that, Daisy"—and though he said no more, somehow Daisy always chose to obey him. At last they went into the drawing-room again and were drinking coffee. Daisy was somewhat comforted; she thought Dr. Sandford did not act as if there were anything very dreadful the matter at home.
"Daisy," said the doctor, "you have done work for me to-day—would you object to be paid?"
Daisy looked up smiling; it depended on what the pay might be, she thought; but she said nothing.
"Would it be violently against your principles?"
"I do not want pay, Dr. Sandford."
"Not if I were to offer to give you a sight of those little baskets on the frond of the Marchantia?"
Daisy's face all changed; but she said in the quietest manner, "Can you do that, Dr. Sandford?"
"Come with me."
He held out his hand, which Daisy willingly took, and they went up stairs together. Just short of her room the doctor stopped, and turned into his own. This was a very plain apartment; there was no beauty of furniture, though it struck Daisy there was a great deal of something. There were boxes, and cabinets, and shelves full of books and boxes, and bookcases, and one or two tables. Yet it was not a pretty-looking room, like the others in Mrs. Sandford's house. Daisy was a little disappointed. The doctor however gave her a chair, and then brought one of the unlikely deal boxes to the table and opened it. Daisy forgot everything. There appeared a polished, very odd brass machine, which the doctor took out and spent some time in adjusting. Daisy patiently looked on.
"Do you know what this is, Daisy?"
"It is a microscope. And looking through this, you will see what you could not see with your two eyes alone; there are some strong magnifying glasses here—and I found to-day some plants of Marchantia growing in a sheltered place. Here is one of the baskets for you—"
"Is it on that bit of green leaf?"
"Yes, but you can see nothing there. Try this view."
He stood back and helped Daisy to take a kneeling position in her chair, so that her eye could reach the eye-piece of the microscope. Daisy looked, took her eye away to give a wondering glance of inquiry at her friend's face, and then applied it to the microscope again; a pink hue of delight actually spreading over her poor little pale cheeks. It was so beautiful, so wonderful. Again Daisy took her eye away to examine out of the glass the coarse little bit of green leaf that lay upon the stand; and looked back at the show in the microscope with a bewitched mind. It seemed as if she could never weary of looking from one to the other. The doctor bade her take her own time, and Daisy took a good deal.
"What stuffs did you buy this morning?" the doctor asked. Daisy drew back from the microscope.
"I got all you told me, sir?"
"Exactly. I forget what that was."
"I bought a little piece of red and green linsey-woolsey for a frock for the little girl—and some brown strong stuff for the boy's suit; and then white muslin to make things for the girl, and blue check for the boy's shirt."
"Just right. Did your money hold out?"
"O I had three dollars and two shillings left, Dr. Sandford. Two shillings and sixpence, I believe."
"You did well." The doctor was arranging something else in the microscope. He had taken out the bit of liverwort.
"I had Juanita to help me," said Daisy.
"How do you suppose I am going to get all those things made up?" said the doctor.
"Won't Mrs. Sandford attend to it?"
"Mrs. Sandford has her own contribution to attend to. I do not wish to give her mine too."
"Cannot the children's mother make the things?"
The doctor's lip curled in funny fashion.
"They have no mother, I think. There is an old aunt, or grandmother, or something, that does not take care of the children. I shall not trust the business certainly to her."
Daisy wondered a little that Mrs. Sandford, who was so good-natured, could not do what was needful; but she said nothing.
"I think I shall turn over the whole thing in charge to you, Daisy?"
"But, Dr. Sandford, what can I do?"
"Drive down with me to-morrow and see how big the children are, and then have the things made."
"But I am afraid I do not know enough."
"I dare say you can find out. I do not know enough—that is very certain; and I have other things to attend to besides overseeing mantua-makers."
"Our seamstress could do it,—if I could see her."
"Very well, then some other seamstress can. Now, Daisy—you may look at this."
"What a beautiful thing! But what is it, Dr. Sandford?"
"What does it look like?"
"It does not look like anything that I ever saw."
"It is a scale from a butterfly's wing."
"Why, it is as large as a small butterfly," said Daisy.
The doctor shewed her where the little scale lay, so little that she could hardly see it out of the glass; and Daisy went back to the contemplation of its magnified beauty with immense admiration. Then her friend let her see the eye of a bee, and the tongue of a fly, and divers other wonders, which kept Daisy busy until an hour which was late for her. Busy and delightfully amused.
