Read CHAPTER V - IN THE KITCHEN of Daisy , free online book, by Elizabeth Wetherell, on

I was ill for days. It was not due to one thing, doubtless, nor one sorrow, but the whole together. My aunt sent to Baytown for the old family physician. He came up and looked at me, and decided that I ought to “play” as much as possible!

“She isn’t a child that likes play,” said my aunt.

“Find some play that she does like, then. Where are her father and mother?”

“Just sailed for Europe, a few weeks ago.”

“The best thing would be for her to sail after them,” said the old doctor. And he went.

“We shall have to let her do just as they did at Melbourne,” said my aunt.

“How was that?” said Miss Pinshon.

“Let her have just her own way.”

“And what was that?”

“Oh, queer,” said my aunt. “She is not like other children. But anything is better than to have her mope to death.”

“I shall try and not have her mope,” said Miss Pinshon.

But she had little chance to adopt her reforming regimen for some time. It was plain I was not fit for anything but to be let alone, like a weak plant struggling for its existence. All you can do with it is to put it in the sun; and my aunt and governess tacitly agreed upon the same plan of treatment for me. Now, the only thing wanting was sunshine; and it was long before that could be had. After a day or two I left my bed, and crept about the house, and out of the house under the great oaks, where the material sunshine was warm and bright enough, and caught itself in the grey wreaths of moss that waved over my head, and seemed to come bodily to woo me to life and cheer. It lay in the carpet under my feet, it lingered in the leaves of the thick oaks, it wantoned in the wind, as the long draperies of moss swung and moved gently to and fro; but the very sunshine is cold where the ice meets it; I could get no comfort. The thoughts that had so troubled me the evening after my long talk with Preston were always present with me; they went out and came in with me; I slept with them, and they met me when I woke. The sight of the servants was wearying. I shunned Darry and the stables. I had no heart for my pony. I would have liked to get away from Magnolia. Yet, be I where I might, it would not alter my father’s position towards these seven hundred people. And towards how many more? There were his estates in Virginia.

One of the first things I did, as soon as I could command my fingers to do it, was to write to him. Not a remonstrance. I knew better than to touch that. All I ventured, was to implore that the people who desired it might be allowed to hold prayer-meetings whenever they liked, and Mr. Edwards be forbidden to interfere. Also I complained that the inside of the cabins were not comfortable; that they were bare and empty. I pleaded for a little bettering of them. It was not a long letter that I wrote. My sorrow I could not tell, and my love and my longing were equally beyond the region of words. I fancy it would have been thought by Miss Pinshon a very cold little epistle, but Miss Pinshon did not see it. I wrote it with weak trembling fingers, and closed it and sealed it and sent it myself. Then I sank into a helpless, careless, listless state of body and mind, which was very bad for me; and there was no physician who could minister to me. I went wandering about, mostly out of doors, alone with myself and my sorrow. When I seemed a little stronger than usual, Miss Pinshon tried the multiplication table; and I tried, but the spring of my mind was for the time broken. All such trials came to an end in such weakness and weariness, that my governess herself was fain to take the book from my hands and send me out into the sunshine again.

It was Darry at last who found me one day, and, distressed at my looks, begged that I would let him bring up my pony. He was so earnest that I yielded. I got leave, and went to ride. Darry saddled another horse for himself and went with me. That first ride did not help me much; but the second time a little tide of life began to steal into my veins. Darry encouraged and instructed me; and when we came cantering up to the door of the house, my aunt, who was watching there, cried out that I had a bit of a tinge in my cheeks, and charged Darry to bring the horses up every day.

With a little bodily vigour a little strength of mind seemed to come; a little more power of bearing up against evils, or of quietly standing under them. After the third time I went to ride, having come home refreshed, I took my Bible and sat down on the rug before the fire in my room to read. I had not been able to get comfort in my Bible all those days; often I had not liked to try. Right and wrong never met me in more brilliant colours or startling shadows than within the covers of that book. But to-day, soothed somehow, I went along with the familiar words as one listens to old music, with the soothing process going on all along. Right was right, and glorious, and would prevail some time; and nothing could hinder it. And then I came to words which I knew, yet which had never taken such hold of me before.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

That is what I have to do!” I thought immediately. “That is my part. That is clear. What I have to do, is to let my light shine. And if the light shines, perhaps it will fall on something. But what I have to do, is to shine. God has given me nothing else.”

