― 106 ―

A Daughter of Her Country.

“Daddy, we're Americans, you en Mummy, en me, ain't we?”

“Yes, Maidie, true-blue Americans.”

“ 'Cause we live in Australia now, it won't make us into Australians, will it, Daddy?”

There was a look of such deep anxiety on the beautiful little face that Stanners hid his amusement, and replied gravely, “I guess not, Maidie, I guess not. Once an American always an American. You're American-born, little daughter, and nothing can alter that fact. If I'd taken you over with me when I accepted the managership of the Bundamurra Export Company—but I couldn't, you know, because Mummy was ill, and you were such a tiny baby—you'd still be an American.”

“That's a blessing. I'd be drefful sorry ef I couldn't stay an American,” said the child, as, with a sigh of deep content, she settled herself more comfortably on her father's knee.

It was now nearly two months since Maidie and her mother had arrived in Bundamurra in tropical Queensland, but Stanners was still as interested in his little daughter as a child in a new toy. Everything about her was a revelation to him; he never grew tired of investigating the working of her childish mind, which, indeed, was of no common order; though he was careful not to let her see his curiosity, for she was sensitive, he had found to a degree. Each day discovered to him some quaint or winsome trait, and daily his love and tender wonder grew.

At length Maidie twisted round and gazed up into his face with the sweet, wise look that it startles us sometimes to see in a child's eyes.

“Daddy,” she said slowly, “I've been thinking. I was a baby when you left us—where did the weeny teeny girl go to what growed up to be me? Is she losted, Daddy? Or is God just keeping her somewhere?”

Stanners clasped the child closer to him, feeling with a pang that in those six years so irretrievably gone he had indeed lost the sweetest years of his daughter's life, and he grudged the coming years too, that would so quickly rob him of the remainder of her childhood. He did not speak, and the little brain was soon on a new problem.

“Daddy, why did you come over to Australia?”

“Some people might think,” Stanners gave a whimsical smile over the child's head, “that it was because they offered me this position at a bigger screw than I was getting at home, but what do you think about it, Maidie? You puzzle it out for yourself. Do you think I came to make money?”

  ― 107 ―

“Of course not,” cried the child indignantly, “you could get heaps of money in America. Mummy says you're real smart.” She paused and looked earnestly at him. “I guess you came over here 'cause you were sorry they didn't know how to do things properly in Bundamurra, en so you came to teach them.”

Stanners broke into an involuntary laugh, which he checked at the grieved surprise on the small face.

“You've struck it, Maidie! Quite right, O.K., my dear; I wanted to show them what a genuine American hustle was like—” his lips set in a grim line—“and James P. Stanners is the man to show them, I reckon.”

Bundamurra's business men could have endorsed this statement, and would have done it perhaps with some bitterness. “Hard as nails” was but a mild way of expressing the opinion they held of “the Boss.” Maidie's father and Bundamurra's manager were two widely different men.

The little one was satisfied. She lay back for a long time happily, and thought with pride what an altogether wonderful father she had found in this new land, but at last a fresh thought came to disturb her serenity.

Maidie went to the Girls' Grammer School, which this week, like the city itself, was passing through a time of mild excitement at the prospect of a visit from the Governor of the State. The State School pupils were to join the public procession to greet his Excellency; the Grammer School scholars, as befitted their dignity, were to be visited by the vice-regal party—the distinction is emblematic of the way in which the two schools are held in democratic Australia.

The National Anthem was being assiduously practised by the pupils of all the schools, and it was the singing of the anthem that formed the subject of Maidie's cogitation as she sat silently on her father's knee. Ought she, an American girl, to join with the Australians in singing “God Save the King?” She determined to submit the question to her father, and, as is the way of children at times, she set about doing it in a round-about fashion.

“God Save the King” is the Britishers' Anthem, isn't it, Daddy?” Her voice broke the reverie into which Stanners had fallen.

“Right, Maidie.”

“En the ‘ 'Tar 'Pangled Banner’ is ours, isn't it?” Now and then Maidie's tongue got twisted over the intricacies of speech.

“Correct again; but where did you learn about anthems, pet?”

“Captain White 'splained all about them to me coming over on the steamer; en he told me when I heard the Britishers sing ‘God Save the King’ I must sing ‘ 'Tar 'Pangled Banner.’ Had I ought to, Daddy?”

Stanners gave a short laugh; he could not help it, in spite of Maidie's evident displeasure. He did not dream that anything lay behind the child's question, and the quaint conceit amused him.

