Melbourne House, Vol. I.
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE "WIDE, WIDE WORLD."
"Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right."—PROV. XX. 11.
NEW YORK: ROBERT CARTER & BROTHERS, 530 BROADWAY. 1865.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by
ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.
Stereotyped by SMITH & MCDOUGAL, 82 & 84 Beekman St.
Printed by E.O. JENKINS, 20 North William St.
[Transcriber's note: This edition of the novel was badly typeset in places. Many small errors—missing periods, missing apostrophes, missing closing quotes—have been corrected for reading ease. When the author spelled a word as 'ankle' nine times and 'ancle' twice, occurrences of 'ancle' have been corrected to 'ankle'—and so forth. Other errors, such as the persistent misspelling of 'visitor' as 'visiter', have been left, as these are more likely to represent the author's convictions as to spelling.]
A little girl was coming down a flight of stairs that led up from a great hall, slowly letting her feet pause on each stair, while the light touch of her hand on the rail guided her. The very thoughtful little face seemed to be intent on something out of the house, and when she reached the bottom, she still stood with her hand on the great baluster that rested on the marble there, and looked wistfully out of the open door. So the sunlight came in and looked at her; a little figure in a white frock and blue sash, with the hair cut short all over a little round head, and a face not only just now full of some grave concern, but with habitually thoughtful eyes and a wise little mouth. She did not seem to see the sunlight which poured all over her, and lit up a wide, deep hall, floored with marble, and opening at the other end on trees and flowers, which shewed the sunlight busy there too. The child lingered wistfully. Then crossed the hall, and went into a matted, breezy, elegant room, where a lady lay luxuriously on a couch, playing with a book and a leaf-cutter. She could not be busy with anything in that attitude. Nearly all that was to be seen was a flow of lavender silk flounces, a rich slipper at rest on a cushion, and a dainty little cap with roses on a head too much at ease to rest. By the side of the lavender silk stood the little white dress, still and preoccupied as before—a few minutes without any notice.
"Do you want anything, Daisy?"
"Mamma, I want to know something."
"Well, what is it?"
"Mamma"—Daisy seemed to be engaged on a very puzzling question—"what does it mean to be a Christian?"
"What?" said her mother, rousing herself up for the first time to look at her.
"To be a Christian, mamma?"
"It means, to be baptized and go to church, and all that," said the lady, turning back to her book.
"But mamma, that isn't all I mean."
"I don't know what you mean. What has put it into your head?"
"Something Mr. Dinwiddie said."
"What absurd nonsense! Who is Mr. Dinwiddie?"
"You know him. He lives at Mrs. Sandford's."
"And where did he talk to you?"
"In the little school in the woods. In his Sunday-school. Yesterday."
"Well, it's absurd nonsense, your going there. You have nothing to do with such things. Mr. Randolph?—"
An inarticulate sound, testifying that he was attending, came from a gentleman who had lounged in and was lounging through the room.
"I won't have Daisy go to that Sunday-school any more, down there in the woods. Just tell her she is not to do it, will you? She is getting her head full of the most absurd nonsense. Daisy is just the child to be ruined by it."
"You hear, Daisy," said Mr. Randolph, indolently, as he lounged finally out of the room by an open window; which, as did all the windows in the room, served for a door also. By the door by which she had entered, Daisy silently withdrew again, making no effort to change the resolution of either of her parents. She knew it would be of no use; for excessively indulgent as they both were in general, whenever they took it upon them to exercise authority, it was unflinchingly done. Her father would never even hear a supplication to reconsider a judgment, especially if pronounced at the desire of her mother. So Daisy knew.
It was a disappointment, greater than anybody thought or would have guessed, that saw her. She went out to the large porch before the door, and stood there, with the same thoughtful look upon her face, a little cast down now. Still she did not shed tears about the matter, unless one time when Daisy's hand went up to her brow rather quick, it was to get rid of some improper suggestion there. More did not appear, either before or after the sudden crunching of the gravel by a pair of light wheels, and the coming up of a little Shetland pony, drawing a miniature chaise.
"Hollo, Daisy! come along; he goes splendidly!"
So shouted the driver, a boy somewhat bigger than Daisy.
"Where are you going?"
"Anywhere—down to the church, if you'll be quick. Never mind your hat!"
He waited, however, while Daisy dashed into the house and out again, and then stepped into the low chaise beside him. Then the eager intimation was given to the pony, which set off as if knowing that impatience was behind him. The smooth, wide, gravelled road was as good and much better than a plank flooring; the chaise rolled daintily on under the great trees; the pony was not forgetful, yet ever and anon a touch of his owner's whip came to remind him, and the fellow's little body fairly wriggled from side to side in his efforts to get on.
"I wish you wouldn't whip him so!" said Daisy, "he's doing as well as he can."
"What do girls know about driving!" was the retort from the small piece of masculine science beside her.
"Ask papa," said Daisy quietly.
"Well, what do they know about horses, any how!"
"I can see," said Daisy, whose manner of speech was somewhat slow and deliberate, and in the choice of words, like one who had lived among grown people. "I can observe."
"See that, then!"—And a cut, smarter than ordinary, drove the pony to his last legs, namely, a gallop. Away they went; it was but a short-legged gallop after all; yet they passed along swiftly over the smooth gravel road. Great, beautiful trees overshadowed the ground on either side with their long arms; and underneath, the turf was mown short, fresh and green. Sometimes a flowering bush of some sort broke the general green with a huge spot of white or red flowers; gradually those became fewer, and were lost sight of; but the beautiful grass and the trees seemed to be unending. Then a gray rock here and there began to shew itself. Pony got through his gallop, and subsided again to a waddling trot.
"This whip's the real thing," said the young driver, displaying and surveying it as he spoke; "that is a whip now, fit for a man to use."
"A man wouldn't use it as you do," said Daisy. "It is cruel."
"That's what you think. I guess you'd see papa use a whip once in a while."
"Besides, you came along too fast to see anything."
"Well, I told you I was going to the church, and we hadn't time to go slowly. What did you come for?"
"I suppose I came for some diversion," said Daisy with a sigh.
"Ain't Loupe a splendid little fellow?"
"Very; I think so."
"Why, Daisy, what ails you? there is no fun in you to-day. What's the matter?"
"I am concerned about something. There is nothing the matter."
"Concerned about Loupe, eh!"
"I am not thinking about Loupe. O Ransom! stop him; there's Nora Dinwiddie; I want to get out."
The place at which they were arrived had a little less the air of carefully kept grounds, and more the look of a sweet wild wood; for the trees clustered thicker in patches, and grey rock, in large and in small quantities, was plenty about among the trees. Yet still here was care; no unsightly underbrush or rubbish of dead branches was anywhere to be seen; and the greensward, where it spread, was shaven and soft as ever. It spread on three sides around a little church, which, in green and gray, seemed almost a part of its surroundings. A little church, with a little quaint bell-tower and arched doorway, built after some old, old model; it stood as quietly in the green solitude of trees and rocks, as if it and they had grown up together. It was almost so. The walls were of native greystone in its natural roughness; all over the front and one angle the American ivy climbed and waved, mounting to the tower; while at the back, the closer clinging Irish ivy covered the little "apse," and creeping round the corner, was advancing to the windows, and promising to case the first one in a loving frame of its own. It seemed that no carriage-road came to this place, other than the dressed gravelled path which the pony-chaise had travelled, and which made a circuit on approaching the rear of the church. The worshippers must come humbly on foot; and a wicket in front of the church led out upon a path suited for such. Perhaps a public road might be not far off, but at least here there was no promise of it. In the edge of the thicket, at the side of the church, was the girl whose appearance Daisy had hailed.
"I sha'n't wait for you," cried her brother, as she sprang down.
"No—go—I don't want you,"—and Daisy made few steps over the greensward to the thicket. Then it was,—"O Nora! how do you do? what are you doing?"—and "O Daisy! I'm getting wintergreens." Anybody who has ever been nine, or ten, or eleven years old, and gone in the woods looking for wintergreens, knows what followed. The eager plunging into the thickest of the thicket; the happy search of every likely bank or open ground in the shelter of some rock; the careless, delicious straying from rock to rock, and whithersoever the bank or the course of the thicket might lead them. The wintergreens sweet under foot, sweet in the hands of the children, the whole air full of sweetness. Naturally their quest led them to the thicker and wilder grown part of the wood; prettier there, they declared it to be, where the ground became broken, and there were ups and downs, and rocky dells and heights, and to turn a corner was to come upon something new. They did not note nor care where they went, intent upon business and pleasure together, till they came out suddenly upon a little rocky height, where a small spot was shaded with cedars and set with benches around and under them. The view away off over the tops of the trees to other heights and hills in the distance was winningly fair, especially as the sun shewed it just now in bright, cool light and shadow. It was getting near sundown.
"Look where we are!" cried Nora, "at the Sunday-school!"
Daisy seated herself without answering.
"I think," went on Nora, as she followed the example, "it is the very prettiest place for a Sunday-school that there ever was."
"Have you been in other Sunday-schools?" asked Daisy.
"Yes, in two."
"What were they like?"
"O they were in a church, or in some sort of a room. I like being out of doors best; don't you?"
"Yes, I think so. But was the school just like this in other things?"
"O yes; only once I had a teacher who always asked us what we thought about everything. I didn't like that."
"What you thought about everything?" said Daisy.
"Yes; every verse and question, she would say, 'What do you think about it?' and I didn't like that, because I never thought anything."
Whereat Daisy fell into a muse. Her question recurred to her; but it was hardly likely, she felt, that her little companion could enlighten her. Nora was a bright, lively, spirited child, with black eyes and waves of beautiful black hair; neither at rest; sportive energy and enjoyment in every motion. Daisy was silent.
"What is supposed to be going on here?" said a stronger voice behind them, which brought both their heads round. It was to see another head just making its way up above the level of their platform; a head that looked strong and spirited as the voice had sounded; a head set with dark hair, and eyes that were too full of light to let you see what colour they were. Both children came to their feet, one saying, "Marmaduke!" the other, "Mr. Dinwiddie!"
"What do two such mature people do when they get together? I should like to know," said the young man as he reached the top.
"Talking, sir," said Daisy.
"Picking wintergreens," said the other, in a breath.