It was a very simple child’s thought; but it brought wonderful comfort with it. Doubtless, I would have liked another part to play. I would have liked if I could to have righted all the wrong in the world; to have broken every yoke; to have filled every empty house, and built up a fire on every cold hearth: but that was not what God had given me. All He had given me, that I could see at the minute, was to shine. What a little morsel of a light mine was, to be sure!

It was a good deal of a puzzle to me for days after that, how I was to shine. What could I do? I was a little child: my only duties some lessons to learn: not much of that, seeing I had not strength for it. Certainly, I had sorrows to bear; but bearing them well did not seem to me to come within the sphere of shining. Who would know that I bore them well? And shining is meant to be seen. I pondered the matter.

“When’s Christmas, Miss Daisy?”

Margaret asked this question one morning as she was on her knees making my fire. Christmas had been so shadowed a point to me in the distance, I had not looked at it. I stopped to calculate the days.

“It will be two weeks from Friday, Margaret.”

“And Friday’s to-morrow?” she asked.

“The day after to-morrow. What do you do at Christmas, Margaret? all the people?”

“There ain’t no great doings, Miss Daisy. The people gets four days, most of ’em.”

“Four days for what?”

“For what they like; they don’t do no work, those days.”

“And is that all?”

“No, Miss Daisy, ’tain’t just all; the women comes up to the house it’s to the overseer’s house now and every one gets a bowl o’ flour, more or less, ‘cordin’ to size of family and a quart of molasses, and a piece o’ pork.”

“And what do they do to make the time pleasant?” I asked.

“Some on ’em’s raised eggs and chickens; and they brings ’em to the house and sells ’em; and they has the best dinner. Most times they gets leave to have a meetin’.”

“A prayer-meeting?” I said.

“Laws, no, Miss Daisy! not ’cept it were Uncle Darry and his set. The others don’t make no count of a prayer-meetin’. They likes to have a white-folks’ meetin’ and ’joy theirselves.”

I thought very much over these statements; and for the next two weeks bowls of flour and quarts of molasses, as Christmas doings, were mixed up in my mind with the question, how I was to shine? or rather, alternated with it; and plans began to turn themselves over and take shape in my thoughts.

“Margaret,” said I, a day or two before Christmas, “can’t the people have those meetings you spoke of without getting leave of Mr. Edwards?”

“Can’t have meetin’s, no how!” Margaret replied decidedly.

“But if I wanted to see them, couldn’t they, some of them, come together to see me?”

“To see Miss Daisy! Reckon Miss Daisy do what she like. ‘Spect Mass’ Ed’ards let Miss Daisy ’lone!”

I was silent, pondering.

“Maria cook wants to see Miss Daisy bad. She bid me tell Miss Daisy won’t she come down in de kitchen, and see all the works she’s a-doin’ for Christmas, and de glorifications?”

“I? I’ll come if I can,” I answered.

I asked my aunt and got easy leave; and on Christmas eve I went down to the kitchen. That was the chosen time when Maria wished to see me. There was an assembly of servants gathered in the room, some from out of the house. Darry was there; and one or two other fine-looking men who were his prayer-meeting friends. I supposed they were gathered to make merry for Christmas eve; but, at any rate, they were all eager to see me, and looked at me with smiles as gentle as have ever fallen to my share. I felt it and enjoyed it. The effect was of entering a warm, genial atmosphere, where grace and good-will were on every side; a change very noticeable from the cold and careless habit of things upstairs. And grace is not a misapplied epithet; for these children of a luxurious and beauty-loving race, even in their bondage, had not forgotten all traces of their origin. As I went in, I could not help giving my hand to Darry; and then, in my childish feeling towards them, and in the tenderness of the Christmas-tide, I could not help doing the same by all the others who were present. And I remember now the dignity of mien in some, the frank ease in others, both graceful and gracious, with which my civility was met. If a few were a little shy, the rest more than made it up by their welcome of me, and a sort of politeness which had almost something courtly in it. Darry and Maria together gave me a seat, in the very centre and glow of the kitchen light and warmth; and the rest made a half circle around, leaving Maria’s end of the room free for her operations.

