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An Old-fashioned Girl
by Louisa M. Alcott
AS a preface is the only place where an author can with propriety
explain a purpose or apologize for shortcomingsI venture to avail
myself of the privilege to make a statement for the benefit of my
As the first part of "An Old-Fashioned Girl" was written in 1869
the demand for a sequelin beseeching little letters that made
refusal impossiblerendered it necessary to carry my heroine
boldly forward some six or seven years into the future. The
domestic nature of the story makes this audacious proceeding
possible; while the lively fancies of my young readers will supply
all deficienciesand overlook all discrepancies.
This explanation willI trustrelieve those well-regulated minds
who cannot conceive of such literary lawlessnessfrom the
bewilderment which they suffered when the same experiment was
tried in a former book.
The "Old-Fashioned Girl" is not intended as a perfect modelbut as
a possible improvement upon [Page] the Girl of the Periodwho
seems sorrowfully ignorant or ashamed of the good old fashions
which make woman truly beautiful and honoredandthrough her
render home what it should be-a happy placewhere parents and
childrenbrothers and sisterslearn to love and know and help one
If the history of Polly's girlish experiences suggests a hint or
insinuates a lessonI shall feel thatin spite of many obstaclesI
have not entirely neglected my duty toward the little men and
womenfor whom it is an honor and a pleasure to writesince in
them I have always found my kindest patronsgentlest critics
L. M. A.
Chapter 1. Polly Arrives
Chapter 2. New Fashions
Chapter 3. Polly's Troubles
Chapter 4. Little Things
Chapter 5. Scrapes
Chapter 6. Grandma
Chapter 7. Good-by
Chapter 8. Six Years Afterward
Chapter 9. Lessons
Chapter 10. Brothers and Sisters
Chapter 11. Needles and Tongues
Chapter 12. Forbidden Fruit
Chapter 13. The Sunny Side
Chapter 14. Nipped in the Bud
Chapter 15. Breakers Ahead
Chapter 16. A Dress Parade
Chapter 17. Playing Grandmother
Chapter 18. The Woman Who Did Not Dare
Chapter 19. Tom's Success
An Old-fashioned Girl
CHAPTER I POLLY ARRIVES
IT 'S time to go to the station, Tom.
Come on, then.
Oh, I 'm not going; it 's too wet. Should n't have a crimp left if I
went out such a day as this; and I want to look nice when Polly
You don't expect me to go and bring home a strange girl alone, do
you?And Tom looked as much alarmed as if his sister had
proposed to him to escort the wild woman of Australia.
Of course I do. It 's your place to go and get her; and if you was n't
a bear, you 'd like it.
Well, I call that mean! I supposed I 'd got to go; but you said you
'd go, too. Catch me bothering about your friends another time!
No, sir! And Tom rose from the sofa with an air of indignant
resolutionthe impressive effect of which was somewhat damaged
by a tousled headand the hunched appearance of his garments
Now, don't be cross; and I 'll get mamma to let you have that
horrid Ned Miller, that you are so fond of, come and make you a
visit after Polly 's gone,said Fannyhoping to soothe his ruffled
How long is she going to stay?demanded Tommaking his toilet
by a promiscuous shake.
A month or two, maybe. She 's ever so nice; and I shall keep her
as long as she 's happy.
She won't stay long then, if I can help it,muttered Tomwho
regarded girls as a very unnecessary portion of creation. Boys of
fourteen are apt to think soand perhaps it is a wise arrangement;
forbeing fond of turning somersaultsthey have an opportunity of
indulging in a good onemetaphorically speakingwhenthree or
four years laterthey become the abject slaves of "those bothering
Look here! how am I going to know the creature? I never saw her,
and she never saw me. You 'll have to come too, Fan,he added
pausing on his way to the doorarrested by the awful idea that he
might have to address several strange girls before he got the right
You 'll find her easy enough; she 'll probably be standing round
looking for us. I dare say she 'll know you, though I 'm not there,
because I 've described you to her.
Guess she won't, then;and Tom gave a hasty smooth to his curly
pate and a glance at the mirrorfeeling sure that his sister had n't
done him justice. Sisters never doas "we fellows" know too well.
Do go along, or you 'll be too late; and then, what will Polly think
of me?cried Fannywith the impatient poke which is peculiarly
aggravating to masculine dignity.
She 'll think you cared more about your frizzles than your friends,
and she 'll be about right, too.
Feeling that he said rather a neat and cutting thingTom sauntered
leisurely awayperfectly conscious that it was latebut bent on not
being hurried while in sightthough he ran himself off his legs to
make up for it afterward.
If I was the President, I 'd make a law to shut up all boys till they
were grown; for they certainly are the most provoking toads in the
world,said Fannyas she watched the slouchy figure of her
brother strolling down the street. She might have changed her
mindhoweverif she had followed himfor as soon as he turned
the cornerhis whole aspect altered; his hands came out of his
pocketshe stopped whistlingbuttoned his jacketgave his cap a
pulland went off at a great pace.
The train was just in when he reached the stationpanting like a
race-horseand as red as a lobster with the wind and the run.
Suppose she 'll wear a top-knot and a thingumbob, like every one
else; and however shall I know her? Too bad of Fan to make me
come alone!thought Tomas he stood watching the crowd stream
through the depotand feeling rather daunted at the array of young
ladies who passed. As none of them seemed looking for any one
he did not accost thembut eyed each new batch with the air of a
martyr. "That 's her he said to himself, as he presently caught
sight of a girl in gorgeous array, standing with her hands folded,
and a very small hat perched on the top of a very large chig-non
as Tom pronounced it. I suppose I 've got to speak to herso here
goes;" andnerving himself to the taskTom slowly approached
the damselwho looked as if the wind had blown her clothes into
ragssuch a flapping of sashesscallopsrufflescurlsand feathers
I say, if you please, is your name Polly Milton?meekly asked
Tompausing before the breezy stranger.
No, it is n't,answered the young ladywith a cool stare that
utterly quenched him.
Where in thunder is she?growled Tomwalking off in high
dudgeon. The quick tap of feet behind him made him turn in time
to see a fresh-faced little girl running down the long stationand
looking as if she rather liked it. As she smiledand waved her bag
at himhe stopped and waited for hersaying to himselfHullo! I
wonder if that 's Polly?
Up came the little girlwith her hand outand a half-shy
half-merry look in her blue eyesas she saidinquiringlyThis is
Tom, is n't it?
Yes. How did you know?and Tom got over the ordeal of
hand-shaking without thinking of ithe was so surprised.
Oh, Fan told me you 'd got curly hair, and a funny nose, and kept
whistling, and wore a gray cap pulled over your eyes; so I knew
you directly.And Polly nodded at him in the most friendly
mannerhaving politely refrained from calling the hair "red the
nose a pug and the cap old all of which facts Fanny had
carefully impressed upon her memory.
Where are your trunks?" asked Tomas he was reminded of his
duty by her handing him the bagwhich he had not offered to take.
Father told me not to wait for any one, else I 'd lose my chance of
a hack; so I gave my check to a man, and there he is with my
trunk;and Polly walked off after her one modest piece of
baggagefollowed by Tomwho felt a trifle depressed by his own
remissness in polite attentions. "She is n't a bit of a young lady
thank goodness! Fan did n't tell me she was pretty. Don't look like
city girlsnor act like 'emneither he thought, trudging in the
rear, and eyeing with favor the brown curls bobbing along in front.
As the carriage drove off, Polly gave a little bounce on the springy
seat, and laughed like a delighted child. I do like to ride in these
nice hacksand see all the fine thingsand have a good timedon't
you?" she saidcomposing herself the next minuteas if it
suddenly occurred to her that she was going a-visiting.
Not much,said Tomnot minding what he saidfor the fact that
he was shut up with the strange girl suddenly oppressed his soul.
How 's Fan? Why did n't she come, too?asked Pollytrying to
look demurewhile her eyes danced in spite of her.
Afraid of spoiling her crinkles;and Tom smiledfor this base
betrayal of confidence made him feel his own man again.
You and I don't mind dampness. I 'm much obliged to you for
coming to take care of me.
It was kind of Polly to say thatand Tom felt it; for his red crop
was a tender pointand to be associated with Polly's pretty brown
curls seemed to lessen its coppery glow. Then he had n't done
anything for her but carry the bag a few steps; yetshe thanked
him. He felt gratefuland in a burst of confidenceoffered a
handful of peanutsfor his pockets were always supplied with this
agreeable delicacyand he might be traced anywhere by the trail of
shells he left behind him.
As soon as he had done ithe remembered that Fanny considered
them vulgarand felt that he had disgraced his family. So he stuck
his head out of the windowand kept it there so longthat Polly
asked if anything was the matter. "Pooh! who cares for a
countrified little thing like her said Tom manfully to himself; and
then the spirit of mischief entered in and took possession of him.
He 's pretty drunk; but I guess he can hold his horses replied this
evil-minded boy, with an air of calm resignation.
Is the man tipsy? Ohdear! let 's get out! Are the horses bad? It 's
very steep here; do you think it 's safe?" cried poor Pollymaking a
cocked hat of her little beaverby thrusting it out of the half-open
window on her side.
There 's plenty of folks to pick us up if anything happens; but
perhaps it would be safer if I got out and sat with the man;and
Tom quite beamed with the brilliancy of this sudden mode of
Oh, do, if you ain't afraid! Mother would be so anxious if
anything should happen to me, so far away!cried Pollymuch
Don't you be worried. I 'll manage the old chap, and the horses
too;and opening the doorTom vanished aloftleaving poor
victimized Polly to quake insidewhile he placidly revelled in
freedom and peanuts outsidewith the staid old driver.
Fanny came flying down to meet her "darling Polly as Tom
presented her, with the graceful remark, I 've got her!" and the air
of a dauntless hunterproducing the trophies of his skill. Polly was
instantly whisked up stairs; and having danced a double-shuffle on
the door-matTom retired to the dining-roomto restore exhausted
nature with half a dozen cookies.
Ain't you tired to death? Don't you want to lie down?said Fanny
sitting on the side of the bed in Polly's roomand chattering hard
while she examined everything her friend had on.
Not a bit. I had a nice time coming, and no trouble, except the
tipsy coachman; but Tom got out and kept him in order, so I was
n't much frightened,answered innocent Pollytaking off her
rough-and-ready coatand the plain hat without a bit of a feather.
Fiddlestick! he was n't tipsy; and Tom only did it to get out of the
way. He can't bear girls,said Fannywith a superior air.
Can't he? Why, I thought he was very pleasant and kind!and
Polly opened her eyes with a surprised expression.
He 's an awful boy, my dear; and if you have anything to do with
him, he 'll torment you to death. Boys are all horrid; but he 's the
horridest one I ever saw.
Fanny went to a fashionable schoolwhere the young ladies were
so busy with their FrenchGermanand Italianthat there was no
time for good English. Feeling her confidence much shaken in the
youthPolly privately resolved to let him aloneand changed the
conversationby sayingas she looked admiringly about the large
handsome roomHow splendid it is! I never slept in a bed with
curtains before, or had such a fine toilet-table as this.
I 'm glad you like it; but don't, for mercy sake, say such things
before the other girls!replied Fannywishing Polly would wear
ear-ringsas every one else did.
Why not?asked the country mouse of the city mousewondering
what harm there was in liking other people's pretty thingsand
saying so. "Ohthey laugh at everything the least bit oddand that
is n't pleasant." Fanny did n't say "countrified but she meant it,
and Polly felt uncomfortable. So she shook out her little black silk
apron with a thoughtful face, and resolved not to allude to her own
home, if she could help it.
I 'm so poorlymamma says I need n't go to school regularly
while you are hereonly two or three times a weekjust to keep up
my music and French. You can go tooif you like; papa said so.
Doit 's such fun!" cried Fannyquite surprising her friend by this
unexpected fondness for school.
I should be afraid, if all the girls dress as finely as you do, and
know as much,said Pollybeginning to feel shy at the thought.
La, child! you need n't mind that. I 'll take care of you, and fix you
up, so you won't look odd.
Am I odd?asked Pollystruck by the word and hoping it did n't
mean anything very bad.
You are a dear, and ever so much prettier than you were last
summer, only you 've been brought up differently from us; so your
ways ain't like ours, you see,began Fannyfinding it rather hard
How different?asked Polly againfor she liked to understand
Well, you dress like a little girl, for one thing.
I am a little girl; so why should n't I?and Polly looked at her
simple blue merino frockstout bootsand short hairwith a
You are fourteen; and we consider ourselves young ladies at that
age,continued Fannysurveyingwith complacencythe pile of
hair on the top of her headwith a fringe of fuzz round her
foreheadand a wavy lock streaming down her back; likewiseher
scarlet-and-black suitwith its big sashlittle pannierbright
buttonspointsrosettesandheaven knows what. There was a
locket on her neckearrings tinkling in her earswatch and chain at
her beltand several rings on a pair of hands that would have been
improved by soap and water.
Polly's eye went from one little figure to the otherand she thought
that Fanny looked the oddest of the two; for Polly lived in a quiet
country townand knew very little of city fashions. She was rather
impressed by the elegance about hernever having seen Fanny's
home beforeas they got acquainted while Fanny paid a visit to a
friend who lived near Polly. But she did n't let the contrast between
herself and Fan trouble her; for in a minute she laughed and said
contentedlyMy mother likes me to dress simply, and I don't
mind. I should n't know what to do rigged up as you are. Don't you
ever forget to lift your sash and fix those puffy things when you sit
Before Fanny could answera scream from below made both
listen. "It 's only Maud; she fusses all day long began Fanny; and
the words were hardly out of her mouth, when the door was thrown
open, and a little girl, of six or seven, came roaring in. She stopped
at sight of Polly, stared a minute, then took up her roar just where
she left it, and cast herself into Fanny's lap, exclaiming wrathfully,
Tom 's laughing at me! Make him stop!"
What did you do to set him going? Don't scream so, you 'll
frighten Polly!and Fan gave the cherub a shakewhich produced
I only said we had cold cweam at the party, last night, and he
Ice-cream, child!and Fanny followed Tom's reprehensible
I don't care! it was cold; and I warmed mine at the wegister, and
then it was nice; only, Willy Bliss spilt it on my new Gabwielle!
and Maud wailed again over her accumulated woes.
Do go to Katy! You 're as cross as a little bear to-day!said
Fannypushing her away.
Katy don't amoose me; and I must be amoosed, 'cause I 'm
fwactious; mamma said I was!sobbed Maudevidently laboring
under the delusion that fractiousness was some interesting malady.
Come down and have dinner; that will amuse you;and Fanny got
uppluming herself as a bird does before its flight.
Polly hoped the "dreadful boy" would not be present; but he was
and stared at her all dinner-timein a most trying manner. Mr.
Shawa busy-looking gentlemansaid How do you do, my dear?
Hope you 'll enjoy yourself;and then appeared to forget her
entirely. Mrs. Shawa palenervous womangreeted her little
guest kindlyand took care that she wanted for nothing. Madam
Shawa quiet old ladywith an imposing capexclaimed on seeing
PollyBless my heart! the image of her mother a sweet woman
how is she, dear?and kept peering at the new-comer over her
glassestillbetween Madam and Tompoor Polly lost her
Fanny chatted like a magpieand Maud fidgetedtill Tom
proposed to put her under the big dish-coverwhich produced such
an explosionthat the young lady was borne screaming awayby
the much-enduring Katy. It was altogether an uncomfortable
dinnerand Polly was very glad when it was over. They all went
about their own affairs; and after doing the honors of the house
Fan was called to the dressmakerleaving Polly to amuse herself in
the great drawing-room.
Polly was glad to be alone for a few minutes; andhaving
examined all the pretty things about herbegan to walk up and
down over the softflowery carpethumming to herselfas the
daylight fadedand only the ruddy glow of the fire filled the room.
Presently Madam came slowly inand sat down in her arm-chair
sayingThat 's a fine old tune; sing it to me, my dear. I have n't
heard it this many a day.Polly did n't like to sing before
strangersfor she had had no teaching but such as her busy mother
could give her; but she had been taught the utmost respect for old
peopleand having no reason for refusingshe directly went to the
pianoand did as she was bid.
That 's the sort of music it 's a pleasure to hear. Sing some more,
dear,said Madamin her gentle waywhen she had done.
Pleased with this praisePolly sang away in a fresh little voice
that went straight to the listener's heart and nestled there. The
sweet old tunes that one is never tired of were all Polly's store; and
her favorites were Scotch airssuch asYellow-Haired Laddie,
Jock o' Hazeldean,Down among the Heather,and "Birks of
Aberfeldie." The more she sungthe better she did it; and when she
wound up with "A Health to King Charlie the room quite rung
with the stirring music made by the big piano and the little maid.
By Georgethat 's a jolly tune! Sing it againplease cried Tom's
voice; and there was Tom's red head bobbing up over the high
back of the chair where he had hidden himself.
It gave Polly quite a turn, for she thought no one was hearing her
but the old lady dozing by the fire. I can't sing any more; I 'm
tired she said, and walked away to Madam in the other room.
The red head vanished like a meteor, for Polly's tone had been
The old lady put out her hand, and drawing Polly to her knee,
looked into her face with such kind eyes, that Polly forgot the
impressive cap, and smiled at her confidingly; for she saw that her
simple music had pleased her listener, and she felt glad to know it.
You must n't mind my staringdear said Madam, softly pinching
her rosy cheek. I have n't seen a little girl for so longit does my
old eyes good to look at you."
Polly thought that a very odd speechand could n't help saying
Are n't Fan and Maud little girls, too?
Oh, dear, no! not what I call little girls. Fan has been a young lady
this two years, and Maud is a spoiled baby. Your mother 's a very
sensible woman, my child.
What a very queer old lady!thought Polly; but she said "Yes 'm"
respectfullyand looked at the fire.
You don't understand what I mean, do you?asked Madamstill
holding her by the chin.
No 'm; not quite.
Well, dear, I 'll tell you. In my day, children of fourteen and
fifteen did n't dress in the height of the fashion; go to parties, as
nearly like those of grown people as it 's possible to make them;
lead idle, giddy, unhealthy lives, and get blas, at twenty. We were
little folks till eighteen or so; worked and studied, dressed and
played, like children; honored our parents; and our days were
much longer in the land than now, it seems to, me.
The old lady appeared to forget Polly at the end of her speech; for
she sat patting the plump little hand that lay in her ownand
looking up at a faded picture of an old gentleman with a ruffled
shirt and a queue.
Was he your father, Madam?
Yesdear; my honored father. I did up his frills to the day of his
death; and the first money I ever earned was five dollars which he
offered as a prize to whichever of his six girls would lay the
handsomest darn in his silk stockings."
How proud you must have been!cried Pollyleaning on the old
lady's knee with an interested face.
Yes, and we all learned to make bread, and cook, and wore little
chintz gowns, and were as gay and hearty as kittens. All lived to be
grandmothers and fathers; and I 'm the last, seventy, next birthday,
my dear, and not worn out yet; though daughter Shaw is an invalid
That 's the way I was brought up, and that 's why Fan calls me
old-fashioned, I suppose. Tell more about your papa, please; I like
Say 'father.' We never called him papa; and if one of my brothers
had addressed him as 'governor,' as boys do now, I really think he
'd have him cut off with a shilling.
Madam raised her voice in saying thisand nodded significantly;
but a mild snore from the other room seemed to assure her that it
was a waste of shot to fire in that direction.
Before she could continuein came Fanny with the joyful news
that Clara Bird had invited them both to go to the theatre with her
that very eveningand would call for them at seven o'clock. Polly
was so excited by this sudden plunge into the dissipations of city
lifethat she flew about like a distracted butterflyand hardly knew
what happenedtill she found herself seated before the great green
curtain in the brilliant theatre. Old Mr. Bird sat on one sideFanny
on the otherand both let her alonefor which she was very
gratefulas her whole attention was so absorbed in the scene
around herthat she could n't talk.
Polly had never been much to the theatre; and the few plays she
had seen were the good old fairy talesdramatized to suit young
beholderslivelybrightand full of the harmless nonsense which
brings the laugh without the blush. That night she saw one of the
new spectacles which have lately become the rageand run for
hundreds of nightsdazzlingexcitingand demoralizing the
spectator by every allurement French ingenuity can inventand
American prodigality execute. Never mind what its name wasit
was very gorgeousvery vulgarand very fashionable; soof
courseit was much admiredand every one went to see it. At first
Polly thought she had got into fairy-landand saw only the
sparkling creatures who danced and sung in a world of light and
beauty; butpresentlyshe began to listen to the songs and
conversationand then the illusion vanished; for the lovely
phantoms sang negro melodiestalked slangand were a disgrace
to the good old-fashioned elves whom she knew and loved so well.
Our little girl was too innocent to understand half the jokesand
often wondered what people were laughing at; butas the first
enchantment subsidedPolly began to feel uncomfortableto be
sure her mother would n't like to have her thereand to wish she
had n't come. Somehowthings seemed to get worse and worseas
the play went on; for our small spectator was being rapidly
enlightened by the gossip going on all about heras well as by her
own quick eyes and girlish instincts. When four-and-twenty girls
dressed as jockeyscame prancing on to the stagecracking their
whipsstamping the heels of their topbootsand winking at the
audiencePolly did not think it at all funnybut looked disgusted
and was glad when they were gone; but when another set appeared
in a costume consisting of gauze wingsand a bit of gold fringe
round the waistpoor unfashionable Polly did n't know what to do;
for she felt both frightened and indignantand sat with her eyes on
her play-billand her cheeks getting hotter and hotter every
What are you blushing so for?asked Fannyas the painted sylphs
I 'm so ashamed of those girls,whispered Pollytaking a long
breath of relief.
You little goose, it 's just the way it was done in Paris, and the
dancing is splendid. It seems queer at first; but you 'll get used to
it, as I did.
I 'll never come again,said Pollydecidedly; for her innocent
nature rebelled against the spectaclewhichas yetgave her more
pain than pleasure. She did not know how easy it was to "get used
to it as Fanny did; and it was well for her that the temptation was
not often offered. She could not explain the feeling; but she was
glad when the play was done, and they were safe at home, where
kind grandma was waiting to see them comfortably into bed.
Did you have a good timedear?" she askedlooking at Polly's
feverish cheeks and excited eyes.
I don't wish to be rude, but I did n't,answered Polly. "Some of it
was splendid; but a good deal of it made me want to go under the
seat. People seemed to like itbut I don't think it was proper."
As Polly freed her mindand emphasized her opinion with a
decided rap of the boot she had just taken offFanny laughedand
saidwhile she pirouetted about the roomlike Mademoiselle
TheresePolly was shocked, grandma. Her eyes were as big as
saucers. her face as red as my sash, and once I thought she was
going to cry. Some of it was rather queer; but, of course, it was
proper, or all our set would n't go. I heard Mrs. Smythe Perkins
say, 'It was charming; so like dear Paris;' and she has lived abroad;
so, of course, she knows what is what.
I don't care if she has. I know it was n't proper for little girls to
see, or I should n't have been so ashamed!cried sturdy Polly
perplexedbut not convincedeven by Mrs. Smythe Perkins.
I think you are right, my dear; but you have lived in the country,
and have n't yet learned that modesty has gone out of fashion.
And with a good-night kissgrandma left Polly to dream dreadfully
of dancing in jockey costumeon a great stage; while Tom played
a big drum in the orchestra; and the audience all wore the faces of
her father and motherlooking sorrowfully at herwith eyes like
saucersand faces as red as Fanny's sash.
CHAPTER II NEW FASHIONS
I 'M going to school this morning; so come up and get ready,said
Fannya day or two afteras she left the late breakfast-table.
You look very nice; what have you got to do?asked Polly
following her into the hall.
Prink half an hour, and put on her wad,answered the irreverent
Tomwhose preparations for school consisted in flinging his cap
on to his headand strapping up several big booksthat looked as if
they were sometimes used as weapons of defence.
What is a wad?asked Pollywhile Fanny marched up without
deigning any reply.
Somebody's hair on the top of her head in the place where it ought
not to be;and Tom went whistling away with an air of sublime
indifference as to the state of his own "curly pow."
Why must you be so fine to go to school?asked Pollywatching
Fan arrange the little frizzles on her foreheadand settle the
various streamers and festoons belonging to her dress.
All the girls do; and it 's proper, for you never know who you may
meet. I 'm going to walk, after my lessons, so I wish you 'd wear
your best hat and sack,answered Fannytrying to stick her own
hat on at an angle which defied all the laws of gravitation.
I will, if you don't think this is nice enough. I like the other best,
because it has a feather; but this is warmer, so I wear it every day.
And Polly ran into her own roomto prink alsofearing that her
friend might be ashamed of her plain costume. "Won't your hands
be cold in kid gloves?" she saidas they went down the snowy
streetwith a north wind blowing in their faces.
Yes, horrid cold; but my muff is so big, I won't carry it. Mamma
won't have it cut up, and my ermine one must be kept for best;
and Fanny smoothed her Bismark kids with an injured air.
I suppose my gray squirrel is ever so much too big; but it 's nice
and cosy, and you may warm your hands in it if you want to,said
Pollysurveying her new woollen gloves with a dissatisfied look
though she had thought them quite elegant before.
Perhaps I will, by and by. Now, Polly, don't you be shy. I 'll only
introduce two or three of the girls; and you need n't mind old
Monsieur a bit, or read if you don't want to. We shall be in the
anteroom; so you 'll only see about a dozen, and they will be so
busy, they won't mind you much.
I guess I won't read, but sit and look on. I like to watch people,
everything is so new and queer here.
But Polly did feel and look very shywhen she was ushered into a
room full of young ladiesas they seemed to herall very much
dressedall talking togetherand all turning to examine the
new-comer with a cool stare which seemed to be as much the
fashion as eye-glasses. They nodded affably when Fanny
introduced hersaid something civiland made room for her at the
table round which they sat waiting for Monsieur. Several of the
more frolicsome were imitating the Grecian Bendsome were
putting their heads together over little notesnearly all were eating
confectioneryand the entire twelve chattered like magpies. Being
politely supplied with caramelsPolly sat looking and listening
feeling very young and countrified among these elegant young
Girls, do you know that Carrie has gone abroad? There has been
so much talk, her father could n't bear it, and took the whole
family off. Is n't that gay?said one lively damselwho had just
I should think they 'd better go. My mamma says, if I 'd been
going to that school, she 'd have taken me straight away,answered
another girlwith an important air.
Carrie ran away with an Italian music-teacher, and it got into the
papers, and made a great stir,explained the first speaker to Polly
who looked mystified.
How dreadful!cried Polly.
I think it was fun. She was only sixteen, and he was perfectly
splendid; and she has plenty of money, and every one talked about
it; and when she went anywhere, people looked, you know, and
she liked it; but her papa is an old poke, so he 's sent them all
away. It 's too bad, for she was the jolliest thing I ever knew.
Polly had nothing to say to lively Miss Belle; but Fanny observed
I like to read about such things; but it 's so inconvenient to have it
happen right here, because it makes it harder for us. I wish you
could have heard my papa go on. He threatened to send a maid to
school with me every day, as they do in New York, to be sure I
come all right. Did you ever?That 's because it came out that
Carrie used to forge excuses in her mamma's name, and go
promenading with her Oreste, when they thought her safe at
school. Oh, was n't she a sly minx?cried Belleas if she rather
admired the trick.
I think a little fun is all right; and there 's no need of making a
talk, if, now and then, some one does run off like Carrie. Boys do
as they like; and I don't see why girls need to be kept so dreadfully
close. I 'd like to see anybody watching and guarding me!added
another dashing young lady.
It would take a policeman to do that, Trix, or a little man in a tall
hat,said Fannyslylywhich caused a general laughand made
Beatrice toss her head coquettishly.
Oh, have you read 'The Phantom Bride'? It 's perfectly thrilling!
There 's a regular rush for it at the library; but some prefer
'Breaking a Butterfly.' Which do you like best?asked a pale girl of
Pollyin one of the momentary lulls which occurred.
I have n't read either.
You must, then. I adore Guy Livingston's books, and Yates's.
'Ouida's' are my delight, only they are so long, I get worn out
before I 'm through.
I have n't read anything but one of the Muhlbach novels since I
came. I like those, because there is history in them,said Polly
glad to have a word to say for herself.
Those are well enough for improving reading; but I like real
exciting novels; don't you?
Polly was spared the mortification of owning that she had never
read anyby the appearance of Mousieura gray-headed old
Frenchmanwho went through his task with the resigned air of one
who was used to being the victim of giggling school-girls. The
young ladies gabbled over the lessonwrote an exerciseand read a
little French history. But it did not seem to make much impression
upon themthough Monsieur was very ready to explain; and Polly
quite blushed for her friendwhenon being asked what famous
Frenchman fought in our Revolutionshe answered Lamartine
instead of Lafayette.
The hour was soon over; and when Fan had taken a music lesson in
another roomwhile Polly looked onit was time for recess. The
younger girls walked up and down the courtarm in armeating
bread an butter; others stayed in the school-room to read and
gossip; but BelleTrixand Fanny went to lunch at a fashionable
ice-cream saloon near byand Polly meekly followednot daring to
hint at the ginger-bread grandma had put in her pocket for
luncheon. So the honestbrown cookies crumbled away in
obscuritywhile Polly tried to satisfy her hearty appetite on one ice
and three macaroons.
The girls seemed in great spiritsparticularly after they were
joined by a short gentleman with such a young face that Polly
would have called him a boyif he had not worn a tall beaver.
Escorted by this impressive youthFanny left her unfortunate
friends to return to schooland went to walkas she called a slow
promenade down the most crowded streets. Polly discreetly fell
behindand amused herself looking into shop-windowstill Fanny
mindful of her mannerseven at such an interesting timetook her
into a picture galleryand bade her enjoy the works of art while
they rested. Obedient Polly went through the room several times
apparently examining the pictures with the interest of a
connoisseurand trying not to hear the mild prattle of the pair on
the round seat. But she could n't help wondering what Fan found so
absorbing in an account of a recent Germanand why she need
promise so solemnly not to forget the concert that afternoon.
When Fanny rose at lastPolly's tired face reproached her; and
taking a hasty leave of the small gentlemanshe turned homeward
sayingconfidentiallyas she put one hand in Polly's muffNow,
my dear, you must n't say a word about Frank Moore, or papa will
take my head off. I don't care a bit for him, and he likes Trix; only
they have quarrelled, and he wants to make her mad by flirting a
little with me. I scolded him well, and he promised to make up
with her. We all go to the afternoon concerts, and have a gay time,
and Belle and Trix are to be there to-day; so just keep quiet, and
everything will be all right.
I 'm afraid it won't,began Pollywhonot being used to secrets
found it very hard to keep even a small one.
Don't worry, child. It 's none of our business; so we can go and
enjoy the music, and if other people flirt, it won't be our fault,
Of course not; but, then, if your father don't like you to do so,
ought you to go?
I tell mamma, and she don't care. Papa is fussy, and grandma
makes a stir about every blessed thing I do. You will hold your
tongue, won't you?
Yes; I truly will; I never tell tales.And Polly kept her word
feeling sure Fan did n't mean to deceive her fathersince she told
her mother everything.
Who are you going with?asked Mrs. Shawwhen Fanny
mentioned that it was concert-dayjust before three o'clock.