"Talking! I dare say you do. If both things have gone on together, like your answers," said he, helping himself out of Nora's stock of wintergreens,—"you must have had a basket of talk."
"That basket isn't full, sir," said Daisy.
"My dear," said Mr. Dinwiddie, diving again into his sister's, "that basket never is; there's a hole in it somewhere."
"You are making a hole in mine," said Nora, laughing. "You sha'n't do it, Marmaduke; they're for old Mrs. Holt, you know."
"Come along, then," said her brother; "as long as the baskets are not full the fun isn't over."
And soon the children thought so. Such a scrambling to new places as they had then; such a harvest of finest wintergreens as they all gathered together; till Nora took off her sunbonnet to serve for a new basket. And such joyous, lively, rambling talk as they had all three, too; it was twice as good as they had before; or as Daisy, who was quiet in her epithets, phrased it, "it was nice." By Mr. Dinwiddie's help they could go faster and further than they could alone; he could jump them up and down the rocks, and tell them where it was no use to waste their time in trying to go.
They had wandered, as it seemed to them, a long distance—they knew not whither—when the children's exclamations suddenly burst forth, as they came out upon the Sunday-school place again. They were glad to sit down and rest. It was just sundown, and the light was glistening, crisp and clear, on the leaves of the trees and on the distant hill-points. In the west a mass of glory that the eye could not bear was sinking towards the horizon. The eye could not bear it, and yet every eye turned that way.
"Can you see the sun?" said Mr. Dinwiddie.
"No, sir,"—and "No, Marmaduke."
"Then why do you look at it?"
"I don't know!" laughed Nora; but Daisy said: "Because it is so beautiful, Mr. Dinwiddie."
"Once when I was in Ireland," said the gentleman, "I was looking, near sunset, at some curious old ruins. They were near a very poor little village where I had to pass the night. There had been a little chapel or church of some sort, but it had crumbled away; only bits of the walls were standing, and in place of the floor there was nothing but grass and weeds, and one or two monuments that had been under shelter of the roof. One of them was a large square tomb in the middle of the place. It had been very handsome. The top of it had held two statues, lying there with hands upraised in prayer, in memory of those who slept beneath. But it was so very old—the statues had been lying there so long since the roof that sheltered them was gone, that they were worn away so that you could only just see that they had been statues; you could just make out the remains of what had been the heads and where the hands had been. It was all rough and shapeless now." [Footnote A: See frontispiece.]
"What had worn the stone so?" asked Daisy.
"The weather—the heat and the cold, and the rain, and the dew."
"But it must have taken a great while?"
"A very great while. Their names were forgotten—nobody knew whose monument or what church had been there."
"More than a hundred years?" asked Nora.
"It had been many hundred."
"What's the matter? Don't you believe that people died many hundred years ago?"
"And they had monuments erected to them, and they thought their names would live forever; but these names were long gone, and the very stone over their grave was going. While I sat there, thinking about them, and wondering what sort of people they were in their lifetime,—the sun, which had been behind a tree, got lower, and the beams came striking across the stone and brightening up those poor old worn heads and hands of what had been statues. And with that the words rushed into my head, and they have never got out since,—'Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.'"
"When, Mr. Dinwiddie?" said Daisy, after a timid silence.
"When the King comes!" said the young man, still looking off to the glowing west,—"the time when he will put away out of his kingdom all things that offend him. You may read about it, if you will, in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, in the parable of the tares."
He turned round to Daisy as he spoke, and the two looked steadily into one another's faces; the child wondering very much what feeling it could be that had called an additional sparkle into those bright eyes the moment before, and brought to the mouth, which was always in happy play, an expression of happy rest. He, on his part, queried what lay under the thoughtful, almost anxious, search of the little one's quiet grey eyes.
"Do you know," he said, "that you must go home? The sun is almost down."
So home they went—Mr. Dinwiddie and Nora taking care of Daisy quite to the house. But it was long after sundown then.
"What has kept you?" her mother asked, as Daisy came in to the tea-table.
"I didn't know how late it was, mamma."
"Where have you been?"
"I was picking wintergreens with Nora Dinwiddie."
"I hope you brought me some," said Mr. Randolph.
"O I did, papa; only I have not put them in order yet."
"And where did you and Nora part?"
"Here, at the door, mamma."
"Was she alone?"
"No, ma'am—Mr. Dinwiddie found us in the wood, and he took her home, and he brought me home first."
Daisy was somewhat of a diplomatist. Perhaps a little natural reserve of character might have been the beginning of it, but the habit had certainly grown from Daisy's experience of her mother's somewhat capricious and erratic views of her movements. She could not but find out that things which to her father's sense were quite harmless and unobjectionable, were invested with an unknown and unexpected character of danger or disagreeableness in the eyes of her mother; neither could Daisy get hold of any chain of reasoning by which she might know beforehand what would meet her mother's favour and what would not. The unconscious conclusion was, that reason had little to do with it; and the consequence, that without being untrue, Daisy had learned to be very uncommunicative about her thoughts, plans, or wishes. To her mother, that is; she was more free with her father, though the habit, once a habit, asserted itself everywhere. Perhaps, too, among causes, the example of her mother's own elegant manner of shewing truth only as one shews a fine picture,—in the best light,—might have had its effect. Daisy's diplomacy served her little on the present occasion.
"Daisy!" said her mother, "look at me." Daisy fixed her eves on the pleasant, handsome, mild face. "You are not to go anywhere in future where Mr. Dinwiddie is. Do you understand?"
"If he finds you lost out at night, though," said Mr. Randolph a little humorously, "he may bring you home."
Daisy wondered and obeyed, mentally, in silence; making no answer to either speaker. It was not her habit either to shew her dismay on such occasions, and she shewed none. But when she went up an hour later to be undressed for bed, instead of letting the business go on, Daisy took a Bible and sat down by the light and pored over a page that she had found.
The woman waiting on her, a sad-faced mulatto, middle-aged and respectable looking, went patiently round the room, doing or seeming to do some trifles of business, then stood still and looked at the child, who was intent on her book.
"Come, Miss Daisy," said she at last, "wouldn't you like to be undressed?"
The words were said in a tone so low they were hardly more than a suggestion. Daisy gave them no heed. The woman stood with dressing gown on her arm and a look of habitual endurance upon her face. It was a singular face, so set in its lines of enforced patience, so unbending. The black eyes were bright enough, but without the help of the least play of those fixed lines, they expressed nothing. A little sigh came from the lips at last, which also was plainly at home there.
"Miss Daisy, it's gettin' very late."
"June, did you ever read the parable of the tares?"
"The what, Miss Daisy?"
"The parable about the wheat and the tares in the Bible—in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew?"
"Yes, ma'am,"—came somewhat dry and unwillingly from June's lips, and she moved the dressing-gown on her arm significantly.
"Do you remember it?"
"Yes, ma'am,—I suppose I do, Miss Daisy—"
"June, when do you think it will be?"
"When will what, Miss Daisy?"
"When the 'Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.' It says, 'in the end of this world'—did you know this world would come to an end, June?"
"Yes, Miss Daisy—"
"When will it be, June?"
"I don't know, Miss Daisy."
"There won't be anybody alive that is alive now, will there?"
Again unwillingly the answer came: "Yes, ma'am. Miss Daisy, hadn't you better—"
"How do you know, June?"
"I have heard so—it's in the Bible—it will be when the Lord comes."
"Do you like to think of it, June?"
The child's searching eyes were upon her. The woman half laughed, half answered, and turning aside, broke down and burst into tears.
"What's the matter, June?" said Daisy, coming nearer and speaking awedly; for it was startling to see that stony face give way to anything but its habitual formal smile. But the woman recovered herself almost immediately, and answered as usual: "It's nothing, Miss Daisy." She always spoke as if everything about her was "nothing" to everybody else.
"But, June," said Daisy tenderly, "why do you feel bad about it?"
"I shouldn't, I s'pose," said the woman desperately, answering because she was obliged to answer; "I hain't no right to feel so—if I felt ready."
"How can one be ready, June? that is what I want to know. Aren't you ready?"
"Do, don't, Miss Daisy!—the Lord have mercy upon us!" said June under her breath, wrought up to great excitement, and unable to bear the look of the child's soft grey eyes. "Why don't ye ask your papa about them things? he can tell ye."
Alas, Daisy's lips were sealed. Not to father or mother would she apply with any second question on this subject. And now she must not ask Mr. Dinwiddie. She went to bed, turning the matter all over and over in her little head.
For some days after this time, Mrs. Randolph fancied that her little daughter was less lively than usual; she "moped," her mother said. Daisy was not moping, but it was true she had been little seen or heard; and then it was generally sitting with a book in the Belvidere or on a bank under a rose-bush, or going out or coming in with a book under her arm. Mrs. Randolph did not know that this book was almost always the Bible, and Daisy had taken a little pains that she should not know, guessing somehow that it would not be good for her studies. But her mother thought Daisy was drooping; and Daisy had been a delicate child, and the doctor had told them to turn her out in the country and "let her run;" therefore it was that she was hardly ever checked in any fancy that came into her head. But therefore it was partly, too, that Mrs. Randolph tried to put books and thinking as far from her as she could.
"Daisy," she said one morning at the breakfast-table, "would you like to go with June and carry some nice things down to Mrs. Parsons?"
"How what? Do speak distinctly."
"How shall I go, I mean?"
"You may have the carriage. I cannot go, this morning or this afternoon."
"O papa, mayn't I take Loupe and drive there myself?"
If Daisy had put the question at the other end of the table, there would have been an end of the business, as she knew. As it was, her father's "yes" got out just before her mother's "no."
"Yes she may," said Mr. Randolph—"no harm. John, tell Sam that he is to take the black pony and go with the pony-chaise whenever Miss Daisy drives. Daisy, see that he goes with you."
"Well," said Mrs. Randolph, "you may do as you like, but I think it is a very unsafe proceeding. What's Sam?—he's a boy."
"Safe enough," said Mr. Randolph. "I can trust all three of the party; Daisy, Loupe, and Sam. They all know their business, and they will all do it."
"Well!—I think it is very unsafe," repeated Mrs. Randolph.