“Why, certainly, you little Yank,” he said as soon as he could get his face straight, “keep up your end of the stick, my dear! The ‘Star Spangled Banner’ every time that you hear ‘God Save the King,’ of course. Hold the ‘Stars and Stripes’ waving on top of the ‘Union Jack’—that's the business, I guess, of every true American.”

  ― 108 ―

“I can sing the ‘'Tar 'Pangled Banner’ en ‘Hail Columbia,’ en heaps of American songs. Captain White taught me, and he just reckons I lick creation.”

The last words came with irresistibly comical, yet unconscious, imitation of the bluff tones of the Yankee skipper. Stanners's laugh again rang out.

The child looked at him uncertainly.

“Never mind, Maidie; never mind, my girl. Dad didn't mean to laugh at you. Let's hear you sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ ”

She slid off his knee, put her heels together with military precision, her bits of hands stiffly by her sides, and stood an adorable little soldier—in the position of “attention.” At the first note Stanners looked at her in sheer delighted surprise. The voice rose clear and true, pure and sweet as the song of a bird. Though childish in tone, it was full and rounded—strangely powerful for such a tiny singer. The words were sometimes curiously mangled, but the tune was note-perfect. It was plain she had a good ear, as well as a good voice.

Pleased with her father's absorbed interest, Maidie sang on, one patriotic melody following another, as if, like Wordsworth's Highland Lass, “her song could have no ending,” but at last the thin, peevish voice of her mother—an invalid, who sad to relate, did not fully understand the workings of her own babe's mind—broke the spell.

“Maidie, come in; you haven't prepared your lessons for to-morrow. Come in, this very instant.”

A quick change, pathetic to see, passed over the mobile face as the child obeyed without a word.

Mrs. Stanners came languidly on to the verandah.

“I wonder you encourage her in that nonsense,” she said, as she sank into the chair he drew up for her. “Don't make her worse than she is already.”

“Worse!” Stanners drew a quick breath, but checked the reply rising to his lips. He must have patience with poor Julia. When she had recovered from the effects of her journey, when she had become accustomed to her new home, she would be a different woman. Not even to himself did he dare to confess that the delicate, gentle girl he had left had developed into the self-centred hypochondriac. But the child made up for everything—he would be patient with her mother for Maidie's sake.

“I say, Julia,” he said after a pause, “how in the world did you manage to turn our baby into such a rabid little patriot, such a red-hot Yankee?”

“Don't blame me,” she replied in a tired voice, “it was all the doing of the captain and officers of the Alcestis. There were very few passengers, you know, and Maidie was the only child on board. I was sick most of the way, and so was that idiot of a girl I brought with me. I am sure when I found they were making such a pet of the child I was thankful to get her taken off my hands. But they went too far; they stuffed her full of anti-British ideas, told her she would need to show these Australian Britishers that America was the biggest nation on earth, and goodness knows what rubbish besides. They

  ― 109 ―
taught her every American air they knew, and used to have her up on the table singing them till they fairly turned the child's brain on the subject of the Britishers. She's fit to say or do anything. I wonder she hasn't shown it to you sooner, but I expect she has been too occupied with her new surroundings to say much yet. I'm sick to death of it, I can tell you, and I hope you'll put your foot down on it.”

Stanners did not speak for a moment, and she continued fretfully:—

“I tell you what, Jim, I'm half afraid to have Maidie in the drawing-room when any of my visitors call, for she is really half-crazed on this point, and I'm in constant dread what she might say. She is just the child to enjoy making a martyr of herself for the pure love of the thing, and she would not think twice about coming out with some of the dreadful anti-British sentiments those men taught her. I guess if she did the ladies might resent it. How do you think they'd take it, Jim? You wouldn't like the situation yourself.”

But the husband was not disturbed.

“They'd only laugh,” he said soothingly. “Don't fret, Ju,” he said, “the Britisher all the world over is so cocksure that his country is ‘number one’ among the nations that he is only tickled at opposition. But I say, Ju, where did the kiddy get the voice from? I never heard anything like it in one so young! Why! I reckon it must have carried half-way down the street.”

Those who knew the face of James P. Stanners in its keen, hard, business aspect only would scarcely have recognised it now in the fatherly pride that transformed it. He chuckled to himself at the child's aggressive patriotism, but he said no more about it to his wife; it would only irritate her.