Only Polly; she likes music, and it was so stormy I could n't go
last week, you know,answered Fan; addingas they left the house
againIf any one meets us on the way, I can't help it, can I?
You can tell them not to, can't you?
That 's rude. Dear me! here 's Belle's brother Gus he always goes.
Is my hair all right, and my hat?
Before Polly could answer, Mr. Gus joined them as a matter of
course, and Polly soon found herself trotting on behind, feeling
that things were not all right though she did n't know how to
mend them. Being fond of music, she ignorantly supposed that
every one else went for that alone, and was much disturbed by the
whispering that went on among the young people round her. Belle
and Trix were there in full dress; and, in the pauses between
different pieces, Messrs. Frank and Gus, with several other
splendid fellows regaled the young ladies with college gossip,
and bits of news full of interest, to judge from the close attention
paid to their eloquent remarks. Polly regarded these noble beings
with awe, and they recognized her existence with the
condescension of their sex; but they evidently considered her only
a quiet little thing and finding her not up to society talk, blandly
ignored the pretty child, and devoted themselves to the young
ladies. Fortunately for Polly, she forgot all about them in her
enjoyment of the fine music, which she felt rather than understood,
and sat listening with such a happy face, that several true
music-lovers watched her smilingly, for her heart gave a blithe
welcome to the melody which put the little instrument in tune. It
was dusk when they went out, and Polly was much relieved to find
the carriage waiting for them, because playing third fiddle was not
to her taste, and she had had enough of it for one day.
I 'm glad those men are gone; they did worry me so talkingwhen
I wanted to hear said Polly, as they rolled away.
Which did you like best?" asked Fannywith a languid air of
The plain one, who did n't say much; he picked up my muff when
it tumbled down, and took care of me in the crowd; the others did
n't mind anything about me.
They thought you were a little girl, I suppose.
My mother says a real gentleman is as polite to a little girl as to a
woman; so I like Mr. Sydney best, because he was kind to me.
What a sharp child you are, Polly. I should n't have thought you 'd
mind things like that,said Fannybeginning to understand that
there may be a good deal of womanliness even in a little girl.
I 'm used to good manners, though I do live in the country,
replied Pollyrather warmlyfor she did n't like to be patronized
even by her friends.
Grandma says your mother is a perfect lady, and you are just like
her; so don't get in a passion with those poor fellows, and I 'll see
that they behave better next time. Tom has no manners at all, and
you don't complain of him,added Fanwith a laugh.
I don't care if he has n't; he 's a boy, and acts like one, and I can
get on with him a great deal better than I can with those men.
Fanny was just going to take Polly to task for saying "those men"
in such a disrespectful tonewhen both were startled by a
smothered "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" from under the opposite seat.
It 's Tom!cried Fanny; and with the words out tumbled that
incorrigible boyred in the faceand breathless with suppressed
laughter. Seating himselfhe surveyed the girls as if well satisfied
with the success of his prankand waiting to be congratulated upon
it. "Did you hear what we were saying?" demanded Fanny
Oh, did n't I, every word?And Tom exulted over them visibly.
Did you ever see such a provoking toad, Polly? Now, I suppose
you 'll go and tell papa a great story.
P'r'aps I shall, and p'r'aps I shan't. How Polly did hop when I
crowed! I heard her squeal, and saw her cuddle up her feet.
And you heard us praise your manners, did n't you?asked Polly
Yes, and you liked 'em; so I won't tell on you,said Tomwith a
There 's nothing to tell.
Ain't there, though? What do you suppose the governor will say to
you girls going on so with those dandies? I saw you.
What has the Governor of Massachusetts to do with us?asked
Pollytrying to look as if she meant what she said.
Pooh! you know who I mean; so you need n't try to catch me up,
as grandma does.
Tom, I 'll make a bargain with you,cried Fannyeagerly. "It was
n't my fault that Gus and Frank were thereand I could n't help
their speaking to me. I do as well as I canand papa need n't be
angry; for I behave ever so much better than some of the girls.
Bargain?observed Tomwith an eye to business.
If you won't go and make a fuss, telling what you 'd no right to
hear it was so mean to hide and listen; I should think you 'd be
ashamed of it! I 'll help you tease for your velocipede, and won't
say a word against it, when mamma and granny beg papa not to let
you have it.
Will you?and Tom paused to consider the offer in all its
Yes, and Polly will help; won't you?
I 'd rather not have anything to do with it; but I 'll be quiet, and
not do any harm.
Why won't you?asked Tomcuriously.
Because it seems like deceiving.
Well, papa need n't be so fussy,said Fanpetulantly.
After hearing about that Carrie, and the rest, I don't wonder he is
fussy. Why don't you tell right out, and not do it any more, if he
don't want you to?said Pollypersuasively.
Do you go and tell your father and mother everything right out?
Yes, I do; and it saves ever so much trouble.
Ain't you afraid of them?
Of course I 'm not. It 's hard to tell sometimes; but it 's so
comfortable when it 's over.
Let 's!was Tom's brief advice.
Mercy me! what a fuss about nothing!said Fannyready to cry
T is n't nothing. You know you are forbidden to go gallivanting
round with those chaps, and that 's the reason you 're in a pucker
now. I won't make any bargain, and I will tell,returned Tom
seized with a sudden fit of moral firmness.
Will you if I promise never, never to do so any more?asked
Fannymeekly; for when Thomas took matters into his own hands
his sister usually submitted in spite of herself.
I 'll think about it; and if you behave, maybe I won't do it at all. I
can watch you better than papa can; so, if you try it again, it 's all
up with you, miss,said Tomfinding it impossible to resist the
pleasure of tyrannizing a little when he got the chance.
She won't; don't plague her any more, and she will be good to you
when you get into scrapes,answered Pollywith her arm round
I never do; and if I did, I should n't ask a girl to help me out.
Why not? I 'd ask you in a minute, if I was in trouble,said Polly
in her confiding way.
Would you? Well, I 'd put you through, as sure as my name 's Tom
Shaw. Now, then, don't slip, Polly,and Mr. Thomas helped them
out with unusual politenessfor that friendly little speech gratified
him. He felt that one person appreciated him; and it had a good
effect upon manners and temper made rough and belligerent by
constant snubbing and opposition.
After tea that eveningFanny proposed that Polly should show her
how to make molasses candyas it was cook's holidayand the
coast would be clear. Hoping to propitiate her tormentorFan
invited Tom to join in the reveland Polly begged that Maud might
sit up and see the fun; so all four descended to the big kitchen
armed with apronshammersspoonsand pansand Polly assumed
command of the forces. Tom was set to cracking nutsand Maud
to picking out the meatsfor the candy was to be "tip-top." Fan
waited on Polly cookwho hovered over the kettle of boiling
molasses till her face was the color of a peony. "Nowput in the
nuts she said at last; and Tom emptied his plate into the foamy
syrup, while the others watched with deep interest the mysterious
concoction of this well-beloved sweetmeat. I pour it into the
buttered panyou seeand it coolsand then we can eat it
explained Polly, suiting the action to the word.
Whyit 's all full of shells!" exclaimed Maudpeering into the
Oh, thunder! I must have put 'em in by mistake, and ate up the
meats without thinking,said Tomtrying to conceal his naughty
satisfactionas the girls hung over the pan with faces full of
disappointment and despair.
You did it on purpose, you horrid boy! I 'll never let you have
anything to do with my fun again!cried Fanin a passiontrying
to catch and shake himwhile he dodged and chuckled in high
Maud began to wail over her lost delightand Polly gravely poked
at the messwhich was quite spoilt. But her attention was speedily
diverted by the squabble going on in the corner; for Fanny
forgetful of her young-ladyism and her sixteen yearshad boxed
Tom's earsand Tomresenting the insulthad forcibly seated her
in the coal-hodwhere he held her with one hand while he returned
the compliment with the other. Both were very angryand kept
twitting one another with every aggravation they could inventas
they scolded and scuffledpresenting a most unlovely spectacle.
Polly was not a model girl by any meansand had her little pets
and tempers like the rest of us; but she did n't fightscreamand
squabble with her brothers and sisters in this disgraceful wayand
was much surprised to see her elegant friend in such a passion.
Oh, don't! Please, don't! You 'll hurt her, Tom! Let him go, Fanny!
It 's no matter about the candy; we can make some more!cried
Pollytrying to part themand looking so distressedthat they
stopped ashamedand in a minute sorry that she should see such a
display of temper.
I ain't going to be hustled round; so you 'd better let me alone,
Fan,said Tomdrawing off with a threatening wag of the head
addingin a different toneI only put the shells in for fun, Polly.
You cook another kettleful, and I 'll pick you some meats all fair.
It 's pretty hot work, and it 's a pity to waste things; but I 'll try
again, if you want me to,said Pollywith a patient sighfor her
arms were tired and her face uncomfortably hot.
We don't want you; get away!said Maudshaking a sticky spoon
Keep quiet, cry-baby. I 'm going to stay and help; may n't I,
Bears like sweet things, so you want some candy, I guess. Where
is the molasses? We 've used up all there was in the jug,said
Down cellar; I 'll get it;and taking the lamp and jugTom
departedbent on doing his duty now like a saint.
The moment his light vanishedFanny bolted the doorsaying
spitefullyNow, we are safe from any more tricks. Let him thump
and call, it only serves him right; and when the candy is done, we
'll let the rascal out.
How can we make it without molasses?asked Pollythinking
that would settle the matter.
There 's plenty in the store-room. No; you shan't let him up till I
'm ready. He 's got to learn that I 'm not to be shaken by a little chit
like him. Make your candy, and let him alone, or I 'll go and tell
papa, and then Tom will get a lecture.
Polly thought it was n't fair; but Maud clamored for her candyand
finding she could do nothing to appease FanPolly devoted her
mind to her cookery till the nuts were safely inand a nice panful
set in the yard to cool. A few bangs at the locked doora few
threats of vengeance from the prisonersuch as setting the house
on firedrinking up the wineand mashing the jelly-potsand then
all was so quiet that the girls forgot him in the exciting crisis of
He can't possibly get out anywhere, and as soon we 've cut up the
candy, we 'll unbolt the door and run. Come and get a nice dish to
put it in,said Fanwhen Polly proposed to go halves with Tom
lest he should come bursting in somehowand seize the whole.
When they came down with the dish in which to set forth their
treatand opened the back-door to find itimagine their dismay on
discovering that it was gonepancandyand allutterly and
A general lament arosewhen a careful rummage left no hopes; for
the fates had evidently decreed at candy was not to prosper on this
The hot pan has melted and sunk in the snow perhaps,said
Fannydigging into the drift where it was left.
Those old cats have got it, I guess,suggested Maudtoo much
overwhelmed by this second blow to howl as usual.
The gate is n't locked, and some beggar has stolen it. I hope it will
do him good,added Pollyturning from her exploring expedition.
If Tom could get out, I should think he 'd carried it off; but not
being a rat, he can't go through the bits of windows; so it was n't
him,said Fannydisconsolatelyfor she began to think this double
loss a punishment for letting angry passions riseLet 's open the
door and tell him about it,proposed Polly.
He 'll crow over us. No; we 'll open it and go to bed, and he can
come out when he likes. Provoking boy! if he had n't plagued us
so, we should have had a nice time.
Unbolting the cellar doorthe girls announced to the invisible
captive that they were throughand then departed much depressed.
Half-way up the second flightthey all stopped as suddenly as if
they had seen a ghost; for looking over the banisters was Tom's
facecrocky but triumphantand in either hand a junk of candy
which he waved above them as he vanishedwith the tantalizing
remarkDon't you wish you had some?
How in the world did he get out?cried Fannysteadying herself
after a start that nearly sent all three tumbling down stairs.
Coal-hole!answered a spectral voice from the gloom above.
Good gracious! He must have poked up the cover, climbed into
the street, stole the candy, and sneaked in at the shed-window
while we were looking for it.
Cats got it, did n't they?jeered the voice in a tone that made
Polly sit down and laugh till she could n't laugh any longer.
Just give Maud a bit, she 's so disappointed. Fan and I are sick of
it, and so will you be, if you eat it all,called Pollywhen she got
Go to bed, Maudie, and look under your pillow when you get
there,was the oracular reply that came down to themas Tom's
door closed after a jubilant solo on the tin pan.
The girls went to bed tired out; and Maud slumbered placidly
hugging the sticky bundlefound where molasses candy is not
often discovered. Polly was very tiredand soon fell asleep; but
Fannywho slept with herlay awake longer than usualthinking
about her troublesfor her head achedand the dissatisfaction that
follows anger would not let her rest with the tranquillity that made
the rosy face in the little round nightcap such a pleasant sight to
see as it lay beside her. The gas was turned downbut Fanny saw a
figure in a gray wrapper creep by her doorand presently return
pausing to look in. "Who is it?" she criedso loud that Polly woke.
Only me, dear,answered grandma's mild voice. "Poor Tom has
got a dreadful toothacheand I came down to find some creosote
for him. He told me not to tell you; but I can't find the bottleand
don't want to disturb mamma."
It 's in my closet. Old Tom will pay for his trick this time,said
Fannyin a satisfied tone.
I thought he 'd get enough of our candy,laughed Polly; and then
they fell asleepleaving Tom to the delights of toothache and the
tender mercies of kind old grandma.
CHAPTER III POLLY'S TROUBLES
POLLY soon found that she was in a new worlda world where the
manners and customs were so different from the simple ways at
homethat she felt like a stranger in a strange landand often
wished that she had not come. In the first placeshe had nothing to
do but lounge and gossipread novelsparade the streetsand
dress; and before a week was goneshe was as heartily sick of all
thisas a healthy person would be who attempted to live on
confectionery. Fanny liked itbecause she was used to itand had
never known anything better; but Polly hadand often felt like a
little wood-bird shut up in a gilded cage. Neverthelessshe was
much impressed by the luxuries all about herenjoyed them
wished she owned themand wondered why the Shaws were not a
happier family. She was not wise enough to know where the
trouble lay; she did not attempt to say which of the two lives was
the right one; she only knew which she liked bestand supposed it
was merely another of her "old-fashioned" ways.
Fanny's friends did not interest her much; she was rather afraid of
themthey seemed so much older and wiser than herselfeven
those younger in years. They talked about things of which she
knew nothing and when Fanny tried to explainshe did n't find
them interesting; indeedsome of them rather shocked and puzzled
her; so the girls let her alonebeing civil when they metbut
evidently feeling that she was too "odd" to belong to their set.
Then she turned to Maud for companionshipfor her own little
sister was excellent companyand Polly loved her dearly. But Miss
Maud was much absorbed in her own affairsfor she belonged to a
setalso; and these mites of five and six had their "musicals
their parties, receptions, and promenades, as well as their elders;
and, the chief idea of their little lives seemed to be to ape the
fashionable follies they should have been too innocent to
understand. Maud had her tiny card-case, and paid calls, like
mamma and Fan"; her box of dainty glovesher jewel-drawerher
crimping-pinsas fine and fanciful a wardrobe as a Paris dolland
a French maid to dress her. Polly could n't get on with her at first
for Maud did n't seem like a childand often corrected Polly in her
conversation and mannersthough little mademoiselle's own were
anything but perfect. Now and thenwhen Maud felt poorlyor had
a "fwactious" turnfor she had "nerves" as well as mammashe
would go to Polly to "be amoosed for her gentle ways and kind
forbearance soothed the little fine lady better than anything else.
Polly enjoyed these times, and told stories, played games, or went
out walking, just as Maud liked, slowly and surely winning the
child's heart, and relieving the whole house of the young tyrant
who ruled it.
Tom soon got over staring at Polly, and at first did not take much
notice of her, for, in his opinion, girls did n't amount to much
anyway"; andconsideringthe style of girl he knew most about
Polly quite agreed with him. He occasionally refreshed himself by
teasing herto see how she 'd stand itand caused Polly much
anguish of spiritfor she never knew where he would take her
next. He bounced out at her from behind doorsbooed at her in
dark entriesclutched her feet as she went up stairsstartled her by
shrill whistles right in her earor sudden tweaks of the hair as he
passed her in the street; and as sure as there was company to
dinnerhe fixed his round eyes on herand never took them off till
she was reduced to a piteous state of confusion and distress. She
used to beg him not to plague her; but he said he did it for her
good; she was too shyand needed toughening like the other girls.
In vain she protested that she did n't want to be like the other girls
in that respect; he only laughed in her facestuck his red hair
straight up all over his headand glared at hertill she fled in
Yet Polly rather liked Tomfor she soon saw that he was
neglectedhustled out of the wayand left to get on pretty much by
himself. She often wondered why his mother did n't pet him as she
did the girls; why his father ordered him about as if he was a born
rebeland took so little interest in his only son. Fanny considered
him a bearand was ashamed of him; but never tried to polish him
up a bit; and Maud and he lived together like a cat and dog who
did not belong to a "happy family." Grandma was the only one who
stood by poor old Tom; and Polly more than once discovered him
doing something kind for Madamand seeming very much
ashamed when it was found out. He was n't respectful at all; he
called her "the old lady and told her he would n't be fussed
over"; but when anything was the matterhe always went to "the
old lady and was very grateful for the fussing." Polly liked him
for thisand often wanted to speak of it; but she had a feeling that
it would n't dofor in praising their affectionshe was reproaching
others with neglect; so she held her tongueand thought about it all
the more. Grandma was rather neglectedtooand perhaps that is
the reason why Tom and she were such good friends. She was even
more old-fashioned than Polly; but people did n't seem to mind it
so much in heras her day was supposed to be overand nothing
was expected of her but to keep out of everybody's wayand to be
handsomely dressed when she appeared "before people." Grandma
led a quietsolitary life in her own roomsfull of old furniture
picturesbooksand relics of a past for which no one cared but
herself. Her son went up every evening for a little callwas very
kind to herand saw that she wanted nothing money could buy; but
he was a busy manso intent on getting rich that he had no time to
enjoy what he already possessed. Madam never complained
interferedor suggested; but there was a sad sort of quietude about
hera wistful look in her faded eyesas if she wanted something
which money could not buyand when children were nearshe
hovered about themevidently longing to cuddle and caress them
as only grandmothers can. Polly felt this; and as she missed the
home-pettinggladly showed that she liked to see the quiet old
face brightenas she entered the solitary roomwhere few children
cameexcept the phantoms of little sons and daughterswhoto the
motherly heart that loved themnever faded or grew up. Polly
wished the children would be kinder to grandma; but it was not for
her to tell them soalthough it troubled her a good dealand she
could only try to make up for it by being as dutiful and affectionate
as if their grandma was her own.
Another thing that disturbed Polly was the want of exercise. To
dress up and parade certain streets for an hour every dayto stand
talking in doorwaysor drive out in a fine carriagewas not the sort
of exercise she likedand Fan would take no other. Indeedshe
was so shockedwhen Pollyone dayproposed a run down the
mallthat her friend never dared suggest such a thing again. At
homePolly ran and rodecoasted and skatedjumped rope and
raked hayworked in her garden and rowed her boat; so no wonder
she longed for something more lively than a daily promenade with
a flock of giddy girlswho tilted along in high-heeled bootsand
costumes which made Polly ashamed to be seen with some of
them. So she used to slip out alone sometimeswhen Fanny was
absorbed in novelscompanyor millineryand get fine brisk walks
round the parkon the unfashionable sidewhere the babies took
their airings; or she went insideto watch the boys coastingand to
wish she could coast tooas she did at home. She never went far
and always came back rosy and gay.
One afternoonjust before dinnershe felt so tired of doing
nothingthat she slipped out for a run. It had been a dull day; but
the sun was visible nowsetting brightly below the clouds. It was
cold but still and Polly trotted down the smoothsnow-covered
mall humming to herselfand trying not to feel homesick. The
coasters were at it with all their mightand she watched themtill
her longing to join the fun grew irresistible. On the hillsome little
girls were playing with their sledsreal little girlsin warm hoods
and coatsrubber boots and mittensand Polly felt drawn toward
them in spite of her fear of Fan.
I want to go down, but I dars n't, it 's so steep,said one of these
common children,as Maud called them.
If you 'll lend me your sled, and sit in my lap, I 'll take you down
all nice,answered Pollyin a confidential tone.
The little girls took a look at herseemed satisfiedand accepted
her offer. Polly looked carefully round to see that no fashionable
eye beheld the awful deedand finding all safesettled her freight
and spun away down hillfeeling all over the delightsome
excitement of swift motion which makes coasting such a favorite
pastime with the more sensible portion of the child-world. One
after anothershe took the little girls down the hill and dragged
them up againwhile they regarded her in the light of a gray-coated
angeldescended for their express benefit. Polly was just finishing
off with one delicious "go" all by herselfwhen she heard a
familiar whistle behind herand before she could get offup came
Tomlooking as much astonished as if he had found her mounted
on an elephant.
Hullo, Polly! What 'll Fan say to you?was his polished
Don't know, and don't care. Coasting is no harm; I like it, and I 'm
going to do it, now I 've got a chance; so clear the lul-la!And
away went independent Pollywith her hair blowing in the wind
and an expression of genuine enjoymentwhich a very red nose did
n't damage in the least.
Good for you, Polly!And casting himself upon his sledwith the
most reckless disregard for his ribsoff whizzed Tom after herand
came alongside just as she reined up "General Grant" on the broad
path below. "Ohwon't you get it when we go home?" cried the
young gentlemaneven before he changed his graceful attitude.
I shan't, if you don't go and tell; but of course you will,added
Pollysitting stillwhile an anxious expression began to steal over
her happy face.
I just won't, then,returned Tomwith the natural perversity of his
If they ask me, I shall tell, of course; if they don't ask, I think
there 's no harm in keeping still. I should n't have done it, if I had
n't known my mother was willing; but I don't wish to trouble your
mother by telling of it. Do you think it was very dreadful of me?
asked Pollylooking at him.
I think it was downright jolly; and I won't tell, if you don't want
me to. Now, come up and have another,said Tomheartily.
Just one more; the little girls want to go, this is their sled.
Let 'em take it, it is n't good for much; and you come on mine.
Mazeppa's a stunner; you see if he is n't.
So Polly tucked herself up in frontTom hung on behind in some
mysterious mannerand Mazeppa proved that he fully merited his
master's sincere if inelegant praise. They got on capitally nowfor
Tom was in his proper sphereand showed his best sidebeing
civil and gay in the bluff boy-fashion that was natural to him;
while Polly forgot to be shyand liked this sort of "toughening"
much better than the other. They laughed and talkedand kept
taking "just one more till the sunshine was all gone, and the
clocks struck dinner-time.
We shall be late; let 's run said Polly, as they came into the path
after the last coast.
You just sit stilland I 'll get you home in a jiffy;" and before she
could unpack herselfTom trotted off with her at a fine pace.
Here 's a pair of cheeks! I wish you 'd get a color like this, Fanny,
said Mr. Shawas Polly came into the dining-room after smoothing
Your nose is as red as that cranberry sauce,answered Fan
coming out of the big chair where she had been curled up for an
hour or twodeep in "Lady Audley's Secret."
So it is,said Pollyshutting one eye to look at the offending
feature. "Never mind; I 've had a good timeanyway she added,
giving a little prance in her chair.
I don't see much fun in these cold runs you are so fond of taking
said Fanny, with a yawn and a shiver.
Perhaps you would if you tried it;" and Polly laughed as she
glanced at Tom.
Did you go alone, dear?asked grandmapatting the rosy cheek
Yes 'm; but I met Tom, and we came home together.Polly's eyes
twinkled when she said thatand Tom choked in his soup.
Thomas, leave the table!commanded Mr. Shawas his
incorrigible son gurgled and gasped behind his napkin.
Please don't send him away, sir. I made him laugh,said Polly
What's the joke?asked Fannywaking up at last.
I should n't think you 'd make him laugh, when he 's always
making you cwy,observed Maudwho had just come in.
What have you been doing now, sir?demanded Mr. Shawas
Tom emergedred and solemnfrom his brief obscurity.
Nothing but coast,he saidgrufflyfor papa was always lecturing
himand letting the girls do just as they liked.
So 's Polly; I saw her. Me and Blanche were coming home just
now, and we saw her and Tom widing down the hill on his sled,
and then he dwagged her ever so far!cried Maudwith her mouth
You did n't?and Fanny dropped her fork with a scandalized face.
Yes, I did, and liked it ever so much,answered Pollylooking
anxious but resolute.
Did any one see you?cried Fanny.
Only some little girls, and Tom.
It was horridly improper; and Tom ought to have told you so, if
you did n't know any better. I should be mortified to death if any of
my friends saw you,added Fanmuch disturbed.
Now, don't you scold. It 's no harm, and Polly shall coast if she
wants to; may n't she, grandma?cried Tomgallantly coming to
the rescueand securing a powerful ally.
My mother lets me; and if I don't go among the boys, I can't see
what harm there is in it,said Pollybefore Madam could speak.
People do many things in the country that are not proper here,
began Mrs. Shawin her reproving tone.
Let the child do it if she likes, and take Maud with her. I should
be glad to have one hearty girl in my house,interrupted Mr.
Shawand that was the end of it.
Thank you, sir,said Pollygratefullyand nodded at Tomwho
telegraphed back "All right!" and fell upon his dinner with the
appetite of a young wolf.
Oh, you sly-boots! you 're getting up a flirtation with Tom, are
you?whispered Fanny to her friendas if much amused.
What!and Polly looked so surprised and indignantthat Fanny
was ashamed of herselfand changed the subject by telling her
mother she needed some new gloves.
Polly was very quiet after thatand the minute dinner was overshe
left the room to go and have a quiet "think" about the whole
matter. Before she got half-way up stairsshe saw Tom coming
afterand immediately sat down to guard her feet. He laughedand
saidas he perched himself on the post of the banistersI won't
grab you, honor bright. I just wanted to say, if you 'll come out
to-morrow some time, we 'll have a good coast.
No,said PollyI can't come.
Why not? Are you mad? I did n't tell.And Tom looked amazed at
the change which had come over her.
No; you kept your word, and stood by me like a good boy. I 'm not
mad, either; but I don't mean to coast any more. Your mother don't
That is n't the reason, I know. You nodded to me after she 'd freed
her mind, and you meant to go then. Come, now, what is it?
I shan't tell you; but I 'm not going,was Polly's determined
Well, I did think you had more sense than most girls; but you
have n't, and I would n't give a sixpence for you.
That 's polite,said Pollygetting ruffled.
Well, I hate cowards.
I ain't a coward.
Yes, you are. You 're afraid of what folks will say; ain't you,
Polly knew she wasand held her peacethough she longed to
speak; but how could she?
Ah, I knew you 'd back out.And Tom walked away with an air of
scorn that cut Polly to the heart.
It 's too bad! Just as he was growing kind to me, and I was going
to have a good time, it 's all spoilt by Fan's nonsense. Mrs. Shaw
don't like it, nor grandma either, I dare say. There 'll be a fuss if I
go, and Fan will plague me; so I 'll give it up, and let Tom think I
'm afraid. Oh, dear! I never did see such ridiculous people.
Polly shut her door hardand felt ready to cry with vexationthat
her pleasure should be spoilt by such a silly idea; forof all the
silly freaks of this fast agethat of little people playing at love is
about the silliest. Polly had been taught that it was a very serious
and sacred thing; andaccording to her notionsit was far more
improper to flirt with one boy than to coast with a dozen. She had
been much amazedonly the day beforeto hear Maud say to her
motherMamma, must I have a beau? The girls all do, and say I
ought to have Fweddy Lovell; but I don't like him as well as Hawry
Oh, yes; I 'd have a little sweetheart, dear, it 's so cunning,
answered Mrs. Shaw. And Maud announced soon after that she
was engaged to "Fweddy'cause Hawry slapped her" when she
proposed the match.
Polly laughed with the rest at the time; but when she thought of it
afterwardand wondered what her own mother would have saidif
little Kitty had put such a questionshe did n't find it cunning or
funnybut ridiculous and unnatural. She felt so now about herself;
and when her first petulance was overresolved to give up coasting
and everything elserather than have any nonsense with Tomwho
thanks to his neglected educationwas as ignorant as herself of the
charms of this new amusement for school-children. So Polly tried
to console herself by jumping rope in the back-yardand playing
tag with Maud in the drying-roomwhere she likewise gave
lessons in "nas-gim-nics as Maud called it, which did that little
person good. Fanny came up sometimes to teach them a new
dancing step, and more than once was betrayed into a game of
romps, for which she was none the worse. But Tom turned a cold
shoulder to Polly, and made it evident, by his cavalier manner that
he really did n't think her worth a sixpence."
Another thing that troubled Polly was her clothesforthough no
one said anythingshe knew they were very plain; and now and
then she wished that her blue and mouse colored merinos were
rather more trimmedher sashes had bigger bowsand her little
ruffles more lace on them. She sighed for a locketandfor the
first time in her lifethought seriously of turning up her pretty
curls and putting on a "wad." She kept these discontents to herself
howeverafter she had written to ask her mother if she might have
her best dress altered like Fanny'sand received this reply: "No
dear; the dress is proper and becoming as it isand the old fashion
of simplicity the best for all of us. I don't want my Polly to be
loved for her clothesbut for herself; so wear the plain frocks
mother took such pleasure in making for youand let the panniers
go. The least of us have some influence in this big world; and
perhaps my little girl can do some good by showing others that a
contented heart and a happy face are better ornaments than any
Paris can give her. You want a locketdeary; so I send one that my
mother gave me years ago. You will find father's face on one side
mine on the other; and when things trouble youjust look at your
talismanand I think the sunshine will come back again."
Of course it didfor the best of all magic was shut up in the quaint
little case that Polly wore inside her frockand kissed so tenderly
each night and morning. The thought thatinsignificant as she was
she yet might do some goodmade her very careful of her acts and
wordsand so anxious to keep head contented and face happythat
she forgot her clothesand made others do the same. She did not
know itbut that good old fashion of simplicity made the plain
gowns prettyand the grace of unconsciousness beautified their
little wearer with the charm that makes girlhood sweetest to those
who truly love and reverence it. One temptation Polly had already
yielded to before the letter cameand repented heartily of
Polly, I wish you 'd let me call you Marie,said Fanny one dayas
they were shopping together.
You may call me Mary, if you like; but I won't have any ie put on
to my name. I 'm Polly at home and I 'm fond of being called so;
but Marie is Frenchified and silly.
I spell my own name with an ie, and so do all the girls.
And what a jumble of Netties, Nellies, Hatties, and Sallies there
is. How 'Pollie' would look spelt so!
Well, never mind; that was n't what I began to say. There 's one
thing you must have, and that is, bronze boots,said Fan
Why must I, when I 've got enough without?
Because it 's the fashion to have them, and you can't be finished
off properly without. I 'm going to get a pair, and so must you.
Don't they cost a great deal?
Eight or nine dollars, I believe. I have mine charged; but it don't
matter if you have n't got the money. I can lend you some.