"Mamma," said Daisy, when she had allowed a moment to pass—"what shall I take to Mrs. Parsons."
"You must go and see Joanna about that. You may make up whatever you think will please her or do her good. Joanna will tell you."
And Mrs. Randolph had the satisfaction of seeing that Daisy's eyes were lively enough for the rest of breakfast-time, and her colour perceptibly raised. No sooner was breakfast over than she flew to the consultation in the housekeeper's room.
Joanna was the housekeeper, and Mrs. Randolph's right hand; a jewel of skill and efficiency; and as fully satisfied with her post and power in the world, at the head of Mr. Randolph's household, as any throned emperor or diademed queen; furthermore, devoted to her employers as though their concerns had been, what indeed she reckoned them, her own.
"Mrs. Randolph didn't say anything to me about it," said this piece of capability,—"but I suppose it isn't hard to manage. Who is Mrs. Parsons? that's the first thing."
"She's a very poor old woman, Joanna; and she is obliged to keep her bed always; there is something the matter with her. She lives with a daughter of hers who takes care of her, I believe; but they haven't much to live upon, and the daughter isn't smart. Mrs. Parsons hasn't anything fit for her to eat, unless somebody sends it to her."
"What's the matter with her? ain't she going to get well?"
"No, never—she will always be obliged to lie on her bed as long as she lives; and so, you see, Joanna, she hasn't appetite for coarse things."
"Humph!" said Joanna. "Custards won't give it to her. What does the daughter live upon?"
"She does washing for people; but of course that don't give her much. They are very poor, I know."
"Well, what would you like to take her, Miss Daisy?"
"Mother said you'd know."
"Well, I'll tell you what I think—sweetmeats ain't good for such folks. You wait till afternoon, and you shall have a pail of nice broth and a bowl of arrowroot with wine and sugar in it; that'll hearten her up. Will that do?"
"But I should like to take something to the other poor woman, too."
"How are you going?"
"In my pony-chaise—I can take anything."
Joanna muttered an ejaculation. "Well then, Miss Daisy, a basket of cold meat wouldn't come amiss, I suppose."
"And some bread, Joanna?"
"The chaise won't hold so much."
"It has got to hold the basket," said Daisy in much glee, "and the bread can go in. And, Joanna, I'll have it ready at half-past four o'clock."
There was no air of moping about Daisy, when, at half-past four she set off from the house in her pony-chaise, laden with pail and basket and all she had bargained for. A happier child was seldom seen. Sam, a capable black boy, was behind her on a pony not too large to shame her own diminutive equipage; and Loupe, a good-sized Shetland pony, was very able for more than his little mistress was going to ask of him. Her father looked on, pleased, to see her departure; and when she had gathered up her reins, leaned over her and gave her with his kiss a little gold piece to go with the pail and basket. It crowned Daisy's satisfaction; with a quiet glad look and word of thanks to her father, she drove off.
The pony waddled along nicely, but as his legs were none of the longest, their rate of travelling was not precisely of the quickest. Daisy was not impatient. The afternoon was splendid, the dust had been laid by late rains, and Daisy looked at her pail and basket with great contentment. Before she had gone a quarter of a mile from home, she met her little friend of the wintergreens. Nora sprang across the road to the chaise.
"O Daisy, where are you going?"
"I am going to carry some things for mamma, to a house."
"No, Sam is there to take care of me."
Nora looked back at the black pony, and then at Daisy. "Isn't it nice!" she said, with a sort of half-regretful admiration.
"It's as nice as a fairy tale," said Daisy. "I'm just as good as a princess, you know, Nora. Don't you want to go, too? Do come."
"No, I musn't—there are people coming to tea. Mrs. Linwood, and Charles and Jane—I wish I could go! How far is it, Daisy?"
"About five miles. Down beyond Crum Elbow, a good nice way; but I shan't go through Crum Elbow."
"It's so splendid!" sighed Nora. "Well, good-bye. I can't go."
On went the pony. The roads were good and pleasant, leading through farm, fields and here and there a bit of wood, but not much. It was mostly open country, cultivated by farmers; and the grain fields not yet ripe, and the grass fields not yet mown, looked rich and fair and soft in bright colours to Daisy's eyes, as the afternoon sun shone across them and tree shadows lay long over the ground. For trees there were, a great many, growing singly about the fields and fences, and some of them, very large and fine. Daisy was not so busy with her driving but that she could use her eyes about other things. Now and then she met a farm wagon, or a labourer going along the road. The men looked at her curiously and pleasantly, as if they thought it a pretty sight; but once Daisy, passing a couple of men together, overheard one say to the other:
"It's Randolph's folks—they stick themselves up considerable—"
The tone of the voice was gruff and coarse, and Daisy marvelled much in her little mind what had displeased the man in her or in "Randolph's folks." She determined to ask her father. "Stick ourselves up?" said Daisy thoughtfully—"we never do!"
So she touched the pony, who was falling into a very leisurely way of trotting, and in good time came to Mrs. Parsons' door.
Daisy went in. The daughter was busy at some ironing in the outer room; she was a dull, lack-lustre creature, and though she comprehended the gifts that had been brought her, seemed hardly to have life enough to thank the donor. That wasn't quite like a fairy tale, Daisy thought. No doubt this poor woman must have things to eat, but there was not much fun in bringing them to her. Daisy was inclined to wonder how she had ever come to marry anybody with so lively a name as Lark. But before she got away, Mrs. Lark asked Daisy to go in and see her mother, and Daisy, not knowing how to refuse, went in as requested.
What a change! Another poor room to be sure, very poor it looked to Daisy; with its strip of rag carpet on the floor, its rush-bottomed chairs, and paper window-shades; and on the bed lay the bed-ridden woman. But with such a nice pleasant face; eyes so lively and quiet, smile so contented, brow so calm, Daisy wondered if it could be she that must lie there always and never go about again as long as she lived. It had been a matter of dread to her to see anything so disagreeable; and now it was not disagreeable. Daisy was fascinated. Mrs. Lark had withdrawn.
"Is your mother with you, dear?"
"No ma'am, I came alone. Mamma told me to ask Mrs. Parsons if there is anything she would like to have, that mamma could do for her."
"Yes; if you would come in and see me sometimes," said the old lady, "I should like it very much."
"Me?" said Daisy.
"Yes. I don't see young faces very often. They don't care to come to see an old woman."
"I should like to come," said Daisy, "very much, if I could do anything; but I must go now, because it will be late. Good-bye, ma'am."
Daisy's little courtesy it was pleasant to see, and it was so pleasant altogether that Mrs. Parsons had it over and over in her thoughts that day and the next.
"It's as nice as a fairy tale," Daisy repeated to herself, as she took her seat in the chaise again and shook up her reins. It was better than a fairy tale really, for the sunshine coming between the trees from the sinking sun, made all the world look so beautiful that Daisy thought no words could tell it. It was splendid to drive through that sunlight. In a minute or two more she had pulled up her reins short, and almost before she knew why she had done it or whom she had seen, Mr. Dinwiddie stood at her side. Here he was. She must not go where ha was; she had not; he had come to her. Daisy was very glad. But she looked up in his face now without speaking.
"Ha! my stray lamb," said he, "whither are you running?"
"Home, sir," said Daisy meekly.
"Do you know you have run away from me?"
"Yes, Mr. Dinwiddie."
"How came that?"
"It was unavoidable, sir," said Daisy, in her slow, old-fashioned way. But the bright eye of the young man saw that her eye fell and her face clouded over; it was not a slight nor a chance hindrance that had been in her way, he was sure.
"Then you don't mean to come to me any more?"
It was a dreadful question, but Mr. Dinwiddie's way of speaking was so clear and quick and business-like, and he seemed to know so well what he was talking about, that the answer was forced from Daisy. She looked up and said, "No, sir." He watched the soft thoughtful face that was raised towards him.
"Then if this is the last time we are to talk about it, Daisy, shall I look for you among those that will 'shine as the sun' in the Lord's kingdom?"
"O sir,—Mr. Dinwiddie,"—said Daisy, dropping her reins and rising up, "that is what I want to know about. Please tell me!"
"Tell you what?" said Mr. Dinwiddie, gathering up the reins.
"Tell me how to do, sir, please."
"What have you done, Daisy?"
"Nothing, sir—only reading the Bible."
"And you do not find it there?"
"I find a great deal, sir; but I don't quite understand—I don't know how to be a Christian."
Daisy thought it might be her last chance; she was desperate, and spoke out.
"Do you love the Lord Jesus, Daisy?"
"I don't know, Mr. Dinwiddie."
"You know how he loves you? You know what he has done for you?"
"He died to save you from death and sin. He will do it if you trust him. Now what he wants is that you should love him and trust him. 'Let the little children come to me,' he said a great while ago, and says now. Daisy, the good Lord wants you to give him your heart."
"But suppose, Mr. Dinwiddie—"
"Suppose I can't. I don't know how."
"Do you want to do it?"
"Yes, sir. Indeed I do."
"Very well; the Lord knows just what your difficulty is; you must apply to him."
"Apply to him?" said Daisy.
"Pray to him. Tell the Lord your trouble, and ask him to make it all right for you. Did you never pray to him?"
"No, sir—not ever."
"My lamb," said Mr. Dinwiddie, "he will hear you, if you never prayed to him before. I will shew you the word of his promise." And he opened a pocket-Bible and found the place of these words which he gave Daisy to read. "'I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh; that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.' Now is that what you want, Daisy?"
"Yes, sir; only I don't know how."
"Never mind; the Lord knows. He will make it all right, if only you are willing to give yourself to be his little servant."
"I will give him all I have got, sir," said Daisy, looking up.
"Very well; then I will shew you one thing more—it is a word of the Lord Jesus. See—'If ye love me, keep my commandments.' Now I want you to keep those two words, and you can't remember where to find them again—I must let you take this book with you." And Mr. Dinwiddie folded down leaves in the two places.
"But Mr. Dinwiddie,"—said Daisy softly—"I don't know when I can get it back to you again, sir."
"Never mind—keep it, and when you don't want it, give it to some poor person that does. And remember, little one, that the good Lord expects his servants to tell him their troubles and to pray to him every day."
"Thank you, sir!" was Daisy's deep ejaculation.
"Don't thank me. Now will your pony get you home before dark?"