As for the question about the National Anthem, he dismissed it from his mind, and did not guess that his laughing endorsement of Captain White's ironical order had given the needed spur to a resolution that only wanted the seal of his approval to become law for little Maidie. Her course was now clear, her resolution fixed. Daddy thought just like Captain White; so it behoved Maidie to show that she was prepared to obey. The other girls at the school might sing “God Save the King” to greet the Governor, but she, as sole representative of the land of the “Stars and Stripes”—“God's country,” as Captain White's phrase went—must uplift her voice in the “Star Spangled Banner” and so keep the “Stars and Stripes” flying on top.

When she went to school next morning she did not speak of her intention to her young companions. She still felt nearly a stranger among them, and there was, besides, a certain delicate, innate reserve in the young American that prevented her making a confidant, but her mind was made up.

The teachers, she thought, being Australians and so British, and naturally prejudiced against Americans, might punish her—and Maidie was a timid child, full of awe of the powers that be—but she admitted no idea of wavering. The blood of far-off Puritan ancestors was in her veins; there was not a coward drop in all her slender little body. To older minds the matter might seem trivial, ridiculous; a child's purer vision sees no difference

  ― 110 ―
between small and great. Right is right; wrong is wrong. Black and white have no merging, no affinity; for children there is no half-way house of grey.

“You quite understand, girls, I hope.” The head mistress was giving her final directions—his Excellency was expected every moment. “As the vice-regal party enter the room you will rise to your feet. When they reach the platform Miss West will play the first few bars of ‘God Save the King,’ then strike the chord. Now remember,” Miss Sutherland spoke impressively, “at the sound of the chord you must all start together; nothing gives a worse effect than a ragged beginning, so be very careful, girls; every voice start on the first note.”

The desks, rising one above the other, were filled with white-robed maidens, dainty as a flock of snowy sea birds; their tropic-pale faces touched with a faint tinge of excitement, their eyes bright with expectation. Maidie was there, very fair and sweet, in the front row, but what an anxious heart was beating beneath the new embroidered white frock! Miss Sutherland looked very stately and imposing in a handsome dark silk, and the young American, to whose childish mind she was an incarnation of British power, kept her eyes fixed on her with a species of fascinated awe.

The sound of wheels was heard, and the air seemed to grow tense as Miss Sutherland moved to the door with a silken rustle. Steps came along the tiled hall, a group of men appeared in the doorway, the girls rose to their feet, Miss West struck the first note of the prelude, when clear and high on the hushed air there rose:—

“Oh, say, can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.”

Poor over-strung Maidie, in her one-idead absorption, forgot Miss Sutherland's precise instructions, and, believing the first note of music to be the signal for the anthem to commence, she launched with one great breath of desperation upon the “Star Spangled Banner.”

The vice-regal party halted, a paralysis fell on the music teacher, her hands dropped limply off the keys, the head mistress, stunned by the unfortunate contretemps, stood for a moment aghast, while those two lines poured out a flood of perfect melody. Then the strange stillness arrested the spell-bound singer, her voice faltered, broke, and trailed away into a sobbing childish quaver.

“The chord! The chord! at once.”

The insistent whisper of the head mistress galvanised Miss West into life. She struck frantically at the chord, and the girls in a panic swooped upon the note. “God Save the King” rang through the room with an energy, a fire, a verve, these walls had never before heard. One could almost fancy that the simple school girls had felt, and answered, a subtle national challenge, so defiantly, yet exultantly, did the music rise and swell.

The Governor, a tall, soldierly, impassive man, stood in courteous attention, showing neither surprise nor amusement.

  ― 111 ―

The city gentlemen who had come with the vice-regal party, as they joined in the Anthem looked at each other with a queer expression in their eyes. They all knew whose daughter was the daring little singer, and as Stanners, president of the Chamber of Commerce, caught those glances it half seemed to him that there was something of veiled antagonism in them. He felt a sudden sense of being alien, aloof, from these men, whom he had met daily for six years in the ordinary, familiar course of business. But there was no sign of this on his face, nor of the vexation that he felt towards Maidie for this awkward interruption to the harmony of the vice-regal visit. His face was set in its usual saturnine lines, his grey eyes were as expressionless as ever, but his small daughter's instinct was not at fault when one fleeting glance in his direction told her that he was angry with her, and her heart sank with apprehension.

At the close of the anthem his Excellency spoke briefly. Sir George was not an orator, but there was a curious quality in his voice, something magnetic in his quiet personality that drew the young faces to his in a stilled attention.

The usual introductions, speeches, and formal ceremonies were gone through, and the Governor turned to go. As he did so his eyes fell on Maidie's beautiful troubled face. He smiled slightly, and glanced at Miss Sutherland.