I 've got ten dollars to do what I like with; but it 's meant to get
some presents for the children.And Polly took out her purse in an
You can make presents easy enough. Grandma knows all sorts of
nice contrivances. They 'll do just as well; and then you can get
Well; I 'll look at them,said Pollyfollowing Fanny into the
storefeeling rather rich and important to be shopping in this
Are n't they lovely? Your foot is perfectly divine in that boot,
Polly. Get them for my party; you 'll dance like a fairy,whispered
Polly surveyed the daintyshining boot with the scalloped topthe
jaunty heeland the delicate toethought her foot did look very
well in itand after a little pausesaid she would have them. It was
all very delightful till she got homeand was alone; thenon
looking into her purseshe saw one dollar and the list of things she
meant to get for mother and the children. How mean the dollar
looked all alone! and how long the list grew when there was
nothing to buy the articles.
I can't make skates for Ned, nor a desk for Will; and those are
what they have set their hearts upon. Father's book and mother's
collar are impossible now; and I 'm a selfish thing to go and spend
all my money for myself. How could I do it?And Polly eyed the
new boots reproachfullyas they stood in the first position as if
ready for the party. "They are lovely; but I don't believe they will
feel goodfor I shall be thinking about my lost presents all the
time sighed Polly, pushing the enticing boots out of sight. I 'll go
and ask grandma what I can do; for if I 've got to make something
for every oneI must begin right awayor I shan't get done;" and
off she bustledglad to forget her remorse in hard work.
Grandma proved equal to the emergencyand planned something
for every onesupplying materialstasteand skill in the most
delightful manner. Polly felt much comforted; but while she began
to knit a pretty pair of white bed-socksto be tied with
rose-colored ribbonsfor her mothershe thought some very sober
thoughts upon the subject of temptation; and if any one had asked
her just then what made her sighas if something lay heavy on her
conscienceshe would have answeredBronze boots.
CHAPTER IV LITTLE THINGS
IT 'S so wainy, I can't go out, and evwybody is so cwoss they
won't play with me,said Maudwhen Polly found her fretting on
the stairsand paused to ask the cause of her wails.
I 'll play with you; only don't scream and wake your mother. What
shall we play?
I don't know; I 'm tired of evwything, 'cause my toys are all
bwoken, and my dolls are all sick but Clawa,moaned Maud
giving a jerk to the Paris doll which she held upside down by one
leg in the most unmaternal manner.
I 'm going to dress a dolly for my little sister; would n't you like to
see me do it?asked Pollypersuasivelyhoping to beguile the
cross child and finish her own work at the same time.
No, I should n't, 'cause she 'll look nicer than my Clawa. Her
clothes won't come off; and Tom spoilt 'em playing ball with her in
Would n't you like to rip these clothes off, and have me show you
how to make some new ones, so you can dress and undress Clara
as much as you like?
Yes; I love to cut.And Maud'sface brightened; for
destructiveness is one of the earliest traits of childhoodand
ripping was Maud's delight.
Establishing themselves in the deserted dining-roomthe children
fell to work; and when Fanny discovered themMaud was
laughing with all her heart at poor Clarawhodenuded of her
finerywas cutting up all sorts of capers in the hands of her merry
I should think you 'd be ashamed to play with dolls, Polly. I have
n't touched one this ever so long,said Fannylooking down with a
I ain't ashamed, for it keeps Maud happy, and will please my
sister Kitty; and I think sewing is better than prinking or reading
silly novels, so, now.And Polly stitched away with a resolute air
for she and Fanny had had a little tiff; because Polly would n't let
her friend do up her hair "like other folks and bore her ears.
Don't be crossdearbut come and do something niceit 's so dull
to-day said Fanny, anxious to be friends again, for it was doubly
dull without Polly.
Can't; I 'm busy."
You always are busy. I never saw such a girl. What in the world
do you find to do all the time?asked Fannywatching with
interest the set of the little red merino frock Polly was putting on
to her doll.
Lots of things; but I like to be lazy sometimes as much as you do;
just lie on the sofa, and read fairy stories, or think about nothing.
Would you have a white-muslin apron or a black silk?added
Pollysurveying her work with satisfaction.
Muslin, with pockets and tiny blue bows. I 'll show you how.
And forgetting her hate and contempt for dollsdown sat Fanny
soon getting as much absorbed as either of the others.
The dull day brightened wonderfully after thatand the time flew
pleasantlyas tongues and needles went together. Grandma peeped
inand smiled at the busy groupsayingSew away, my dears;
dollies are safe companions, and needlework an accomplishment
that 's sadly neglected nowadays. Small stitches, Maud; neat
buttonholes, Fan; cut carefully, Polly, and don't waste your cloth.
Take pains; and the best needlewoman shall have a pretty bit of
white satin for a doll's bonnet.
Fanny exerted herselfand won the prizefor Polly helped Maud
and neglected her own work; but she did n't care muchfor Mr.
Shaw saidlooking at the three bright faces at the tea-tableI
guess Polly has been making sunshine for you to-day.No,
indeed, sir, I have n't done anything, only dress Maud's doll.
And Polly did n't think she had done much; but it was one of the
little things which are always waiting to be done in this world of
ourswhere rainy days come so oftenwhere spirits get out of tune
and duty won't go hand in hand with pleasure. Little things of this
sort are especially good work for little people; a kind little thought
an unselfish little acta cheery little wordare so sweet and
comfortablethat no one can fail to feel their beauty and love the
giverno matter how small they are. Mothers do a deal of this sort
of thingunseenunthankedbut felt and remembered long
afterwardand never lostfor this is the simple magic that binds
hearts togetherand keeps home happy. Polly had learned this
She loved to do the "little things" that others did not seeor were
too busy to stop for; and while doing themwithout a thought of
thanksshe made sunshine for herself as well as others. There was
so much love in her own homethat she quickly felt the want of it
in Fanny'sand puzzled herself to find out why these people were
not kind and patient to one another. She did not try to settle the
questionbut did her best to love and serve and bear with eachand
the good willthe gentle heartthe helpful ways and simple
manners of our Polly made her dear to every onefor these virtues
even in a little childare lovely and attractive.
Mr. Shaw was very kind to herfor he liked her modestrespectful
manners; and Polly was so grateful for his many favorsthat she
soon forgot her fearand showed her affection in all sorts of
confiding little wayswhich pleased him extremely. She used to
walk across the park with him when he went to his office in the
morningtalking busily all the wayand saying "Good-by" with a
nod and a smile when they parted at the great gate. At firstMr.
Shaw did not care much about it; but soon he missed her if she did
not comeand found that something fresh and pleasant seemed to
brighten all his dayif a smallgray-coated figurewith an
intelligent facea merry voiceand a little hand slipped confidingly
into hiswent with him through the wintry park. Coming home
latehe liked to see a curlybrown head watching at the window;
to find his slippers readyhis paper in its placeand a pair of
willing feeteager to wait upon him. "I wish my Fanny was more
like her he often said to himself, as he watched the girls, while
they thought him deep in politics or the state of the money market.
Poor Mr. Shaw had been so busy getting rich, that he had not
found time to teach his children to love him; he was more at
leisure now, and as his boy and girls grew up, he missed
something. Polly was unconsciously showing him what it was, and
making child-love so sweet, that he felt he could not do without it
any more, yet did n't quite know how to win the confidence of the
children, who had always found him busy, indifferent, and
As the girls were going to bed one night, Polly kissed grandma, as
usual, and Fanny laughed at her, saying, What a baby you are! We
are too old for such things now."
I don't think people ever are too old to kiss their fathers and
mothers,was the quick answer.
Right, my little Polly;and Mr. Shaw stretched out his hand to her
with such a kindly lookthat Fanny stared surprisedand then said
shylyI thought you did n't care about it, father.I do, my dear:
And Mr. Shaw put out the other hand to Fannywho gave him a
daughterly kissquite forgetting everything but the tender feeling
that sprung up in her heart at the renewal of the childish custom
which we never need outgrow.
Mrs. Shaw was a nervousfussy invalidwho wanted something
every five minutes; so Polly found plenty of small things to do for
her and didthem so cheerfullythat the poor lady loved to have
the quiethelpful child nearto wait upon herread to herrun
errandsor hand the seven different shawls which were continually
being put on or off.
Grandmatoowas glad to find willing hands and feet to serve her;
and Polly passed many happy hours in the quaint roomslearning
all sorts of pretty artsand listening to pleasant chatnever
dreaming how much sunshine she brought to the solitary old lady.
Tom was Polly's rock ahead for a long timebecause he was
always breaking out in a new placeand one never knew where to
find him. He tormented yet amused her; was kind one dayand a
bear the next; at times she fancied he was never going to be bad
againand the next thing she knew he was deep in mischiefand
hooted at the idea of repentance and reformation. Polly gave him
up as a hard case; but was so in the habit of helping any one who
seemed in troublethat she was good to him simply because she
could n't help it.
What 's the matter? Is your lesson too hard for you?she asked
one eveningas a groan made her look across the table to where
Tom sat scowling over a pile of dilapidated bookswith his hands
in his hairas if his head was in danger of flying asunder with the
tremendous effort he was making.
Hard! Guess it is. What in thunder do I care about the old
Carthaginians? Regulus was n't bad; but I 'm sick of him!And
Tom dealt "Harkness's Latin Reader" a thumpwhich expressed his
feelings better than words.
I like Latin, and used to get on well when I studied it with Jimmy.
Perhaps I can help you a little bit,said Pollyas Tom wiped his
hot face and refreshed himself with a peanut.
You? pooh! girls' Latin don't amount to much anyway,was the
But Polly was used to him nowandnothing dauntedtook a look
at the grimy page in the middle of which Tom had stuck. She read
it so wellthat the young gentleman stopped munching to regard
her with respectful astonishmentand when she stoppedhe said
suspiciouslyYou are a sly one, Polly, to study up so you can
show off before me. But it won't do, ma'am; turn over a dozen
pages, and try again.
Polly obeyedand did even better than beforesayingas she
looked upwith a laughI 've been through the whole book; so
you won't catch me that way, Tom.
I say, how came you to know such a lot?asked Tommuch
I studied with Jimmy, and kept up with him, for father let us be
together in all our lessons. It was so nice, and we learned so fast!
Tell me about Jimmy. He 's your brother, is n't he?
Yes; but he 's dead, you know. I 'll tell about him some other time;
you ought to study now, and perhaps I can help you,said Polly
with a little quiver of the lips.
Should n't wonder if you could.And Tom spread the book
between them with a grave and business-like airfor he felt that
Polly had got the better of himand it behooved him to do his best
for the honor of his sex. He went at the lesson with a willand
soon floundered out of his difficultiesfor Polly gave him a lift
here and thereand they went on swimminglytill they came to
some rules to be learned. Polly had forgotten themso theyboth
committed them to memory; Tomwith hands in his pockets
rocked to and fromuttering rapidlywhile Polly twisted the little
curl on her forehead and stared at the wallgabbling with all her
Done!echoed Polly; and then they heard each other recite till
both were perfect "That 's pretty good fun said Tom, joyfully,
tossing poor Harkness away, and feeling that the pleasant
excitement of companionship could lend a charm even to Latin
Nowma'amwe 'll take a turn at algibbera. I like that as much as
I hate Latin."
Polly accepted the invitationand soon owned that Tom could beat
her here. This fact restored his equnimity; but he did n't crow over
herfar from it; for he helped her with a paternal patience that
made her eyes twinkle with suppressed funas he soberly
explained and illustratedunconsciously imitating Dominie Deane
till Polly found it difficult to keep from laughing in his face.
You may have another go at it any, time you like,generously
remarked Tomas he shied the algebra after the Latin Reader.
I 'll come every evening, then. I 'd like to, for I have n't studied a
bit since I came. You shall try and make me like algebra, and I 'll
try and make you like Latin, will you?
Oh, I 'd like it well enough, if there was any one explain it to me.
Old Deane puts us through double-quick, and don't give a fellow
time to ask questions when we read.
Ask your father; he knows.
Don't believe he does; should n't dare to bother him, if he did.
He 'd pull my ears, and call me a 'stupid,' or tell me not to worry
I don't think he would. He 's very kind to me, and I ask lots of
He likes you better than he does me.
Now, Tom! it 's wrong of you to say so. Of course he loves you
ever so much more than he does me,cried Pollyreprovingly.
Why don't he show it then?muttered Tomwith a half-wistful
half-defiant glance toward the library doorwhich stood ajar.
You act so, how can he?asked Pollyafter a pausein which she
put Tom's question to herselfand could find no better reply than
the one she gave him.
Why don't he give me my velocipede? He said, if I did well at
school for a month, I should have it; and I 've been pegging away
like fury for most six weeks, and he don't do a thing about it. The
girls get their duds, because they tease. I won't do that anyway; but
you don't catch me studying myself to death, and no pay for it.
It is too bad; but you ought to do it because it 's right, and never
mind being paid,began Pollytrying to be moralbut secretly
sympathizing heartily with poor Tom.
Don't you preach, Polly. If the governor took any notice of me,
and cared how I got on, I would n't mind the presents so much; but
he don't care a hang, and never even asked if I did well last
declamation day, when I 'd gone and learned 'The Battle of Lake
Regillus,' because he said he liked it.
Oh, Tom! Did you say that? It 's splendid! Jim and I used to say
Horatius together, and it was such fun. Do speak your piece to me,
I do so like 'Macaulay's Lays.'
It 's dreadful long,began Tom; but his face brightenedfor
Polly's interest soothed his injured feelingsand he was glad to
prove his elocutionary powers. He began without much spirit; but
soon the martial ring of the lines fired himand before he knew it
he was on his legs thundering away in grand stylewhile Polly
listened with kindling face and absorbed attention. Tom did
declaim wellfor he quite forgot himselfand delivered the stirring
ballad with an energy that made Polly flush and tingle with
admiration and delightand quite electrified a second listenerwho
had heard all that went onand watched the little scene from
behind his newspaper.
As Tom pausedbreathlessand Polly clapped her hands
enthusiasticallythe sound was loudly echoed from behind him.
Both whirled roundand there was Mr. Shawstanding in the
doorwayapplauding with all his might.
Tom looked much abashedand said not a word; Polly ran to Mr.
Shawand danced before himsayingeagerlyWas n't it
splendid? Did n't he do well? May n't he have his velocipede
Capital, Tom; you 'll be an orator yet. Learn another piece like
that, and I 'll come and hear you speak it. Are you ready for your
Polly was right; and Tom owned that "the governor" was kinddid
like him and had n't entirely forgotten his promise. The boy turned
red with pleasureand picked at the buttons on his jacketwhile
listening to this unexpected praise; but when he spokehe looked
straight up in his father's facewhile his own shone with pleasure
as he answeredin one breathThankee, sir. I 'll do it, sir. Guess I
Very good; then look out for your new horse tomorrow, sir.And
Mr. Shaw stroked the fuzzy red head with a kind handfeeling a
fatherly pleasure in the conviction that there was something in his
boy after all.
Tom got his velocipede next daynamed it Black Austerin
memory of the horse in "The Battle of Lake Regillus and came to
grief as soon as he began to ride his new steed.
Come out and see me go it whispered Tom to Polly, after three
days' practice in the street, for he had already learned to ride in the
Polly and Maud willingly went, and watched his struggles, with
deep interest, till he got an upset, which nearly put an end to his
Hithere! Auster's coming!" shouted Tomas came rattling down
the longsteep street outside the park.
They stepped asideand he whizzed byarms and legs going like
madwith the general appearance of a runaway engine. It would
have been a triumphant descentif a big dog had not bounced
suddenly through one of the openingsand sent the whole concern
helter-skelter into the gutter. Polly laughed as she ran to view the
ruin. for Tom lay flat on his back with the velocipede atop him
while the big dog barked wildlyand his master scolded him for
his awkwardness. But when she saw Tom's facePolly was
frightenedfor the color had all gone out of ithis eyes looked
strange and dizzyand drops of blood began to trickle from a great
cut on his forehead. The man saw ittooand had him up in a
minute; but he could n't standand stared about him in a dazed sort
of wayas he sat on the curbstonewhile Polly held her
handkerchief to his foreheadand pathetically begged to know if
he was killed.
Don't scare mother, I 'm all right. Got upset, did n't I?he asked
presentlyeyeing the prostrate velocipede with more anxiety about
its damages than his own.
I knew you 'd hurt yourself with that horrid thing just let it be, and
come home, for your head bleeds dreadfully, and everybody is
looking at us,whispered Pollytrying to tie the little handkerchief
over the ugly cut.
Come on, then. Jove! how queer my head feels! Give us a boost,
please. Stop howling, Maud, and come home. You bring the
machine, and I 'll pay you, Pat.As he spokeTom slowly picked
himself and steadying himself by Polly's shoulderissued
commandsand the procession fell into line. Firstthe big dog
barking at intervals; then the good-natured Irishmantrundling
that divil of a whirligig,as he disrespectfully called the idolized
velocipede; then the wounded herosupported by the helpful Polly;
and Maud brought up the rear in tearsbearing Tom's cap.
UnfortunatelyMrs. Shaw was out driving with grandmaand
Fanny was making calls; so that there was no one but Polly to
stand by Tomfor the parlor-maid turned faint at the sight of
bloodand the chamber-maid lost her wits in the flurry. It was a
bad cutand must be sewed up at oncethe doctor saidas soon as
he came. "Somebody must hold his head;" he addedas he
threaded his queer little needle.
I 'll keep still, but if anybody must hold me, let Polly. You ain't
afraid, are you?asked Tomwith imploring lookfor he did n't
like the idea of being sewed a bit.
Polly was just going to shrink awaysayingOh I can't!when she
remembered that Tom once called her a coward. Here was a
chance to prove that she was n't; besidespoor Tom had no one
else to help him; so she came up to the sofa where he layand
nodded reassuringlyas she put a soft little hand on either side of
the damaged head.
You are a trump, Polly,whispered Tom. Then he set his teeth
clenched his handslay quite stilland bore it like a man. It was all
over in a minute or twoand when he had had a glass of wineand
was nicely settled on his bedhe felt pretty comfortablein spite of
the pain in his head; and being ordered to keep quiethe said
Thank you ever so much, Polly,and watched her with a grateful
face as she crept away.
He had to keep the house for a weekand laid about looking very
interesting with a great black patch on his forehead. Every one
'petted him;' for the doctor saidthat if the blow had been an inch
nearer the templeit would have been fataland the thought of
losing him so suddenly made bluff old Tom very precious all at
once. His father asked him how he was a dozen times a day; his
mother talked continually of "that dear boy's narrow escape"; and
grandma cockered him up with every delicacy she could invent;
and the girls waited on him like devoted slaves. This new
treatment had an excellent effect; for when neglected Tom got
over his first amazement at this change of basehe blossomed out
delightfullyas sick people do sometimesand surprised his family
by being unexpectedly patientgratefuland amiable. Nobody ever
knew how much good it did him; for boys seldom have
confidences of this sort except with their mothersand Mrs. Shaw
had never found the key to her son's heart. But a little seed was
sowed then that took rootand though it grew very slowlyit came
to something in the end. Perhaps Polly helped it a little. Evening
was his hardest timefor want of exercise made him as restless and
nervous as it was possible for a hearty lad to be on such a short
He could n't sleep so the girls amused him; Fanny played and read
aloud; Polly sungand told stories; and did the latter so wellthat it
got to be a regular thing for her to begin as soon as twilight came
and Tom was settled in his favorite place on grandma's sofa.
Fire away, Polly,said the young sultanone eveningas his little
Scheherazade sat down in her low chairafter stirring up the fire
till the room was bright and cosy.
I don't feel like stories to-night, Tom. I 've told all I know, and
can't make up any more,answered Pollyleaning her head on her
hand with a sorrowful look that Tom had never seen before. He
watched her a minuteand then askedcuriouslyWhat were you
thinking about, just now, when you sat staring at the fire, and
getting soberer and soberer every minute?
I was thinking about Jimmy."
Would you mind telling about him? You know, you said you
would some time; but don't, if you 'd rather not,said Tom
lowering his rough voice respectfully.
I like to talk about him; but there is n't much to tell,began Polly
grateful for his interest. "Sitting here with you reminded me of the
way I used to sit with him when he was sick. We used to have such
happy timesand it 's so pleasant to think about them now."
He was awfully good, was n't he?
No, he was n't; but he tried to be, and mother says that is half the
battle. We used to get tired of trying; but we kept making
resolutions, and working hard to keep 'em. I don't think I got on
much; but Jimmy did, and every one loved him.
Did n't you ever squabble, as we do?
Yes, indeed, sometimes; but we could n't stay mad, and always
made it up again as soon as we could. Jimmy used to come round
first, and say, 'All serene, Polly,' so kind and jolly, that I could n't
help laughing and being friends right away.
Did he not know a lot?
Yes, I think he did, for he liked to study, and wanted to get on, so
he could help father. People used to call him a fine boy, and I felt
so proud to hear it; but they did n't know half how wise he was,
because he did n't show off a bit. I suppose sisters always are grand
of their brothers; but I don't believe many girls had as much right
to be as I had.
Most girls don't care two pins about their brothers; so that shows
you don't know much about it.
Well, they ought to, if they don't; and they would if the boys were
as kind to them as Jimmy was to me.
Why, what did he do?
Loved me dearly, and was n't ashamed to show it,cried Polly
with a sob in her voicethat made her answer very eloquent.
What made him die, Polly?asked Tomsoberlyafter little
He got hurt coasting, last winter; but he never told which boy did
it, and he only lived a week. I helped take care of him; and he was
so patient, I used to wonder at him, for he was in dreadful pain all
time. He gave me his books, and his dog, and his speckled hens,
and his big knife, and said, 'Good-by, Polly,' and kissed me the last
thing and then O Jimmy! Jimmy! If he only could come back!
Poor Polly's eyes had been getting fuller and fullerlips trembling
more and moreas she went on; when she came to that "good-by
she could n't get any further, but covered up her face, and cried as
her heart would break. Tom was full of sympathy, but did n't know
how to show it; so he sat shaking up the camphor bottle, and trying
to think of something proper and comfortable to say, when Fanny
came to the rescue, and cuddled Polly in her arms, with soothing
little pats and whispers and kisses, till the tears stopped, and Polly
said, she did n't mean toand would n't any more. I 've been
thinking about my dear boy all the eveningfor Tom reminds me
of him she added, with a sigh.
Me? How can Iwhen I ain't a bit like him?" cried Tomamazed.
But you are in some ways.
Wish I was; but I can't be, for he was good, you know.
So are you, when you choose. Has n't he been good and patient,
and don't we all like to pet him when he 's clever, Fan?' said Polly
whose heart was still aching for her brotherand ready for his sake
to find virtues even in tormenting Tom.
Yes; I don't know the boy lately; but he 'll be as bad as ever when
he 's well,returned Fannywho had n't much faith in sick-bed
Much you know about it,growled Tomlying down againfor he
had sat bolt upright when Polly made the astounding declaration
that he was like the well-beloved Jimmy. That simple little history
had made a deep impression on Tomand the tearful ending
touched the tender spot that most boys hide so carefully. It is very
pleasant to be loved and admiredvery sweet to think we shall be
missed and mourned when we die; and Tom was seized with a
sudden desire to imitate this boywho had n't done anything
wonderfulyet was so dear to his sisterthat she cried for him a
whole year after he was dead; so studious and cleverthe people
called him "a fine fellow"; and so anxious to be goodthat he kept
on tryingtill he was better even than Pollywhom Tom privately
considered a model of virtueas girls go.
I just wish I had a sister like you,he broke outall of a sudden.
And I just wish I had a brother like Jim,cried Fannyfor she felt
the reproach in Tom's wordsand knew she deserved it.
I should n't think you 'd envy anybody, for you 've got one
another,said Pollywith such a wistful lookthat it suddenly set
Tom and Fanny to wondering why they did n't have better times
togetherand enjoy themselvesas Polly and Jim did.
Fan don't care for anybody but herself,said Tom.
Tom is such a bear,retorted Fanny.
I would n't say such things, for if anything should happen to either
of you, the other one would feel so sorry. Every cross word I ever
said to Jimmy comes back now, and makes me wish I had n't.
Two great tears rolled down Polly's cheeksand were quietly
wiped away; but I think they watered that sweet sentimentcalled
fraternal lovewhich till now had been neglected in the hearts of
this brother and sister. They did n't say anything thenor make any
plansor confess any faults; but when they parted for the night
Fanny gave the wounded head a gentle pat (Tom never would have
forgiven her if she had kissed him)and saidin a whisperI hope
you 'll have a good sleep, Tommy, dear.
And Tom nodded back at herwith a hearty "Same to youFan."
That was all; but it meant a good dealfor the voices were kind
and the eyes met full of that affection which makes words of little
consequence. Polly saw it; and though she did n't know that she
had made the sunshineit shone back upon her so pleasantlythat
she fell happily asleepthough her Jimmy was n't there to say
CHAPTER V SCRAPES
AFTER being unusually goodchildren are apt to turn short round
and refresh themselves by acting like Sancho. For a week after
Tom's mishapthe young folks were quite angelicso much so that
grandma said she was afraid "something was going to happen to
them." The dear old lady need n't have felt anxiousfor such
excessive virtue does n't last long enough to lead to translation
except with little prigs in the goody story-books; and no sooner
was Tom on his legs againwhen the whole party went astrayand
much tribulation was the consequence.
It all began with "Polly's stupidity as Fan said afterward. Just as
Polly ran down to meet Mr. Shaw one evening, and was helping
him off with his coat, the bell rang, and a fine bouquet of hothouse
flowers was left in Polly's hands, for she never could learn city
ways, and opened the door herself.
Hey! what's this? My little Polly is beginning earlyafter all said
Mr. Shaw, laughing, as he watched the girl's face dimple and flush,
as she smelt the lovely nosegay, and glanced at a note half hidden
in the heliotrope.
Now, if Polly had n't been stupid as Fan said, she would have
had her wits about her, and let it pass; but, you see, Polly was an
honest little soul and it never occurred to her that there was any
need of concealment, so she answered in her straightforward way,
Ohthey ain't for mesir; they are for Fan; from Mr. FrankI
guess. She 'll be so pleased."
That puppy sends her things of this sort, does he?And Mr. Shaw
looked far from pleased as he pulled out the noteand coolly
Polly had her doubts about Fan's approval of that "sort of thing
but dared not say a word, and stood thinking how she used to show
her father the funny valentines the boys sent her, and how they
laughed over them together. But Mr. Shaw did not laugh when he
had read the sentimental verses accompanying the bouquet, and his
face quite scared Polly, as he asked, angrily, How long has this
nonsense been going on?"
Indeed, sir, I don't know. Fan does n't mean any harm. I wish I had
n't said anything!stammered Pollyremembering the promise
given to Fanny the day of the concert. She had forgotten all about
it and had become accustomed to see the "big boys as she called
Mr. Frank and his friends, with the girls on all occasions. Now, it
suddenly occurred to her that Mr. Shaw did n't like such
amusements, and had forbidden Fan to indulge in them. Ohdear!
how mad she will be. WellI can't help it. Girls should n't have
secrets from their fathersthen there would n't be any fuss
thought Polly, as she watched Mr. Shaw twist up the pink note and
poke it back among the flowers which he took from her, saying,
shortly, Send Fanny to me in the library."
Now you 've done it, you stupid thing!cried Fannyboth angry
and dismayedwhen Polly delivered the message.
Why, what else could I do?asked Pollymuch disturbed.
Let him think the bouquet was for you; then there'd have been no
But that would have been doing a lie, which is most as bad as
Don't be a goose. You 've got me into a scrape, and you ought to
help me out.
I will if I can; but I won't tell lies for anybody!cried Polly
Nobody wants you to just hold, your tongue, and let me manage.
Then I 'd better not go down,began Pollywhen a stern voice
from below calledlike BluebeardAre you coming down?
Yes, sir,answered a meek voice; and Fanny clutched Polly
whisperingYou must come; I 'm frightened out of my wits when
he speaks like that. Stand by me, Polly; there 's a dear.
I will,whispered "sister Ann"; and down they went with
Mr. Shaw stood on the ruglooking rather grim; the bouquet lay on
the tableand beside it a notedirected to "Frank MooreEsq. in a
very decided hand, with a fierce-looking flourish after the Esq."
Pointing to this impressive epistleMr. Shaw saidknitting his
black eyebrows as he looked at FannyI 'm going to put a stop to
this nonsense at once; and if I see any more of it, I 'll send you to
school in a Canadian convent.
This awful threat quite took Polly's breath away; but Fanny had
heard it beforeand having a temper of her ownsaidpertlyI 'm
sure I have n't done anything so very dreadful. I can't help it if the
boys send me philopena presents, as they do to the other girls.
There was nothing about philopenas in the note. But that 's not the
question. I forbid you to have anything to do with this Moore. He 's
not a boy, but a fast fellow, and I won't have him about. You knew
this, and yet disobeyed me.
I hardly ever see him,began Fanny.
Is that true?asked Mr. Shawturning suddenly to Polly.
Oh, please, sir, don't ask me. I promised I would n't that is Fanny
will tell you,cried Pollyquite red with distress at the
predicament she was in.
No matter about your promise; tell me all you know of this absurd
affair. It will do Fanny more good than harm.And Mr. Shaw sat
down looking more amiablefor Polly's dismay touched him.
May I?she whispered to Fanny.
I don't care,answered Fanlooking both angry and ashamedas
she stood sullenly tying knots in her handkerchief.
So Polly toldwith much reluctance and much questioningall she
knew of the walksthe lunchesthe meetingsand the notes. It was
n't muchand evidently less serious than Mr. Shaw expected; for
as he listenedhis eyebrows smoothed themselves outand more
than once his lips twitched as if he wanted to laughfor after allit
was rather comical to see how the young people aped their elders
playing the new-fashioned gamequite unconscious of its real
Oh, please, sir, don't blame Fan much, for she truly is n't half as
silly as Trix and the other, girls. She would n't go sleigh-riding,
though Mr. Frank teased, and she wanted to ever so much. She 's
sorry, I know, and won't forget what you say any more, if you 'll
forgive her this once,cried Pollyvery earnestlywhen the foolish
little story was told.
I don't see how I can help it, when you plead so well for her.
Come here, Fan, and mind this one thing; drop all this nonsense,
and attend to your books, or off you go; and Canada is no joke in
winter time, let me tell you.
As he spokeMr. Shaw stroked his sulky daughter's cheekhoping
to see some sign of regret; but Fanny felt injuredand would n't
show that she was sorryso she only saidpettishlyI suppose I
can have my flowers, now the fuss is over.
They are going straight back where they came from, with a line
from me, which will keep that puppy from ever sending you any
more.Ringing the bellMrShaw despatched the unfortunate
posyand then turned to Pollysayingkindly but gravelySet this
silly child of mine a good example and do your best for her, won't
Me? What can I do, sir?asked Pollylooking readybut quite
ignorant how to begin.
Make her as like yourself as possible, my dear; nothing would
please me better. Now go, and let us hear no more of this folly.
They went without a wordand Mr. Shaw heard no more of the
affair; but poor Polly didfor Fan scolded hertill Polly thought
seriously of packing up and going home next day. I really have n't
the heart to relate the dreadful lectures she gotthe snubs she
sufferedor the cold shoulders turned upon her for several days
after this. Polly's heart was fullbut she told no oneand bore her
trouble silentlyfeeling her friend's ingratitude and injustice
Tom found out what the matter wasand sided with Pollywhich
proceeding led to scrape number two.