"O yes, Mr. Dinwiddie! Loupe is lazy, but he can go, and I will make him."
The chaise went off at a swift rate accordingly, after another soft grateful look from its little driver. Mr. Dinwiddie stood looking after it. Of a certain woman, of Thyatira it is written that "the Lord opened her heart, that she attended to the things which were spoken." Surely, the gentleman thought, the same had been true of his late little charge. He went thoughtfully home. While Daisy, not speculating at all, in her simplicity sat thinking that she was the Lord's servant; and rejoiced over and over again that she had for her own and might keep the book of her Lord's commandments. There were such things as Bibles in the house, certainly, but Daisy had never had one of her own. That in which she had read the other night and which she had used to study her lessons for Mr. Dinwiddie, was one belonging to her brother, which he was obliged to use at school. Doubtless Daisy could also have had one for the asking; she knew that; but it might have been some time first; and she had a certain doubt in her little mind that the less she said upon the subject the better. She resolved her treasure should be a secret one. It was right for her to have a Bible; she would not run the risk of disagreeable comments or commands by in any way putting it forward. Meanwhile she had become the Lord's servant! A very poor little beginning of a servant she thought herself; nevertheless in telling Mr. Dinwiddie what she had, it seemed to Daisy that she had spoken aloud her oath of allegiance; and a growing joy in the transaction and a growing love to the great Saviour who was willing to let her be his servant, filled her little heart. She just knew that the ride home was lovely, but Daisy's mind was travelling a yet more sunshiny road. She was intelligent in what she had done. One by one Mr. Dinwiddie's lessons had fallen on a willing and open ear. She knew herself to be a sinner and lost; she believed that the Lord Jesus would save her by his death; and it seemed to her the most natural and reasonable and pleasant thing in the world, that the life for which his blood had been shed, should be given to him. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." "I wonder," thought Daisy, "what they are."
"What sort of an expedition did you have, Daisy?" her father asked at breakfast next morning. Company the evening before had prevented any talk about it.
"O very good, papa! It was as good as a fairy tale."
"Was it?" said Mr. Randolph. "I wonder what pitch of excellence that is. I don't remember ever finding a fairy tale very good to me."
"Did you ever read any, papa?"
"I don't know! Were you not tired with your long drive?"
"O no, papa!"
"Would you like to go again?"
"Yes papa, very much."
"You may go as often as you like—only always let Sam be along."
"Did you find out what Mrs. Parsons wants?" said Mrs. Randolph.
"No, mamma—she did not look as if she wanted anything, except to see me. And yet she is very poor, mamma."
At this speech Mr. Randolph burst into a round laugh, and even Mrs. Randolph seemed amused.
"Did she look as if she wanted to see you, Daisy?"
"Papa, I think she did," said Daisy colouring; "she said so at any rate; but I could not find out what else she would like."
"Daisy, I think she shewed very good taste," said Mr. Randolph, drawing his little daughter into his arms; "but it would be safe to take something else with you when you go."
"Your birthday is next week, Daisy," said her mother; "and your aunt Gary and your cousins will be here. What would you like to have, to celebrate the day?"
"I don't know, mamma," said Daisy, returning her father's kisses.
"You may have what you please, if you will think and tell me."
"Mamma, may I talk to Nora Dinwiddie about it?"
"Nonsense! What for?"
"Only to consult, mamma."
"Consult Ransom. He would be a much better help to you."
Daisy looked sober and said nothing.
"Why not?" said Mr. Randolph. "Why not consult your brother?"
"Papa," said Daisy slowly, "Ransom and I do not understand each other."
"Don't you," said her father laughing; "what is the cause of that, Daisy?"
Daisy was not very willing to answer, but being pressed by both father and mother she at length spoke. "I think, papa, it is because he understands so many other things."
Mr. Randolph was excessively amused. "Ransom!"—he called out to the hall.
"Please, papa, don't!" said Daisy.
"Ransom!—come here.—What is this? your sister says you do not understand her."
"Well, papa," said Ransom, an exceedingly handsome and bright-looking boy and a great pet of his mother,—"there are things that are not deep enough to be understood."
Daisy's lips opened eagerly and then closed again.
"Girls always use magnifying glasses where themselves are concerned!" went on Ransom, whose dignity seemed to be excited.
"Hush, hush!" said his father,—"take yourself off, if you cannot maintain civility. And your mother does not like fishing-tackle at the breakfast-table—go! I believe," he said as Ransom bounded away, "I believe conceit is the normal condition of boyhood."
"I am sure," said Mrs. Randolph, "girls have enough of it—and women too."
"I suppose it would be rash to deny that," said Mr. Randolph. "Daisy, I think I understand you. I do not require so much depth as is necessary for Ransom's understanding to swim in."
"If you do not deny it, it would be well not to forget it," said Mrs. Randolph; while Daisy still in her father's arms was softly returning his caresses.
"What shall we do on your birthday, Daisy?" said her father without seeming to heed this remark.
"Papa, I will think about it. Mamma, do you like I should talk to Nora about it?"
"By all means!" said Mr. Randolph; "send for her and hold a grand council. Your mother can have no objection."
Daisy did not feel quite so sure of that; but at any rate she made none, and a messenger was sent to ask Nora to come that afternoon. All the morning Daisy was engaged with her mother, going to make a visit to some friends that lived a long way off. It was not till the afternoon was growing cool and pleasant that she was released from dinner and dressing and free to go with her Bible to her favourite reading place;—or rather one of her favourites; a garden seat under a thick oak. The oak stood alone on a knoll looking over a beautiful spread of grassy sward that sloped and rolled away to a distant edge of thicket. Other noble trees dotted the ground here and there; some fine cattle shewed their red and white heads, standing or lying about in the shade. Above the distant thicket, far, far away, rose the heads of great blue mountains. The grass had just been mown, in part; and a very sweet smell from the hay floated about under the trees around the house. Daisy's tree however was at some distance from the house. In the absolute sweet quiet, Daisy and her Bible took possession of the place. The Bible had grown a wonderful book to her now. It was the book of the commandments of the Great King whose servant she felt herself. Now every word would tell her of something she must do, or not do; all sweet to Daisy; for she felt she loved the King, and his commandments were good to her. This time she got very much interested in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, in the parable of the talents. But she wished she could have had Mr. Dinwiddie to tell her a little better exactly what it meant. Some of its meaning she understood; and remembering Mr. Dinwiddie's words, she prayed with clasped hands and a very earnest little heart, that the Lord would "make her know what all her talents were and help her to make good use of them." Then Daisy went on studying.
In the midst of her studies, a light step bounded down through the shrubbery from the house, and Daisy had hardly raised her head when Nora was at her side. There was room for her on the seat, and after a glad greeting the children sat down together, to talk much joyful talk and tell childish news, in the course of which Daisy's perplexities came out, for which she had wanted Nora's counsel. She explained that she could have precisely what she chose, in the way of merry-making for her birthday. Daisy spoke about it seriously, as a weighty and important matter; and so Nora took it up, with a face of great eagerness.
"You can have just what you like, Daisy?" Daisy nodded. "O what have you thought of, Daisy?"
"What would be nicest, Nora?"
"I'll tell you what I should have—I should have a party."
"Yes, that is what I should have."
"I never thought of that. Who would you ask, Nora? I thought of a pic-nic; and of a great journey to Schroeder's Mountain;—that would be nice;—to spend the whole day, you know."
"Yes, that would be nice: but I should have a party. O there are plenty to have. There is Kitty Marsden."
"I don't know Kitty Marsden, much"—said Daisy.
"And Ella Stanfield."
"I like Ella Stanfield"—said Daisy sedately.
"And there are the Fishes."
"I don't like Mrs. Fish's children very well;—when Alexander and Ransom get together, they make—a great deal of disturbance!"
"O we needn't mind their disturbance," said Nora; and she went on discussing the plan and the advantages of the party. Suddenly Daisy broke in with a new subject. "Nora, you know the story of the servants with the talents, in the New Testament?"
"Yes—" said Nora with open eyes; "I know."
"Do you know what it means?—the talents, I mean; of course I know what the rest means; but do you know what the talents are? Is it just money?—because then you and I have very little indeed; and all the servants had something."
"Why Daisy, what made you think of that just now? we were talking about the party."
"I have been thinking of it all the while," said Daisy. "I was reading it—do you know what it means, Nora?"
"But we were talking about the party!" said Nora.
"Yes, but I want to understand this; and then we will go on about the party. If you know what it means."
"I have heard Duke explain it," said Nora, unwillingly coming to the graver subject.
"Well, what does he say it is? the talents, you know."
"Duke says it is everything anybody has. Not money, everything—Now don't you think we can make up a nice party?"
"Everything, Nora? Just wait a little—I want to know about this. What do you mean by 'everything'?"
"Are you studying for Sunday-school, Daisy? that isn't the lesson."
"No," said Daisy sorrowfully; "if I was, I could ask Mr. Dinwiddie. That's why I want you to help me, Nora; so think and tell me what he said."
"Well, that," said Nora, "he said that; he said the talents meant everything God has given people to work with for him."
"What could they work with besides money?" said Daisy.
"Why everything, Duke says; all they've got; their tongues and their hands and their feet, and all they know, and all their love for people; and even the way we do things, our studies and all, Marmaduke says. What do you want to know for, Daisy?"
"I was thinking about it," answered Daisy evasively. "Wait a minute, Nora,—I want to write it down, for fear I should forget something."
"What are you going to do?" exclaimed Nora. "Are you going to teach a class yourself?"
Daisy did not answer, while she was writing down with a pencil what Nora had said and making her repeat it for that purpose. When she had done she looked a little dubiously off towards the woods, while Nora was surprised and disappointed into silence.
"I think perhaps I ought to tell you——" was Daisy's slow conclusion. "I want to know what this means, that I may do it, Nora."
"Yes," said Daisy turning her quiet eyes full upon her companion—"I want to try to please God. I love the Lord Jesus."
Nora was very much confounded, and looked at Daisy as if a gap in the ground had suddenly separated them.
"So," Daisy went on, "as I have talents to use, I want to know what they are, for fear I shouldn't use them all. I don't understand it yet, but I will think about it. Now we will go on about the party if you like."