One day passed after another, and Daisy looked longingly for her summons home, and still she did not receive it. Her fears and agonies were somewhat quieted; because Dr. Sandford assured her that her father was getting better; but he never said that her father was well, or that he had not been very ill. Daisy knew that the matter had been very serious that had prevented her being at Melbourne all these days. Her imaginings of evil were doubtful and dim; but it seemed to her that her father himself would have commanded her presence in all ordinary circumstances; and a doubt like an ice-wind sometimes swept over her little spirit, whether he could be too ill to know of her absence! No word that could, be said would entirely comfort Daisy while this state of things lasted; and it was very well for her that she had a wise and energetic friend watching over her welfare, in the meanwhile. If business could keep her from pining and hinder her from too much imagining, Dr. Sandford took care that she had it. He contrived that she should indeed oversee the making of the dresses for the poor children, and it was a very great charge for Daisy. A great responsibility; it lay on her mind for days, and gave occasion for a number of drives to Crum Elbow and to Juanita's cottage. Then at evening, after hearing her report progress, the doctor would take Daisy up to his room, and shew her many a wonder and beauty that little Daisy had never dreamed of before; and the friendship between the two grew closer than ever.
"Grant, you are a good fellow!" said Mrs. Sandford one night. "I do not know what I should do with that child, if it were not for you."
"You would do nothing. She would not be here if it were not for me."
"I do not suppose, however, that your care for her is dictated by a conscientious regard for that fact. It is good of you."
"She is my patient, Mrs. Sandford."
"Yes, yes; impatient would be the word with some young men."
"I am glad you do not class me with such young men."
"Well, no child ever gave less cause for impatience, I will say that. Nor had more. Poor child! How she looks at you every day when you come home! But I suppose you doctors get hard hearts."
Dr. Sandford's lips curled a little into one of the smiles that Daisy liked, but he said nothing.
Daisy did look hard at her friend those days, but it was only when he came home. So she was not expecting anything the next morning when he said to her,
"Daisy—will you take a ride with me?"
Daisy looked up. The doctor was sitting by the breakfast-table, poring over a newspaper. Breakfast was done, and Daisy herself busy with a book. So she only answered,
"If you please, Dr. Sandford."
"Where shall we go?"
Daisy looked surprised. "I supposed you had business, sir."
"So I have. I am going to visit a patient. Perhaps you would like to make the visit with me."
"To one of your patients, Dr. Sandford?"
"Yes, one. Not more than one. But I think that one would like to see you."
A light came into Daisy's face, and colour started upon her cheeks, almost painfully.
"Dr. Sandford—do you mean—"
"I think so, Daisy," said her friend quietly. "It will do no harm,—if you are a good child."
He was so quiet, that it stilled Daisy's feeling, which else might have been impetuous. There was danger of that, as the child's eye and cheek bore witness. But she only said, "I'll get ready, Dr. Sandford—" and went off in orderly style till she reached the hall and was out of sight. Then Daisy's feet made haste up the stairs. In three minutes she was back again, with her hat and gloves in her hand.
The doctor threw down his newspaper and drew her up to him.
"Daisy, can you be quiet?"
"I think so, Dr. Sandford."
"I think so too; therefore I tell you beforehand that I wish it. Your father has not fully recovered his strength yet; and it would not be good for him to be excited. You will be very glad to see him, and he will be very glad to see you; that is quite enough; and it would be too much, if you were to shew him how glad you are."
Daisy said nothing, but she thought within herself she could not do that!
"Can you command yourself, Daisy?"
"I will try, Dr. Sandford."
"You must do it—for my sake," added the doctor.
"Dr. Sandford," said Daisy, "was that what you meant?"
"When you said, if I was a good child?"
"It must have been that I meant, I think. I could have said it in no other connection."
"The pony-chaise, ma'am, for Miss Randolph—" said a servant at the door.
"The chaise may go away again, Daisy, I suppose," said Mrs. Sandford. "You will not want it."
"Yes, she will," said the doctor,—"to drive to Melbourne. Go, Daisy, since you are ready; I will follow you. That little waddling fellow can be overtaken without any great difficulty."
"Do you want me to drive slowly, sir?"
"Not at all," said the doctor; "only drive well, for I shall come and see."
If ever a little pride in her driving accomplishments had lodged in Daisy's mind, she certainly did not feel it that afternoon. She drove without knowing very well how she drove; she did not think of Dr. Sandford's criticism, or admiration; what she thought of, was the miles of the road to Melbourne.
They were not very many, and unconsciously the eager spirit in Daisy's fingers made itself known to Loupe's understanding, through the medium of the reins. He travelled better than usual, so that they were not more than half way from Melbourne when the doctor's gig overtook them. And then Loupe went better yet.