Poor Maidie! she wished the floor would open and swallow her up as she caught the exchange of glances. Her heart began to beat in heavy throbs; if her father deserted her she was indeed lost, for she placed no limit to the power of these “Britishers.” Oh! for some place to hide in; some tender, sheltering arms to run into. Daddy, her own daddy, had forsaken her!

The head mistress understood the Governor's glance. It would be as well, she thought, to make an explanation.

With an apologetic smile she said: “Maidie Stanners is a new little scholar, your Excellency. She has just come from America, and I expect the poor child did not realise that she was singing her own National Anthem instead of ours. Had she waited like the others for the chord, her little slip would have passed unnoticed.” The low distinct voice was audible over the room.

Stanners' face cleared, for he had during these last few moments been collecting uneasily the conversation he had held with Maidie on the subject of anthems, and he feared he was himself to blame for the foolish position of affairs.

Sir George walked up to the desks. He placed a firm hand under Maidie's soft chin and lifted it up.

“So that's how it happened, my wee American!”

The eyes of the man and the child met. The brown eyes, steady, observant, and kindly; the childish blue eyes, timid, and yet intrepid, too. There was something behind that gaze, thought the Governor, whose training had taught him to read faces.

“That was how it happened, eh?” There was a question now, a command in the words.

  ― 112 ―

The child's eyes wandered to the stern, handsome countenance of the head mistress, that seemed to say, “Yes! yes! That was how it happened, of course. Say ‘Yes,’ Maidie, at once;” then to her father, who was evidently waiting for the same answer; to the inquisitive, though not unfriendly faces of the other gentlemen; and finally returned slowly to her questioner. The lovely face whitened to the quivering lips, but the indomitable spirit, the heritage of her New England blood, shone in the blue eyes.

“No, I can't say that, ‘cause”—the sweet voice shook—“ 'cause it wouldn't be the truth. I knew we had ought to sing ‘God Save the King,’ but I'm not a Britisher”—the golden head was lifted a little—“I'm an American, so I must sing the ‘ 'Tar 'Pangled Banner’ and keep the ‘ 'Tars and 'Tripes’ a’ flying on top of the ‘Union Jack’, Captain White told me;” but here Maidie's courage gave way, and she broke into a flood of tears.

The grave brown eyes grew soft as a woman's as his Excellency lifted the small, sobbing figure in his arms, and, heedless of the curious onlookers, said gently:—

“Tell me all about it, my brave little American,” and Maidie, looking up into the understanding eyes, told him all the story—the momentous problem of duty that had vexed her young mind.

“Children,” said his Excellency at length, putting the child to the floor, but still keeping one kind arm round her. “My dear girls. Maidie has given you all a lesson. Yes, and to us older folks, too! This little child has nobly dared to take the difficult path of truth, when the easiest, the pleasantest, the expected path was one of falsehood. She has made a mistake, as even grown-up people can do, my dear girls, when they act from mistaken ideas of duty, but Maidie is so young, and has come so lately from her distant American home, that we need not be surprised at what she did, especially as she only followed what she thought was real advice given in earnest—not a bit of sailor's fun. Maidie will see this herself by-and-bye, and when she is older she will understand, too, what is meant by international courtesy. The Americans and the British are, after all is said and done, of one blood—and blood is thicker than water, isn't it, girls? The ‘crimson tie of kinship’ that we talk a great deal of out here is between us. The ‘Stars and Stripes’ and the ‘Union Jack’ can fly together without quarrelling which is on top. But,” he paused and looked steadily, earnestly, at the thoughtful faces before him, “my dear girls, will you let me say to you one thing?—love truth, follow it, and keep it as your most cherished possession. And now I must bring my little sermon to a close.”

A smile lighted up the seriousness of his kind face.

“You all appreciate, I know, what a brave thing Maidie Stanners has done; she is, you see, no unworthy daughter of the land that produced George Washington.”

Then to the admiring and half-shy delight of the school-girls he bent down and raised Maidie's hands to his lips with old-fashioned courtesy.

“Good-bye, little Maidie; I congratulate America, I congratulate your parents on owning such a daughter, and perhaps—who knows?—if your

  ― 113 ―
voice fulfils its promise, Australia may one day be congratulated on sending out another world's singer in its adopted daughter, Maidie Stanners.”

That evening as Maidie nestled in her father's arms she whispered:

“You aren't angry with me, are you, Daddy?”

“Angry!” Stanners' voice broke. He drew the little figure closer to him, and there was no need for words.