"But Daisy——" said Nora.
"Are you in earnest?"
"Certainly I am in earnest," said Daisy gravely. "What makes you ask me? Don't you think your brother is in earnest?"
"Marmaduke! oh yes,—but—you never told me of it before."
"I didn't know it till yesterday," said Daisy simply, "that I loved the Lord Jesus; but I know I do now, and I am very glad; and I am going to be his servant."
Her little face was very sweet and quiet as she looked at her little neighbour and said these words; but Nora was utterly confounded, and so nearly dismayed that she was silent; and it was not till several invitations in Daisy's usual manner had urged her, that she was able to get upon the subject of the party again and to discuss it with any spirit. The discussion then did not come to any determination. Daisy was at least lukewarm in her fancy for that mode of spending her birthday; and separate plans of pic-nics and expeditions of pleasure were taken up and handled, sure to be thrown aside by Nora for the greater promise and splendour of the home entertainment. They broke up at last without deciding upon anything, except that Nora should come again to talk about it, and should at all events have and give her share in whatever the plan for the day might be.
Perhaps Daisy watched her opportunity, perhaps it came; but at all events she seized the first chance that she saw to speak with her father in private. He was sauntering out the next morning after breakfast. Daisy joined him, and they strolled along through the grounds, giving here and there directions to the gardener, till they came near one of the pleasant rustic seats, under the shade of a group of larches.
"Papa, suppose we sit down here for a moment and let us look about us."
"Well, Daisy,"—said her father, who knew by experience what was likely to follow.
"Papa," said Daisy as they sat down, "I want to ask you about something."
"What is it?"
"When I was in the chaise, driving Loupe the other day, papa, I heard something that I could not understand."
"It was two men that passed me on the road; I heard one say to the other as I went by, that it was your carriage, and then he said that 'Randolph's folks were a good deal stuck up;'—what did he mean, papa?"
"Nothing of any consequence, Daisy."
"But why did he say it, papa?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"I did not understand it nor like it, papa; I wanted to know what he meant."
"It is hardly worth talking about, Daisy. It is the way those who have not enough in the world are very apt to talk of others who are better off than themselves."
"They were poor men, I suppose, weren't they?"
"Yes papa—working men."
"That class of people, my dear, are very apt to have a grudge against the rich."
"For what, papa?"
"For being able to live better than they do."
"Why papa! do poor people generally feel so?"
"Very often, I think. They do not generally speak it out aloud."
"Then papa," said Daisy speaking slowly, "how do you know? What makes you think they feel so?"
Her father smiled at her eagerness and gravity. "I see it, Daisy, when they do not speak it. They shew it in various ways. Besides, I know their habit of talking among themselves."
"But papa, that is very bad."
"That poor people should feel so. I am sure rich people are their best friends."
Her father stroked her head fondly, and looked amused.
"They don't believe that, Daisy."
"But why don't they believe it, papa?" said Daisy growing more and more surprised.
"I suppose," said Mr. Randolph rising, "they would be better satisfied if I gave them my horses and went afoot."
A speech which Daisy pondered and pondered and could make nothing of. They walked on, Mr. Randolph making observations and giving orders now and then to workmen. Here a man was mowing under the shrubbery; there the gardener was setting out pots of greenhouse flowers; in another place there were holes digging for trees to be planted. Daisy went musing on while her father gave his orders, and when they were again safe out of hearing she spoke. "Papa, do you suppose Michael and Andrew and John, and all your own people, feel so about you?"
"I think it is likely, Daisy. I can't hope to escape better than my neighbours."
"But, papa, they don't look so, nor act so?"
"Not before me. They do not wish to lose their places."
"Papa,—couldn't something be done to make them feel better?"
"Why Daisy," said her father laughing, "are you going to turn reformer?"
"I don't know what that is, papa."
"A thankless office, my dear. If you could make all the world wise, it would do, but fools are always angry with you for trying it."
The conversation ended and left Daisy greatly mystified. Her father's people not liking him?—the poor having ill will against the rich, and a grudge against their pleasant things?—it was very melancholy! Daisy thought about it a great deal that day; and had a very great talk on the subject with Nora, who without a quarter of the interest had much more knowledge about it than Daisy. She had been with her brother sometimes to the houses of poor children, and she gave Daisy a high-coloured picture of the ways of living in such houses and the absence of many things by Daisy and herself thought the necessaries of life. Daisy heard her with a lengthening face, and almost thought there was some excuse for the state of feeling her father had explained in the morning. The question however was too long a one for Daisy; but she arrived at one conclusion, which was announced the next morning at the breakfast-table. Mrs. Randolph had called upon her to say what was determined upon for the birthday.
"Papa," said Daisy, "will there be a great plenty of strawberries next week?"
"Yes, I believe so. Logan says the vines are very full. What then?"
"Papa, you gave me my choice of what I would have for Wednesday."
"Yes. Is it my strawberry patch?"
"Not for myself, papa. I want you to have a great table set out of doors somewhere, and give a feast to all your work people."
"Daisy!" exclaimed Mrs. Randolph. "I never heard anything so ridiculous in all my life!"
Daisy waited with downcast eyes for her father to speak. He was not in a hurry.
"Would that give you pleasure, Daisy?"
"Did Nora Dinwiddie put that scheme in your head?" asked Mrs. Randolph.
"She didn't like it at all, mamma. I put it into her head."
"Where did you get it?"
Daisy looked troubled and puzzled, and did not answer till her father said "Speak." Then nestling up to him with her head on his breast, a favourite position, she said, "I got it from different sources, I think, papa."
"Let us hear, for instance."
"I think, partly from the Bible, papa—and partly from what we were talking of yesterday."
"I wish you would shew me where you found it in the Bible. I don't remember a strawberry feast there."
"Do you mean it in earnest, papa?"
Daisy walked off for a Bible—not her own—and after some trouble found a place which she shewed her father; and he read aloud, "When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." Mr. Randolph closed the book and laid it on the table, and drew his little daughter again within his arms.
"That child is in a way to get ruined!" said Mrs. Randolph energetically.
"But Daisy, our work people are not lame or blind—how will they do?" said her father.
"They are poor, papa. I would like to have the others too, but we can't have everybody."
Mr. Randolph kissed the little mouth that was lifted so near his own, and went on.
"Do you think then it is wrong to have our friends and neighbours? Shall we write to your aunt and cousins, and Gary McFarlane and Capt. Drummond, to stay away?"
"No, papa," said Daisy smiling, and her smile was very sweet,—"you know I don't mean that. I would like to have them all; but I would like the feast made for the other people."
"You will let the rest of us have some strawberries?"
"If there are enough, papa. For that day, I would like the other people to have them."
Mr. Randolph seemed to find something as sweet as strawberries in Daisy's lips.
"It is the very most absurd plan I ever heard of!" repeated her mother.
"I am not sure that it is not a very good thing," remarked Mr. Randolph.
"Is it expected that on that day we are to do without servants in the house, and wait upon ourselves? or are we expected to wait upon the party!"
"O mamma," said Daisy, "it isn't the servants—it's only the out-of-door people."
"How many will there be, Daisy?" said her father; "have you numbered them up?"
"Not yet, papa. There is Logan, and Michael, and Mr. Stilton, and the two under-gardeners——"
"And four hay-makers."
"Yes—there will be four of them in the fields next week. And there is the herdsman and boy."
"And there is old Patrick at the gate. That is all, papa."
"And are the ladies of all these families to be invited?"
"Papa! What do you think?"
"I have no doubt there will be strawberries enough."
"But I am afraid there would be too many children. Logan has six, and Michael has four, and I believe the herdsman has some; and there are four at the Lodge. And Mr. Stilton has two."
"What shall we do with them, Daisy?"
"Papa, we can't have them. I should like to have the men and their wives come, I think, and send some strawberries home to the children. Wouldn't that do best?"
"Admirably. And you can drive over to Crum Elbow and purchase some suitable baskets. Take the chaise and Sam. I expect you to arrange everything. If you want help, come and consult me."
"If mamma will tell Joanna—?" said Daisy looking somewhat doubtfully towards the other end of the table.
"I have nothing to do with it," said Mrs. Randolph. "I have no knowledge how to order such parties. You and Joanna may do what you please."
Daisy's eye went to her father.
"That will do, Daisy," said he. "You and Joanna can manage it. You may have carte-blanche."
The earliest minute that she knew Joanna could attend to her, found Daisy in the housekeeper's room. Joanna was a tall, rather hard-featured woman, with skill and capacity in every line of her face however, and almost in every fold of her gown. She heard with a good deal of astonishment the project unfolded to her, and to Daisy's great delight gave it her unqualified approbation.
"It's a first-rate plan," said Joanna. "Now I like that. The men won't forget it. Where are you going to have the table set, Miss Daisy?"
"I don't know yet, Joanna. In some pretty, shady place, under the trees."
"Out of doors, eh!" said Joanna. "Well, I suppose that'll be as good a way as any. Now what are you going to have, Miss Daisy? what do you want of me?"
"Mamma and papa said I was to arrange it with you."
Joanna sat down and folded her arms to consider the matter.
"How many will there be?"
"I counted," said Daisy. "There will be about seventeen, with their wives, you know."
"Seventeen, wives and all?" said Joanna. "You'll have to get the carpenter or Mr. Stilton to make you a table."
"Yes, that's easy," said Daisy; "but Joanna, what shall we have on it? There will want to be a good deal, for seventeen people; and I want it handsome, you know."
"Of course," said Joanna, looking as if she were casting up the Multiplication Table—"it'll have to be that, whatever else it is. Miss Daisy, suppose you let me manage it—and I'll see and have it all right. If you will give orders about the strawberries, and have the table made."
"I shall dress the table with flowers, Joanna."
"Yes—well—" said Joanna,—"I don't know anything about flowers; but I'll have the cake ready, and everything else."
"And tea and coffee, Joanna?"
"Why I never thought of that!—yes, to be sure, they'll want something to drink—who will pour it out, Miss Daisy?"
"I don't know. Won't you, Joanna?"
"Well—I don't know—" said the housekeeper, as if she were afraid of being taken on too fast by her little counsellor—"I don't know as there's anything to hinder, as it's your birthday, Miss Daisy."