Where 's Fan?asked the young gentlemanstrolling into his
sister's roomwhere Polly lay on the sofatrying to forget her
troubles in an interesting book.
Down stairs, seeing company.
Why did n't you go, too?
I don't like Trix, and I don't know her fine New York friends.
Don't want to, neither, why don't you say?
Who cares? I say, Polly, come and have some fun.
I 'd rather read.
That is n't polite.
Polly laughedand turned a page. Tom whistled a minutethen
sighed deeplyand put his hand to his foreheadwhich the black
plaster still adorned.
Does your head ache?asked Polly.
Better lie down, then.
Can't; I 'm fidgety. and want to be 'amoosed' as Pug says.
Just wait till I finish my chapter, and then I 'll come,said pitiful
All right,returned the perjured boywho had discovered that a
broken head was sometimes more useful than a whole oneand
exulting in his base stratagemhe roved about the roomtill Fan's
bureau arrested him. It was covered with all sorts of fineryfor she
had dressed in a hurryand left everything topsy-turvy. A
well-conducted boy would have let things aloneor a moral brother
would have put things to rights; being neitherTom rummaged to
his hearts contenttill Fan's drawers looked as if some one had
been making hay in them. He tried the effect of ear-ringsribbons
and collars; wound up the watchthough it was n't time; burnt his
inquisitive nose with smelling-salts; deluged his grimy
handkerchief with Fan's best cologne; anointed his curly crop with
her hair-oil; powdered his face with her violet-powder; and
finished off by pinning on a bunch of false ringletswhich Fanny
triedto keep a profound secret. The ravages committed by this
bad boy are beyond the power of language to describeas he
revelled in the interesting drawersboxesand caseswhich held
his sister's treasures.
When the curls had been put onwith much pricking of fingers
and a blue ribbon added. la Fanhe surveyed himself with
satisfactionand considered the effect so finethat he was inspired
to try a still greater metamorphosis. The dress Fan had taken off
lay on a chairand into it got Tomchuckling with suppressed
laughterfor Polly was absorbedand the bed-curtains hid his
iniquity. Fan's best velvet jacket and hatermine muffand a
sofa-pillow for pannierfinished off the costumeand tripping
along with elbows outTom appeared before the amazed Polly just
as the chapter ended. She enjoyed the joke so heartilythat Tom
forgot consequencesand proposed going down into the parlor to
Goodness, no! Fanny never would forgive us if you showed her
curls and things to those people. There are gentlemen among them,
and it would n't be proper,said Pollyalarmed at the idea.
All the more fun. Fan has n't treated you well, and it will serve her
right if you introduce me as your dear friend, Miss Shaw. Come
on, it will be a jolly lark.
I would n't for the world; it would be so mean. Take 'em off, Tom,
and I 'll play anything else you like.
I ain't going to dress up for nothing; I look so lovely, someone
must admire me. Take me down, Polly, and see if they don't call
me 'a sweet creature.'
Tom looked so unutterably ridiculous as he tossed his curls and
prancedthat Polly went off into another gale of merriment; but
even while she laughedshe resolved not to let him mortify his
Now, then, get out of the way if you won't come; I 'm going
No, you 're not.
How will you help it, Miss Prim?
So.And Polly locked the doorput the key in her pocketand
nodded at him defiantly.
Tom was a pepper-pot as to temperand anything like opposition
always had a bad effect. Forgetting his costumehe strode up to
Pollysayingwith a threatening wag of theheadNone of that. I
won't stand it.
Promise not to plague Fan, and I 'll let you out.
Won't promise anything. Give me that key, or I 'll make you.
Now, Tom, don't be savage. I only want to keep you out of a
scrape, for Fan will be raging if you go. Take off her things, and I
'll give up.
Tom vouchsafed no replybut marched to the other doorwhich
was fastas Polly knewlooked out of the three-story windowand
finding no escape possiblecame back with a wrathful face. "Will
you give me that key?"
No, I won't,said Pollyvaliantly.
I 'm stronger than you are; so you 'd better hand over.
I know you are; but it 's cowardly for a great boy like you to rob a
I don't want to hurt you; but, by George! I won't stand this!
Tom paused as Polly spokeevidently ashamed of himself; but his
temper was upand he would n't give in. If Polly had cried a little
just herehe would have yielded; unfortunately she giggledfor
Tom's fierce attitude was such a funny contrast to his dress that she
could n't help it. That settled the matter. No girl that ever lived
should giggle at himmuch less lock him up like a small child.
Without a wordhe made a grab at Polly's armfor the hand
holding the key was still in herpocket. With her other hand she
clutched her frockand for a minute held on stoutly. But Tom's
strong fingers were irresistible; rip went the pocketout came the
handand with a cry of pain from Pollythe key fell on the floor.
It 's your own fault if you 're hurt. I did n't mean to,muttered
Tomas he hastily departedleaving Polly to groan over her
sprained wrist. He went downbut not into the parlorfor
somehow the joke seemed to have lost its relish; so he made the
girls in the kitchen laughand then crept up the back wayhoping
to make it all right with Polly. But she had gone to grandma's
roomforthough the old lady was outit seemed a refuge. He had
just time to get things in orderwhen Fanny came upcrosser than
ever; for Trix had been telling her of all sorts of fun in which she
might have had a shareif Polly had held her tongue.
Where is she?asked Fanwishing to vent her vexation on her
Moping in her room, I suppose,replied Tomwho was
discovered reading studiously.
Nowwhile this had been happeningMaud had been getting into
hot water also; for when her maid left herto see a friend below
Miss Maud paraded into Polly's roomand solaced herself with
mischief. In an evil hour Polly had let her play boat in her big
trunkwhich stood empty. Since then Polly had stored some of her
most private treasures in the upper trayso that she might feel sure
they were safe from all eyes. She had forgotten to lock the trunk
and when Maud raised the lid to begin her voyageseveral objects
of interest met her eyes. She was deep in her researches when Fan
came in and looked over her shoulderfeeling too cross with Polly
to chide Maud.
As Polly had no money for presentsshe had exerted her ingenuity
to devise all sorts of giftshoping by quantity to atone for any
shortcomings in quality. Some of her attempts were successful
others were failures; but she kept them allfine or funnyknowing
the children at home would enjoy anything new. Some of Maud's
cast-off toys had been neatly mended for Kitty; some of Fan's old
ribbons and laces were converted into dolls' finery; and Tom's little
figureswhittled out of wood in idle minuteswere laid away to
show Will what could be done with a knife.
What rubbish!said Fanny.
Queer girl, is n't she?added Tomwho had followed to see what
was going on.
Don't you laugh at Polly's things. She makes nicer dolls than you,
Fan; and she can wite and dwar ever so much better than Tom,
cried Maud. "How do you know? I never saw her draw said
Here 's a book with lots of pictures in it. I can't wead the witing;
but the pictures are so funny."
Eager to display her friend's accomplishmentsMaud pulled out a
fat little bookmarked "Polly's Journal and spread it in her lap.
Only the pictures; no harm in taking a look at 'em said Tom.
Just one peep answered Fanny; and the next minute both were
laughing at a droll sketch of Tom in the gutter, with the big dog
howling over him, and the velocipede running away. Very rough
and faulty, but so funny, that it was evident Polly's sense of humor
was strong. A few pages farther back came Fanny and Mr. Frank,
caricatured; then grandma, carefully done; Tom reciting his
battle-piece; Mr. Shaw and Polly in the park; Maud being borne
away by Katy; and all the school-girls turned into ridicule with an
Sly little pussto make fun of us behind our backs said Fan,
rather nettled by Polly's quiet retaliation for many slights from
herself and friends.
She does draw well said Tom, looking critically at the sketch of
a boy with a pleasant face, round whom Polly had drawn rays like
the sun, and under which was written, My dear Jimmy."
You would n't admire her, if you knew what she wrote here about
you,said Fannywhose eyes had strayed to the written page
oppositeand lingered there long enough to read something that
excited her curiosity.
What is it?asked Tomforgetting his honorable resolves for a
She says, 'I try to like Tom, and when he is pleasant we do very
well; but he don't stay so long. He gets cross and rough, and
disrespectful to his father and mother, and plagues us girls, and is
so horrid I almost hate him. It 's very wrong, but I can't help it.'
How do you like that?asked Fanny.
Go ahead, and see how she comes down on you, ma'am,retorted
Tomwho had read on a bit.
Does she?And Fanny continuedrapidly: "As for FanI don't
think we can be friends any more; for she told her father a lieand
won't forgive me for not doing so too. I used to think her a very
fine girl; but I don't now. If she would be as she was when I first
knew herI should love her just the same; but she is n't kind to me;
and though she is always talking about politenessI don't think it is
polite to treat company as she does me. She thinks I am odd and
countrifiedand I dare say I am; but I should n't laugh at a girl's
clothes because she was pooror keep her out of the way because
she did n't do just as other girls do here. I see her make fun of me
and I can't feel as I did; and I 'd go homeonly it would seem
ungrateful to Mr. Shaw and grandmaand I do love them dearly."
I say, Fan, you 've got it now. Shut the book and come away,
cried Tomenjoying this broadside immenselybut feeling guilty
as well he might.
Just one bit more,whispered Fannyturning on a page or two
and stopping at a leaf that was blurred here and there as if tears
had dropped on it.
Sunday morning, early. Nobody is up to spoil my quiet time, and I
must. write my journal, for I 've been so bad lately, I could n't bear
to do it. I 'm glad my visit is most done, for things worry me here,
and there is n't any one to help me get right when I get wrong. I
used to envy Fanny; but I don't now, for her father and mother
don't take care of her as mine do of me. She is afraid of her father,
and makes her mother do as she likes. I 'm glad I came though, for
I see money don't give people everything; but I 'd like a little all the
same, for it is so comfortable to buy nice things. I read over my
journal just now, and I 'm afraid it 's not a good one; for I have said
all sorts of things about the people here, and it is n't kind. I should
tear it out, only I promised to keep my diary, and I want to talk
over things that puzzle me with mother. I see now that it is my
fault a good deal; for I have n't been half as patient, and pleasant as
I ought to be. I will truly try for the rest of the time, and be as good
and grateful as I can; for I want them to like me, though I 'm only
'an old-fashioned country girl.'
That last sentence made Fanny shut the bookwith a face full of
self-reproach; for she had said those words herselfin a fit of
petulanceand Polly had made no answerthough her eyes filled
and her cheeks burned. Fan opened her lips to say somethingbut
not a sound followedfor there stood Polly looking at them with an
expression they had never seen before.
What are you doing with my things?she demandedin a low
tonewhile her eyes kindled and her color changed.
Maud showed us a book she found, and we were just looking at
the pictures,began Fannydropping it as if it burnt her fingers.
And reading my journal, and laughing at my presents, and then
putting the blame on Maud. It 's the meanest thing I ever saw; and I
'll never forgive you as long as I live!
Polly saidthis all in one indignant breathand then as if afraid of
saying too muchran out of the room with such a look of mingled
contemptgriefand angerthat the three culprits stood dumb with
shame. Tom had n't even a whistle at his command; Maud was so
scared at gentle Polly's outbreakthat she sat as still as a mouse;
while Fannyconscience strickenlaid back the poor little presents
with a respectful handfor somehow the thought of Polly's poverty
came over her as it never had done before; and these odds and
endsso carefully treasured up for those at hometouched Fanny
and grew beautiful in her eyes. As she laid by the little bookthe
confessions in it reproached her more sharply that any words Polly
could have spoken; for she had laughed at her friendhad slighted
her sometimesand been unforgiving for an innocent offence. That
last pagewhere Polly took the blame on herselfand promised to
truly tryto be more kind and patientwent to Fanny's heart
melting all the coldness awayand she could only lay her head on
the trunksobbingIt was n't Polly's fault; it was all mine.
Tomstill red with shame at being caught in such a scrapeleft
Fanny to her tearsand went manfully away to find the injured
Pollyand confess his manifold transgressions. But Polly could n't
be found. He searched high and low in every roomyet no sign of
the girt appearedand Tom began to get anxious. "She can't have
run away homecan she?" he said to himselfas he paused before
the hat-tree. There was the little round hatand Tom gave it a
remorseful smoothremembering how many times he had tweaked
it half offor poked it over poor Polly's eyes. "Maybe she 's gone
down to the officeto tell pa. 'T is n't a bit like herthough.
AnywayI 'll take a look round the corner."
Eager to get his bootsTom pulled open the door of a dark closet
under the stairsand nearly tumbled over backward with surprise;
for thereon the floorwith her head pillowed on a pair of rubbers
lay Polly in an attitude of despair. This mournful spectacle sent
Tom's penitent speech straight out of his headand with an
astonished "Hullo!" he stood and stared in impressive silence.
Polly was n't cryingand lay so stillthat Tom began to think she
might be in a fit or a faintand bent anxiously down to inspect the
pathetic bunch. A glimpse of wet eyelashesa round cheek redder
than usualand lips parted by quickbreathingrelieved his mind
upon that point; sotaking couragehe sat down on the boot-jack
and begged pardon like a man.
NowPolly was very angryand I think she had a right to be; but
she was not resentfuland after the first flash was overshe soon
began to feel better about it. It was n't easy to forgive; butas she
listened to Tom's honest voicegetting gruff with remorse now and
thenshe could n't harden her heart against himor refuse to make
up when he so frankly owned that it "was confounded mean to read
her book that way." She liked his coming and begging pardon at
once; it was a handsome thing to do; she appreciated itand
forgave him in her heart some time before she did with her lips;
forto tell the truthPolly had a spice of girlish maliceand rather
liked to see domineering Tom eat humble-piejust enough to do
him goodyou know. She felt that atonement was properand
considered it no more than just that Fan should drench a
handkerchief or two with repentant tearsand that Tom should sit
on a very uncomfortable seat and call himself hard names for five
or ten minutes before she relented.
Come, now, do say a word to a fellow. I 'm getting the worst of it,
anyway; for there 's Fan, crying her eyes out upstairs, and here are
you stowed away in a dark closet as dumb as a fish, and nobody
but me to bring you both round. I 'd have cut over to the Smythes
and got ma home to fix things, only it looked like backing out of
the scrape; so I did n't,said Tomas a last appeal.
Polly was glad to hear that Fan was crying. It would do her good;
but she could n't help softening to Tomwho did seem in a
predicament between two weeping damsels. A little smile began to
dimple the cheek that was n't hiddenand then a hand came slowly
out from under the curly headand was stretched toward him
silently. Tom was just going to give it a hearty shakewhen he saw
a red mark on the wristand knew what made it. His face changed
and he took the chubby hand so gentlythat Polly peeped to see
what it meant.
Will you forgive that, too?he askedin a whisperstroking the
Yes, it don't hurt much now.And Polly drew her hand away
sorry he had seen it.
I was a beast, that 's what I was!said Tomin a tone of great
disgust. And just at that awkward minute down tumbled his
father's old beaver over his head and faceputting a comical
quencher on his self-reproaches. Of courseneither could help
laughing at that; and when he emergedPolly was sitting up
looking as much better for her shower as he did for his momentary
Fan feels dreadfully. Will you kiss and be friends, if I trot her
down?asked Tomremembering his fellow-sinner.
I 'll go to her.And Polly whisked out of the closet as suddenly as
she had whisked inleaving Tom sitting on the boot-jackwith a
How the girls made it up no one ever knew. But after much talking
and cryingkissing and laughingthe breach was healedand peace
declared. A slight haze still lingered in the air after the stormfor
Fanny was very humble and tender that evening; Tom a trifle
pensivebut distressingly politeand Polly magnanimously friendly
to every one; for generous natures like to forgiveand Polly
enjoyed the petting after the insultlike a very human girl.
As she was brushing her hair at bedtime there came a tap on her
door andopening itshe beheld nothing but a tall black bottle
with a strip of red flannel tied round it like a cravatand a
cocked-hat note on the cork. Inside were these lineswritten in a
sprawling hand with very black ink:
DEAR POLLYOpydilldock is first-rate for sprains. You put a lot
on the flannel and do up your wristand I guess it will be all right
in the morning. Will you come a sleigh-ride tomorrow? I 'm awful
sorry I hurt you.
CHAPTER VI GRANDMA
WHERE 'S Polly?" asked Fan one snowy afternoonas she came
into the dining-room where Tom was reposing on the sofa with his
boots in the airabsorbed in one of those delightful books in which
boys are cast away on desert islandswhere every known fruit
vegetable and flower is in its prime all the year round; orlost in
boundless forestswhere the young heroes have thrilling
adventureskill impossible beastsandwhen the author's
invention gives outsuddenly find their way homeladen with tiger
skinstame buffaloes and other pleasing trophies of their prowess.
Dun no,was Tom's brief replyfor he was just escaping from an
alligator of the largest size.
Do put down that stupid book, and let 's do something,said
Fannyafter a listless stroll round the room.
Hi, they 've got him!was the only answer vouchsafed by the
Where 's Polly?asked Maudjoining the party with her hands
full of paper dolls all suffering for ball-dresses.
Do get along, and don't bother me,cried Tom exasperated at the
Then tell us where she is. I 'm sure you know, for she was down
here a little while ago,said Fanny.
Up in grandma's room, maybe.
Provoking thing! you knew it all the time, and did n't tell, just to
plague us,scolded Maud.
But Tom was now under water stabbing his alligatorand took no
notice of the indignant departure of the young ladies.
Polly 's always poking up in grandma's room. I don't see what fun
there is in it,said Fanny as they went up stairs.
Polly 's a verwy queer girl, and gwandma pets her a gweat deal
more than she does me,observed Maudwith an injured air.
Let 's peek and see what they are doing,whispered Fanpausing
at the half-open door.
Grandma was sitting before a quaint old cabinetthe doors of
which stood wide openshowing glimpses of the faded relics
treasured there. On a stoolat the old lady's feetsat Pollylooking
up with intent face and eager eyesquite absorbed in the history of
a high-heeled brocade shoe which lay in her lap.
Well, my dear,grandma was sayingshe had it on the very day
that Uncle Joe came in as she sat at work, and said, 'Dolly, we
must be married at once.' 'Very well, Joe,' says Aunt Dolly, and
down she went to the parlor, where the minister was waiting, never
stopping to change the dimity dress she wore, and was actually
married with her scissors and pin-ball at her side, and her thimble
on. That was in war times, 1812, my dear, and Uncle Joe was in
the army, so he had to go, and he took that very little pin-ball with
him. Here it is with the mark of a bullet through it, for he always
said his Dolly's cushion saved his life.
How interesting that is!cried Pollyas she examined the faded
cushion with the hole in it.
Why, grandma, you never told me that story,said Fanny
hurrying infinding the prospect was a pleasant one for a stormy
You never asked me to tell you anything, my dear, so I kept my
old stories to myself,answered grandmaquietly.
Tell some now, please. May we stay and see the funny things?
said Fan and Maudeyeing the open cabinet with interest.
If Polly likes; she is my company, and I am trying to entertain her,
for I love to have her come,said grandmawith her old-time
Oh, yes! do let them stay and hear the stories. I 've often told them
what good times we have up here, and teased them to come, but
they think it 's too quiet. Now, sit down, girls, and let grandma go
on. You see I pick out something in the cabinet that looks
interesting, and then she tells me about it,said Pollyeager to
include the girls in her pleasuresand glad to get them interested in
grandma's reminiscencesfor Polly knew how happy it made the
lonely old lady to live over her pastand to have the children round
Here are three drawers that have not been opened yet; each take
one, and choose something from it for me to tell about,said
Madamquite excited at the unusual interest in her treasures.
So the girls each opened a drawer and turned over the contents till
they found something they wanted to know about. Maud was ready
firstand holding up an oddly shaped linen bagwith a big blue F
embroidered on itdemanded her story. Grandma smiled as she
smoothed the old thing tenderlyand began her story with evident
My sister Nelly and I went to visit an aunt of ours, when we were
little girls, but we did n't have a very good time, for she was
extremely strict. One afternoon, when she had gone out to tea, and
old Debby, the maid, was asleep in her room, we sat on the
door-step, feeling homesick, and ready for any thing to amuse us.
'What shall we do?' said Nelly.
Just as she spoke, a ripe plum dropped bounce on the grass before
us, as if answering her question. It was all the plum's fault, for if it
had n't fallen at that minute, I never should have had the thought
which popped into my mischievous mind.
'Let 's have as many as we wantand plague Aunt Betseyto pay
her for being so cross' I saidgiving Nelly half the great purple
'It would be dreadful naughty,' began Nelly, 'but I guess we will,'
she added, as the sweet mouthful slipped down her throat.
'Debby 's asleep. Come onthenand help me shake' I said
getting upeager for the fun.
We shook and shook till we got red in the face, but not one
dropped, for the tree was large, and our little arms were not strong
enough to stir the boughs. Then we threw stones, but only one
green and one half-ripe one came down, and my last stone broke
the shed window, so there was an end of that.
'It 's as provoking as Aunt Betsey herself' said Nellyas we sat
downout of breath.
'I wish the wind would come and blow 'em down for us,' panted I,
staring up at the plums with longing eyes.
'If wishing would do any goodI should wish 'em in my lap at
once' added Nelly.
'You might as well wish 'em in your mouth and done with it, if
you are too lazy to pick 'em up. If the ladder was n't too heavy we
could try that,' said I, determined to have them.
'You know we can't stir itso what is the use of talking about it?
You proposed getting the plumsnow let 's see you do it' answered
Nellyrather crosslyfor she had bitten the green plumand it
puckered her mouth.
'Wait a minute, and you will see me do it,' cried I, as a new
thought came into my naughty head.
'What are you taking your shoes and socks off for? You can't
climb the treeFan.' " 'Don't ask questionsbut be ready to pick 'em
up when they fallMiss Lazybones.' "With this mysterious speech I
pattered into the house bare-footed and full of my plan. Up stairs I
went to a window opening on the shed roof. Out I gotand
creeping carefully along till I came near the treeI stood upand
suddenly crowed like the little rooster. Nelly looked upand stared
and laughedand clapped her hands when she saw what I was
going to do.
'I 'm afraid you 'll slip and get hurt.' 'Don't care if I do; I 'll have
those plums if I break my neck doing it' and half slidinghalf
walking I went down the sloping rooftill the boughs of the tree
were within my reach.
Hurrah!cried Nellydancing down belowas my first shake sent
a dozen plums rattling round her.
'Hurrah!cried Iletting go one branch and trying to reach
another. But as I did so my foot slippedI tried to catch something
to hold bybut found nothingand with a crydown I felllike a
very big plum on the grass below.
Fortunately the shed was low, the grass was thick and the tree
broke my fall, but I got a bad bump and a terrible shaking. Nelly
thought I was killed, and began to cry with her mouth full. But I
picked myself up in a minute, for I was used to such tumbles; and
did n't mind the pain half as much as the loss of the plums.
'Hush! Debby will hear and spoil all the fun. I said I 'd get 'em
and I have. See what lots have come down with me.' "So there had
for my fall shook the tree almost as much as it did meand the
green and purple fruit lay all about us.
By the time the bump on my forehead had swelled as big as a nut,
our aprons were half full, and we sat down to enjoy ourselves. But
we did n't. O dear, no! for many of the plums were not ripe, some
were hurt by the birds, some crushed in falling, and many as hard
as stones. Nelly got stung by a wasp, my head began to ache, and
we sat looking at one another rather dismally, when Nelly had a
'Let 's cook 'emthen they 'll be goodand we can put some away
in our little pails for to-morrow.' " 'That will be splendid! There 's a
fire in the kitchenDebby always leaves the kettle onand we can
use her saucepanand I know where the sugar isand we 'll have a
grand time.' "In we wentand fell to work very quietly. It was a
largeopen fire-placewith the coals nicely covered upand the big
kettle simmering on the hook. We raked open the fireput on the
saucepanand in it the best of our plumswith water enough to
spoil them. But we did n't know thatand felt very important as we
sat waiting for it to boileach armed with a big spoonwhile the
sugar box stood between us ready to be used.
How slow they were, to be sure! I never knew such obstinate
things, for they would n't soften, though they danced about in the
boiling water, and bobbed against the cover as if they were doing
The sun began to get lowwe were afraid Debby would come
downand still those dreadful plums would n't look like sauce. At
last they began to burstthe water got a lovely purplewe put lots
of sugar inand kept tasting till our aprons and faces were redand
our lips burnt with the hot spoons.
'There 's too much juice,' said Nelly, shaking her head wisely. 'It
ought to be thick and nice like mamma's.' 'I 'll pour off some of
the juiceand we can drink it' said Ifeeling that I 'd made a
mistake in my cooking.
So Nelly got a bowl, and I got a towel and lifted the big saucepan
carefully off. It was heavy and hot, and I was a little afraid of it,
but did n't like to say so. Just as I began to pour, Debby suddenly
called from the top of the stairs, 'Children, what under the sun are
you doing?' It startled us both. Nelly dropped the bowl and ran. I
dropped the saucepan and did n't runfor a part of the hot juice
splashed upon my bare feetand anklesand made me scream with
Down rushed Debby to find me dancing about the kitchen with a
great bump on my forehead, a big spoon in my hand, and a pair of
bright purple feet. The plums were lying all over the hearth, the
saucepan in the middle of the room, the basin was broken, and the
sugar swimming about as if the bowl had turned itself over trying
to sweeten our mess for us.
Debby was very good to mefor she never stopped to scoldbut
laid me down on the old sofaand bound up my poor little feet
with oil and cotton wool. Nellyseeing me lie white and weak
thought I was dyingand went over to the neighbor's for Aunt
Betseyand burst in upon the old ladies sitting primly attheir tea
cryingdistractedly 'Oh, Aunt Betsey, come quick! for the
saucepan fell off the shed, and Fan's feet are all boiled purple!'
Nobody laughed at this funny messageand Aunt Betsey ran all
the way home with a muffin in her hand and her ball in her pocket
though the knitting was left behind.
I suffered a great deal, but I was n't sorry afterward, for I learned
to love Aunt Betsey, who nursed me tenderly, and seemed to forget
her strict ways in her anxiety for me.
This bag was made for my special comfortand hung on the sofa
where I lay all those weary days. Aunt kept it full of pretty
patchwork orwhat I liked betterginger-nutsand peppermint
dropsto amuse methough she did n't approve of cosseting
children upany more than I do now."
I like that vewy well, and I wish I could have been there,was
Maud's condescending remarkas she put back the little bagafter
a careful peep insideas if she hoped to find an ancient ginger-nut
or a well-preserved peppermint drop still lingering in some corner.
We had plums enough that autumn, but did n't seem to care much
about them, after all, for our prank became a household joke, and,
for years, we never saw the fruit, but Nelly would look at me with
a funny face, and whisper, 'Purple stockings, Fan!'
Thank you, ma'am,said Polly. "NowFanyour turn next."
Well, I 've a bundle of old letters, and I 'd like to know if there is
any story about them,answered Fannyhoping some romance
might be forthcoming.
Grandma turned over the little packet tied up with a faded pink
ribbon; a dozen yellow notes written on roughthick paperwith
red wafers still adhering to the foldsshowing plainly that they
were written before the day of initial note-paper and self-sealing
They are not love-letters, deary, but notes from my mates after I
left Miss Cotton's boarding-school. I don't think there is any story
about them,and grandma turned them over with spectacles before
the dim eyesso young and bright when they first read the very
Fanny was about to sayI 'll choose again,when grandma began
to laugh so heartily that the girls felt sure she had caught some
merry old memory which would amuse them.
Bless my heart, I have n't thought of that frolic this forty years.
Poor, dear, giddy Sally Pomroy, and she 's a great-grandmother
now!cried the old ladyafter reading one of the notesand
clearing the mist off her glasses.
Now, please tell about her; I know it 's something funny to make
you laugh so,said Polly and Fan together.
Well, it was droll, and I 'm glad I remembered it for it 's just the
story to tell you young things.
It was years ago began grandma, briskly, and teachers were
very much stricter than they are now. The girls at Miss Cotton's
were not allowed lights in their rooms after nine o'clocknever
went out aloneand were expected to behave like models of
propriety from morning till night.
As you may imagine, ten young girls, full of spirits and fun, found
these rules hard to keep, and made up for good behavior in public
by all sorts of frolics in private.
Miss Cotton and her brother sat in the back parlor after school
was overand the young ladies were sent to bed. Mr. John was
very deafand Miss Priscilla very near-sightedtwo convenient
afflictions for the girls on some occasionsbut once they proved
quite the reverseas you shall hear.
We had been very prim for a week, and our bottled up spirits
could no longer be contained; so we planed a revel after our own
hearts, and set our wits to work to execute it.
The first obstacle was surmounted in this way. As none of us
could get out alonewe resolved to lower Sally from the window
for she was light and smalland very smart.
With our combined pocket-money she was to buy nuts and candy,
cake and fruit, pie, and a candle, so that we might have a light,
after Betsey took ours away as usual. We were to darken the
window of the inner chamberset a watch in the little entrylight
upand then for a good time.
At eight o'clock on the appointed evening, several of us professed
great weariness, and went to our room, leaving the rest sewing
virtuously with Miss Cotton, who read Hannah More's Sacred
Dramas aloud, in a way that fitted the listeners for bed as well as a
dose of opium would have done.
I am sorry to say I was one of the ringleaders; and as soon as we
got up stairsproduced the rope provided for the purposeand
invited Sally to be lowered. It was an old-fashioned housesloping
down behindand the closet window chosen by us was not many
feet from the ground.
It was a summer evening, so that at eight o'clock it was still light;
but we were not afraid of being seen, for the street was a lonely
one, and our only neighbors two old ladies, who put down their
curtains at sunset, and never looked out till morning.
Sally had been bribed by promises of as many 'goodies' as she
could eatand being a regular madcapshe was ready for anything.
Tying the rope round her waist she crept out, and we let her safely
down, sent a big basket after her, and saw her slip round the comer
in my big sun bonnet and another girl's shawl, so that she should
not be recognized.
Then we put our night-gowns over our dressesand were laid
peacefully in bed when Betsey came upearlier than usual; for it
was evident that Miss Cotton felt a little suspicious at our sudden
For half an hour we lay laughing and whispering, as we waited for
the signal from Sally. At last we heard a cricket chirp shrilly under
the window, and flying up, saw a little figure below in the twilight.
'Oquick! quick!' cried Sallypanting with haste. 'Draw up the
basket and then get me infor I saw Mr. Cotton in the marketand
ran all the way homeso that I might get in before he came.' "Up
came the heavy basketbumping and scraping on the wayand
smellingOso nice! Down went the ropeand with a long pulla
strong pulland a pull all togetherwe hoisted poor Sally half-way
up to the windowwhensad to tellthe rope slipped and down she
fellonly being saved from broken bones by the hay-cock under
'He 's coming! he 's coming! O pull me up, for mercy sake!' cried
Sally, scrambling to her feet unhurt, but a good deal shaken.
We saw a dark figure approachingand dragged her in with more
bumping and scrapingand embraced her with rapturefor we had
just escaped being detected by Mr. Johnwhose eyes were as sharp
as his ears were dull.
We heard the front-door shut, then a murmur of voices, and then
Betsey's heavy step coming up stairs.
Under the bed went the basketand into the beds went the
conspiratorsand nothing could have been more decorous than the
appearance of the room when Betsey popped her head in.