"Remember, Daisy, and keep quiet—" said the doctor as he took her out of the chaise. Daisy trembled, but she followed him steadily through the hall and up the stairs and into her father's room. Then she went before him, yet even then she went with a moderated step, and stood by her father's couch at last silent and breathless. Breathless with the very effort she made to keep silent and quiet. With excitement too; for Mr. Randolph was looking feeble and pale, more than Daisy had ever seen him, and it frightened her. He was not in bed but on a sofa and as Daisy came to his side he put out his arm and drew his little daughter close to him. Without a word at first and Daisy stooped her lips to his, and then stood hiding her face on his shoulder; perfectly quiet, though trembling with contained emotion, and not daring to say anything lest she should say too much.
"Daisy," said her father,—"Daisy,—do you know I have been ill?"
There was a little, little tone of surprise or disappointment in the voice. Daisy felt it, knew it, but what could she do? She was afraid to speak to say anything. She turned her face a little to Dr. Sandford; he saw an agony struggling in the eye that appealed to him. This was not what he wanted.
"She knows it almost too well," he said, coming to the rescue; "I have been her gaoler all these days; a severe one."
"Are you glad to see me, Daisy?" said Mr. Randolph.
Daisy half raised herself, half glanced at his face, and turning from him threw herself upon Dr. Sandford's arm with a cry and gave way to a deep passion of weeping. Deep and still; her sobs could not but be heard, but they were kept under as much as the heaving of that little breast could bear. Mr. Randolph's pale face flashed; and the doctor saw that his precautions had been too good.
"Why Daisy!" he said lightly, "is this your self-command?"
"Let me have her—" said Mr. Randolph. "Self-command is a good thing, doctor; but people may have too much of it."
And getting hold of Daisy's hand, which the doctor brought within his reach, he again drew the sobbing child to his breast and folded her close in both his arms. The sobs were very soon hushed; but during all the rest of the doctor's visit and through all the conversation that took place, Daisy and her father never changed their position. The conversation indeed was not much, being confined to a few quiet questions and answers and remarks; and then Dr. Sandford took his departure, leaving Daisy very unconscious of his movements. He only waved his hand to Mr. Randolph, with a smile at Daisy who did not see him.
"Daisy—my darling—" said Mr. Randolph, when he was gone.
"Papa!—" came in a whisper.
"What is the matter?"
Daisy lifted her face from its resting place and kissed, with kisses that were like velvet, first one side of her father's mouth and then the other.
"Papa—Dr. Sandford told me I must keep quiet."
"Well, you shall," said Mr. Randolph. "That is right enough. You shall keep quiet, and I will go to sleep."
So he did. But he did not loose his hold of Daisy; and she lay, still as happiness could make her, with her head upon his breast. She knew, she was conscious, that he must be very feeble yet, to go to sleep in that way; but she was with him again, and in his arms, and her heart was so full of joy that it could do nothing but overflow in silent thanksgivings and prayers. Daisy would not have stirred till he did, no matter how long it might have been; but there came an interruption. A door opened, and Mrs. Randolph appeared on the threshold, and so soon as she saw Daisy beckoned her to come to another room. Mr. Randolph's arms had relaxed their hold somewhat, and Daisy obeyed the signal and left him.
Her mother wanted then to know all the story of her days at Mrs. Sandford's; and Daisy had a good deal to tell. That is, Mrs. Randolph's questionings made it so. Daisy herself would not have had it a long story. Then, she must see June, and Joanna; and then came dinner. It was not till the afternoon was well passed that the call came for her to go to her father again. Daisy had watched and waited for it; her mother had forbidden her to go in without it. At last she was sent for, and Daisy sprang away.
Mrs. Randolph was there.
"No noise!—remember," she said, lifting her finger as Daisy came in. Daisy came near slowly. Her father held out his hand to her, and folded her in his arms again.
"You are such a noisy child!" he said,—"your mother does wisely to warn you."
"She is an excitable child,"—said Mrs. Randolph;—"and I think you want warning too."
"We will keep each other quiet," said Mr. Randolph.
The lady looked on, with what seemed a doubtful eye. Nobody watched it. Her husband's eyes were often closed; Daisy's little head lay on his breast, quiet enough, unless when she moved it to give soft noiseless kisses to her father's cheek. They remained so a good while, with scarce any word spoken; and Mrs. Randolph was busy at her tetting. The light faded; the evening drew on.
"It is time for Daisy's tea." It was the first thing that broke a long silence.
"She and I will have it together," said Mr. Randolph.
"Will that be best for you, Mr. Randolph?"
"I hope so."
"I doubt it."