The kitchen was all aglow with the most splendid fire of pine knots it was ever my lot to see. The illumination was such as threw all gaslights into shade. We were in a great stone-flagged room, low-roofed, with dark cupboard door; not cheerful, I fancy, in the mere light of day: but nothing could resist the influence of those pine-knot flames. Maria herself was a portly fat woman, as far as possible from handsome; but she looked at me with a whole world of kindness in her dark face. Indeed, I saw the same kindness more or less shining out upon me in all the faces there. I cannot tell the mixed joy and pain that it, and they, gave me. I suppose I showed little of either, or of anything.

Maria entertained me with all she had. She brought out for my view her various rich and immense stores of cakes and pies and delicacies for the coming festival; told me what was good and what I must be sure and eat; and what would be good for me. And then, when that display was over, she began to be very busy with beating of eggs in a huge wooden bowl; and bade Darry see to the boiling of the kettle at the fire; and sent Jem, the waiter, for things he was to get upstairs; and all the while talked to me. She and Darry and one or two more talked, but especially she and Theresa and Jem; while all the rest listened and laughed and exclaimed, and seemed to find me as entertaining as a play. Maria was asking me about my own little life and experiences before I came to Magnolia; what sort of a place Melbourne was, and how things there differed from the things she and the rest knew and were accustomed to at the South; and about my old June, who had once been an acquaintance of hers. Smiling at me the while, between the thrusts of her curiosity, and over my answers, as if for sheer pleasure she could not keep grave. The other faces were as interested and as gracious. There was Pete, tall and very black, and very grave, as Darry was also. There was Jem, full of life and waggishness, and bright for any exercise of his wits; and grave shadows used to come over his changeable face often enough too. There was Margaret, with her sombre beauty; and old Theresa with her worn old face. I think there was a certain indescribable reserve of gravity upon them all, but there was not one whose lips did not part in a white line when looking at me, nor whose eyes and ears did not watch me with an interest as benign as it was intent. I had been little while seated before the kitchen fire of pine knots before I felt that I was in the midst of a circle of personal friends; and I feel it now, as I look back and remember them. They would have done much for me, every one.

Meanwhile Maria beat and mixed and stirred the things in her wooden bowl; and by and by ladled out a glassful of rich-looking, yellow, creamy froth I did not know what it was, only it looked beautiful and presented it to me.

“Miss Daisy mustell Mis’ Felissy Maria hain’t forgot how to make it ’spect she hain’t, anyhow. Dat’s for Miss Daisy’s Christmas.”

“It’s very nice!” I said.

“Reckon it is,” was the capable answer.

“Won’t you give everybody some, Maria?” For Jem had gone upstairs with a tray and glasses, and Maria seemed to be resting upon her labours.

“Dere’ll come down orders for mo’, chile; and ’spose I gives it to de company, what’ll Mis’ Lisa do wid Maria? I have de ’sponsibility of Christmas.”

“But you can make some more,” I said, holding my glass in waiting. “Do, Maria.”

“’Spose hain’t got de ’terials, hey?”

“What do you want? Aunt Gary will give it to you.” And I begged Jem to go up again and prefer my request to her for the new filling of Maria’s bowl. Jem shrugged his shoulders, but he went; and I suppose he made a good story of it; for he came down with whatever was wanted my Aunt Gary was in a mood to refuse me nothing then and Maria went anew about the business of beating and mixing and compounding.

There was great enjoyment in the kitchen. It was a time of high festival, what with me and the egg supper. Merriment and jocularity, a little tide-wave of social excitement, swelled and broke on all sides of me; making a soft ripply play of fun and repartee, difficult to describe, and which touched me as much as it amused. It was very unlike the enjoyment of a set of white people holding the same social and intellectual grade. It was the manifestation of another race, less coarse and animal in their original nature, more sensitive and more demonstrative, with a strange touch of the luxurious and refined for a people whose life has had nothing to do with luxury, and whom refinement leaves on one side as quite beyond its sphere. But blood is a strange thing; and Ham’s children will show luxurious and aesthetic tastes, take them where you will.

“Chillen, I hope you’s enjoyed your supper,” Maria said, when the last lingering drops had been secured, and mugs and glasses were coming back to the kitchen table.

Words and smiles answered her. “We’s had a splendid time, Aunt Maria,” said one young man as he set down his glass. He was a worker in the garden.

“Den I hope’s we’s all willin’ to gib de Lord t’anks for His goodness. Dere ain’t a night in de year when it’s so proper to gib de Lord t’anks, as it be dis precious night.”