'Master's an old fidget to send me travelling up again, just
because he fancied he saw something amiss at the window.
Nothing but a curtain flapping, or a shadder, for the poor dears is
sleeping like lambs.' We heard her say this to herselfand a
general titter agitated the white coverlets as she departed.
Sally was in high feather at the success of her exploit, and danced
about like an elf, as she put her night-gown on over her frock,
braided her hair in funny little tails all over her head, and fastened
the great red pin-cushion on her bosom for a breastpin in honor of
The other girls went to their rooms as agreed uponand all was
soon dark and still up stairswhile Miss Cotton began to enjoy
herself belowas she always did when 'her young charges' were
safely disposed of.
Then ghosts began to walk, and the mice scuttled back to their
holes in alarm, for white figures glided from room to room, till all
were assembled in the little chamber.
The watch was set at the entry doorthe signal agreed uponthe
candle lightedand the feast spread forth upon a newspaper on the
bedwith the coverlet arranged so that it could be whisked over the
refreshments at a moment's notice.
How good everything was, to be sure! I don't think I 've eaten any
pies since that had such a delicious flavor as those broken ones,
eaten hastily, in that little oven of a room, with Sally making jokes
and the others enjoying stolen sweets with true girlish relish. Of
course it was very wicked, but I must tell the truth.
We were just beginning on the cake when the loud scratching of a
rat disturbed us.
'The signal! fly! run! hide! Hush, don't laugh!' cried several
voices, and we scuttled into bed as rapidly and noiselessly as
possible, with our mouths and hands full.
A long pausebroken by more scratching; but as no one camewe
decided on sending to inquire what it meant. I went and found
Marythe picket guard half asleepand longing for her share of the
'It was a real rat; I 've not made a sound. Do go and finish; I 'm
tired of this,' said Mary, slapping away at the mosquitoes.
Back I hurried with the good news. Every one flew upbriskly.
We lighted the candle againand returned to our revel. The
refreshments were somewhat injured by Sally's bouncing in among
thembit we did n't careand soon finished the cake.
'Now let 's have the nuts,' I said, groping for the paper bag.
'They are almonds and peanutsso we can crack them with our
teeth. Be sure you get the bag by the right end' said Sally.
'I know what I 'm about,' and to show her that it was all right, I
gave the bag a little shake, when out flew the nuts, rattling like a
hail-storm all over the uncarpeted floor.
'Now you 've done it' cried Sallyas Mary scratched like a mad
ratand a door creaked belowfor Miss Cotton was not deaf.
Such a flurry as we were in! Out went the candle, and each one
rushed away with as much of the feast as she could seize in her
haste. Sally dived into her bed, recklessly demolishing the last pie,
and scattering the candy far and wide.
Poor Mary was nearly caught for Miss Cotton was quicker than
Betseyand our guard had to run for her life.
Our room was the first, and was in good order, though the two
flushed faces on the pillows were rather suspicious. Miss Cotton
stood staring about her, looking so funny, without her cap, that my
bedfellow would have gone off in a fit of laughter, if I had not
pinched her warningly.
'Young ladieswhat is this unseemly noise?' "No answer from us
but a faint snore. Miss Cotton marched into the next roomput the
same question and received the same reply.
In the third chamber lay Sally, and we trembled as the old lady
went in. Sitting up, we peeped and listened breathlessly.
'SarahI command you to tell me what this all means?' "But Sally
only sighed in her sleepand mutteredwickedly'Matake me
home. I 'm starved at Cotton's.' " 'Mercy on me! is the child going
to have a fever?' cried the old ladywho did not observe the tell
tale nuts at her feet.
'So dull, so strict! O take me home!' moaned Sally, tossing her
arms and gurgling, like a naughty little gypsy.
That last bit of acting upset the whole concernfor as she tossed
her arms she showed the big red cushion on her breast.
Near-sighted as she wasthat ridiculous object could not escape
Miss Cottonneither did the orange that rolled out from the pillow
nor the boots appearing at the foot of the bed.
With sudden energy the old lady plucked off the cover, and there
lay Sally with her hair dressed . la Topsy, her absurd breast-pin
and her dusty boots, among papers of candy, bits of pie and cake,
oranges and apples, and a candle upside down burning a hole in
At the sound of Miss Cotton's horrified exclamation Sally woke
upand began laughing so merrily that none of us could resist
following her exampleand the rooms rang with merriment far
many minutes. I really don't know when we should have stopped if
Sally had not got choked with the nut she had in her mouthand so
frightened us nearly out of our wits."
What became of the things, and how were you punished?asked
Fanin the middle of her laughter.
The remains of the feast went to the pig, and we were kept on
bread and water for three days.
Did that cure you?
Oh, dear, no! we had half a dozen other frolics that very summer;
and although I cannot help laughing at the remembrance of this,
you must not think, child, that I approve of such conduct, or
excuse it. No, no, my dear, far from it.
I call that a, tip-top story! Drive on, grandma, and tell one about
boys,broke in a new voiceand there was Tom astride of a chair
listening and laughing with all his mightfor his book had come to
an endand he had joined the party unobserved.
Wait for your turn, Tommy. Now, Polly, dear, what will you
have?said grandmalookingso lively and happythat it was very
evident "reminiscing" did her good.
Let mine come last, and tell one for Tom next,said Polly
looking roundand beckoning him nearer.
He came and sat himself cross-legged on the floorbefore the
lower drawer of the cabinetwhich grandma opened for him
sayingwith a benign stroke of the curly headThere, dear, that 's
where I keep the little memorials of my brother Jack. Poor lad, he
was lost at sea, you know. Well, choose anything you like, and I 'll
try to remember a story about it.
Tom made a rapid rummageand fished up a little broken pistol.
There, that 's the chap for me! Wish it was n't spoilt, then we 'd
have fun popping away at the cats in the yard. Now, then,
I remember one of Jack's pranks, when that was used with great
effect,said grandmaafter a thoughtful pauseduring which Tom
teased the girls by snapping the lock of the pistol in their faces.
Once upon a time,continued Madammuch flattered by the row
of interested faces before hermy father went away on business,
leaving mother, aunt, and us girls to Jack's care. Very proud he
was, to be sure, of the responsibility, and the first thing he did was
to load that pistol and keep it by his bed, in our great worriment,
for we feared he 'd kill himself with it. For a week all went well;
then we were startled by the news that robbers were about. All
sorts of stories flew through the town (we were living in the
country then); some said that certain houses were marked with a
black cross, and those were always robbed; others, that there was a
boy in the gang, for windows, so small that they were considered
safe, were entered by some little rogue. At one place the thieves
had a supper, and left ham and cake in the front yard. Mrs. Jones
found Mrs. Smith's shawl in her orchard, with a hammer and an
unknown teapot near it. One man reported that some one tapped at
his window, in the night, saying, softly, 'Is anyone here?' and when
he looked out, two men were seen to run down the road.
We lived just out of townin a lonely place; the house was old
with convenient little back windowsand five outside doors. Jack
was the only man about the placeand he was barely thirteen.
Mother and aunt were very timidand the children weren't old
enough to be of any useso Jack and I were the home-guardand
vowed to defend the family manfully."
Good for you! Hope the fellows came!cried Tomcharmed with
One day, an ill-looking man came in and asked for food,
continued grandmawith a mysterious nod; "and while he ateI
saw him glance sharply about from the wooden buttons on the
back-doorsto the silver urn and tankards on the dining-room
sideboard. A strong suspicion took possession of meand I
watched him as a cat does a mouse.
'He came to examine the premises, I 'm sure of it, but we will be
ready for him,' I said, fiercely, as I told the family about him.
This fancy haunted us alland our preparations were very funny.
Mother borrowed a rattleand kept it under her pillow. Aunt took a
big bell to bed with her; the children had little Tipthe terrierto
sleep in their room; while Jack and I mounted guardhe with the
pistoland I with a hatchetfor I did n't like fire-arms. Biddywho
slept in the atticpractised getting out on the shed roofso that she
might run away at the first alarm. Every night we arranged pit-falls
for the robbersand all filed up to bedbearing platemoney
weaponsand things to barricade withas if we lived in war times.
We waited a week and no one came, so we began to feel rather
slighted, for other people got 'a scare,' as Tom says, and after all
our preparations we really felt a trifle disappointed that we had had
no chance to show our courage. At last a black mark was found
upon our door, and a great panic ensued, for we felt that now our
time had come.
That night we put a tub of water at the bottom of the back-stairs
and a pile of tin pans at the top of the front stairsso that any
attempt to come up would produce a splash or a rattle. Bells were
hung on door handlessticks of wood piled up in dark corners for
robbers to fall overand the family retiredall armed and all
provided with lamps and matches.
Jack and I left our doors open, and kept asking one another if we
did n't hear something, till he fell asleep. I was wakeful and lay
listening to the crickets till the clock struck twelve; then I got
drowsy, and was just dropping off when the sound of steps outside
woke me up staring wide awake. Creeping to the window I was in
time to see by the dim moonlight a shadow glide round the corner
and disappear. A queer little thrill went over me, but I resolved to
keep quiet till I was sure something was wrong, for I had given so
many false alarms, I did n't want Jack to laugh at me again.
Popping my head out of the door, I listened, and presently heard a
scraping sound near the shed.
'There they are; but I won't rouse the house till the bell rings or
the pans fall. The rogues can't go far without a clatter of some sort
and if we could only catch one of them we should get the reward
and a deal of glory' I said to myselfgrasping my hatchet firmly.
A door closed softly below, and a step came creeping towards the
back-stairs. Sure now of my prey, I was just about to scream 'Jack!'
when something went splash into the tub at the foot of the
In a minute every one was awake and upfor Jack fired his pistol
before he was half out of bedand roared 'Fire!' so loud it roused
the house. Mother sprung her rattleaunt rang her bellJip barked
like madand we all screamedwhile from below came up a
regular Irish howl.
Some one brought a lamp, and we peeped anxiously down, to see
our own stupid Biddy sitting in the tub wringing her hands and
'Ochmurtherand it 's kilt I am! The saints be about us! how iver
did I come forninst this say iv watherjust crapin in quiet afther a
bit iv sthroll wid Mike Mahoneyme own b'ythat 's to marry me
intirelycome Saint Patrick's day nixt.' "We laughed so we could
hardly fish the poor thing upor listen while she explained that she
had slipped out of her window for a word with Mikeand found it
fastened when she wanted to come backso she had sat on the
rooftrying to discover the cause of this mysterious barring outtill
she was tiredwhen she prowled round the house till she found a
cellar window unfastenedafter all our careand got in quite
cleverlyshe thought; but the tub was a new arrangement which
she knew nothing about; and when she fell into the 'say' she was
bewildered and could only howl.
This was not all the damage either, for aunt fainted with the
fright, mother cut her hand with a broken lamp, the children took
cold hopping about on the wet stairs, Jip barked himself sick, I
sprained my ankle, and Jack not only smashed a looking-glass with
his bullets, but spoilt his pistol by the heavy charge put in it. After
the damages were repaired and the flurry was well over, Jack
confessed that he had marked the door for fun, and shut Biddy out
as a punishment for 'gallivanting,' of which he did n't approve.
Such a rogue as that boy was!'
But did n't the robbers ever come?cried Tomenjoying the joke
but feeling defrauded of the fight.
Never, my dear; but we had our 'scare,' and tested our courage,
and that was a great satisfaction, of course,answered grandma
Well, I think you were the bravest of the lot. I 'd like to have seen
you flourishing round there with your hatchet,added Tom
admiringlyand the old lady looked as much pleased with the
compliment as if she had been a girl.
I choose this,said Pollyholding up a long white kid glove
shrunken and yellow with timebut looking as if it had a history.
Ah, that now has a story worth telling!cried grandma; adding
proudlyTreat that old glove respectfully, my children, for
Lafayette's honored hand has touched it.
Oh, grandma, did you wear it? Did you see him? Do tell us all
about it, and that will be the best of the whole,cried Pollywho
loved historyand knew a good deal about the gallant Frenchman
and his brave life.
Grandma loved to tell this storyand always assumed her most
imposing air to do honor to her theme. Drawing herself up
thereforeshe folded her handsand after two or three little
hems,began with an absent lookas if her eyes beheld a
far-away timewhich brightened as she gazed.
The first visit of Lafayette was before my time, of course, but I
heard so much about it from my grandfather that I really felt as if I
'd seen it all. Our Aunt Hancock lived in the Governor's house, on
Beacon Hill, at that time.Here the old lady bridled up still more
for she was very proud of "our aunt." "Ahmy dearsthose were
the good old times!" she continuedwith a sigh. "Such dinners and
tea partiessuch damask table cloths and fine platesuch solid
handsome furniture and elegant carriages; aunt's was lined with
red silk velvetand when the coach was taken away from her at the
Governor's deathshe just ripped out the lining. and we girls had
spencers made of it. Dear hearthow well I remember playing in
aunt's great gardenand chasing Jack up and down those winding
stairs; and my blessed fatherin his plum-colored coat and knee
bucklesand the queue I used to tie up for him every dayhanding
aunt in to dinnerlooking so dignified and splendid."
Grandma seemed to forget her story for a minuteand become a
little girl againamong the playmates dead and gone so many
years. Polly motioned the others to be quietand no one spoke till
the old ladywith a long sighcame back to the presentand went
Well, as I was saying, the Governor wanted to give a breakfast to
the French officers, and Madam, who was a hospitable soul, got up
a splendid one for them. But by some mistake, or accident, it was
discovered at the last minute that there was no milk.
A great deal was neededand very little could be bought or
borrowedso despair fell upon the cooks and maidsand the great
breakfast would have been a failureif Madamwith the presence
of mind of her sexhad not suddenly bethought herself of the cows
feeding on the Common.
To be sure, they belonged to her neighbors, and there was no time
to ask leave, but it was a national affair; our allies must be fed; and
feeling sure that her patriotic friends would gladly lay their cows
on the altar of their country, Madam Hancock covered herself with
glory, by calmly issuing the command, 'Milk 'em!' It was doneto
the great astonishment of the cowsand the entire satisfaction of
the guestsamong whom was Lafayette.
This milking feat was such a good joke, that no one seems to have
remembered much about the great man, though one of his officers,
a count, signalized himself by getting very tipsy, and going to bed
with his boots and spurs on, which caused the destruction of aunt's
best yellow damask coverlet, for the restless sleeper kicked it into
rags by morning.
Aunt valued it very mucheven in its tattered conditionand kept
it a long whileas a memorial of her distinguished guests.
The time when I saw Lafayette was in 1825, and there were no
tipsy counts then. Uncle Hancock (a sweet man, my dears, though
some call him mean now-a-days) was dead, and aunt had married
It was not at all the thing for her to do; howeverthat 's neither
here nor there. She was living in Federal Street at the timea most
aristocratic street thenchildrenand we lived close by.
Old Josiah Quincy was mayor of the city, and he sent aunt word
that the Marquis Lafayette wished to pay his respects to her.
Of course she was delightedand we all flew about to make ready
for him. Aunt was an old ladybut she made a grand toiletand
was as anxious to look well as any girl."
What did she wear?asked Fanwith interest.
She wore a steel-colored satin, trimmed with black lace, and on
her cap was pinned a Lafayette badge of white satin.
I never shall forget how b-e-a-utifully she looked as she sat in
state on the front parlor sophyright under a great portrait of her
first husband; and on either side of her sat Madam Storer and
Madam Williamselegant to beholdin their stiff silksrich lace
and stately turbans. We don't see such splendid old ladies
I think we do sometimes,said Pollyslyly.
Grandma shook her headbut it pleased her very much to be
admiredfor she had been a beauty in her day.
We girls had dressed the house with flowers; old Mr. Coolidge
sent in a clothes-basket full. Joe Joy provided the badges, and aunt
got out some of the Revolutionary wine from the old Beacon Street
I wore my green and white palmyrinemy hair bowed highthe
beautiful leg-o'-mutton sleeves that were so becomingand these
Well, by-and-by the General, escorted by the Mayor, drove up.
Dear me, I see him now! a little old man in nankeen trousers and
vest, a long blue coat and ruffled shirt, leaning on his cane, for he
was lame, and smiling and bowing like a true Frenchman.
As he approachedthe three old ladies roseand courtesied with
the utmost dignity. Lafayette bowed first to the Governor's picture
then to the Governor's widowand kissed her hand.
That was droll; for on the back of her glove was stamped
Lafayette's likeness, and the gallant old gentleman kissed his own
Then some of the young ladies were presentedandas if to
escape any further self-salutationsthe marquis kissed the pretty
girls on the cheek.
Yes, my dears, here is just the spot where the dear old man
saluted me. I 'm quite as proud of it now as I was then, for he was a
brave, good man, and helped us in our trouble.
He did not stay longbut we were very merrydrinking his health
receiving his complimentsand enjoying the honor he did us.
Down in the street there was a crowd, of course, and when he left
they wanted to take out the horses and drag him home in triumph.
But he did n't wish it; and while that affair was being arranged, we
girls had been pelting him with the flowers which we tore from the
vases, the walls, and our own topknots, to scatter over him.
He liked thatand laughedand waved his hand to uswhile we
ranand peltedand begged him to come again.
We young folks quite lost our heads that night, and I have n't a
very clear idea of how I got home. The last thing I remember was
hanging out of the window with a flock of girls, watching the
carriage roll away, while the crowd cheered as if they were mad.
Bless my heartit seems as if I heard 'em now! 'Hurrah for
Lafayette and Mayor Quincy! Hurrah for Madam Hancock and the
pretty girls! Hurrah for Col. May!' 'Three cheers for Boston! Now
then! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!' "
And here the old lady stoppedout of breathwith her cap askew
her spectacles on the end of her noseand her knitting much the
worse for being waved enthusiastically in the airwhile she hung
over the arm of her chairshrilly cheering an imaginary Lafayette.
The girls clapped their handsand Tom hurrahed with all his
mightsayingwhen he got his breathLafayette was a regular old
trump; I always liked him.
My dear! what a disrespectful way to speak of that great man,
said grandmashocked at Young America's irreverence.
Well, he was a trump, anyway, so why not call him one?asked
Tomfeeling that the objectionable word was all that could be
What queer gloves you wore then,interrupted Fannywho had
been trying on the much-honored gloveand finding it a tight fit.
Much better and cheaper than we have now,returned grandma
ready to defend "the good old times" against every insinuation.
You are an extravagant set now-a-days, and I really don't know
what you are coming to. By the way, I 've got somewhere two
letters written by two young ladies, one in 1517, and the other in
1868. The contrast between the two will amuse you, I think.
After a little searchgrandma produced an old portfolioand
selecting the papersread the following letterwritten by Anne
Boleyn before her marriage to Henry VIIIand now in the
possession of a celebrated antiquarian:
DEAR MARYI have been in town almost a monthyet I cannot
say I have found anything in London extremely agreeable. We rise
so late in the morningseldom before six o'clockand sit up so late
at nightbeing scarcely in bed before tenthat I am quite sick of it;
and was it not for the abundance of fine things I am every day
getting I should be impatient of returning into the country.
My indulgent mother bought meyesterdayat a merchant's in
Cheapsidethree new shiftsthat cost fourteen pence an elland I
am to have a pair of new stuff shoesfor my Lord of Norfolk's ball
which will be three shillings.
The irregular life I have led since my coming to this place has
quite destroyed my appetite. You know I could manage a pound of
bacon and a tankard of good ale for my breakfastin the country
but in London I find it difficult to get through half the quantity
though I must own I am generally eager enough for the dinner
hourwhich is here delayed till twelvein your polite society.
I played at hot cockleslast nightat my Lord of Leicester's. The
Lord of Surrey was therea very elegant young manwho sung a
song of his own compositionon the "Lord of Kildare's Daughter."
It was much approvedand my brother whispered me that the fair
Geraldinefor so my Lord of Surrey calls his sweetheartis the
finest woman of the age. I should be glad to see herfor I hear she
is good as she is beautiful.
Pray take care of the poultry during my absence. Poor things! I
always fed them myself; and if Margery has knitted me the
crimson worsted mittensI should be glad if they were sent up the
Adieudear Mary. I am just going to massand you shall speedily
have the prayersas you have now the kindest love of your own
Up before six, and think it late to go to bed at ten! What a
countrified thing Anne must have been. Bacon and ale for
breakfast, and dinner at twelve; how very queer to live so!cried
Fanny. "Lord Surrey and Lord Leicester sound finebut hot
cocklesand red mittensand shoes for three shillingsare horrid."
I like it,said Pollythoughtfullyand I 'm glad poor Anne had a
little fun before her troubles began. May I copy that letter some
Yes, dear, and welcome. Now, here 's the other, by a modern girl
on her first visit to London. This will suit you better, Fan,and
grandma read what a friend had sent her as a pendant to Anne's
little picture of London life long ago:
MY DEAREST CONSTANCEAfter three months of intense
excitement I snatch a leisure moment to tell you how much I enjoy
my first visit to London. Having been educated abroadit really
seems like coming to a strange city. At first the smokedirt and
noise were very disagreeablebut I soon got used to these things
and now find all I see perfectly charming.
We plunged at once into a whirl of gayety and I have had no time
to think of anything but pleasure. It is the height of the seasonand
every hour is engaged either in going to ballsconcertstheatres
f^tes and churchor in preparing for them. We often go to two or
three parties in an eveningand seldom get home till morningso
of course we don't rise till noon next day. This leaves very little
time for our drivesshoppingand calls before dinner at eightand
then the evening gayeties begin again.
At a ball at Lady Russell's last nightI saw the Prince of Wales
and danced in the set with him. He is growing stoutand looks
dissipated. I was disappointed in himfor neither in appearance
nor conversation was he at all princely. I was introduced to a very
brilliant and delightful young gentleman from America. I was
charmed with himand rather surprised to learn that he wrote the
poems which were so much admired last seasonalso that he is the
son of a rich tailor. How odd these Americans arewith their
moneyand talentand independence!
O my dearI must not forget to tell you the great event of my first
season. I am to be presented at the next Drawing Room! Think
how absorbed I must be in preparation for this grand affair.
Mamma is resolved that I shall do her creditand we have spent
the last two weeks driving about from milliners to mantua-makers
from merchants to jewellers. I am to wear white satin and plumes
pearls and roses. My dress will cost a hundred pounds or moreand
is very elegant.
My cousins and friends lavish lovely things upon meand you will
open your unsophisticated eyes when I display my silks and laces
trinkets and French hatsnot to mention billet deuxphotographs
and other relics of a young belle's first season.
You ask if I ever think of home. I really have n't timebut I do
sometimes long a little for the quietthe pure air and the girlish
amusements I used to enjoy so much. One gets paleand oldand
sadly fagged outwith all this dissipationpleasant as it is. I feel
If you could send me the rosy cheeksbright eyesand gay spirits I
always had at homeI 'd thank you. As you cannot do thatplease
send me a bottle of June rain waterfor my maid tells me it is
better than any cosmetic for the complexionand mine is getting
ruined by late hours.
I fancy some fruit off our own trees would suit mefor I have no
appetiteand mamma is quite desole about me. One cannot live
on French cookery without dyspepsiaand one can get nothing
simple herefor foodlike everything elseis regulated by the
Adieuma chSreI must dress for church. I only wish you could
see my new hat and go with mefor Lord Rockingham promised to
Yes, I do like that better, and I wish I had been in this girl's place,
don't you, Polly?said Fanas grandma took off her glasses.
I should love to go to London, and have a good time, but I don't
think I should care about spending ever so much money, or going
to Court. Maybe I might when I got there, for I do like fun and
splendor,added honest Pollyfeeling that pleasure was a very
Grandma looks tired; let 's go and play in the dwying-woom,said
Maudwho found the conversation getting beyond her depth.
Let us all kiss and thank grandma, for amusing us so nicely,
before we go,whispered Polly. Maud and Fanny agreedand
grandma looked so gratified by their thanksthat Tom followed
suitmerely waiting till "those girls" were out of sightto give the
old lady a hearty hugand a kiss on the very cheek Lafayette had
When he reached the play-room Polly was sitting in the swing
sayingvery earnestlyI always told you it was nice up in
grandma's room, and now you see it is. I wish you 'd go oftener;
she admires to have you, and likes to tell stories and do pleasant
things, only she thinks you don't care for her quiet sort of fun. I do,
anyway, and I think she 's the kindest, best old lady that ever lived,
and I love her dearly!
I did n't say she was n't, only old people are sort of tedious and
fussy, so I keep out of their way,said Fanny.
Well, you ought not to, and you miss lots of pleasant times. My
mother says we ought to be kind and patient and respectful to all
old folks just because they are old, and I always mean to be.
Your mother 's everlastingly preaching,muttered Fannettled by
the consciousness of her own shortcomings with regard to
She don't preach!cried Pollyfiring up like a flash; "she only
explains things to usand helps us be goodand never scoldsand I
'd rather have her than any other mother in the worldthough she
don't wear velvet cloaks and splendid bonnetsso now!"
Go it, Polly!called Tomwho was gracefully hanging head
downward from the bar put up for his special benefit.
Polly 's mad! Polly 's mad!sung Maudskipping rope round the
If Mr. Sydney could see you now he would n't think you such an
angel any more,added Fannytossing a bean-bag and her head at
the same time.
Polly was madher face was very redher eyes very bright and her
lips twitchedbut she held her tongue and began to swing as hard
as she couldfearing to say something she would be sorry for
afterward. For a few minutes no one spokeTom whistled and
Maud hummed but Fan and Polly were each soberly thinking of
somethingfor they had reached an age when childrengirls
especiallybegin to observecontrastand speculate upon the
wordsactsmannersand looks of those about them. A good deal
of thinking goes on in the heads of these shrewd little folksand
the elders should mind their waysfor they get criticised pretty
sharply and imitated very closely.
Two little things had happened that dayand the influence of a few
wordsa careless actionwas still working in the active minds of
Mr. Sydney had calledand while Fanny was talking with him she
saw his eye rest on Pollywho sat apart watching the faces round
her with the modestintelligent look which many found so
attractive. At that minute Madam Shaw came inand stopped to
speak to the little girl. Polly rose at onceand remained standing
till the old lady passed on.
Are you laughing at Polly's prim ways?Fanny had askedas she
saw Mr. Sydney smile.
No, I am admiring Miss Polly's fine manners,he answered in a
graverespectful tonewhich had impressed Fanny very muchfor
Mr. Sydney was considered by all the girls as a model of good
breedingand that indescribable something which they called
Fanny wished she had done that little thingand won that
approving lookfor she valued the young man's good opinion
because it was so hard to winby her set at least. Sowhen Polly
talked about old peopleit recalled this scene and made Fan cross.
Polly was remembering howwhen Mrs. Shaw came home that day
in her fine visiting costumeand Maud ran to welcome her with
unusual affectionshe gathered up her lustrous silk and pushed the
little girl away sayingimpatientlyDon't touch me, child, your
hands are dirty.Then the thought had come to Polly that the
velvet cloak did n't cover a right motherly heartthat the fretful
face under the nodding purple plumes was not a tender motherly
faceand that the hands in the delicate primrose gloves had put
away something very sweet and precious. She thought of another
womanwhose dress never was too fine for little wet cheeks to lie
againstor loving little arms to press; whose facein spite of many
lines and the gray hairs above itwas never sour or unsympathetic
when children's eyes turned towards it; and whose hands never
were too busytoo full or too nice to welcome and serve the little
sons and daughters who freely brought their small hopes and fears
sins and sorrowsto herwho dealt out justice and mercy with such
wise love. "Ahthat 's a mother!" thought Pollyas the memory
came warm into her heartmaking her feel very richand pity
Maud for being so poor.
This it was that caused such sudden indignation at Fanny's dreadful
speechand this it was that made quick-tempered Polly try to calm
her wrath before she used toward Fanny's mother the disrespectful
tone she so resented toward her own. As the swing came down
after some dozen quick journeys to and froPolly seemed to have
found a smile somewhere up aloftfor she looked toward Fan
saying pleasantlyas she paused a little in her airy exerciseI 'm
not mad now, shall I come and toss with you?
No, I 'll come and swing with you,answered Fannyquick to feel
the generous spirit of her friend.
You are an angel, and I 'll never be so rude again,she addedas
Polly's arm came round herand half the seat was gladly offered.
No, I ain't; but if I ever get at all like one, it will be 'mother's
preaching' that did it,said Pollywith a happy laugh.
Good for you, Polly Peacemaker,cried Tomquoting his father
and giving them a grand push as the most appropriate way of
expressing his approbation of the sentiment.
Nothing more was said; but from that day there slowly crept into
the family more respect for grandmamore forbearance with her
infirmitiesmore interest in her little storiesand many a pleasant
gossip did the dear old lady enjoy with the children as they
gathered round her firesolitary so long.
CHAPTER VII GOOD-BY
OH, dear! Must you really go home Saturday?said Fansome
days after what Tom called the "grand scrimmage."
I really must; for I only came to stay a month and here I 've been
nearly six weeks,answered Pollyfeeling as if she had been
absent a year.
Make it two months and stay over Christmas. Come, do, now,
You are very kind; but I would n't miss Christmas at home for
anything. Besides, mother says they can't possibly do without me.
Neither can we. Can't you tease your mother, and make up your
mind to stay?began Fan.
Polly never teases. She says it 's selfish; and I don't do it now
much,put in Maudwith a virtuous air.
Don't you bother Polly. She 'd rather go, and I don't wonder. Let 's
be just as jolly as we can while she stays, and finish up with your
party, Fan,said Tomin a tone that settled the matter.
Polly had expected to be very happy in getting ready for the party;
but when the time cameshe was disappointed; for somehow that
naughty thing called envy took possession of herand spoiled her
pleasure. Before she left homeshe thought her new white muslin
dresswith its fresh blue ribbonsthe most elegant and proper
costume she could have; but nowwhen she saw Fanny's pink silk
with a white tarlatan tunicand innumerable puffingsbowsand
streamersher own simple little toilet lost all its charms in her
eyesand looked very babyish and old-fashioned.
Even Maud was much better dressed than herselfand looked very
splendid in her cherry-colored and white suitwith a sash so big
she could hardly carry itand little white boots with red buttons.
They both had necklaces and braceletsear-rings and brooches; but
Polly had no ornamentexcept the plain locket on a bit of blue
velvet. Her sash was only a wide ribbontied in a simple bowand
nothing but a blue snood in the pretty curls. Her only comfort was
the knowledge that the modest tucker drawn up round the plump
shoulders was real laceand that her bronze boots cost nine
Poor Pollywith all her efforts to be contentedand not to mind
looking unlike other peoplefound it hard work to keep her face
bright and her voice happy that night. No one dreamed what was
going an under the muslin frocktill grandma's wise old eyes spied
out the little shadow on Polly's spiritsand guessed the cause of it.
When dressedthe three girls went up to show themselves to the
elderswho were in grandma's roomwhere Tom was being helped
into an agonizingly stiff collar.
Maud pranced like a small peacockand Fan made a splendid
courtesy as every one turned to survey them; but Polly stood still
and her eyes went from face to facewith an anxiouswistful air
which seemed to sayI know I 'm not right; but I hope I don't look
Grandma read the look in a minute; and when Fanny saidwith a
satisfied smileHow do we look?she answereddrawing Polly
toward her so kindly.