Away went Daisy delighted, having secured just what she wanted. The rest was easy. And Daisy certainly thought it was as promising an entertainment as she could have devised. It gave her a good deal of business. The table, and the place for the table, had to be settled with Mr. Stilton, and the invitations given, and many particulars settled; but to settle them was extremely pleasant, and Daisy found that every face of those concerned in the invitations wore a most golden glow of satisfaction when the thing was understood. Daisy was very happy. She hoped, besides the pleasantness of the matter, it would surely incline the hearts of her father's workpeople to think kindly of him.
It happened that one cause and another hindered Daisy from going to Crum Elbow to fetch the strawberry-baskets, until the very Tuesday afternoon before the birthday. Then everything was right; the pony chaise before the door, Sam in waiting, and Daisy just pulling her gloves on, when Ransom rushed up. He was flushed and hurried.
"Who's going out with Loupe?"
"I am, Ransom."
"You can't go, Daisy—I'm going myself."
"You cannot, Ransom. I am going on business. Papa said I was to go."
"He couldn't have said it! for he said I might have the chaise this afternoon and that Loupe wanted exercise. So! I am going to give him some. He wouldn't get it with you."
"Ransom," said Daisy trembling, "I have got business at Crum Elbow, and I must go, and you must not."
"Fiddlesticks!" said Ransom, snapping his fingers at her. "Business! I guess you have. Girls have a great deal of business! Here Sam—ride round mighty quick to Mr. Rush's and tell Hamilton to meet me at the cross road."
And without another word to Daisy, Ransom sprang into the chaise, cracked his whip over Loupe's head and started him off in a very ungraceful but very eager waddling gallop. Daisy was left with one glove on and with a spirit thoroughly disordered. A passionate child she was not, in outward manner at least; but her feelings once roused were by no means easy to bring down again. She was exceedingly offended, very much disturbed at missing her errand, very sore at Ransom's ill-bred treatment of her. Nobody was near; her father and mother both gone out; and Daisy sat upon the porch with all sorts of resentful thoughts and words boiling up in her mind. She did not believe half of what her brother had said; was sure her father had given no order interfering with her proceedings; and she determined to wait upon the porch till he came home and so she would have a good opportunity of letting him know the right and the wrong of the case. Ransom deserved it, as she truly said to herself. And then Daisy sorrowed over her lost expedition, and her missing strawberry baskets. What should she do? for the next morning would find work enough of its own at home, and nobody else could choose the baskets to please her. Ransom deserved—!
In the midst of the angry thoughts that were breaking one over the other in Daisy's mind, there suddenly came up the remembrance of some words she had read that day or the day before. "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven." This brought Daisy up short; her head which had been leaning on her hands suddenly straightened itself up. What did those words mean? There could be no doubt, for with the question came the words in the Lord's Prayer which she knew well, but had never felt till then. Forgive Ransom out and out?—say nothing about it?—not tell her father, nor make her grievance at all known to Ransom's discomfiture?—Daisy did not want to yield. He deserved to be reproved and ashamed and made to do better. It was the first time that a real conflict had come up in her mind between wrong and right; and now that she clearly saw what was right, to her surprise she did not want to do it! Daisy saw both facts. There was a power in her heart that said, No, I will not forgive, to the command from a greater power that bade her do it. Poor Daisy! it was her first view of her enemy; the first trial that gave her any notion of the fighting that might be necessary to overcome him. Daisy found she could not overcome him. She was fain to go, where she had just begun to learn she might go, "to the Strong for strength." She ran away from the porch to her room, and kneeled down and prayed that the King would give her help to keep his commandments. She was ashamed of herself now; but so obstinate was her feeling of displeasure against her brother, that even after she thought she had forgiven him Daisy would not go downstairs again nor meet him nor her father, for fear she should speak words that she ought not, or fail of a perfectly gentle and kind manner.
But what to do about her baskets? A bright and most business-like thought suddenly came into her head. The breakfast hour was always late; by being a little earlier than usual she could have plenty of time to go to Crum Elbow and return before the family were assembled. Splendid! Daisy went down the back stairs and gave her orders in such a way that they should not reach Ransom's ear. If not put on the alert he was sure to be down to breakfast last of anybody. So Daisy went to bed and to sleep with her mind at rest.
It was so pleasant when she came out at half past six the next morning, that Daisy almost thought it was the prettiest time of all. The morning air smelt so fresh, with the scent of the trees and flowers coming through the dew; and the light was so cool and clear, not like the hot glow of later hours, that Daisy felt like dancing for very gladness. Then it was such a stroke of business to go to Crum Elbow before breakfast!
The pony and the chaise came up presently, and Sam and the black pony, all right, and every one of them looking more brisk and fresh than usual. And off they went; under the boughs of the dew-bright trees, where the birds seemed to be as glad as Daisy, to judge by the songs they were singing; and by and by out from the beautiful grounds of Melbourne, into the road. It was pleasanter there, Daisy thought, than she had ever seen it. The fields looked more gay in that clear early light, and the dust was kept down by the freshness in the air. It was delightful; and Loupe never went better. Daisy was a very good little driver, and now the pony seemed to understand the feeling in her fingers and waddled along at a goodly rate.
Crum Elbow was not a great many miles off, and in due time they reached it. But Daisy found that other people kept earlier hours than her father and mother at Melbourne. She saw the farmers were getting to work as she went on; and in the houses of the village there were signs that everybody was fully astir to the business of the day. It was a scattering village; the houses and the churches stood and called to each other across great spaces of fields and fences between; but just where the crossing of two roads made a business point, there was a little more compactness. There was the baker's, and the post-office, and two stores and various other houses, and a blacksmith's shop. Up to the corner where the principal store stood, came the pony and his mistress, and forthwith out came Mr. Lamb the storekeeper, to see what the little pony chaise wanted to take home; but Daisy must see for herself, and she got out and went into the store.
"Baskets," said Mr. Lamb. "What sort of baskets?"
"Baskets to hold strawberries—little baskets," said Daisy.
"Ah! strawberry baskets. That, ma'am, is the article."
Was it? Daisy did not think so. The storekeeper had shewed her the kind of baskets commonly used to hold strawberries for the market; containing about half a pint. She remarked they were not large enough.
"No, ma'am? They are the kind generally used—regular strawberry baskets—we have sold 'em nearly all out, but we've got a few left."
"They are not large enough, nor pretty enough," repeated Daisy.
"They'll look pretty when they get the strawberries in them," said the storekeeper with a knowing look at her. "But here's a kind, ma'am, are a little neater—may be you would like these—What do you want, child?"
There had come into the store just after Daisy a little poor-looking child, who had stood near, watching what was going on. Daisy turned to look at her as Mr. Lamb's question was thrown at her over the counter, in a tone very different from his words to herself. She saw a pale, freckled, pensive-faced little girl, in very slim clothing, her dress short and ragged, and feet bare. The child had been looking at her and her baskets, but now suddenly looked away to the shopkeeper.
"Please, sir, I want—"
"There! stop," said Mr. Lamb; "don't you see I'm busy. I can't attend to you just now; you must wait.—Are these baskets better, ma'am?" he said coming back to Daisy and a smooth voice.
Daisy felt troubled, but she tried to attend to her business. She asked the price of the baskets.
"Those first I shewed you, ma'am, are three pence apiece—these are sixpence. This is quite a tasty basket," said Mr. Lamb, balancing one on his forefinger. "Being open, you see, it shews the fruit through. I think these might answer your purpose."
"What are those?" said Daisy pointing to another kind.
"Those, ma'am, are not strawberry baskets."
"But please let me see one.—What is the price?"
"These fancy baskets, ma'am, you know, are another figure. These are not intended for fruit. These are eighteen pence apiece, ma'am."
Daisy turned the baskets and the price over. They were very neat! they would hold as many berries as the sixpenny ones, and look pretty too, as for a festival they should. The sixpenny ones were barely neat—they had no gala look about them at all. While Daisy's eye went from one to the other, it glanced upon the figure of the poor, patient, little waiting girl who stood watching her. "If you please, Mr. Lamb," she said, "will you hear what this little girl has to say?—while I look at these."
"What do you want, child?"
The answer came very low, but though Daisy did not want to listen she could not help hearing.
"Mother wants a pound of ham, sir."
"Have you brought the money for the flour?"
"No, sir—mother'll send it."
"We don't cut our hams any more," said the storekeeper. "Can't sell any less than a whole one—and that's always cash. There! go child—I can't cut one for you."
Daisy looked after the little ragged frock as it went out of the door. The extreme mystery of some people being rich and some people poor, struck her anew, and perhaps something in her look as it came back to the storekeeper made him say,
"They're very poor folks, Miss Randolph—the mother's sickly, and I should only lose my money. They came and got some flour of me yesterday without paying for it—and it's necessary to put a stop to that kind of thing at once. Don't you think that basket'll suit, ma'am?"
Baskets? and what meant those words which had been over and over in Daisy's mind for the few days past?—"Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Her mind was in great confusion.
"How much does a ham cost, Mr. Lamb?"
"Sixteen pence a pound, ma'am," said the storekeeper rather drily, for he did not know but Daisy was thinking a reproof to him.
"But how many pounds are there in a ham?"
"Just as it happens, ma'am—sometimes twenty, and from there down to ten."
"Then how much does a whole ham cost?" said Daisy, whose arithmetic was not ready.
"A ham of fifteen pounds, ma'am, would be about two dollars and forty cents."
Daisy stood looking at the baskets, and thinking how much money she would have over if she took the sixpenny ones. She wanted twenty baskets; she found that the difference of price between the plain and the pretty would leave her twenty shillings in hand. Just enough! thought Daisy,—and yet, how could she go to a strange house and offer to give them a ham? She thought she could not. If she had known the people; but as it was—Daisy bought the pretty baskets and set off homewards.
"Whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, do ye even so to them"—Daisy could see nothing along the road but those words. "That is my King's command to me—and those poor people have got no breakfast. If I was in that little girl's place, I would like to have it given to me. But those other baskets—would they do?—I could make them do somehow—Nora and I could dress them up with greens and flowers!"—
The pony chaise stopped. Sam came up alongside.
"Sam, take those baskets back to the store. I am going back there."