"Most things in this world are doubtful," said Mr. Randolph; "but we will try."
"Will you choose to have tea now, then?"
"This is Daisy's time."
"Very well. She must wait for my time."
Not a word did Daisy say; only little alternate throbs of joy and fear, as her father or her mother spoke, passed through her heart. Mrs. Randolph gave it up; and there was another hour of quiet, very sweet to Daisy. Then lights were brought, and again Mrs. Randolph proposed, to have the tea served; but again Mr. Randolph negatived her proposal; and things remained as they were. At last Mrs. Randolph was summoned to preside at the tea-table down stairs; for even now there were one or two guests at Melbourne. Then there was a stir in the room up stairs. The tray came with Mr. Randolph's supper; and Daisy had the delight of sharing it and of being his attendant in chief. He let her do what she would; and without being unquiet, Daisy and her father enjoyed themselves over that entertainment.
"Now I think I could bear a little reading," said Mr. Randolph, as he laid his head back on his couch.
"What, papa?" said Daisy, a sudden hope starting into some dark corner of her heart, almost without her knowing it.
"What?—what you please."
"Shall I read what, I like, papa?"
"Yes. If I do not like it, I will tell you."
Daisy ran away and flew through the rooms to her own, and there hastily sought her Bible. She could not wait to get another; she took her own and ran back softly with it. Her father's languid eye watched the little white figure coming towards him, book in hand; the gentle eager step, the slight flush on the cheek; till she took her seat beside him.
"What have you got there, Daisy?" he asked.
"Well—what are you going to read?"
"I don't know, papa—" said Daisy doubtfully. What would come next?
"Do you remember your picture, the 'Game of Life'?"
"Do you remember your talk about good and evil spirits?"
"Find me the grounds of your philosophy."
Daisy thought what that might mean, and guessed at it. She turned to the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, a favourite chapter, and read the parable of the sheep and the goats. The servant had withdrawn; Daisy and her father were alone. There was a moment's pause when she had done.
"Is that all?" said Mr. Randolph.
"That is all of this, papa."
"There is nothing there about the rejoicings of the good spirits,"—said Mr. Randolph.
Daisy's fingers trembled, she hardly knew why, as she turned over the leaves to find the place. Her father watched her.
"Are you sure it is there, Daisy?"
"O yes, papa—it is in the story of the man with a hundred sheep—I will find it directly."
So she did, and read the parable in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. Her father listened with shut eyes, while the child's voice gave the words in a sort of sweet clear gravity.
"'Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with, me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.'"
There Daisy stopped, and there was silence. Presently her father opened his eyes. He saw that hers were full, but they were not looking at her book, neither at him; they were gazing away at the light, with an intent, very serious expression.
"Daisy!—" said her father.
She came back instantly to a sweet happy look at him.
"What were you studying?"
"Papa!—I was thinking—"
"What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking, papa," said Daisy unwillingly,—"how strange it is that anybody should try to hide himself from God."
She started a little and rose up, for her mother stood on the other side of the light now. Mrs. Randolph's voice was a note belonging to another chord.
"Daisy, it is your bedtime."
Mr. Randolph made no attempt to hinder his wife's arrangements this time. Daisy exchanged a very tender good-night with him and then went away. But she went away very happy. She thought she saw good days coming.
There were good days that followed that one, for a while. Daisy's readings and sweet companionship with her father were constant, and grew sweeter as he grew stronger. But the strengthening process was not rapid. About a fortnight had passed, when Mrs. Sandford one day made enquiry about it of her brother-in-law.
"Slow work—" said the doctor.
"He will get over it, won't he?"
"I hope he will."
"But cannot anything be done for him, Grant?"
"He is going to do the best thing. He is going to Europe."
"To Europe!—This winter?"
"Now, in a few weeks, or less."
"It will be good for your pet Daisy."
"Doubtfully—" said the doctor with a very complicated expression of face; but he was taking off his boot at the moment, and maybe it pinched him. "She will not go."
"Not go! Daisy! Does not her mother go?"
"And not Daisy? Why not Daisy?"
"She gives so much trouble—" said the doctor.
"Trouble!—I thought her parents were so fond of her."
"Mr. Randolph is unequal to any agitation; and Mrs. Randolph regulates everything."
"But wouldn't it be good for Daisy?"
"I think so."
"Poor child! What will they do with her?"
"Send her to a Southern plantation, under care of a governess, as I understand."
"It will half kill Daisy," said Mrs. Sandford.
"It takes a great deal to kill people," said the doctor.
"I do not know how to believe you," said the lady. "Is it all fixed and settled. Grant?"
"They leave Melbourne next week."