Very like the fashion-plates you got the patterns of your dresses
from. But this little costume suits me best.
Do you really think I look nice?and Polly's face brightenedfor
she valued the old lady's opinion very much.
Yes, my dear; you look just as I like to see a child of your age
look. What particularly pleases me is that you have kept your
promise to your mother, and have n't let anyone persuade you to
wear borrowed finery. Young things like you don't need any
ornaments but those you wear to-night, youth, health, intelligence,
As she spokegrandma gave a tender kiss that made Polly glow
like a roseand for a minute she forgot that there were such things
as pink silk and coral ear-rings in the world. She only saidThank
you, ma'am,and heartily returned the kiss; but the words did her
goodand her plain dress looked charming all of a sudden.
Polly 's so pretty, it don't matter what she wears,observed Tom
surveying her over his collar with an air of calm approval.
She has n't got any bwetelles to her dwess, and I have,said
Maudsettling her ruffled bands over her shoulderswhich looked
like cherry-colored wings on a stout little cherub.
I did wish she 'd just wear my blue set, ribbon is so very plain;
but, as Tom says, it don't much matter;and Fanny gave an
effective touch to the blue bow above Polly's left temple.
She might wear flowers; they always suit young girls,said Mrs.
Shawprivately thinking that her own daughters looked much the
bestyet conscious that blooming Polly had the most attractive
face. "Bless me! I forgot my posies in admiring the belles. Hand
them outTom;" and Mr. Shaw nodded toward an interesting
looking box that stood on the table.
Seizing them wrong side-upTom produced three little bouquets
all different in colorsizeand construction.
Why, papa! how very kind of you,cried Fannywho had not
dared to receive even a geranium leaf since the late scrape.
Your father used to be a very gallant young gentleman, once upon
a time,said Mrs. Shawwith a simper.
Ah, Tom, it 's a good sign when you find time to think of giving
pleasure to your little girls!And grandma patted her son's bald
head as if he was n't more than eighteen.
Thomas Jr. had given a somewhat scornful sniff at first; but when
grandma praised his fatherthe young man thought better of the
matterand regarded the flowers with more respectas he asked
Which is for which?
Guess,said Mr. Shawpleased that his unusual demonstration
had produced such an effect.
The largest was a regular hothouse bouquetof tea-rosebuds
scentless heathand smilax; the second was just a handful of
sweet-peas and mignonettewith a few cheerful pansiesand one
fragrant little rose in the middle; the thirda small posy of scarlet
verbenaswhite feverfewand green leaves.
Not hard to guess. The smart one for Fan, the sweet one for Polly,
and the gay one for Pug. Now, then, catch hold, girls.And Tom
proceeded to deliver the nosegayswith as much grace as could be
expected from a youth in a new suit of clothes and very tight boots.
That finishes you off just right, and is a very pretty attention of
papa's. Now run down, for the bell has rung; and remember, not to
dance too often, Fan; be as quiet as you can, Tom; and. Maud,
don't eat too much supper. Grandma will attend to things, for my
poor nerves won't allow me to come down.
With thatMrs. Shaw dismissed themand the four descended to
receive the first batch of visitorsseveral little girls who had been
asked for the express purpose of keeping Maud out of her sister's
way. Tom had likewise been propitiatedby being allowed to bring
his three bosom friendswho went by the school-boy names of
They will do to make up sets, as gentlemen are scarce; and the
party is for Polly, so I must have some young folks on her
account,said Fannywhen sending out her invitations.
Of coursethe boys came earlyand stood about in corners
looking as if they had more arms and legs than they knew what to
do with. Tom did his best to be a good host; but ceremony
oppressed his spiritsand he was forced to struggle manfully with
the wild desire to propose a game of leap-frogfor the long
drawing-roomscleared for dancingtempted him sorely.
Polly sat where she was toldand suffered bashful agonies as Fan
introduced very fine young ladies and very stiff young gentlemen
who all said about the same civil thingsand then appeared to
forget all about her. When the first dance was calledFanny
cornered Tomwho had been dodging herfor he knew what she
wantedand saidin an earnest whisper: "NowTomyou must
dance this with Polly. You are the young gentleman of the house
and it 's only proper that you should ask your company first."
Polly don't care for manners. I hate dancing; don't know how. Let
go my jacket, and don't bother, or I 'll cut away altogether,
growled Tomdaunted by the awful prospect of opening the ball
I 'll never forgive you if you do. Come, be clever, and help me,
there 's a dear. You know we both were dreadfully rude to Polly,
and agreed that we 'd be as kind and civil to her as ever we could. I
shall keep my word, and see that she is n't slighted at my party, for
I want her to love me, and go home feeling all right.
This artful speech made an impression on the rebellious Thomas
who glanced at Polly's happy faceremembered his promiseand
with a groanresolved to do his duty.
Well, I 'll take her; but I shall come to grief, for I don't know
anything about your old dances.
Yes, you do. I 've taught you the steps a dozen times. I 'm going to
begin with a redowa, because the girls like it, and it 's better fun
than square dances. Now, put on your gloves, and go and ask Polly
like a gentleman.
Oh, thunder!muttered Tom. And having split the detested gloves
in dragging them onhe nerved himself for the effortwalked up to
Pollymade a stiff bowstuck out his elbowand saidsolemnly
May I have the pleasure, Miss Milton?
He did it as much like the big fellows as he couldand expected
that Polly would be impressed. But she was n't a bit; for after a
surprised look she laughed in his faceand took him by the hand
sayingheartilyOf course you may; but don't be a goose,
Well, Fan told me to be elegant, so I tried to,whispered Tom
addingas he clutched his partner with a somewhat desperate air
Hold on tight, and we 'll get through somehow.
The music struck upand away they went; Tom hopping one way
and Polly the otherin a most ungraceful manner.
Keep time to the music,gasped Polly.
Can't; never could,returned Tom.
Keep step with me, then, and don't tread on my toes,pleaded
Never mind; keep bobbing, and we 'll come right by and by,
muttered Tomgiving his unfortunate partner a sudden whisk
which nearly landed both on the floor.
But they did not "get right by and by"; for TomIn his frantic
efforts to do his dutynearly annihilated poor Polly. He tramped
he bobbedhe skatedhe twirled her to the rightdragged her to the
leftbacked her up against people and furnituretrod on her feet
rumpled her dressand made a spectacle of himself generally.
Polly was much disturbed; but as everyone else was flying about
alsoshe bore it as long as she couldknowing that Tom had made
a martyr of himselfand feeling grateful to him for the sacrifice.
Oh, do stop now; this is dreadful!cried Pollybreathlesslyafter
a few wild turns.
Is n't it?said Tomwiping his red face with such an air of intense
reliefthat Polly had not the heart to scold himbut saidThank
you,and dropped into a chair exhausted.
I know I 've made a guy of myself; but Fan insisted on it, for fear
you 'd be offended if I did n't go the first dance with you,said
Tomremorsefullywatching Polly as she settled the bow of her
crushed sashwhich Tom had used as a sort of handle by which to
turn and twist her; "I can do the Lancers tip-top; but you won't ever
want to dance with me any more he added, as he began to fan her
so violently, that her hair flew about as if in a gale of wind.
YesI will. I 'd like to; and you shall put your name down here on
the sticks of my fan. That 's the wayTrix sayswhen you don't
have a ball-book."
Looking much gratifiedTom produced the stump of a lead-pencil
and wrote his name with a flourishsayingas he gave it back
Now I 'm going to get Sherry, or some of the fellows that do the
redowa well, so you can have a real good go before the music
Off went Tom; but before he could catch any eligible partner
Polly was provided with the best dancer in the room. Mr. Sydney
had seen and heard the whole thing; and though he had laughed
quietlyhe liked honest Tom and good-natured Polly all the better
for their simplicity. Polly's foot was keeping time to the lively
musicand her eyes were fixed wistfully on the smoothly-gliding
couples before herwhen Mr. Sydney came to hersayingin the
pleasant yet respectful way she liked so muchMiss Polly, can
you give me a turn?
Oh, yes; I 'm dying for another.And Polly jumped upwith both
hands outand such a grateful facethat Mr. Sydney resolved she
should have as many turns as she liked.
This time all went well; and Tomreturning from an unsuccessful
searchwas amazed to behold Polly circling gracefully about the
roomguided by a most accomplished partner.
Ah, that 's something like,he thoughtas he watched the bronze
boots retreating and advancing in perfect time to the music. "Don't
see how Sydney does the steering so well; but it must be fun; and
by Jupiter! I 'll learn it!" added ShawJr.with an emphatic gesture
which burst the last button off his gloves.
Polly enjoyed herself till the music stopped; and before she had
time to thank MrSydney as warmly as she wishedTom came up
to saywith his most lordly airYou dance splendidly, Polly.
Now, you just show me any one you like the looks of, and I 'll get
him for you, no matter who he is.
I don't want any of the gentlemen; they are so stiff, and don't care
to dance with me; but I like those boys over there, and I 'll dance
with any of them if they are willing,said Pollyafter a survey.
I 'll trot out the whole lot.And Tom gladly brought up his
friendswho all admired Polly immenselyand were proud to be
chosen instead of the "big fellows."
There was no sitting still for Polly after thatfor the lads kept her
going at a great pace; and she was so happyshe never saw or
suspected how many little manoeuvresheart-burningsdisplays of
vanityaffectationand nonsense were going on all round her. She
loved dancingand entered into the gayety of the scene with a
heartiness that was pleasant to see. Her eyes shoneher face
glowedher lips smiledand the brown curls waved in the airas
she dancedwith a heart as light as her feet.
Are you enjoying yourself, Polly?asked Mr. Shawwho looked
innow and thento report to grandma that all was going well.
Oh, such a splendid time!cried Pollywith an enthusiastic little
gestureas she chassed into the corner where he stood.
She is a regular belle among the boys,said Fannyas she
They are so kind in asking me and I 'm not afraid of them,
explained Pollyprancingsimply because she could n't keep still.
So you are afraid of the young gentlemen, hey?and Mr. Shaw
held her by one curl.
All but Mr. Sydney. He don't put on airs and talk nonsense; and,
oh! he does 'dance like an angel,' as Trix says.
Papa, I wish you 'd come and waltz with me. Fan told me not to
go near her, 'cause my wed dwess makes her pink one look ugly;
and Tom won't; and I want to dwedfully.
I 've forgotten how, Maudie. Ask Polly; she 'll spin you round like
a teetotum.Mr. Sydney's name is down for that,answered
Pollylooking at her fan with a pretty little air of importance." But
I guess he would n't mind my taking poor Maud instead. She has
n't danced hardly anyand I 've had more than my share. Would it
be very improper to change my mind?" And Polly looked up at her
tall partner with eye which plainly showed that the change was a
Not a bit. Give the little dear a good waltz, and we will look on,
answered Mr. Sydneywith a nod and smile.
That is a refreshing little piece of nature,said Mr. Shawas Polly
and Maud whirled away.
She will make a charming little woman, if she is n't spoilt.
No danger of that. She has got a sensible mother.
I thought so.And Sydney sighedfor he had lately lost his own
When supper was announcedPolly happened to be talkingor
trying to talkto one of the "poky" gentlemen whom Fan had
introduced. He took Miss Milton downof courseput her in a
cornerand having served her to a dab of ice and one macaroonhe
devoted himself to his own supper with such interestthat Polly
would have fared badlyif Tom had not come and rescued her.
I 've been looking everywhere for you. Come with me, and don't
sit starving here,said Tomwith a scornful look from her empty
plate to that of her recreant escortwhich was piled with good
Following her guidePolly was taken to the big china closet
opening from the dining-room to the kitchenand here she found a
jovial little party feasting at ease. Maud and her bosom friend
Gwace,were seated on tin cake-boxes; Sherry and Spider
adorned the refrigerator; while Tom and Rumple foraged for the
Here 's fun said Polly, as she was received with a clash of spoons
and a waving of napkins.
You just perch on that cracker-kegand I 'll see that you get
enough said Tom, putting a dumbwaiter before her, and issuing
his orders with a fine air of authority.
We are a band of robbers in our caveand I 'm the captain; and we
pitch into the folks passing byand go out and bring home plunder.
NowRumpleyou go and carry off a basket of cakeand I 'll
watch here till Katy comes by with a fresh lot of oysters; Polly
must have some. Sherrycut into the kitchenand bring a cup of
coffee. Spiderscrape up the saladand poke the dish through the
slide for more. Eat awayPollyand my men will be back with
supplies in a jiffy."
Such fun as they had in that closet; such daring robberies of
jelly-pots and cake-boxes; such successful raids into the
dining-room and kitchen; such base assaults upon poor Katy and
the colored waiterwho did his bestbut was helpless in the hands
of the robber horde. A very harmless little revel; for no wine was
allowedand the gallant band were so busy skirmishing to supply
the ladiesthat they had not time to eat too much. No one missed
them; and when they emergedthe feast was overexcept for a few
voracious young gentlemenwho still lingered among the ruins.
That 's the way they always do; poke the girls in corners, give 'em
just one taste of something, and then go and stuff like pigs,
whispered Tomwith a superior airforgetting certain private
banquets of his ownafter company had departed.
The rest of the evening was to be devoted to the German; andas
Polly knew nothing about itshe established herself in a window
recess to watch the mysteries. For a time she enjoyed itfor it was
all new to herand the various pretty devices were very charming;
butby and bythat bitter weedenvycropped up againand she
could not feel happy to be left out in the coldwhile the other girls
were getting gay tissue-paper suitsdroll bonbonsflowers
ribbonsand all manner of tasteful trifles in which girlish souls
delight. Everyone was absorbed; Mr. Sydney was dancing; Tom
and his friends were discussing base-ball on the stairs; and Maud's
set had returned to the library to play.
Polly tried to conquer the bad feeling; but it worried hertill she
remembered something her mother once said to herWhen you
feel out of sorts, try to make some one else happy, and you will
soon be so yourself.
I will try it,thought Pollyand looked round to see what she
could do. Sounds of strife in the library led her to enter. Maud and
the young ladies were sitting on the sofatalking about each other's
clothesas they had seen their mammas do.
Was your dress imported?asked Grace.
No; was yours?returned Blanche.
Yes; and it cost oh, ever so much.
I don't think it is as pretty as Maud's.
Mine was made in New York,said Miss Shawsmoothing her
I can't dress much now, you know, 'cause mamma's in black for
somebody,observed Miss Alice Lovettfeeling the importance
which affliction conferred upon her when it took the form of a jet
Well, I don't care if my dress is n't imported; my cousin had three
kinds of wine at her party; so, now,said Blanche.
Did she?And all the little girls looked deeply impressedtill
Maud observedwith a funny imitation of her father's manner
My papa said it was scan-dill-us; for some of the little boys got
tipsy, and had to be tooked home. He would n't let us have any
wine; and gwandma said it was vewy impwoper for childwen to do
My mother says your mother's coup, is n't half so stylish as ours,
put in Alice.
Yes, it is, too. It 's all lined with gween silk, and that 's nicer than
old wed cloth,cried Maudruffling up like an insulted chicken.
Well, my brother don't wear a horrid old cap, and he 's got nice
hair. I would n't have a brother like Tom. He 's horrid rude, my
sister says,retorted Alice.
He is n't. Your brother is a pig.
You 're a fib!
So are you!
HereI regret to sayMiss Shaw slapped Miss Lovettwho
promptly returned the complimentand both began to cry.
Pollywho had paused to listen to the edifying chatparted the
belligerentsand finding the poor things tiredcrossand sleepy
yet unable to go home till sent forproposed to play games. The
young ladies consentedand "Puss in the corner" proved a
peacemaker. Presentlyin came the boys; and being exiles from
the Germangladly joined in the gameswhich soon were lively
enough to wake the sleepiest. "Blind-man's-buff" was in full swing
when Mr. Shaw peeped inand seeing Polly flying about with
band-aged eyesjoined in the fun to puzzle her. He got caught
directly; and great merriment was caused by Polly's bewilderment
for she could n't guess who he wastill she felt the bald spot on his
This frolic put every one in such spiritsthat Polly forgot her
troubleand the little girls kissed each other good-night as
affectionately as if such things as imported frockscoupsand
rival brothers did n't exist "WellPollydo you like parties?" asked
Fan when the last guest was gone.
Very much; but I don't think it would be good for me to go to
I should n't enjoy them if I did n't have a fine dress, and dance all
the time, and be admired, and all the rest of it.
I did n't know you cared for such things,cried Fannysurprised.
Neither did I till to-night; but I do; and as I can't have 'em, it 's
lucky I 'm going home tomorrow.
Oh, dear! So you are! What shall I do without my 'sweet P.,' as
Sydney calls you?sighed Fannybearing Polly away to be
Every one echoed the exclamation next day; and many loving eyes
followed the little figure in the drab frock as it went quietly about
doing for the last time the small services which would help to
make its absence keenly felt. Polly was to go directly after an early
dinnerand having packed her trunkall but one trayshe was told
to go and take a run while grandma finished. Polly suspected that
some pleasant surprise was going to be put in; for Fan did n't offer
to go with herMaud kept dodging about with something under her
apronand Tom had just whisked into his mother's room in a
mysterious manner. So Polly took the hint and went away
rejoicing in the thought of the unknown treasures she was to carry
Mr. Shaw had not said he should come home so earlybut Polly
thought he mightand went to meet him. Mr. Shaw did n't expect
to see Pollyfor he had left her very busyand now a light snow
was falling; butas he turned into the mall there was the round hat
and under it the bright facelooking all the rosier for being
powdered with snow-flakesas Polly came running to meet him.
There won't be any one to help the old gentleman safely home
to-morrow,he saidas Polly took his hand in both hers with an
Yes, there will; see if there is n't,cried Pollynodding and
smilingfor Fan had confided to her that she meant to try it after
her friend had gone.
I 'm glad of it. But, my dear, I want you to promise that you will
come and make us a visit every winter, a good long one,said Mr.
Shawpatting the blue mittens folded round his hand.
If they can spare me from home, I 'd love to come dearly.
They must lend you for a little while, because you do us all good,
and we need you.
Do I? I don't see how; but I 'm glad to hear you say so,cried
I can't tell you how, exactly; but you brought something into my
house that makes it warmer and pleasanter, and won't quite vanish,
I hope, when you go away, my child.
Polly had never heard Mr. Shaw speak like that beforeand did n't
know what to sayshe felt so proud and happy at this proof of the
truth of her mother's wordswhen she said that "even a little girl
could exert an influenceand do some good in this bigbusy
world." She only gave her friend a grateful look sweeter than any
wordsand they went on togetherhand in handthrough the
If Polly could have seen what went into that top trayshe would
have been entirely overcome; for Fanny had told grandma about
the poor little presents she had once laughed atand they had all
laid their heads together to provide something really fine and
appropriate for every member of the Milton family. Such a mine of
riches! and so much good-willaffectionand kindly forethought
was packed away in the tempting bundlesthat no one could feel
offendedbut would find an unusual charm about the pretty gifts
that made them doubly welcome. I only know that if Polly had
suspected that a little watch was ticking away in a little casewith
her name on itinside that trunkshe never could have left it
locked as grandma advisedor have eaten her dinner so quietly. As
it washer heart was very fulland the tears rose to her eyes more
than onceeveryone was so kindand so sorry to have her go.
Tom did n't need any urging to play escort now; and both Fan and
Maud insisted on going too. Mrs. Shaw forgot her nervesand put
up some gingerbread with her own hands; Mr. Shaw kissed Polly
as if she had been his dearest daughter; and grandma held her
closewhispering in a tremulous toneMy little comfort, come
again soon; while Katy waved her apron from the nursery
windowcryingas they droveawayThe saints bless ye, Miss
Polly, dear, and sind ye the best of lucks!
But the crowning joke of all was Tom's good-byforwhen Polly
was fairly settled in the carthe last "All aboard!" utteredand the
train in motionTom suddenly produced a knobby little bundle
and thrusting it in at the windowwhile he hung on in some
breakneck fashionsaidwith a droll mixture of fun and feeling in
his faceIt 's horrid; but you wanted it, so I put it in to make you
laugh. Good-by, Polly; good-by, good-by!
The last adieu was a trifle huskyand Tom vanished as it was
utteredleaving Polly to laugh over his parting souvenir till the
tears ran down her cheeks. It was a paper bag of peanutsand
poked down at the very bottom a photograph of Tom. It was
horrid,for he looked as if taken by a flash of lightningso black
wildand staring was it; but Polly liked itand whenever she felt a
little pensive at parting with her friendsshe took a peanutor a
peep at Tom's funny picturewhich made her merry again.
So the short journey came blithely to an endand in the twilight
she saw a group of loving faces at the door of a humble little
housewhich was more beautiful than any palace in her eyesfor it
CHAPTER VIII SIX YEARS AFTERWARD
WHAT do you think Polly is going to do this winter?exclaimed
Fannylooking up from the letter she had been eagerly reading.
Going to deliver lectures on Woman's Rights,said the young
gentleman who was carefully examining his luxuriant crop of
decidedly auburn hairas he lounged with both elbows on the
Going to set her cap for some young minister and marry him in
the spring,added Mrs. Shawwhose mind ran a good deal upon
match-making just now.
I think she is going to stay at home, and do all the work, 'cause
servants cost so much; it would be just like her,observed Maud
who could pronounce the letter R now.
It 's my opinion she is going to open a school, or something of
that sort, to help those brothers of hers along,said Mr. Shawwho
had put down his paper at the sound of Polly's name.
Every one of you wrong, though papa comes nearest the truth,
cried Fanny; "she is going to give music lessonsand support
herselfso that Will may go to college. He is the studious oneand
Polly is very proud of him. Nedthe other brotherhas a business
talentand don't care for booksso he has gone out Westand will
make his own way anywhere. Polly says she is n't needed at home
nowthe family is so smalland Kitty can take her place nicely; so
she is actually going to earn her own livingand hand over her
share of the family income to Will. What a martyr that girl does
make of herself and Fanny looked as solemn as if Polly had
proposed some awful self-sacrifice.
She is a sensiblebrave-hearted girland I respect her for doing
it said Mr. Shaw, emphatically. One never knows what may
happenand it does no harm for young people to learn to be
If she is as pretty as she was last time I saw her, she 'll get pupils
fast enough. I would n't mind taking lessons myself,was the
gracious observation of ShawJr.as he turned from the mirror
with the soothing certainty that his objectionable hair actually was
She would n't take you at any price,said Fannyremembering
Polly's look of disappointment and disapproval when she came on
her last visit and found him an unmistakable dandy.
You just wait and see,was the placid reply.
If Polly does carry out her plan, I wish Maud to take lessons of
her; Fanny can do as she likes, but it would please me very much
to have one of my girls sing as Polly sings. It suits old people
better than your opera things, and mother used to enjoy it so
As he spokeMr. Shaw's eye turned toward the comer of the fire
where grandma used to sit. The easy-chair was empty nowthe
kind old face was goneand nothing but a very tender memory
I 'd like to learn, papa, and Polly is a splendid teacher, I know; she
's always so patient, and makes everything so pleasant. I do hope
she will get scholars enough to begin right away,said Maud.
When is she coming?asked Mrs. Shawquite willing to help
Pollybut privately resolving that Maud should be finished off by
the most fashionable master in the city.
She does n't say. She thanks me for asking her here, as usual, but
says she shall go right to work and had better begin with her own
little room at once. Won't it seem strange to have Polly in town,
and yet not with us?
We 'll get her somehow. The little room will cost something, and
she can stay with us just as well as not, even if she does teach. Tell
her I say so,said Mr. Shaw.
She won't come, I know; for if she undertakes to be independent,
she 'll do it in the most thorough manner,answered Fannyand
Mrs. Shaw sincerely hoped she would. It was all very well to
patronize the little music-teacherbut it was not so pleasant to
have her settled in the family.
I shall do what I can for her among my friends, and I dare say she
will get on very well with young pupils to begin with. If she starts
right, puts her terms high enough, and gets a few good names to
give her the entr,e into our first families, I don't doubt she will do
nicely, for I must say Polly has the manners of a lady,observed
She 's a mighty taking little body, and I 'm glad she 's to be in
town, though I 'd like it better if she did n't bother about teaching,
but just stayed here and enjoyed herself,said Tomlazily.
I 've no doubt she would feel highly honored to be allowed to
devote her time to your amusement; but she can't afford expensive
luxuries, and she don't approve of flirting, so you will have to let
her go her own way, and refresh herself with such glimpses of you
as her engagements permit,answered Fannyin the sarcastic tone
which was be coming habitual to her.
You are getting to be a regular old maid, Fan; as sharp as a lemon,
and twice as sour,returned Tomlooking down at her with an air
of calm superiority.
Do be quiet, children; you know I can't bear anything like
contention. Maud, give me my Shetland shawl, and put a cushion
at my back.
As Maud obeyed her motherwith a reproving look at her erring
brother and sistera pause followedfor which every one seemed
grateful. They were sitting about the fire after dinnerand all
looked as if a little sunshine would do them good. It had been a
dull November daybut all of a sudden the clouds liftedand a
bright ray shot into the room. Every one turned involuntarily to
welcome itand every one cried outWhy, Polly!for there on the
threshold stood a bright-faced girlsmiling as if there was no such
thing as November weather in the world.
You dear thing, when did you come?cried Fannykissing both
the blooming checks with real affectionwhile the rest hovered
nearwaiting for a chance.
I came yesterday, and have been getting my nest in order; but I
could n't keep away any longer, so I ran up to say 'How do you
do?'answered Pollyin the cheery voice that did one's heart good
My Polly always brings the sunshine with her,and Mr. Shaw
held out his hands to his little friendfor she was his favorite still.
It was good to see her put both arms about his neckand give him a
tender kissthat said a great dealfor grandma had died since Polly
met him last and she longed to comfort himseeing how gray and
old he had grown.
If Tom had had any thoughts of following his father's example
something in Polly's manner made him change his mindand shake
hands with a hearty "I 'm very glad to see youPolly adding to
himself, as he looked at the face in the modest little bonnet:
Prettier than everby Jove!"
There was something more than mere prettiness in Polly's face
though Tom had not learned to see it yet. The blue eyes were clear
and steadythe fresh mouth frank and sweetthe white chin was a
very firm one in spite of the dimpleand the smooth forehead
under the little curls had a broadbenevolent arch; while all about
the face were those unmistakable lines and curves which can make
even a plain countenance comelyby breathing into it the beauty of
a lovely character. Polly had grown upbut she had no more style
now than in the days of the round hat and rough coatfor she was
all in graylike a young Quakeresswith no ornament but a blue
bow at the throat and another in the hair. Yet the plain suit became
her excellentlyand one never thought of the dresslooking at the
active figure that wore itfor the freedom of her childhood gave to
Polly that good gifthealthand every movement was full of the
vigorgraceand easewhich nothing else can so surely bestow. A
happy soul in a healthy body is a rare sight in these dayswhen
doctors flourish and every one is illand this pleasant union was
the charm which Polly possessed without knowing it.
It does seem so good to have you here again,said Maud
cuddling Polly's cold handas she sat at her feetwhen she was
fairly established between Fanny and Mr. Shawwhile Tom leaned
on the back of his mother's chairand enjoyed the prospect.
How do you get on? When do you begin? Where is your nest?
Now tell all about it,began Fannywho was full of curiosity about
the new plan.
I shall get on very well, I think, for I 've got twelve scholars to
begin with, all able to pay a good price, and I shall give my first
lesson on Monday.
Don't you dread it?asked Fanny.
Not much; why should I?answered Pollystoutly.
Well, I don't know; it 's a new thing, and must be a little bit hard
at first,stammered Fannynot liking to say that working for one's
living seemed a dreadful hardship to her.
It will be tiresome, of course, but I shall get used to it; I shall like
the exercise, and the new people and places I must see will amuse
me. Then the independence will be delightful, and if I can save a
little to help Kitty along with, that will be best of all.
Polly's face shone as if the prospect was full of pleasure instead of
workand the hearty good will with which she undertook the new
taskseemed to dignify her humble hopes and plansand make
them interesting in the sight of others.
Who have you got for pupils?asked Mrs. Shawforgetting her
nerves for a minute.
Polly named her listand took a secret satisfaction in seeing the
impression which certain names made upon her hearers.
How in the world did you get the Davenports and the Greys, my
dear?said Mrs. Shawsitting erect in her surprise.
Mrs. Davenport and mother are relations, you know.
You never told us that before!The Davenports have been away
some years, and I forgot all about them. But when I was making
my plan, I knew I must have a good name or two to set me going,
so I just wrote and asked Mrs. D. if she would help me. She came
and saw us and was very kind, and has got these pupils for me, like
a dear, good woman as she is.
Where did you learn so much worldly wisdom, Polly?asked Mr.
Shawas his wife fell back in her chairand took out her saltsas if
this discovery had been too much for her.
I learnt it here, sir,answered Pollylaughing. "I used to think
patronage and things of that sort very disagreeable and not worth
havingbut I 've got wiserand to a certain extent I 'm glad to use
whatever advantages I have in my powerif they can be honestly
Why did n't you let us help you in the beginning? We should have
been very glad to, I 'm sure,put in Mrs. Shawwho quite burned
to be known as a joint patroness with Mrs. Davenport.
I know you would, but you have all been so kind to me I did n't
want to trouble you with my little plans till the first steps were
taken. Besides, I did n't know as you would like to recommend me
as a teacher, though you like me well enough as plain Polly.
My dear, of course I would, and we want you to take Maud at
once, and teach her your sweet songs. She has a fine voice, and is
really suffering for a teacher.
A slight smile passed over Polly's face as she returned her thanks
for the new pupilfor she remembered a time when Mrs. Shaw
considered her "sweet songs" quite unfit for a fashionable young
lady's repertoire. "Where is your room?" asked Maud.
My old friend Miss Mills has taken me in, and I am nicely settled.
Mother did n't like the idea of my going to a strange
boarding-house, so Miss Mills kindly made a place for me. You
know she lets her rooms without board, but she is going to give me
my dinners, and I 'm to get my own breakfast and tea, quite
independently. I like that way, and it 's very little trouble, my
habits are so simple; a bowl of bread and milk night and morning,
with baked apples or something of that sort, is all I want, and I can
have it when I like.
Is your room comfortably furnished? Can't we lend you anything,
my dear? An easy-chair now, or a little couch, so necessary when
one comes in tired,said Mrs. Shawtaking unusual interest in the
Thank you, but I don't need anything, for I brought all sorts of
home comforts with me. Oh, Fan, you ought to have seen my
triumphal entry into the city, sitting among my goods and chattels,
in a farmer's cart.Polly's laugh was so infectious that every one
smiled and forgot to be shocked at her performance. "Yes she
added, I kept wishing I could meet youjust to see your horrified
face when you saw me sitting on my little sofawith boxes and
bundles all round mea bird-cage on one sidea fishing basket
with a kitten's head popping in and out of the holeon the other
sideand jolly old Mr. Brownin his blue frockperched on a keg
of apples in front. It was a lovely bright dayand I enjoyed the ride
immenselyfor we had all sorts of adventures."
Oh, tell about it,begged Maudwhen the general laugh at Polly's
picture had subsided.