Round came the chaise, and in five minutes more they were at the Crum Elbow corner again, for Daisy's heartburning had not let her go far. Mr. Lamb was exceedingly mystified, as it was very unusual for young ladies like this one to come buying whole hams and riding off with them. However he made no objections to the exchange, being a gainer by ten cents; for Daisy had asked for a ham of fifteen pounds. Then Daisy enquired the way to the girl's house, and her name, and set off in a new direction. It was not far; a plain little brown house, with a brown gate a few yards from the door. Daisy got out of the chaise and opened the gate, and there stood still and prayed a little prayer that God would help her not to feel foolish or afraid when she was trying to do right. Then she went up to the door and knocked. Somebody said in a very uninviting tone of voice, "Come in!"
It was hard for Daisy; she had expected that somebody would open the door, but now she must go in and face all that was there. However, in she went. There was a poor room to be sure, with not much in it. A woman was taking some hot bread, just baked, out of a little cooking stove. Daisy saw the little girl standing by; it was the right place.
"Well!" said the woman looking up at Daisy from her stove oven—"what is it?" She looked pale and unhappy, and her words were impatient. Daisy was half afraid.
"I am Daisy Randolph"—she began gently.
"Go on," said the woman, as Daisy hesitated.
"I was in Mr. Lamb's store just now, when your little girl came to buy some ham."
"Mr. Lamb said he would not cut any, and she was obliged to go without it."
"Well, what have you to do with all that?"
"I was sorry she was disappointed," said Daisy more steadily; "and as Mr. Lamb would not cut one for her I have brought a whole one—if you will please accept it. It is at the gate, because the boy could not leave the horses."
The woman set her bread on the floor, left the oven door open, and rose to her feet.
"What did you tell her, Hephzibah?" she said in a threatening voice.
"I didn't tell her nothing," said the girl hurriedly—"I never spoke to her."
"How did she know what you came for?"
"I was so near," said Daisy bravely, though she was afraid, "that I couldn't help hearing."
"Well what business was it of yourn?" said the woman turning upon her. "If we are poor, we don't throw it in anybody's face; and if you are rich, you may give charity to those that ask it. We never asked none of you—and don't want it."
"I am not rich," said Daisy gently, though she coloured and her eyes were full of tears;—"I did not mean to offend you; but I thought you wanted the ham, and I had money enough to get it. I am very sorry you won't have it."
"Did Mr. Lamb tell you we were beggars?"
"No, not at all."
"Then what put into your head to come bringing a ham here? who told you to do it?"
"Nobody told me," said Daisy. "Yes there did, though. The Lord Jesus Christ told me to do it, ma'am."
"What do you mean?" said the woman, suddenly sobering as if she was struck.
"That's all, ma'am," said Daisy. "He had given me the money to buy the ham, and I heard that your little girl wanted it. And I remembered his commandment, to do to others what I would like they should do to me—I didn't mean to offend you."
"Well I ain't offended," said the woman. "I s'pose you didn't mean no harm; but we have some feelings as well as other folks. Folks may work, and yet have feelings. And if I could work, things would be well enough; but I've been sick, miss, and I can't always get work that I would like to do—and when I can get it, I can't always do it," she added with a sigh.
Daisy wanted to go, but pity held her fast. That poor, pale, ragged child, standing motionless opposite her! Daisy didn't venture to look much, but she saw her all the same.
"Please keep the ham this time!" she broke out bravely—"I won't bring another one!"
"Did nobody send you?" said the woman eyeing her keenly.
"No," said Daisy, "except the Lord Jesus—he sent me."
"You're a kind little soul!" said the woman, "and as good a Christian as most of 'em I guess. But I won't do that. I'd die first!—unless you'll let me do some work for you and make it up so." There was relenting in the tone of these last words.
"O that will do," said Daisy gladly. "Then will you let your little girl come out and get the ham? because the boy cannot leave the horses. Good bye, Mrs. Harbonner."
"But stop!" cried the woman—"you hain't told me what I am to do for you."
"I don't know till I get home and ask there. What would you like to do?"
"My work is tailoring—I learnt that trade; but beggars mustn't be choosers. I can do other things—plain sewing, and washing, and cleaning, and dairy work; anything I can do."
Daisy said she would bring her word, and at last got off; without her ham and in glee inexpressible. "They will have some for breakfast," she said to herself; for there had been something in little Hephzibah's eye as she received the great ham in her arms, that went through and through Daisy's heart and almost set her to crying. She was very glad to get away and to be in the pony chaise again driving home, and she almost wondered at her own bravery in that house. She hardly knew herself; for true it was, Daisy had considered herself as doing work not of her own choosing while she was there; she felt in her Master's service, and so was bold where for her own cause she would have shrunk away. "But they have got something for breakfast! I think mine will be good when I get it," said Daisy.
Daisy however fell into a great muse upon the course of her morning's experience. To do as she would be done by, now seemed not quite so easy as she had thought; since it was plain that her notions and those of some other people were not alike on the subject. How should she know what people would like? When in so simple a matter as hunger, she found that some would prefer starving to being fed. It was too deep a question for Daisy. She had made a mistake, and she rather thought she should make more mistakes; since the only way she could see straight before her was the way of the command and the way of duty therefore; and she was very much inclined to think, besides, that in that way her difficulties would be taken care of for her. It had been so this morning. Mrs. Harbonner and she had parted on excellent terms—and the gleam in that poor child's eyes!—
Daisy was so full of her thoughts that she never perceived two gentlemen standing at the foot of the hall steps to receive her. Not till Loupe in his best style had trotted up the road and stopped, and she had risen to throw down her reins. Then Daisy started a little. One gentleman touched his cap to her, and the other held out his hands to help her to alight.
"You are just in time for breakfast, Miss Randolph. Is that the coach that was made out of a pumpkin?"
Daisy shook hands with the other gentleman and made no answer.
"I had always heard," went on the first, "that the young ladies at the North were very independent in their habits; but I had no idea that they went to market before breakfast."
"Sam," said Daisy, "take the baskets to Joanna."
"What is in the baskets?—eggs?—or butter?—or vegetables? Where do you go to market?"
"To New York, sir," said Daisy.
"To New York! And have you come from there this morning? Then that is certainly also the pony that was once a rat! it's a witchcraft concern altogether."
"No sir," said Daisy, "I don't go to market."
"Will you excuse me for remarking, that you just said you did?"
"No sir,—I didn't mean that I went."
"How are gentlemen to understand you, in the future experience of life, if you are in the habit of saying what you do not mean?"
"I am not in the habit of it," said Daisy, half laughing, for she knew her questioner. He was a handsome young man, with a grave face and manner through all his absurd speeches; dressed rather picturesquely; and altogether a striking person in Daisy's eyes. To her relief, as they reached the hall her mother appeared.
"Come in to breakfast, Gary—Daisy, run and get yourself ready."
And Daisy went, in great glee on various accounts. When she came down, everybody was at table; and for a little while she was permitted to eat her breakfast in peace. Daisy felt wonderfully happy. Such a pleasant breakfast, for the talk among the elders went on very briskly; such pleasant work done already, such pleasant work to do all through the day; nothing but joy seemed to be in the air.
"And what did you get at market, Daisy?" suddenly asked the gentleman whom her mother called "Gary."
"I went to buy baskets," said Daisy concisely.
"What else did you get at market?"
"I didn't go to market, sir."
"She told me she did"—said Mr. Gary looking at her father.
"Did you buy anything else, Daisy?" said her father carelessly.
"Papa," said Daisy colouring, "Mr. McFarlane asked me, I thought, where we went to market, and I told him New York. I did not mean that I went myself."
"Didn't you get anything but baskets?" said Mr. McFarlane mischievously.
"Papa," said Daisy making a brave push, "if I only spend what you give me for my birthday, don't you think it would be considerate in Mr. McFarlane not to ask me any more?" But this speech set the gentlemen to laughing.
"Daisy, you make me curious," said her father. "Do you think it would be inconsiderate in me to ask?"
"Papa, I think it would."
"Answer, Daisy, directly, and don't be ridiculous," said her mother.
Daisy's face clouded, coloured, and the tears came into her eyes.
"Answer, Daisy, since it is put so," said her father gravely.
"I bought a ham, papa."
But the shout that was raised at this was so uproarious that Daisy was almost overcome. She would certainly have made her escape, only she knew such a thing would not be permitted. She sat still, and bore it as well as she could.
"The baskets held eggs, no doubt," said Capt. Drummond, the other gentleman.
"Roast potatoes would be better for your Irish friends, Daisy," said McFarlane. "Ham and eggs is good for the Yankees. It would be the best plan to make a fire out of doors and let each one cook for himself, according to his country. How do you expect to please everybody?"
"Come here, Daisy," said her father kindly, and he put his arm round her and kissed her; "did you have money enough for your ham and your other purchases too?"
"Plenty, papa," said Daisy gratefully.
"And why didn't you go yesterday afternoon, as I thought you intended?" Daisy's and Ransom's eyes met.
"Papa, it was a great deal pleasanter this morning than it would have been then; I never had such a nice ride."
"And what do you want done now? Is your table ready?"
"It will be ready—Mr. Stilton is getting it ready."
"Who is invited, Daisy?" inquired Mr. McFarlane. "Do you intend to receive any except those who are not your friends?"
"I don't think those of a different class had better come," said Daisy.
"Daisy is quite right," said Mrs. Randolph. "Do you not intend to shew yourself?" said her husband, with some meaning.
"I? No! Certainly not. At her age, since you choose to indulge Daisy in her whim, she may do what she pleases."
Was this what the man meant by Randolph's people being "stuck up?" Daisy looked grave, and her father bade her run away and attend to her preparations.
Even then she went slowly and a little puzzled, till she reached the housekeeper's room; and there the full beauty of the occasion burst upon her. Such nice things as Joanna was making ready!
Daisy ran off at full speed to Logan to get a supply of greens and flowers to trim her baskets. Nora was coming to help her and be with her all day, and arrived just in time. With aprons and baskets full, the two children sought a hidden spot on the bank under the trees, and there sat down, with strawberry baskets in one heap and the sprigs and leaves to dress them in another.