“It’s to-morrow night, Aunt Maria,” said Pete. “To-morrow’s Christmas night.”

“I don’t care! One night’s jus’ as good as another, you Pete. And now we’s all together, you see, and comfortable together; and I feel like giving t’anks, I do, to de Lord, for all His mercies.”

“What’s Christmas, anyhow?” asked another.

“It’s jus’ de crown o’ all the nights in de year. You Solomon, it’s a night dat dey keeps up in heaven. You know nothin’ about it, you poor critter. I done believe you never hearn no one tell about it. Maybe Miss Daisy wouldn’t read us de story, and de angels, and de shepherds, and dat great light what come down, and make us feel good for Christmas; and Uncle Darry, he’ll t’ank de Lord.”

The last words were put in a half-questioning form to me, rather taking for granted that I would readily do what was requested. And hardly anything in the world, I suppose, could have given me such deep gratification at the moment. Margaret was sent upstairs to fetch my Bible; the circle closed in around the fire and me; a circle of listening, waiting, eager, interested faces, some few of them shone with pleasure, or grew grave with reverent love, while I read slowly the chapters that tell of the first Christmas night. I read them from all the gospels, picking the story out first in one, then in another; answered sometimes by low words of praise that echoed but did not interrupt me words that were but some dropped notes of the song that began that night in heaven, and has been running along the ages since, and is swelling and will swell into a great chorus of earth and heaven by and by. And how glad I was in the words of the story myself, as I went along. How heart-glad that here, in this region of riches and hopes not earthly, those around me had as good welcome, and as open entrance, and as free right as I. “There is neither bond nor free.” “And base things of this world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.”

I finished my reading at last, amid the hush of my listening audience. Then Maria called upon Darry to pray, and we all kneeled down.

It comes back to me now as I write the hush and the breathing of the fire, and Darry’s low voice and imperfect English. Yes, and the incoming tide of rest and peace and gladness which began to fill the dry places in my heart, and rose and swelled till my heart was full. I lost my troubles and forgot my difficulties. I forgot that my father and mother were away, for the sense of loneliness was gone. I forgot that those around me were in bonds, for I felt them free as I, and inheritors of the same kingdom. I have not often in my life listened to such a prayer, unless from the same lips. He was one of those that make you feel that the door is open to their knocking, and that they always find it so. His words were seconded not interrupted, even to my feelings by low-breathed echoes of praise and petition, too soft and deep to leave any doubt of the movement that called them forth.

There was a quiet gravity upon all when we rose to our feet again. I knew I must go; but the kitchen had been the pleasantest place to me in all Magnolia. I bade them good-night, answered with bows and curtseys and hearty wishes; and as I passed out of the circle, tall black Pete, looking down upon me with just a glimmer of white between his lips, added, “Hope you’ll come again.”

A thought darted into my head which brought sunshine with it. I seemed to see my way begin to open.

The hope was warm in my heart as soon as I was awake the next morning. With more comfort than for many days I had known, I lay and watched Margaret making my fire. Then suddenly I remembered it was Christmas, and what thanksgivings had been in heaven about it, and what should be on earth; and a lingering of the notes of praise I had heard last night made a sort of still music in the air. But I did not expect at all that any of the ordinary Christmas festivities would come home to me, seeing that my father and mother were away. Where should Christmas festivities come from? So, when Margaret rose up and showed all her teeth at me, I only thought last night had given her pleasure, and I suspected nothing, even when she stepped into the next room and brought in a little table covered with a shawl, and set it close to my bedside. “Am I to have breakfast in bed?” I asked. “What is this for?”

“Dunno, Miss Daisy,” said Margaret, with all her white teeth sparkling; “’spose Miss Daisy take just a look, and see what ’pears like.”

I felt the colour come into my face. I raised myself on my elbow and lifted up cautiously one corner of the shawl. Packages white paper and brown paper long and short, large and small! “O Margaret, take off the shawl, will you!” I cried; “and let me see what is here.”