Well, in the first place, we forgot my ivy, and Kitty came running
after me, with it. Then we started again, but were soon stopped by
a great shouting, and there was Will racing down the hill, waving a
pillow in one hand and a squash pie in the other. How we did
laugh when he came up and explained that our neighbor, old Mrs.
Dodd, had sent in a hop-pillow for me, in case of headache, and a
pie to begin house-keeping with. She seemed so disappointed at
being too late that Will promised to get them to me, if he ran all
the way to town. The pillow was easily disposed of, but that pie! I
do believe it was stowed in every part of the wagon, and never
staid anywhere. I found it in my lap, then on the floor, next, upside
down among the books, then just on the point of coasting off a
trunk into the road, and at last it landed in my rocking-chair. Such
a remarkable pie as it was, too, for in spite of all its wanderings, it
never got spilt or broken, and we finally ate it for lunch, in order to
be left in peace. Next, my kitty got away, and I had a chase over
walls and brooks before I got her, while Mr. Brown sat shaking
with fun, to see me run. We finished off by having the
book-shelves tumble on our heads as we went down a hill, and
losing my chair off behind, as we went up a hill. A shout made us
pause, and, looking back, there was the poor little chair rocking all
by itself in the middle of the road, while a small boy sat on the
fence and whooped. It was great fun, I do assure you.
Polly had run on in her lively waynot because she thought her
adventures amounted to muchbut from a wish to cheer up her
friendswho had struck her as looking rather dull and out of sorts
especially Mr. Shaw; and when she saw him lean back in his chair
with the old hearty laughshe was satisfiedand blessed the
unlucky pie for amusing him.
Oh, Polly, you do tell such interesting things!sighed Maud
wiping her eyes.
I wish I 'd met you, I 'd have given you three cheers and a tiger,
for it must have been an imposing spectacle,said Tom.
No, you would n't; you 'd have whisked round the comer when
you saw me coming or have stared straight before you, utterly
unconscious of the young woman in the baggage wagon.
Polly laughed in his face just as she used to dowhen she said that
andin spite of the doubt cast upon his courtesyTom rather liked
itthough he had nothing to say for himself but a reproachful
Now, Polly, that 's too bad.
True, nevertheless. You must come and see my pets, Maud, for
my cat and bird live together as happily as brother and sister,said
Pollyturning to Maudwho devoured every word she said.
That 's not saying much for them,muttered Tomfeeling that
Polly ought to address more of her conversation to him.
Polly knows what she 's talking about; her brothers appreciate
their sisters,observed Fannyin her sharp tone.
And Polly appreciates her brothers, don't forget to add that,
Did I tell you that Will was going to college?broke in Pollyto
avert the rising storm.
Hope he 'll enjoy himself,observed Tomwith the air of a man
who had passed through all the mysteriesand reached that state of
sublime indifference which juniors seem to pride themselves upon.
I think he will, he is so fond of study, and is so anxious to
improve every opportunity. I only hope he won't overwork and get
sick, as so many boys do,said simple Pollywith such a respectful
belief in the eager thirst for knowledge of collegians as a class
that Tom regarded the deluded girl with a smile of lofty pityfrom
the heights of his vast and varied experience.
Guess he won't hurt himself. I 'll see that he don't study too hard.
And Tom's eyes twinkled as they used to dowhen he planned his
I 'm afraid you can't be trusted as a guide, if various rumors I 've
heard are true,said Pollylooking up at him with a wistful
expressionthat caused his face to assume the sobriety of an owl's.
Base slanders; I 'm as steady as a clock, an ornament to my class,
and a model young man, ain't I, mother?And Tom patted her thin
cheek with a caressing handsure of one firm friend in her; for
when he ceased to be a harum-scarum boyMrs. Shaw began to
take great pride in her sonand hemissing grandmatried to fill
her place with his feeble mother.
Yes, dear, you are all I could ask,and Mrs. Shaw looked up at
him with such affection and confidence in her eyesthat Polly gave
Tom the first approving look she had vouchsafed him since she
Why Tom should look troubled and turn grave all at onceshe
could n't understandbut she liked to see him stroke his mother's
cheek so softlyas he stood with his head resting on the high back
of her chairfor Polly fancied that he felt a man's pity for her
weaknessand was learning a son's patient love for a mother who
had had much to bear with him.
I 'm so glad you are going to be here all winter, for we are to be
very gay, and I shall enjoy taking you round with me,began
Fannyforgetting Polly's plan for a moment.
Polly shook her head decidedly. "It sounds very nicebut it can't be
doneFanfor I 've come to worknot play; to savenot spend; and
parties will be quite out of the question for me."
You don't intend to work all the time, without a bit of fun, I
hope,cried Fannydismayed at the idea.
I mean to do what I 've undertaken, and not to be tempted away
from my purpose by anything. I should n't be fit to give lessons if I
was up late, should I? And how far would my earnings go towards
dress, carriages, and all the little expenses which would come if I
set up for a young lady in society? I can't do both, and I 'm not
going to try, but I can pick up bits of fun as I go along, and be
contented with free concerts and lectures, seeing you pretty often,
and every Sunday Will is to spend with me, so I shall have quite as
much dissipation as is good for me.
If you don't come to my parties, I 'll never forgive you,said
Fannyas Polly pausedwhile Tom chuckled inwardly at the idea
of calling visits from a brother "dissipation."
Any small party, where it will do to wear a plain black silk, I can
come to; but the big ones must n't be thought of, thank you.
It was charming to see the resolution of Polly's face when she said
that; for she knew her weaknessand beyond that black silk she
had determined not to go. Fanny said no morefor she felt quite
sure that Polly would relent when the time cameand she planned
to give her a pretty dress for a Christmas presentso that one
excuse should be removed.
I say, Polly, won't you give some of us fellows music lessons?
Somebody wants me to play, and I 'd rather learn of you than any
Senor Twankydillo,said Tomwho did n't find the conversation
Oh, yes; if any of you boys honestly want to learn, and will
behave yourselves, I 'll take you; but I shall charge extra,
answered Pollywith a wicked sparkle of the eyethough her face
was quite soberand her tone delightfully business-like.
Why, Polly, Tom is n't a boy; he 's twenty, and he says I must treat
him with respect. Besides, he 's engaged, and does put on such
airs,broke in Maud who regarded her brother as a venerable
Who is the little girl?asked Polly taking the news as a joke.
Trix; why, did n't you know it?answered Maudas if it had been
an event of national importance.
No! is it true, Fan?and Polly turned to her friend with a face full
of surprisewhile Tom struck an imposing attitudeand affected
absence of mind.
I forgot to tell you in my last letter; it 's just out, and we don't like
it very well,observed Fannywho would have preferred to be
engaged first herself.
It 's a very nice thing, and I am perfectly satisfied,announced
Mrs. Shawrousing from a slight doze.
Polly looks as if she did n't believe it. Have n't I the appearance of
'the happiest man alive'?asked Tomwondering if it could be pity
which he saw in the steady eyes fixed on him.
No, I don't think you have,she saidslowly.
How the deuce should a man look, then?cried Tomrather
nettled at her sober reception of the grand news.
As if he had learned to care for some one a great deal more than
for himself,answered Pollywith sudden color in her cheeksand
a sudden softening of the voiceas her eyes turned away from
Tomwho was the picture of a complacent dandyfrom the
topmost curl of his auburn head to the tips of his aristocratic boots.
Tommy 's quenched; I agree with you, Polly; I never liked Trix,
and I hope it 's only a boy-and-girl fancy, that will soon die a
natural death,said Mr. Shawwho seemed to find it difficult to
help falling into a brown studyin spite of the lively chatter going
on about him.
ShawJr.being highly incensed at the disrespectful manner in
which his engagement was treatedtried to assume a superb air of
indifferenceand finding that a decided failurewas about to stroll
out of the room with a comprehensive nodwhen his mother called
after him: "Where are you goingdear?"
To see Trix, of course. Good-by, Polly,and Mr. Thomas
departedhoping that by the skillful change of tonefrom ardent
impatience to condescending coolnesshe had impressed one
hearer at least with the fact that he regarded Trix as the star of his
existenceand Polly as a presuming little chit.
If he could have heard her laughand Fanny's remarkshis wrath
would have boiled over; fortunately he was spared the trialand
went away hoping that the coquetries of his Trix would make him
forget Polly's look when she answered his question.
My dear, that boy is the most deluded creature you ever saw,
began Fannyas soon as the front door banged. "Belle and Trix
both tried to catch himand the slyest got him; forin spite of his
airshe is as soft-hearted as a baby. You see Trix has broken off
two engagements alreadyand the third time she got jilted herself.
Such a fuss as she made! I declareit really was absurd. But I do
think she felt it very muchfor she would n't go out at alland got
thinand paleand blueand was really quite touching. I pitied her
and had her here a good dealand Tom took her part; he always
does stand up for the crushed onesand that 's good of himI
allow. Wellshe did the forsaken very prettily; let Tom amuse her
and led him on till the poor fellow lost his witsand finding her
crying one day (about her hatwhich was n't becoming)he thought
she was mourning for Mr. Banksand soto comfort herthe goose
proposed. That was all she wanted; she snapped him up at once
and there he is in a nice scrape; for since her engagement she is as
gay as everflirts awfully with any one who comes alongand
keeps Tom in a fume all the time. I really don't think he cares for
her half as much as he makes believebut he 'll stand by her
through thick and thinrather than do as Banks did."
Poor Tom!was all Polly saidwhen Fan had poured the story
into her earas they sat whispering in the sofa corner.
My only consolation is that Trix will break off the affair before
spring; she always does, so that she may be free for the summer
campaign. It won't hurt Tom, but I hate to have him make a fool of
himself out of pity, for he is more of a man than he seems, and I
don't want any one to plague him.
No one but yourself,said Pollysmiling.
Well, that 's all fair; he is a torment sometimes, but I 'm rather
fond of him in spite of it. I get so tired of the other fellows, they
are such absurd things and when Tom is in his good mood he is
very nice and quite refreshing.
I 'm glad to hear it,said Pollymaking a mental note of the fact.
Yes, and when grandma was ill he was perfectly devoted. I did n't
know the boy had so much gentleness in him. He took her death
sadly to heart, for, though he did n't say much, he was very grave
and steady for a long time. I tried to comfort him, and we had two
or three real sweet little talks together, and seemed to get
acquainted for the first time. It was very nice, but it did n't last;
good times never do with us. We soon got back into the old way,
and now we hector one another just as before.
Fanny sighedthen yawnedand fell into her usual listless attitude
as if the brief excitement of Polly's coming had begun to subside.
Walk home with me and see my funny little room. It 's bright
now, and the air will do you good. Come, both of you, and have a
frolic as we used to,said Pollyfor the red sunset now burning in
the west seemed to invite them out.
They agreedand soon the three were walking briskly away to
Polly's new homein a quiet streetwhere a few old trees rustled in
the summerand the morning sun shone pleasantly in winter time.
The way into my parlor Is up a winding stair.
sang Pollyrunning up two flights of broadold-fashioned steps
and opening the door of a back roomout of which streamed the
welcome glow of firelight.
These are my pets, Maud,she addedpausing on the threshold
and beckoning the girls to look in quietly.
On the rugluxuriously basking in the warmthlay a gray kitten
and close bymeditatively roosting on one legstood a plump
canarywho cocked his bright eye at the new-comersgave a loud
chirp as if to wake his comradeand then flew straight to Polly's
shoulderwhere he broke into a joyful song to welcome his
Allow me to introduce my family,said Polly; "this noisy little
chap the boys named Nicodemus; and this dozy cat is called
Ashputtelbecause the joy of her life is to get among the cinders.
Nowtake off your thingsand let me do the honorsfor you are to
stop to teaand the carriage is to come for you at eight. I arranged
it with your mother while you were up-stairs."
I want to see everything,said Maudwhen the hats were offand
the hands warmed.
So you shall; for I think my housekeeping arrangements will
Then Polly showed her kingdomand the three had a merry time
over it. The big piano took up so much room there was no place
for a bed; but Polly proudly displayed the resources of her
chintz-covered couchfor the back let downthe seat lifted upand
inside were all the pillows and blankets. "So convenientyou see
and yet out of the way in the daytimefor two or three of my pupils
come to me explained Polly.
Then there was a bright drugget over the faded carpet, the little
rocking-chair and sewing-table stood at one window, the ivy ran
all over the other, and hid the banqueting performances which
went on in that corner. Book-shelves hung over the sofa, a picture
or two on the walls, and a great vase of autumn leaves and grasses
beautified the low chimney-piece. It was a very humble little
room, but Polly had done her best to make it pleasant, and it
already had a home-like look, with the cheery fire, and the
household pets chirping and purring confidingly on the rug.
How nice it is!" exclaimed Maudas she emerged from the big
closet where Polly kept her stores. "Such a cunning teakettle and
saucepanand a t^te-.-t^te setand lots of good things to eat. Do
have toast for teaPollyand let me make it with the new toasting
fork; it 's such fun to play cook."
Fanny was not so enthusiastic as her sisterfor her eyes saw many
traces of what seemed like poverty to her; but Polly was so gayso
satisfied with her small establishmentso full of happy hopes and
plansthat her friend had not the heart to find a fault or suggest an
improvementand sat where she was toldlaughing and talking
while the others got tea.
This will be a country supper, girls,said Pollybustling about.
Here is real cream, brown bread, home-made cake, and honey
from my own beehives. Mother fitted me out with such a supply, I
'm glad to have a party, for I can't eat it all quick enough. Butter
the toast, Maudie, and put that little cover over it. Tell me when
the kettle boils, and don't step on Nicodemus, whatever you do.
What a capital house-keeper you will make some day,said
Fannyas she watched Polly spread her table with a neatness and
despatch which was pleasant to behold.
Yes, it 's good practice,laughed Pollyfilling her tiny teapotand
taking her place behind the traywith a matronly airwhich was
the best joke of the whole.
This is the most delicious party I ever went to,observed Maud
with her mouth full of honeywhen the feast was well under way.
I do wish I could have a nice room like this, and a cat and a bird
that would n't eat each other up, and a dear little teakettle, and
make just as much toast as I like.
Such a peal of laughter greeted Maud's pensive aspirationthat
Miss Mills smiled over her solitary cup of teaand little Nick burst
into a perfect ecstasy of songas he sat on the sugar-bowl helping
I don't care for the toast and the kettle, but I do envy you your
good spirits, Polly,said Fannyas the merriment subsided. "I 'm
so tired of everybody and everythingit seems sometimes as if I
should die of ennui. Don't you ever feel so?"
Things worry me sometimes, but I just catch up a broom and
sweep, or wash hard, or walk, or go at something with all my
might, and I usually find that by the time I get through the worry is
gone, or I 've got courage enough to bear it without grumbling,
answered Pollycutting the brown loaf energetically.
I can't do those things, you know; there 's no need of it, and I don't
think they 'd cure my worrying,said Fannylanguidly feeding
Ashputtelwho sat decorously beside herat the tablewinking at
the cream pot.
A little poverty would do you good, Fan; just enough necessity to
keep you busy till you find how good work is; and when you once
learn that, you won't complain of ennui any more,returned Polly
who had taken kindly the hard lesson which twenty years of
cheerful poverty had taught her.
Mercy, no, I should hate that; but I wish some one would invent a
new amusement for rich people. I 'm dead sick of parties, and
flirtations, trying to out-dress my neighbors, and going the same
round year after year, like a squirrel in a cage.
Fanny's tone was bitter as well as discontentedher face sad as
well as listlessand Polly had an instinctive feeling that some
troublemore real than any she had ever known beforewas lying
heavy at her friend's heart. That was not the time to speak of itbut
Polly resolved to stand ready to offer sympathyif nothing more
whenever the confidential minute came; and her manner was so
kindso comfortablethat Fanny felt its silent magicgrew more
cheerful in the quiet atmosphere of that little roomand when they
said good-nightafter an old-time gossip by the fireshe kissed her
hostess warmlysayingwith a grateful lookPolly, dear, I shall
come often, you do me so much good.
CHAPTER IX LESSONS
THE first few weeks were hard onesfor Polly had not yet
outgrown her natural shyness and going among so many strangers
caused her frequent panics. But her purpose gave her courageand
when the ice was once brokenher little pupils quickly learned to
love her. The novelty soon wore offand though she thought she
was prepared for drudgeryshe found it very tedious to go on doing
the same thing day after day. Then she was lonelyfor Will could
only come once a weekher leisure hours were Fanny's busiestand
the "bits of pleasure" were so few and far between that they only
tantalized her. Even her small housekeeping lost its charmsfor
Polly was a social creatureand the solitary meals were often sad
ones. Ashputtel and Nick did their best to cheer herbut they too
seemed to pine for country freedom and home atmosphere. Poor
Puttelafter gazing wistfully out of the window at the gaunt city
cats skulking about the yardwould retire to the rugand curl
herself up as if all hope of finding congenial society had failed;
while little Nick would sing till he vibrated on his perchwithout
receiving any response except an inquisitive chirp from the pert
sparrowswho seemed to twit him with his captivity. Yesby the
time the little teakettle had lost its brightnessPolly had decided
that getting one's living was no jokeand many of her brilliant
hopes had shared the fate of the little kettle.
If one could only make the sacrifice all at onceand done with it
then it would seem easier; but to keep up a daily sacrifice of one's
wishestastesand pleasuresis rather a hard taskespecially when
one is prettyyoungand gay. Lessons all daya highly instructive
lecturebooks over a solitary fireor music with no audience but a
sleepy cat and a bird with his head tucked under his wingfor
evening entertainmentwas not exactly what might be called
festive; soin spite of her brave resolutionsPolly did long for a
little fun sometimesand after saying virtuously to herself at nine:
Yes, it is much wiser and better for me to go to bed early, and be
ready for work tomorrow,she would lie awake hearing the
carriages roll to and froand imagining the gay girls insidegoing
to partyoperaor playtill Mrs. Dodd's hop pillow might as well
have been stuffed with nettlesfor any sleep it broughtor any use
it wasexcept to catch and hide the tears that dropped on it when
Polly's heart was very full.
Another thorn that wounded our Polly in her first attempt to make
her way through the thicket that always bars a woman's progress
was the discovery that working for a living shuts a good many
doors in one's face even in democratic America. As Fanny's guest
she had beenin spite of povertykindly received wherever her
friend took herboth as child and woman. Nowthings were
changed; the kindly people patronizedthe careless forgot all about
herand even Fannywith all her affectionfelt that Polly the
music teacher would not be welcome in many places where Polly
the young lady had been accepted as "Miss Shaw's friend."
Some of the girls still nodded amiablybut never invited her to
visit them; others merely dropped their eyelidsand went by
without speakingwhile a good many ignored her as entirely as if
she had been invisible. These things hurt Polly more than she
would confessfor at home every one workedand every one was
respected for it. She tried not to carebut girls feel little slights
keenlyand more than once Polly was severely tempted to give up
her planand run away to the safe shelter at home.
Fanny never failed to ask her to every sort of festivity in the Shaw
mansion; but after a few trialsPolly firmly declined everything
but informal visits when the family were alone. She soon found
that even the new black silk was n't fine enough for Fanny's
smallest partyandafter receiving a few of the expressive glances
by which women convey their opinion of their neighbor's toilet
and overhearing a joke or two "about that inevitable dress and
the little blackbird Polly folded away the once treasured frock,
saying, with a choke in her voice: I 'll wear it for Willhe likes it
and clothes can't change his love for me."
I am afraid the wholesome sweetness of Polly's nature was getting
a little soured by these troubles; but before lasting harm was done
she receivedfrom an unexpected sourcesome of the real help
which teaches young people how to bear these small crossesby
showing them the heavier ones they have escapedand by giving
them an idea of the higher pleasures one may earn in the good
old-fashioned ways that keep hearts sweetheads sanehands busy.
Everybody has their days of misfortune like little Rosamondand
Polly was beginning to think she had more than her share. One of
these ended in a way which influenced her whole lifeand so we
will record it. It began early; for the hard-hearted little grate would
n't behave itself till she had used up a ruinous quantity of
kindlings. Then she scalded poor Puttel by upsetting her
coffee-pot; and instead of a leisurelycosy mealhad to hurry away
uncomfortablyfor everything went wrong even to the coming off
of both bonnet strings in the last dreadful scramble. Being lateshe
of course forgot her musicand hurrying back for itfell into a
puddlewhich capped the climax of her despair.
Such a trying morning as that was! Polly felt out of tune herself
and all the pianos seemed to need a tuner as much as she did. The
pupils were unusually stupidand two of them announced that
their mamma was going to take them to the Southwhither she was
suddenly called. This was a blowfor they had just begunand
Polly had n't the face to send in a bill for a whole quarterthough
her plans and calculations were sadly disturbed by the failure of
Trudging home to dinnertired and disappointedpoor Polly
received another blowwhich hurt her more than the loss of all her
pupils. As she went hurrying along with a big music book in one
hand and a paper bag of rolls for tea in the othershe saw Tom and
Trix coming. As she watched them while they slowly approached
looking so gay and handsome and happyit seemed to Polly as if
all the sunshine and good walking was on their side of the street
all the wintry wind and mud on hers. Longing to see a friendly face
and receive a kind wordshe crossed overmeaning to nod and
smile at least. Trix saw her firstand suddenly became absorbed in
the distant horizon. Tom apparently did not see herfor his eyes
were fixed on a fine horse just prancing by. Polly thought that he
had seen herand approached with a curious little flutter at her
heartfor if Tom cut her she felt that her cup would be full.
On they cameTrix intent on the viewTom staring at the
handsome horseand Pollywith red checksexpectant eyesand
the brown bundlein full sight. One dreadful minute as they came
paralleland no one spoke or bowedthen it was all overand Polly
went onfeeling as if some one had slapped her in the face. "She
would n't have believed it of Tom; it was all the doings of that
horrid Trix; wellshe would n't trouble him any moreif he was
such a snob as to be ashamed of her just because she carried
bundles and worked for her bread." She clutched the paper bag
fiercely as she said this to herselfthen her eyes filledand her lips
trembledas she addedHow could he do it, before her, too?
Now Tom was quite guiltless of this offenceand had always
nodded to Polly when they met; but it so happened he had always
been alone till nowand that was why it cut so deeplyespecially
as Polly never had approved of Trix. Before she could clear her
eyes or steady her facea gentleman met herlifted his hatsmiled
and said pleasantlyGood morning, Miss Polly, I 'm glad to meet
you.Thenwith a sudden change of voice and mannerhe added
I beg pardon is anything the matter can I be of service?
It was very awkwardbut it could n't be helpedand all Polly could
do was to tell the truth and make the best of it.
It 's very silly, but it hurts me to be cut by my old friends. I shall
get used to it presently, I dare say.
Mr. Sydney glanced backrecognized the couple behind themand
turned round with a disgusted expression. Polly was fumbling for
her handkerchiefand without a word he took both book and
bundle from hera little bit of kindness that meant a good deal just
then. Polly felt itand it did her good; hastily wiping the traitorous
eyesshe laughed and said cheerfullyThere, I 'm all right again;
thank you, don't trouble yourself with my parcels.
No trouble, I assure you, and this book reminds me of what I was
about to say. Have you an hour to spare for my little niece? Her
mother wants her to begin, and desired me to make the inquiry.
Did she, really?and Polly looked up at himas if she suspected
him of inventing the whole thingout of kindness.
Mr. Sydney smiledand taking a note from his pocketpresented it
sayingwith a reproachful lookBehold the proof of my truth, and
never doubt again.
Polly begged pardonread the note from the little girl's mother
which was to have been left at her room if she was absentand
gave the bearer a very grateful look as she accepted this welcome
addition to her pupils. Well pleased at the success of his mission
Sydney artfully led the conversation to musicand for a time Polly
forgot her woestalking enthusiastically on her favorite theme. As
she reclaimed her book and bagat her own doorshe saidin her
honest wayThank you very much for trying to make me forget
my foolish little troubles.
Then let me say one thing more; though appearances are against
him, I don't believe Tom Shaw saw you. Miss Trix is equal to that
sort of thing, but it is n't like Tom, for with all his foppery he is a
good fellow at heart.
As Mr. Sydney said thisPolly held out her hand with a hearty
Thank you for that.The young man shook the little hand in the
gray woollen glovegave her exactly the same bow which he did
the Honorable Mrs. Davenportand went awayleaving Polly to
walk up stairs and address Puttel with the peculiar remarkYou
are a true gentleman! so kind to say that about Tom. I 'll think it 's
so, anyway; and won't I teach Minnie in my very best style!
Puttel purredNick chirped approvinglyand Polly ate her dinner
with a better appetite than she had expected. But at the bottom of
her heart there was a sore spot stilland the afternoon lessons
dragged dismally. It was dusk when she got homeand as she sat in
the firelight eating her bread and milkseveral tears bedewed the
little rollsand even the home honey had a bitter taste.
Now this won't do,she broke out all at once; "this is silly and
wickedand can't be allowed. I 'll try the old plan and put myself
right by doing some little kindness to somebody. Now what shall it
be? OI know! Fan is going to a party to-night; I 'll run up and help
her dress; she likes to have meand I enjoy seeing the pretty
things. Yesand I 'll take her two or three clusters of my daphneit
's so sweet."
Up got Pollyand taking her little posytrotted away to the Shaws'
determined to be happy and contented in spite of Trix and hard
She found Fanny enduring torment under the hands of the
hair-dresserwho was doing his best to spoil her hairand distort
her head with a mass of curlsbraidsfrizzlesand puffs; for
though I discreetly refrain from any particular descriptionstill
judging from the present fashionsI think one may venture to
predict that six years hence they would be something frightful.
How kind of you, Polly; I was just wishing you were here to
arrange my flowers. These lovely daphnes will give odor to my
camellias, and you were a dear to bring them. There 's my dress;
how do you like it?said Fannyhardly daring to lift her eyes from
under the yellow tower on her head.
It 's regularly splendid; but how do you ever get into it?answered
Pollysurveying with girlish interest the cloud of pink and white
lace that lay upon the bed.
It 's fearfully and wonderfully made, but distractingly becoming,
as you shall see. Trix thinks I 'm going to wear blue, so she has got
a green one, and told Belle it would spoil the effect of mine, as we
are much together, of course. Was n't that sweet of her? Belle
came and told me in, time, and I just got pink, so my amiable
sister, that is to be, won't succeed in her pretty little plot.
I guess she has been reading the life of Josephine. You know she
made a pretty lady, of whom she was jealous, sit beside her on a
green sofa, which set off her own white dress and spoilt the blue
one of her guest,answered Pollybusy with the flowers.
Trix never reads anything; you are the one to pick up clever little
stories. I 'll remember and use this one. Am I done? Yes, that is
charming, is n't it, Polly?and Fan rose to inspect the success of
Monsieur's long labor.
You know I don't appreciate a stylish coiffure as I ought, so I like
your hair in the old way best. But this is 'the thing,' I suppose, and
not a word must be said.
Of course it is. Why, child, I have frizzed and burnt my hair so
that I look like an old maniac with it in its natural state, and have
to repair damages as well as I can. Now put the flowers just here,
and Fanny laid a pink camellia in a nest of fuzzand stuck a spray
of daphne straight up at the back of her head.
O, Fan, don't, it looks horridly so!cried Pollylonging to add a
little beauty to her friend's sallow face by a graceful adjustment of
Can't help it, that 's the way, and so it must be,answered Fan
planting another sprig half-way up the tower.
Polly groaned and offered no more suggestions as the work went
on; but when Fan was finished from top to toeshe admired all she
honestly couldand tried to keep her thoughts to herself. But her
frank face betrayed herfor Fanny turned on her suddenlysaying
You may as well free your mind, Polly, for I see by your eyes that
something don't suit.
I was only thinking of what grandma once said, that modesty had
gone out of fashion,answered Pollyglancing at the waist of her
friend's dresswhich consisted of a belta bit of laceand a pair of
Fanny laughed good-naturedlysayingas she clasped her necklace
If I had such shoulders as yours, I should n't care what the fashion
was. Now don't preach, but put my cloak on nicely, and come
along, for I 'm to meet Tom and Trix, and promised to be there
Polly was to be left at home after depositing Fan at Belle's.
I feel as if I was going myself,she saidas they rolled along.
I wish you were, and you would be, Polly, if you weren't such a
resolute thing. I 've teased, and begged, and offered anything I
have if you 'll only break your absurd vow, and come and enjoy
Thank you; but I won't, so don't trouble your kind heart about me;
I 'm all right,said Pollystoutly.
But when they drew up before the lighted houseand she found
herself in the midst of the pleasant stir of festivitythe coming and
going of carriagesthe glimpses of bright colorsformsand faces
the bursts of musicand a general atmosphere of gayetyPolly felt
that she was n't all rightand as she drove away for a dull evening
in her lonely little roomshe just cried as heartily as any child
denied a stick of candy.
It 's dreadful wicked of me, but I can't help it,she sobbed to
herselfin the corner of the carriage. "That music sets me all in a
twitterand I should have looked nice in Fan's blue tarlatanand I
know I could behave as well as any oneand have lots of partners
though I 'm not in that set. Ohjust one good gallop with Mr.
Sydney or Tom! NoTom would n't ask me thereand I would n't
accept if he did. Ohme! ohme! I wish I was as old and homely
and good and happyas Miss Mills!"
So Polly made her moanand by the time she got homewas just in
the mood to go to bed and cry herself to sleepas girls have a way
of doing when their small affliction becomes unbearable.
But Polly did n't get a chance to be miserable very longfor as she
went up stairs feeling like the most injured girl in the worldshe
caught a glimpse of Miss Millssewing away with such a bright
face that she could n't resist stopping for a word or two.
Sit down, my dear, I 'm glad to see you, but excuse me if I go on
with my work, as I 'm in a driving hurry to get these things done
to-night,said the brisk little ladywith a smile and a nodas she
took a new needleful of threadand ran up a seam as if for a
Let me help you, then; I 'm lazy and cross, and it will do me
good,said Pollysitting down with the resigned feeling. "Wellif
I can't be happyI can be usefulperhaps."
Thank you, my dear; yes, you can just hem the skirt while I put in
the sleeves, and that will be a great lift.
Polly put on her thimble in silencebut as Miss Mills spread the
white flannel over her lapshe exclaimedWhy, it looks like a
shroud! Is it one?
No, dear, thank God, it is n't, but it might have been, if we had n't
saved the poor little soul,cried Miss Millswith a sudden
brightening of the facewhich made it beautiful in spite of the stiff
gray curl that bobbed on each templethe want of teethand a
Will you tell me about it? I like to hear your adventures and good
works so much,said Pollyready to be amused by anything that
made her forget herself.
Ah, my dear, it 's a very common story, and that 's the saddest part
of it. I 'll tell you all about it, for I think you may be able to help
me. Last night I watched with poor Mary Floyd. She 's dying of
consumption, you know,began Miss Millsas her nimble fingers
flewand her kind old face beamed over the workas if she put a
blessing in with every stitch. "Mary was very lowbut about
midnight fell asleepand I was trying to keep things quietwhen
Mrs. Finn she 's the woman of the house came and beckoned me
outwith a scared face. 'Little Jane has killed herselfand I don't
know what to do' she saidleading me up to the attic."
