“You’re fond of lollipops then, missie? you didn’t think as ’twas because poor Dove guessed that, that he travelled up all these weary stairs? Kind of him, wasn’t it? but you’re real fond of lollipops, ain’t you, missy?”
“Some kinds,” answered Daisy, who was really a most fastidious child, and who shrank from the sticky-looking sweetmeats proffered to her by Dove. “I like the very best chocolate creams; Primrose brings them to me sometimes, but they are rather expensive. Oh! and I like sticky sweets too,” she continued seeing an ominous frown gathering on Dove’s brow. “I’m very much obliged to you, Mr. Dove.” Then making a great effort, she put out her little white hand to take one of the sweeties.
But Dove drew back quickly.
“No, no,” he said, “not till they’re arned—by no means until they’re arned. You don’t suppose as a poor man—a poor man with a large family, and an only love of a wife—can afford to bring sweeties all for nothing to rich little ladies like yourself. No, no, miss; you arn them, and you shall have them.”
“But I’d rather not, please,” said Daisy, “I’m not very hungry for sweeties to-day on account of my cold, and I think, on the whole, you had better keep them, Mr. Dove. Indeed, I don’t know how to earn them—Primrose and Jasmine say I’m too young to earn.”
Here Dove drew himself up to his full height, and stared hard at the child.
“There’s one way of arning,” he said, “and one only. Look you here, Miss Daisy Mainwaring, you are young, but you ain’t no fool. Ef you please, miss, you has got to make me a promise—you has got to say that you will never tell, not to Miss Primrose nor to Miss Jasmine, nor to no one, that you’ve seen me in this room. I don’t wish it to be known. I has my reasons, and whatever happens, you are never to tell. Ef you make me the promise true and faithful, why you shall have the sweeties, and I’ll stick up for you, and be your friend through thick and thin. You’ll have Dove for your friend, Miss Daisy, and I can tell you he ain’t a friend to be lightly put aside. But if you ever tell—and however secret you do it, I have got little birds who will whisper it back to me—why, then Dove will be your enemy. You don’t know what that means, and you won’t like to know. I was my own boy Tommy’s enemy once, and I locked him up in the dark for twenty-four hours, where no one could hear him screaming. Now, miss, you had better make me your friend; I’m real desperate in earnest, so you promise me.”
Daisy’s face had grown deadly white, her breath came in gasps, her eyes were fixed on the cruel man.
“You promise me, miss?”
“Oh yes, Mr. Dove.”
“That’s right, missy. Now you say these words after me:—’Mr. Dove, I promise never to tell as you came up to my room to give me the nice sweeties. I’ll never tell nobody in all the wide world, so help me, God.’”
“Oh, I don’t like that last part,” said little Daisy. “I’ll say it—I’ll say all the words, only not the last ones, and I’ll keep my promise as true as true; only please, please, please, Mr. Dove, don’t ask me to say the last words, for I don’t think it’s quite reverent to say them just to keep a secret about sweeties.”