There was a good deal. But “From Papa” caught my eye on a little parcel. I seized it and unfolded. From papa, and he so far away! But I guessed the riddle before I could get to the last of the folds of paper that wrapped and enwrapped a little morocco case. Papa and mamma, leaving me alone, had made provision beforehand, that when this time came I might miss nothing except themselves. They had thought and cared and arranged for me; and now they were thinking about it, perhaps, far away somewhere over the sea. I held the morocco case in my hand a minute or two before I could open it. Then I found a little watch; my dear little watch! which has gone with me ever since, and never failed nor played tricks with me. My mother had put in one of her own chains for me to wear with it.

I lay a long time looking and thinking, raised up on my elbow as I was, before I could leave the watch and go on to anything else. Margaret spread round my shoulders the shawl which had covered the Christmas table; and then she stood waiting, with a good deal more impatience and curiosity than I showed. But such a world of pleasure and pain gathered round that first “bit of Christmas” so many, many thoughts of one and the other kind that I for awhile had enough with that. At last I closed the case, and keeping it yet in one hand, used the other to make more discoveries. The package labelled “From Mamma,” took my attention next; but I could make nothing of it. An elegant little box, that was all, which I could not open; only it felt so very heavy that I was persuaded there must be something extraordinary inside. I could make nothing of it: it was a beautiful box; that was all. Preston had brought me a little riding whip, both costly and elegant. I could not but be much pleased with it. A large, rather soft package, marked with Aunt Gary’s name, unfolded a riding cap to match; at least, it was exceeding rich and stylish, with a black feather that waved away in curves that called forth Margaret’s delighted admiration. Nevertheless, I wondered, while I admired, at my Aunt Gary’s choice of a present. I had a straw hat which served all purposes, even of elegance, for my notions. I was amazed to find that Miss Pinshon had not forgotten me. There was a decorated pen, wreathed with a cord of crimson and gold twist, and supplemented with two dangling tassels. It was excessively pretty, as I thought of Aunt Gary’s cap; and not equally convenient. I looked at all these things while Margaret was dressing me; but the case with the watch, for the most part, I remember I kept in my hand.

“Ain’t you goin’ to try it on and see some how pretty it looks, Miss Daisy?” said my unsatisfied attendant.

“The cap?” said I. “Oh, I dare say it fits. Aunt Gary knows how big my head is.”

“Mass’ Preston come last night,” she went on; “so I reckon Miss Daisy’ll want to wear it by and by.”

“Preston come last night!” I said. “After I was in bed?” and feeling that it was indeed Christmas, I finished getting ready and went downstairs. I made up my mind I might as well be friends with Preston, and not push any further my displeasure at his behaviour. So we had a comfortable breakfast. My aunt was pleased to see me, she said, look so much better. Miss Pinshon was not given to expressing what she felt; but she looked at me two or three times without saying anything, which I suppose meant satisfaction. Preston was in high feather, making all sorts of plans for my divertisement during the next few days. I, for my part, had my own secret cherished plan, which made my heart beat quicker whenever I thought of it. But I wanted somebody’s counsel and help; and on the whole I thought my Aunt Gary’s would be the safest. So after breakfast I consulted Preston only about my mysterious little box, which would not open. Was it a paper weight?

Preston smiled, took up the box and performed some conjuration upon it, and then I cannot describe my entranced delight as he set it down again on the table, the room seemed to grow musical. Softest, most liquid sweet notes came pouring forth one after the other, binding my ears as if I had been in a state of enchantment; binding feet and hands and almost my breath, as I stood hushed and listening to the liquid warbling of delicious things, until the melody had run itself out. It was a melody unknown to me; wild and dainty; it came out of a famous opera, I was told afterward. When the fairy notes sunk into silence, I turned mutely towards Preston. Preston laughed.

“I declare!” he said, “I declare! Hurra! you have got colour in your cheeks, Daisy; absolutely, my little Daisy! there is a real streak of pink there where it was so white before.”

What is it?” said I.

“Just a little good blood coming up under the skin.”

Oh no, Preston this; what is it?”

“A musical box.”

“But where does the music come from?”

“Out of the box. See, Daisy; when it has done a tune and is run out, you must wind it up, so, like a watch.”

He wound it up and set it on the table again. And again a melody came forth, and this time it was different; not plaintive and thoughtful, but jocund and glad; a little shout and ring of merriment, like the feet of dancers scattering the drops of dew in a bright morning; or like the chime of a thousand little silver bells rung for laughter. A sort of intoxication came into my heart. When Preston would have wound up the box again, I stopped him. I was full of the delight. I could not hear any more just then.