"Now throw off your hat," said Daisy. "It's shady enough, and you'll feel cooler. Now Nora, how shall we do?—You try one and I'll try one; that will be best; and then we can see. I want them to look very pretty, you know; and they are to be filled with strawberries to send home to the children; if we make them very nice they will go on the table, I think, and help dress it up."
For a time there was comparative silence, while the little hands turned and twisted the mosses and bits of larch and cedar and hemlock in and out of the openings of the baskets. It was not found easy at first to produce a good effect; hands were unused to the work; and Nora declared after half an hour she believed the baskets would look best plain, just as they were. But Daisy would not give up. She grew very warm indeed with the excitement of her efforts, but she worked on. By and by she succeeded in dressing a basket so that it looked rich with green; and then a bit or two of rosebuds or heath or bright yellow everlasting made the adornment gay and pretty enough. It was taken for a model; and from that time tongues and fingers worked together, and heat was forgotten.
"Isn't this pleasant!" exclaimed Daisy at length, dropping her work into her lap. "Isn't it just as pleasant as it can be, Nora?"
"Yes," said Nora, working away.
"Just see the river—it's so smooth. And look up into the leaves;—how pretty they are!—and every one of them is trembling a little; not one of them is still, Nora. How beautiful the green is, with the sun shining through! Wouldn't you like to be a bird up there?"
"No," said Nora; "I'd rather be down here."
"I think it would be nice to be a bird." said Daisy; "it must be pleasant up in those branches—only the birds don't know anything, I suppose. What do you think heaven must be like, Nora?"
"Daisy, you're so funny. What makes you think about heaven?"
"Why, you know," said Daisy slowly, "I expect to go there. Why shouldn't I think about it?"
"But you won't go there till you die," said Nora.
"I don't see what that has to do with my thinking about it. I shall die, some time."
"Yes, but Daisy, don't be so queer. You are not going to die now."
"I don't know about that," said Daisy; "but I like to think of heaven. Jesus is there. Isn't it pleasant, Nora, that he can see us always, and knows what we are doing?"
"Daisy, Marmaduke said he wished you would invite him to your party."
The turn Nora wished to give to Daisy's thoughts took effect for the moment. It was grievous; to wish so much for her friend and to have him join in the wish, and all in vain. But, characteristically, Daisy said nothing. She was only silent a moment.
"Nora, did you ever hear Mr. Dinwiddie say that poor people disliked rich people?"
"No. They don't dislike him, I know."
"Is Mr. Dinwiddie rich too?"
"Of course he is," said Nora.
"I shouldn't think anybody would dislike him," said Daisy; "but then he never seemed like rich people." She went into a muse about it.
"Well, he is," said Nora. "He has got as much money as he wants, I know."
"Nora, you know the parable of the servants and the talents?"
"Are you one of the good servants?"
Nora looked up very uneasily. Daisy's face was one of quiet inquiry. Nora fidgeted.
"Daisy, I wish you would be like yourself, as you used to be, and not talk so."
"But are you, Nora?"
"No, I don't suppose I am! I couldn't do much."
"But would you like to have the King say to you what he said to the servant who had one talent and didn't do anything?"
"Daisy, I don't want to have you talk to me about it," said Nora, a little loftily. "I have got Marmaduke to talk to me, and that's as much as I want."
"I mean to be one of them!" said Daisy gently. "Jesus is the king; and it makes me so glad to think of it!—so glad, Nora. He is my king, and I belong to him; and I love to give him all I've got; and so would you, Nora. I only want to find out all I have got, that I may give it to him."
Nora went on very assiduously with the covering of the baskets, and Daisy presently followed her example. But the talk was checked for a little.
"Nora, Jesus is your king, though," said Daisy again. "He made everything, and he made you; and he is your king. I wish you would be his servant too."
Daisy was greatly astonished at the effect of this speech; for Nora without speaking arose, left her baskets and greens on the ground, and set off from the spot with an air that said she did not mean to return to it. Daisy was too bewildered to speak, and only looked after her till she was too far to be recalled.
What was the matter? Greatly puzzled and dismayed, she tried to find a possible answer to this question. Left alone on her birthday in the midst of her business, by her best friend,—what could have brought about so untoward a combination of circumstances? Daisy could not understand it; and there was no time to go after Nora to get an understanding. The baskets must be finished. Luckily there did not much remain to be done, for Daisy was tired. As soon as her work was out of her hand, she went to see about the success of her table. It was done; a nice long, neat table of boards, on trestles; and it was fixed under a beautiful grove of trees, on the edge of a bank from which the view over the grounds was charming. Mr. Stilton was just gathering up his tools to go away, and looked himself so smiling and bright that Daisy concluded there was reason to hope her party was going to be all right; so with fresh spirit she went in to her own dinner.
After that it was busy times. The long table was to be spread with a table-cloth, and then the cups and plates in proper number and position, leaving the places for the baskets of strawberries. It was a grave question whether they should be arranged in a pyramid, with roses filling the spaces, or be distributed all round the table. Daisy and Joanna debated the matter, and decided finally on the simpler manner; and Logan dressed some splendid bouquets for the centre of the table instead. Daisy saw that the maids were bringing from the house pretty china dishes and cups; and then she ran away to get dressed herself. Just as this was almost done she saw her mother driving off from the house with several gentlemen in her party. It suddenly struck Daisy, who was to do the honours of the strawberry feast? She ran down stairs to find her father; she could not find him, he was out; so Daisy went to see that the setting the table was going on all right, and then came and planted herself in the library, to wait for Mr. Randolph's coming in. And while she waited eagerly, she began to think about its being her birthday.
"Nine years old," thought Daisy; "there isn't much of my life passed. Perhaps, if I live a good while, I may do a great deal to serve the Lord. I wonder if I know all the things I can do now! all my 'talents'? I am afraid of missing some of them, for not knowing. Everything I have, Mr. Dinwiddie said,—so Nora said,—is a talent of some sort or other. How strange Nora was to-day! But I suppose she will come and tell me what was the matter. Now about the talents—I wish papa would come! This birthday was one talent, and I thought it would be a good thing if papa's people could be made to know that he is not 'stuck up,' if he is rich,—but if neither he nor mamma come out to speak to them at all, I wonder what they will think?"
Daisy ran out again to view the table. Yes, it was looking very handsome. Joanna was there herself, ordering and directing; and china and glass, and flowers, and silver, made a very brilliant appearance, though none of the dishes were on the table as yet.
"But who is going to pour out the coffee and the tea, Joanna?" said Daisy. "Aren't you going to dress and come and do it for me?"
"La! Miss Daisy, I don't see how I can. I expect the best plan will be to have you do it yourself. That will give the most satisfaction, I guess."
"Joanna! I don't know how."
"Yes, you do, Miss Daisy; you'll have the coffee urn, and all you have to do is to turn the faucet, you know; and Sam will wait upon you, and if you want tea poured out he can lift it for you. It'll taste twice as good to all the party if you do it."
"Do you think so, Joanna?"
"I don't want to think about it," said Joanna; "I know without thinking."
"But, Joanna, I can't reach the things."
"I'll have a high seat fixed for you. I know what you want."
Daisy stood watching; it was such a pleasure to see Joanna's nice preparations. And now came on the great dishes of strawberries, rich and sweet to the eye and the smell; and then handsome pitchers filled with milk and ice-water, in a range down the table. Then came great fruit cakes and pound cakes, superbly frosted and dressed with strawberries and rosebuds; Joanna had spared no pains. Great store of sliced bread and butter too, and plates of ham and cold beef, and forms of jelly. And when the dressed baskets of strawberries were set in their places all round the table, filling up the spaces, there was a very elegant, flowery, and sparkling appearance of a rich feast. Why was not Nora there?—and with the next thought Daisy flew back to the library to find her father. He was found.
"Oh papa," she said gently, though she had rushed in like a little summer wind, "are you going to come to the feast?"
"What for, my dear?"
"Papa, they will all like it; they will be pleased."
"I think they will enjoy themselves better without me."
"Papa, I am sure they would be pleased."
"I should only make it a constraint for them, Daisy. I do not think they will want anything but the strawberries—especially if you look at them."
"But mamma is not here to speak to them either, papa."
"You think somebody must speak to them, eh? I don't think I can make speeches, Daisy," said Mr. Randolph, stretching himself at ease in a chaise longue. "But perhaps I may step down and look at them by and by, my dear."
There was no more to be done, Daisy knew. She went slowly off over the grounds, meditating whether the people would be satisfied with so very at-arms'-length an entertainment. Would this draw the poor nearer to the rich? or the rich nearer to the poor? Daisy had an instinctive, delicate sense of the want, which she set herself to do the best her little self could to supply. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you"—that sweet and most perfect rule of high breeding was moving her now; and already the spirit of another rule, which in words she did not yet know, was beginning to possess her heart in its young discipleship; she was ready "to do good to all men, even as she had opportunity."
She went slowly back to the table. Nobody come yet. Joanna was there, putting some last touches. Suddenly a new idea struck Daisy, as she saw what a long table it was.
"Joanna—there must be somebody else to wait. Sam can never do it all."
"He'll have to. James is busy, and Hiram. Sam's all that can be spared; and that's as much as ever."
"But I must have more, Joanna. Can't some of the maids come?"
"To wait?—they wouldn't, Miss Daisy."
"Yes they would, Joanna. You must make them, Joanna. Send Maria and Ophelia down here, and I'll tell them what I want of them. And quick, Joanna; and don't you tell them, please, what I want."
"I hope you'll grow up to marry the President, some day," said Joanna, walking off; "you could help him if he got puzzled!"
Poor Daisy almost felt as if she had the affairs of a nation on her hands, when she saw Mr. and Mrs. Stilton, dressed in their best, coming near through the trees. But the spirit of kindness was so thoroughly at work in Daisy, that it made her reception of her guests just what it ought to be, and she was delighted a few minutes after to see that their eyes were kindling with gratification. Logan looked at the table as if he had some right to take an interest in it; the hay-makers were open-mouthed; the women in a flutter of ribands and propriety; and the various people who had come upon the ground with doubtful expectancy, sat down to table proud and gay. It was a pretty sight! and prettier was the sight of little Daisy perched up at one end of the board and with tremulous fingers filling cups of coffee and ordering cups of tea.