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Warner, Susan, 1819-1885, Melbourne House, 1864, Ward Lock edition 1907.

Produced by Daniel FROMONT


MELBOURNE HOUSE


BY
ELIZABETH WETHERELL

AUTHOR OF "WIDE, WIDE WORLD."


"Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be
pure, and whether it be right." - _Prov. xx. 11_


LONDON

WARD LOCK AND C° LIMITED

1907


CONTENTS


CHAPTER I. DAISY'S QUESTION

CHAPTER II. THE PONY-CHAISE

CHAPTER III. THE BIRTHDAY

CHAPTER IV. THE HAM

CHAPTER V. STRAWBERRIES

CHAPTER VI. THE EPERGNE

CHAPTER VII. A SOLDIER

CHAPTER VIII. GEOGRAPHY

CHAPTER IX. AFTER TROUT

CHAPTER X. A FIELD OF BATTLE

CHAPTER XI. THE WOUNDED HAND

CHAPTER XII. THE HUNDRED DOLLARS

CHAPTER XIII. OBEDIENCE

CHAPTER XIV. SUNDAY EVENING

CHAPTER XV. SCHROEDER'S MOUNTAIN

CHAPTER XVI. JUANITA'S COTTAGE

CHAPTER XVII. THE LITTLE CONFESSOR

CHAPTER XVIII. WONDERFUL THINGS

CHAPTER XIX. THE DOCTOR

CHAPTER XX. SUN AND MOON

CHAPTER XXI. TEA AT HOME

CHAPTER XXII. BEING ROBBED

CHAPTER XXIII. THE MAP OF ENGLAND

CHAPTER XXIV. THE PICNIC PARTY

CHAPTER XXV. A SHOWER

CHAPTER XXVI. DAISY'S SUPPER

CHAPTER XXVII. RANSOM AND FIDO

CHAPTER XXVIII. MRS. GARY'S PRESENT

CHAPTER XXIX. THE ROSEBUSH

CHAPTER XXX. MOLLY'S GARDEN

CHAPTER XXXI. THE PICTURES

CHAPTER XXXII. THE BASKET OF SPONGE-CAKE

CHAPTER XXXIII. SATIN AND FEATHERS

CHAPTER XXXIV. CHARITY AND VANITY

CHAPTER XXXV. QUEEN ESTHER

CHAPTER XXXVI. TABLEAUX VIVANTS

CHAPTER XXXVII. AN ACCIDENT

CHAPTER XXXVIII. SOMETHING WRONG

CHAPTER XXXIX. BREAKING UP



CHAPTER I.

DAISY'S QUESTION.


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 showed 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
times to look at her.

"To be a Christian, mamma?"

"It means, to be baptised 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, anyhow!"

"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 show 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. Oh, 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, "Oh, Nora! how do
you do? what are you doing?" — and "Oh, 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
showed 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?"

"Oh, 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?"

"Oh, 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 sun-
bonnet 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 tine 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 — he
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."

"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."

"Oh, Duke!"

"What's the matter? Don't you believe that people died many
hundred years ago?"

"Yes; but —"

"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.

"Oh, 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 showing truth
only as one shows 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 show
her dismay on such occasions, and she showed 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.


CHAPTER II.

THE PONY-CHAISE.


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 Belvedere 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.



Online LibrarySusan WarnerMelbourne House → online text (page 1 of 40)