“Why, Daisy, there are ever so many more tunes.”

“Yes. I am glad. I will have them another time,” I answered. “How very kind of mamma!”

“Hit the right thing this time, didn’t she? How’s the riding cap, Daisy?”

“It is very nice,” I said. “Aunt Gary is very good; and I like the whip very much, Preston.”

“That fat little rascal will want it. Does the cap fit, Daisy?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Oh yes, I suppose so.”

Preston made an exclamation, and forthwith would have it tried on to see how it looked. It satisfied him; somehow it did not please me as well; but the ride did, which we had soon after; and I found that my black feather certainly suited everybody else. Darry smiled at me, and the house servants were exultant over my appearance.

Amid all these distracting pleasures, I kept on the watch for an opportunity to speak to Aunt Gary alone. Christmas day I could not. I could not get it till near the next day.

“Aunt Gary,” I said, “I want to consult you about something.”

“You have always something turning about in your head,” was her answer.

“Do you think,” said I slowly, “Mr. Edwards would have any objection to some of the people coming to the kitchen Sunday evenings to hear me read the Bible?”

“To hear you read the Bible!” said my aunt.

“Yes, Aunt Gary; I think they would like it. You know they cannot read it for themselves.”

They would like it. And you would be delighted, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, Aunt Gary. I should like it better than anything.”

“You are a funny child! There is not a bit of your mother in you except your obstinacy.”

And my aunt seemed to ponder my difference.

“Would Mr. Edwards object to it, do you think? Would he let them come?”

“The question is whether I will let them come. Mr. Edwards has no business with what is done in the house.”

“But, Aunt Gary, you would not have any objection.”

“I don’t know, I am sure. I wish your father and mother had never left you in my charge; for I don’t know how to take care of you.”

“Aunt Gary,” I said, “please don’t object! There is nobody to read the Bible to them and I should like to do it very much.”

“Yes, I see you would. There don’t get excited about it every Sunday evening, did you say?”

“Yes, ma’am, if you please.”

“Daisy, it will just tire you; that’s what it will do. I know it, just as well as if I had seen it. You are not strong enough.”

“I am sure it would refresh me, Aunt Gary. It did the other night.”

“The other night?”

“Christmas eve, ma’am.”

“Did you read to them then?”

“Yes, ma’am; they wanted to know what Christmas was about.”

“And you read to them. You are the oddest child!”

“But Aunt Gary, never mind it would be the greatest pleasure to me. Won’t you give leave?”

“The servants hear the Bible read, child, every morning and every night.”

“Yes, but that is only a very few of the house servants. I want some of the others to come a good many as many as can come.”

“I wish your mother and father were here!” sighed my aunt.

“Do you think Mr. Edwards would make any objection?” I asked again, presuming on the main question being carried. “Would he let them come?”

“Let them come!” echoed my aunt. “Mr. Edwards would be well employed to interfere with anything the family chose to do.”

“But you know he does not let them meet together, the people, Aunt Gary; not unless they have his permission.”

“No, I suppose so. That is his business.”

“Then will you speak to him, ma’am, so that he may not be angry with the people when they come?”

“I? No,” said my aunt. “I have nothing to do with your father’s overseer. It would just make difficulty, maybe, Daisy; you had better let this scheme of yours alone.”

I could not without bitter disappointment. Yet I did not know how further to press the matter. I sat still and said nothing.

“I declare, if she isn’t growing pale about it!” exclaimed my aunt. “I know one thing, and that is, your father and mother ought to have taken you along with them. I have not the least idea how to manage you; not the least. What is it you want to do, Daisy?”

I explained over again.

“And now if you cannot have this trick of your fancy you will just fidget yourself sick! I see it. Just as you went driving all about Melbourne without company to take care of you. I am sure I don’t know. It is not in my way to meddle with overseers How many people do you want to read to at once, Daisy?”

“As many as I can, Aunt Gary. But Mr. Edwards will not let two or three meet together anywhere.”

“Well, I dare say he is right. You can’t believe anything in the world these people tell you, child. They will lie just as fast as they will speak.”

“But if they came to see me, Aunt Gary?” I persisted, waiving the other question.

“That’s another thing, of course. Well, don’t worry. Call Preston. Why children cannot be children passes my comprehension.”

Preston came, and there was a good deal of discussing of my plan; at which Preston frowned and whistled, but on the whole, though I knew against his will, took my part. The end was, my aunt sent for the overseer. She had some difficulty, I judge, in carrying the point; and made capital of my ill-health and delicacy and spoiled-child character. The overseer’s unwilling consent was gained at last; the conditions being, that every one who came to hear the reading should have a ticket of leave, written and signed by myself, for each evening; and that I should be present with the assembly from the beginning to the close of it.

My delight was very great. And my aunt, grumbling at the whole matter, and especially at her share in it, found an additional cause of grumbling in that, she said, I had looked twenty per cent. better ever since this foolish thing got possession of my head. “I am wondering,” she remarked to Miss Pinshon, “whatever Daisy will do when she grows up. I expect nothing but she will be what do you call them? one of those people who run wild over the human race.”

“Pirates?” suggested Preston. “Or corsairs?”

“Her mother will be disappointed,” went on my aunt. “That is what I confidently expect.”

Miss Pinshon hinted something about the corrective qualities of mathematics; but I was too happy to heed her or care. I was stronger and better, I believe, from that day; though I had not much to boast of. A true tonic had been administered to me; my fainting energies took a new start.

I watched my opportunity, and went down to the kitchen one evening to make my preparations. I found Maria alone and sitting in state before the fire which I believe was always in the kitchen a regal one. I hardly aver saw it anything else. She welcomed me with great suavity; drew up a chair for me; and finding I had something to say, sat then quite grave and still looking into the blaze, while I unfolded my plan.

“De Lord is bery good!” was her subdued comment, made when I had done. “He hab sent His angel, sure!”

“Now, Maria,” I went on, “you must tell me who would like to come next Sunday, you think; and I must make tickets for them. Every one must have my ticket, with his name on it; and then there will be no fault found.”

“I s’pose not,” said Maria “wid Miss Daisy’s name on it.”

“Who will come, Maria?”

“Laws, chile, dere’s heaps. Dere’s Darry, and Pete Pete, he say de meetin’ de oder night war ‘bout de best meetin’ he eber ’tended; he wouldn’t miss it for not’ing in de world; he’s sure; and dere’s olé ’Lize; and de two Jems no, dere’s tree Jems dat is serous; and Stark, and Carl, and Sharlim

Sharlim?” said I, not knowing that this was the Caffir for Charlemagne.

“Sharlim,” Maria repeated. “He don’ know much; but he has a leanin’ for de good t’ings. And Darry, he can tell who’ll come. I done forget all de folks’ names.”

“Why, Maria,” I said, “I did not know there were so many people at Magnolia that cared about the Bible.”

“What has ’um to care for, chile, I should like fur to know? Dere ain’t much mo’ in dis world.”

“But I thought there were only very few,” I said.

“’Spose um fifty,” said Maria. “Fifty ain’t much, I reckon, when dere’s all de rest o’ de folks what don’t care. De Lord’s people is a little people yet, for sure; and de world’s a big place. When de Lord come Hisself, to look for ’em, ’spect He have to look mighty hard. De world’s awful dark.”

That brought to my mind my question. It was odd, no doubt, to choose an old coloured woman for my adviser, but indeed, I had not much choice; and something had given me a confidence in Maria’s practical wisdom, which early as it had been formed, nothing ever happened to shake. So, after considering the fire and the matter a moment, I brought forth my doubt.

“Maria,” said I, “what is the best way I mean, how can one let one’s light shine?”

“What Miss Daisy talkin’ about?”

“I mean you know what the Bible says ’Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’”

“For sure, I knows dat. Ain’t much shining in dese yere parts. De people is dark, Miss Daisy; dey don’ know. ’Spect dey would try to shine, some on ’em, ef dey knowed. Feel sure dey would.”

“But that is what I wanted to ask about, Maria. How ought one to let one’s light shine?”

I remember now the kind of surveying look the woman gave me. I do not know what she was thinking of; but she looked at me, up and down, for a moment, with a wonderfully tender, soft expression. Then turned away.

“How let um light shine?” she repeated. “De bestest way, Miss Daisy, is fur to make him burn good.”

I saw it all immediately; my question never puzzled me again. Take care that the lamp is trimmed; take care that it is full of oil; see that the flame mounts clear and steady towards heaven; and the Lord will set it where its light will fall on what pleases Him, and where it will reach, mayhap, to what you never dream of.