Who was little Jane?broke in Pollydropping her work.
I only knew her as a pale, shy young girl who went in and out, and
seldom spoke to any one. Mrs. Finn told me she was poor, but a
busy, honest, little thing, who did n't mix with the other folks, but
lived and worked alone. 'She has looked so down-hearted and pale
for a week, that I thought she was sick, and asked her about it,' said
Mrs. Finn, 'but she thanked me in her bashful way, and said she
was pretty well, so I let her alone. But to-night, as I went up late to
bed, I was kind of impressed to look in and see how the poor thing
did, for she had n't left her room all day. I did look in, and here 's
what I found.' As Mrs. Finn ended she opened the door of the back
attic, and I saw about as sad a sight as these old eyes ever looked
O, what?cried Pollypale now with interest.
A bare room, cold as a barn, and on the bed a little dead, white
face that almost broke my heart, it was so thin, so patient, and so
young. On the table was a bottle half full of laudanum, an old
pocket-book, and a letter. Read that, my dear and don't think hard
of little Jane.
Polly took the bit of paper Miss Mills gave herand read these
DEAR MRS. FINNPlease forgive me for the trouble I make you
but I don't see any other way. I can't get work that pays enough to
keep me; the Dr. says I can't be well unless I rest. I hate to be a
burdenso I 'm going away not to trouble anybody anymore. I 've
sold my things to pay what I owe you. Please let me be as I am
and don't let people come and look at me. I hope it is n't very
wickedbut there don't seem any room for me in the worldand I
'm not afraid to die nowthough I should be if I stayed and got bad
because I had n't strength to keep right. Give my love to the baby
and so good-bygood-by.
O, Miss Mills, how dreadful!cried Pollywith her eyes so full
she could hardly read the little letter.
Not so dreadful as it might have been, but a bitter, sad thing to see
that child, only seventeen, lying there in her little clean, old
night-gown, waiting for death to come and take her, because 'there
did n't seem to be any room for her in the world.' Ah, well, we
saved her, for it was n't too late, thank heaven, and the first thing
she said was, 'Oh, why did you bring me back?' I 've been nursing
her all day, hearing her story, and trying to show her that there is
room and a welcome for her. Her mother died a year ago, and
since then she has been struggling along alone. She is one of the
timid, innocent, humble creatures who can't push their way, and so
get put aside and forgotten. She has tried all sorts of poorly paid
work, could n't live on it decently, got discouraged, sick,
frightened, and could see no refuge from the big, bad world but to
get out of it while she was n't afraid to die. A very old story, my
dear, new and dreadful as it seems to you, and I think it won't do
you any harm to see and help this little girl, who has gone through
dark places that you are never like to know.
I will; indeed, I will do all I can! Where is she now?asked Polly
touched to the heart by the storyso simple yet so sad.
There,and Miss Mills pointed to the door of her own little
bedroom. "She was well enough to be moved to-nightso I brought
her home and laid her safely in my bed. Poor little soul! she looked
about her for a minutethen the lost look went awayand she gave
a great sighand took my hand in both her thin bits of onesand
said'Oma'amI feel as if I 'd been born into a new world. Help
me to begin againand I 'll do better.' So I told her she was my
child nowand might rest heresure of a home as long as I had
As Miss Mills spoke in her motherly toneand cast a proud and
happy look toward the warm and quiet nest in which she had
sheltered this friendless little sparrowfeeling sure that God meant
her to keep it from falling to the groundPolly put both arms about
her neckand kissed her withered cheek with as much loving
reverence as if she had been a splendid saintfor in the likeness of
this plain old maid she saw the lovely charity that blesses and
saves the world.
How good you are! Dear Miss Mills, tell me what to do, let me
help you, I 'm ready for anything,said Pollyvery humblyfor her
own troubles looked so small and foolish beside the stern
hardships which had nearly had so tragical an endthat she felt
heartily ashamed of herselfand quite burned to atone for them.
MissMills stopped to stroke the fresh cheek oppositeto smile
and sayThen, Polly, I think I 'll ask you to go in and say a
friendly word to my little girl. The sight of you will do her good;
and you have just the right way of comforting people, without
making a fuss.
Have I?said Pollylooking much gratified by the words.
Yes, dear, you 've the gift of sympathy, and the rare art of
showing it without offending. I would n't let many girls in to see
my poor Jenny, because they 'd only flutter and worry her; but you
'll know what to do; so go, and take this wrapper with you; it 's
done now, thanks to your nimble fingers.
Polly threw the warm garment over her armfeeling a thrill of
gratitude that it was to wrap a living girl inand not to hide away a
young heart that had grown cold too soon. Pushing open the door
she went quietly into the dimly lighted roomand on the pillow
saw a face that drew her to it with an irresistible powerfor it was
touched by a solemn shadow that made its youth pathetic. As she
paused at the bedsidethinking the girl asleepa pair of hollow
dark eyes opened wideand looked up at her; startled at firstthen
softening with pleasureat sight of the bonny face before them
and then a humblebeseeching expression filled themas if asking
pardon for the rash act nearly committedand pity for the hard fate
that prompted it. Polly read the language of these eyesand
answered their mute prayer with a simple eloquence that said more
than any words for she just stooped down and kissed the poor
childwith her own eyes fulland lips that trembled with the
sympathy she could not tell. Jenny put both arms about her neck
and began to shed the quiet tears that so refresh and comfort heavy
hearts when a tender touch unseals the fountain where they lie.
Everybody is so kind,she sobbed and I was so wicked, I don't
Oh, yes, you do; don't think of that, but rest and let us pet you.
The old life was too hard for such a little thing as you, and we are
going to try and make the new one ever so much easier and
happier,said Pollyforgetting everything except that this was a
girl like herselfwho needed heartening up.
Do you live here?asked Jennywhen her tears were wiped away
still clinging to the new-found friend.
Yes, Miss Mills lets me have a little room up stairs, and there I
have my cat and bird, my piano and my posy pots, and live like a
queen. You must come up and see me to-morrow if you are able. I
'm often lonely, for there are no young people in the house to play
with me,answered Pollysmiling hospitably.
Do you sew?asked Jenny.
No, I 'm a music teacher, and trot round giving lessons all day.
How beautiful it sounds, and how happy you must be, so strong
and pretty, and able to go round making music all the time,sighed
Jennylooking with respectful admiration at the plumpfirm hand
held in both her thin and feeble ones.
It did sound pleasant even to Polly's earsand she felt suddenly so
richand so contentedthat she seemed a different creature from
the silly girl who cried because she could n't go to the party. It
passed through her mind like a flashthe contrast between her life
and that of the wan creature lying before herand she felt as if she
could not give enough out of her abundance to this needy little
sisterwho had nothing in the wide world but the life just saved to
her. That minute did more for Polly than many sermonsor the
wisest booksfor it brought her face to face with bitter truths
showed her the dark side of lifeand seemed to blow away her
little vanitiesher frivolous desireslike a wintry windthat left a
wholesome atmosphere behind. Sitting on the bedsidePolly
listened while Jane told the storywhich was so new to her
listenerthat every word sank deep into her heartand never was
Now you must go to sleep. Don't cry nor think, nor do anything
but rest. That will please Miss Mills best. I 'll leave the doors open,
and play you a lullaby that you can't resist. Good night, dear.And
with another kissPolly went away to sit in the darkness of her
own roomplaying her softest airs till the tired eyes below were
shutand little Jane seemed to float away on a sea of pleasant
soundsinto the happier life which had just dawned for her.
Polly had fully intended to be very miserableand cry herself to
sleep; but when she lay down at lasther pillow seemed very soft
her little room very lovelywith the fire-light flickering on all the
home-like objectsand her new-blown roses breathing her a sweet
good-night. She no longer felt an injuredhard-workingunhappy
Pollybut as if quite burdened with blessingsfor which she was n't
half grateful enough. She had heard of poverty and sufferingin the
vaguefar-off waywhich is all that many girlssafe in happy
homesever know of it; but now she had seen itin a shape which
she could feel and understandand life grew more earnest to her
from that minute. So much to do in the greatbusy worldand she
had done so little. Where should she begin? Thenlike an answer
came little Jenny's wordsnow taking a'new significance' to Polly's
mindTo be strong, and beautiful, and go round making music all
the time.Yesshe could do that; and with a very earnest prayer
Polly asked for the strength of an upright soulthe beauty of a
tender heartthe power to make her life a sweet and stirring song
helpful while it lastedremembered when it died.
Little Jane's last thought had been to wish with all her mightthat
God would bless the dear, kind girl up there, and give her all she
asked.I think both prayersalthough too humble to be put in
wordswent up togetherfor in the fulness of time they were
CHAPTER X BROTHERS AND SISTERS
POLLY'S happiest day was Sundayfor Will never failed to spend
it with her. Instead of sleeping later than usual that morningshe
was always up bright and earlyflying round to get ready for her
guestfor Will came to breakfastand they made a long day of it.
Will considered his sister the best and prettiest girl goingand
Pollyknowing well that a time would come when he would find a
better and a prettierwas grateful for his good opinionand tried to
deserve it. So she made her room and herself as neat and inviting
as possibleand always ran to meet him with a bright face and a
motherly greetingwhen he came tramping inruddybriskand
beamingwith the brown loaf and the little pot of beans from the
bake-house near by.
They liked a good country breakfastand nothing gave Polly more
satisfaction than to see her big boy clear the dishesempty the little
coffee-potand then sit and laugh at her across the ravaged table.
Another pleasure was to let him help clear awayas they used to do
at homewhile the peals of laughter that always accompanied this
performance did Miss Mills' heart good to hearfor the room was
so small and Will so big that he seemed to be everywhere at once
and Polly and Puttel were continually dodging his long arms and
legs. Then they used to inspect the flower potspay Nick a visit
and have a little music as a good beginning for the dayafter which
they went to church and dined with Miss Millswho considered
Will "an excellent young man." If the afternoon was fairthey took
a long walk together over the bridges into the countryor about the
city streets full of Sabbath quietude. Most people meeting them
would have seen only an awkward young manwith a boy's face
atop of his tall bodyand a quietly dressedfresh faced little
woman hanging on his arm; but a few peoplewith eyes to read
romances and pleasant histories everywherefound something very
attractive in this coupleand smiled as they passedwondering if
they were youngloversor country cousins "looking round."
If the day was stormythey stayed at homereadingwriting letters
talking over their affairsand giving each other good advice; for
though Will was nearly three years younger than Pollyhe could n't
for the life of him help assuming amusingly venerable airswhen
he became a Freshman. In the twilight he had a good lounge on the
sofaand Polly sung to himwhich arrangement he particularly
enjoyedit was so "cosy and homey." At nine o'clockPolly packed
his bag with clean clothesnicely mendedsuch remnants of the
festive tea as were transportableand kissed him "good-night
with many injunctions to muffle up his throat going over the
bridge, and be sure that his feet were dry and warm when he went
to bed. All of which Will laughed at, accepted graciously, and did
n't obey; but he liked it, and trudged away for another week's work,
rested, cheered, and strengthened by that quiet, happy day with
Polly, for he had been brought up to believe in home influences,
and this brother and sister loved one another dearly, and were not
ashamed to own it.
One other person enjoyed the humble pleasures of these Sundays
quite as much as Polly and Will. Maud used to beg to come to tea,
and Polly, glad to do anything for those who had done a good deal
for her, made a point of calling for the little girl as they came
home from their walk, or sending Will to escort her in the carriage,
which Maud always managed to secure if bad weather threatened
to quench her hopes. Tom and Fanny laughed at her fancy, but she
did not tire of it, for the child was lonely, and found something in
that little room which the great house could not give her.
Maud was twelve now; a pale, plain child, with sharp, intelligent
eyes, and a busy little mind, that did a good deal more thinking
than anybody imagined. She was just at the unattractive, fidgety
age when no one knew what to do with her, and so let her fumble
her way up as she could, finding pleasure in odd things, and living
much alone, for she did not go to school, because her shoulders
were growing round, and Mrs. Shaw would not allow her figure to
be spoiled." That suited Maud excellently; and whenever her father
spoke of sending her againor getting a governessshe was seized
with bad headachesa pain in her backor weakness of the eyesat
which Mr. Shaw laughedbut let her holiday go on. Nobody
seemed to care much for plainpug-nosed little Maudie; her father
was busyher mother nervous and sickFanny absorbed in her own
affairsand Tom regarded her as most young men do their younger
sistersas a person born for his amusement and convenience
nothing more. Maud admired Tom with all her heartand made a
little slave of herself to himfeeling well repaid if he merely said
Thank you, chicken,or did n't pinch her noseor nip her earas
he had a way of doingjust as if I was a doll, or a dog, and had n't
got any feelings,she sometimes said to Fannywhen some service
or sacrifice had been accepted without gratitude or respect. It
never occurred to Tomwhen Maud sat watching him with her
face full of wistfulnessthat she wanted to be petted as much as
ever he did in his neglected boyhoodor that when he called her
Pugbefore peopleher little feelings were as deeply wounded as
his used to bewhen the boys called him "Carrots." He was fond of
her in his fashionbut he did n't take the trouble to show itso
Maud worshipped him afar offafraid to betray the affection that
no rebuff could kill or cool.
One snowy Sunday afternoon Tom lay on the sofa in his favorite
attitudereading "Pendennis" for the fourth timeand smoking like
a chimney as he did so. Maud stood at the window watching the
falling flakes with an anxious countenanceand presently a great
sigh broke from her.
Don't do that again, chicken, or you 'll blow me away. What's the
matter?asked Tomthrowing down his book with a yawn that
I 'm afraid I can't go to Polly's,answered Mauddisconsolately.
Of course you can't; it 's snowing hard, and father won't be home
with the carriage till this evening. What are you always cutting off
to Polly's for?
I like it; we have such nice times, and Will is there, and we bake
little johnny-cakes in the baker before the fire, and they sing, and it
is so pleasant.
Warbling johnny-cakes must be interesting. Come and tell me all
No, you 'll only laugh at me.
I give you my word I won't, if I can help it; but I really am dying
of curiosity to know what you do down there. You like to hear
secrets, so tell me yours, and I 'll be as dumb as an oyster.
It is n't a secret, and you would n't care for it. Do you want
another pillow?she addedas Tom gave his a thump.
This will do; but why you women always stick tassels and fringe
all over a sofa-cushion, to tease and tickle a fellow, is what I don't
One thing that Polly does Sunday nights, is to take Will's head in
her lap, and smooth his forehead. It rests him after studying so
hard, she says. If you don't like the pillow, I could do that for you,
'cause you look as if you were more tired of studying than Will,
said Maudwith some hesitationbut an evident desire to be useful
Well, I don't care if you do try it, for I am confoundedly tired.
And Tom laughedas he recalled the frolic he had been on the
Maud established herself with great satisfactionand Tom owned
that a silk apron was nicer than a fuzzy cushion.
Do you like it?she askedafter a few strokes over the hot
foreheadwhich she thought was fevered by intense application to
Greek and Latin.
Not bad; play away,was the gracious replyas Tom shut his
eyesand lay so still that Maud was charmed at the success of her
attempt. Presentlyshe saidsoftlyTom, are you asleep?
Just turning the comer.
Before you get quite round would you please tell me what a
Public Admonition is?
What do you want to know for?demanded Tomopening his
eyes very wide.
I heard Will talking about Publics and Privates, and I meant to ask
him, but I forgot.
What did he say?
I don't remember; it was about somebody who cut prayers, and
got a Private, and had done all sorts of bad things, and had one or
two Publics. I did n't hear the name and did n't care; I only wanted
to know what the words meant.
So Will tells tales, does he?and Tom's forehead wrinkled with a
No, he did n't; Polly knew about it and asked him.
Will's a 'dig,'growled Tomshutting his eyes againas if nothing
more could be said of the delinquent William.
I don't care if he is; I like him very much, and so does Polly.
Happy Fresh!said Tomwith a comical groan.
You need n't sniff at him, for he is nice, and treats me with
respect,cried Maudwith an energy that made Tom laugh in her
He 's good to Polly always, and puts on her cloak for her, and says
'my dear,' and kisses her 'goodnight,' and don't think it 's silly, and I
wish I had a brother just like him, yes, I do!And Maud showed
signs of woefor her disappointment about going was very great.
Bless my boots! what's the chicken ruffling up her little feathers
and pecking at me for? Is that the way Polly soothes the best of
brothers?said Tomstill laughing.
Oh, I forgot! there, I won't cry; but I do want to go,and Maud
swallowed her tearsand began to stroke again.
Now Tom's horse and sleigh were in the stablefor he meant to
drive out to College that eveningbut he did n't take Maud's hint. It
was less trouble to lie stilland say in a conciliatory toneTell
me some more about this good boy, it 's very interesting.
No, I shan't, but I 'll tell about Puttel's playing on the piano,said
Maudanxious to efface the memory of her momentary weakness.
Polly points to the right key with a little stick, and Puttel sits on
the stool and pats each key as it 's touched, and it makes a tune. It
's so funny to see her, and Nick perches on the rack and sings as if
he 'd kill himself.
Very thrilling,said Tomin a sleepy tone.
Maud felt that her conversation was not as interesting as she
hopedand tried again.
Polly thinks you are handsomer than Mr. Sydney.
I asked which she thought had the nicest face, and she said yours
was the handsomest, and his the best.
Does he ever go there?asked a sharp voice behind them; and
looking round Maud saw Fanny in the big chaircooking her feet
over the register.
I never saw him there; he sent up some books one day, and Will
teased her about it.
What did she do?demanded Fanny. "Ohshe shook him."
What a spectacle!and Tom looked as if he would have enjoyed
seeing itbut Fanny's face grew so forbiddingthat Tom's little dog
who was approaching to welcome herput his tail between his legs
and fled under the table.
Then there is n't any 'Sparking Sunday night'?sung Tomwho
appeared to have waked up again.
Of course not. Polly is n't going to marry anybody; she 's going to
keep house for Will when he 's a minister, I heard her say so,
cried Maudwith importance.
What a fate for pretty Polly!ejaculated Tom.
She likes it, and I 'm sure I should think she would; it 's beautiful
to hear 'em plan it all out.
Any more gossip to retail, Pug?asked Tom a minute afteras
Maud seemed absorbed in visions of thefuture.
He told a funny story about blowing up one of the professors. You
never told us, so I suppose you did n't know it. Some bad fellow
put a torpedo, or some sort of powder thing, under the chair, and it
went off in the midst of the lesson, and the poor man flew up,
frightened most to pieces, and the boys ran with pails of water to
put the fire out. But the thing that made Will laugh most was, that
the very fellow who did it got his trousers burnt trying to put out
the fire, and he asked the is it Faculty or President?
Either will do,murmured Tomwho was shaking with
Well, he asked 'em to give him some new ones, and they did give
him money enough, for a nice pair; but he got some cheap ones,
with horrid great stripes on 'em, and always wore 'em to that
particular class, 'which was one too many for the fellows,' Will
said, and with the rest of the money he had a punch party. Was n't
Awful!And Tom exploded into a great laughthat made Fanny
cover her earsand the little dog bark wildly.
Did you know that bad boy?asked innocent Maud.
Slightly,gasped Tomin whose wardrobe at college those
identical trousers were hanging at that moment.
Don't make such a noise, my head aches dreadfully,said Fanny
Girls' heads always do ache,answered Tomsubsiding from a
roar into a chuckle.
What pleasure you boys can find in such ungentlemanly things, I
don't see,said Fannywho was evidently out of sorts.
As much a mystery to you as it is to us, how you girls can like to
gabble and prink from one week's end to the other,retorted Tom.
There was a pause after this little passage-at-armsbut Fan wanted
to be amusedfor time hung heavily on her handsso she askedin
a more amiable toneHow 's Trix?
As sweet as ever,answered Tomgruffly.
Did she scold you, as usual?
She just did.
What was the matter?
Well, I 'll leave it to you if this is n't unreasonable: she won't
dance with me herself, yet don't like me to go it with anybody else.
I said, I thought, if a fellow took a girl to a party, she ought to
dance with him once, at least, especially if they were engaged. She
said that was the very reason why she should n't do it; so, at the
last hop, I let her alone, and had a gay time with Belle, and to-day
Trix gave it to me hot and heavy, coming home from church.
If you go and engage yourself to a girl like that, I don't know what
you can expect. Did she wear her Paris hat to-day?added Fan
with sudden interest in her voice.
She wore some sort of a blue thing, with a confounded bird of
Paradise in it, that kept whisking into my face every time she
turned her head.
Men never know a pretty thing when they see it. That hat is
They know a lady when they see her, and Trix don't look like one;
I can't say where the trouble is, but there 's too much fuss and
feathers for my taste. You are twice as stylish, yet you never look
loud or fast.
Touched by this unusual complimentFanny drew her chair nearer
as she replied with complacencyYes, I flatter myself I do know
how to dress well. Trix never did; she 's fond of gay colors, and
generally looks like a walking rainbow.
Can't you give her a hint? Tell her not to wear blue gloves
anyway, she knows I hate 'em.
I 've done my best for your sake, Tom, but she is a perverse
creature, and don't mind a word I say, even about things much
more objectionable than blue gloves.
Maudie, run and bring me my other cigar case, it 's lying round
Maud went; and as soon as the door was shutTom rose on his
elbowsaying in a cautiously lowered voiceFan, does Trix
Yes, and draws too,answered Fannywith a sly laugh.
Come, you know what I mean; I 've a right to ask and you ought
to tell,said Tomsoberlyfor he was beginning to find that being
engaged was not unmitigated bliss.
What makes you think she does?
Well, between ourselves,said Tomlooking a little sheepishbut
anxious to set his mind at restshe never will let me kiss her on
her cheek, nothing but an unsatisfactory peck at her lips. Then the
other day, as I took a bit of heliotrope out of a vase to put in my
button-hole, I whisked a drop of water into her face; I was going to
wipe it off, but she pushed my hand away, and ran to the glass,
where she carefully dabbed it dry, and came back with one cheek
redder than the other. I did n't say anything, but I had my
suspicions. Come now, does she?
Yes, she does; but don't say a word to her, for she 'll never forgive
my telling if she knew it.
I don't care for that; I don't like it, and I won't have it,said Tom
You can't help yourself. Half the girls do it, either paint or
powder, darken their lashes with burnt hair-pins, or take cologne
on lumps of sugar or belladonna to make their eyes bright. Clara
tried arsenic for her complexion, but her mother stopped it,said
Fannybetraying the secrets of the prison-house in the basest
I knew you girls were a set of humbugs, and very pretty ones, too,
some of you, but I can't say I like to see you painted up like a lot of
actresses,said Tomwith an air of disgust.
I don't do anything of the sort, or need it, but Trix does; and
having chosen her, you must abide your choice, for better or
It has n't come to that yet,muttered Tomas he lay down again
with a rebellious air.
Maud's return put an end to these confidencesthough Tom excited
her curiosity by asking the mysterious questionI say, Fan, is
Polly up to that sort of thing?
No, she thinks it 's awful. When she gets pale and dragged out she
will probably change her mind.
I doubt it,said Tom.
Polly says it is n't proper to talk secrets before people who ain't in
'em,observed Maudwith dignity.
Do, for mercy sake, stop talking about Polly, I 'm sick to death of
Hullo!and Tom sat up to take a survey. "I thought you were
bosom friendsand as spoony as ever."
Well, I am fond of Polly, but I get tired of hearing Maud sing her
praises everlastingly. Now don't go and repeat that, chatterbox.
My goodness, is n't she cross?whispered Maud to Tom.
As two sticks; let her be. There 's the bell; see who it is, Pug,
answered Tomas a tingle broke the silence of the house.
Maud went to peep over the banistersand came flying back in a
It 's Will come for me! Can't I go? It don't snow hard, and I 'll
bundle up, and you can send for me when papa comes.
I don't care what you do,answered Fanwho was in a very bad
Without waiting for any other permissionMaud rushed away to
get ready. Will would n't come uphe was so snowyand Fanny
was gladbecause with her he was bashfulawkwardand silentso
Tom went down and entertained him with Maud's report. They
were very good friendsbut led entirely different livesWill being
a "dig and Tom a bird or, in plain English, one was a hard
student, and the other a jolly young gentleman. Tom had rather
patronized Will, who did n't like it, and showed that he did n't by
refusing to borrow money of him, or accept any of his invitations
to join the clubs and societies to which Tom belonged. So Shaw let
Milton alone, and he got on very well in his own way, doggedly
sticking to his books, and resisting all temptations but those of
certain libraries, athletic games, and such inexpensive pleasures as
were within his means; for this benighted youth had not yet
discovered that college nowadays is a place in which to sky-lark
not to study.
When Maud came down and trotted contentedly away, holding
Will's hand, Tom watched them out of sight, and then strolled
about the house whistling and thinking, till he went to sleep in his
father's arm-chair, for want of something better to do. He awoke to
the joys of a solitary tea, for his mother never came down, and
Fanny shut herself and her headache up in her own room.
Wellthis is cheerful he said, as the clock struck eight, and his
fourth cigar came to an end. Trix is madand Fan in the dumps
so I 'll take myself off. Guess I 'll go round to Polly'sand ask Will
to drive out with meand save him the walkpoor chap. Might
bring Midget homeit will please herand there 's no knowing
when the governor will be back."
With these thoughts in his headTom leisurely got under wayand
left his horse at a neighboring stablefor he meant to make a little
calland see what it was Maud enjoyed so much.
Polly is holding forth,he said to himselfas he went quietly up
stairsand the steady murmur of a pleasant voice came down to
him. Tom laughed at Polly's earnest way of talking when she was
interested in anything. But he liked it because it was so different
from the coquettish clatter of most of the girls with whom he
talked. Young men often laugh at the sensible girls whom they
secretly respectand affect to admire the silly ones whom they
secretly despisebecause earnestnessintelligenceand womanly
dignity are not the fashion.
The door was ajarand pausing in the dark entry Tom took a
survey before he went in. The prospect was not dazzlingbut
home-like and pleasant. The light of a bright fire filled the little
roomand down on a stool before it was Maud tending Putteland
watching with deep interest the roasting of an apple intended for
her special benefit. On the couch lounged Willhis thoughtful eyes
fixed on Pollywhowhile she talkedsmoothed the broad
forehead of her "yellow-haired laddie" in a way that Tom thought
an immense improvement on Maud's performance. They had
evidently been building castles in the airfor Polly was saying in
her most impressive mannerWell, whatever you do, Will, don't
have a great, costly church that takes so much money to build and
support it that you have nothing to give away. I like the plain,
old-fashioned churches, built for use, not show, where people met
for hearty praying and preaching, and where everybody made their
own music instead of listening to opera singers, as we do now. I
don't care if the old churches were bare and cold, and the seats
hard, there was real piety in them, and the sincerity of it was felt in
the lives of the people. I don't want a religion that I put away with
my Sunday clothes, and don't take out till the day comes round
again; I want something to see and feel and live by day-by-day, and
I hope you 'll be one of the true ministers, who can teach by
precept and example, how to get and keep it.
I hope I shall be, Polly, but you know they say that in families, if
there is a boy who can't do anything else, they make a minister of
him. I sometimes think I ain't good for much, and that seems to me
the reason why I should n't even try to be a minister,said Will
smilingyet looking as if with all his humility he did have faith in
the aspirations that came to him in his best moments.
Some one said that very thing to father once, and I remember he
answered, 'I am glad to give my best and brightest son to the
service of God.'
Did he say that?and Will's color rosefor the bigbook-loving
fellow was as sensitive as a girl to the praise of those dearest to
Yes,said Pollyunconsciously giving the strongest stimulus to
her brother's hope and courage. "Yesand he added'I shall let my
boys follow the guide that is in themand only ask of them to use
their gifts conscientiouslyand be honestuseful men.' "
So we will! Ned is doing well out West, and I 'm hard at it here. If
father does his best to give us the chance we each want, the least
we can do is to work with a will.
Whatever you do, you can't help working with a Will,cried Tom
who had been so interestedthat he forgot he was playing
Polly flew uplooking so pleased and surprisedthat Tom
reproached himself for not having called oftener.
I 've come for Maud,he announcedin a paternal tonewhich
made that young lady open her eyes.
I can't go till my apple is done; besides, it is n't nine yet, and Will
is going to take me along, when he goes. I 'd rather have him.
I 'm going to take you both in the cutter. The storm is over, but it
is heavy walking, so you 'll drive out with me, old man?said
Tomwith a nod at Will.
Of course he will; and thank you very much. I 've been trying to
keep him all night; Miss Mills always manages to find a corner for
stray people, but he insists on going, so as to get to work early
to-morrow,said Pollydelighted to see that Tom was taking off
his coatas if he meant to wait for Maud's applewhich Polly
blessed for being so slow to cook.
Putting her guest into the best chairPolly sat down and beamed at
him with such hospitable satisfactionthat Tom went up several
pegs in his own estimation.
You don't come very often, so we are rather over-powered when
you do honor us,she saiddemurely.
Well, you, know we fellows are so busy, we have n't much time to
enjoy ourselves,answered Tom.
Take a troche,said Tom.
Then they both burst out laughingand Pollyfully understanding
the jokejoined themsayingHere are some peanuts, Tom; do
enjoy yourself while you can.
Now I call that a delicate compliment!And Tomwho had not
lost his early relish for this sort of refreshmentthough he seldom
indulged his passion nowadaysbecause peanuts are considered
vulgarfell to cracking and munching with great satisfaction.
Do you remember the first visit I made at your house, how you
gave me peanuts, coming from the depot, and frightened me out of
my wits, pretending the coachman was tipsy?asked Polly.
Of course I do, and how we coasted one day,answered Tom
Yes, and the velocipede; you 've got the scar of that yet, I see.
I remember how you stood by me while it was sewed up; that was
very plucky, Polly.
I was dreadfully afraid, but I remember I wanted to seem very
brave, because you 'd called me a coward.
Did I? Ought to have been ashamed of myself. I used to rough you
shamefully, Polly, and you were so good-natured, you let me do
Could n't help myself,laughed Polly. "I did use to think you were
an awful boybut seems to me I rather liked it."
She had so much of it at home, she got used to it,put in Will
pulling the little curl behind Polly's ear.
You boys never teased me as Tom did, that 's the reason it amused
me, I suppose; novelty hath charms, you know.
Grandma used to lecture Tom for plaguing you, Polly, and he
used to say he 'd be a tip-top boy, but he was n't,observed Maud
with a venerable air.
Dear old grandma; she did her best, but I 'm a bad lot,said Tom
with a shake of the head and a sober face.
It always seems as if she must be up in her rooms, and I can't get
used to finding them empty,added Pollysoftly.
Father would n't have anything moved, and Tom sits up there
sometimes; it makes him feel good, he says,said Maudwho had
a talent for betraying trifles which people preferred should not be
mentioned in public.
You 'd better hurry up your apple, for if it is n't done pretty soon,
you 'll have to leave it, Pug,said Tomlooking annoyed.
How is Fan?asked Pollywith tact.
Well, Fan is rather under the weather; says she 's dyspeptic, which
She is cross, but she 's sick too, for I found her crying one day,
and she said nobody cared about her, and she might as well be
dead,added Maudhaving turned her apple with tender care.
We must try to cheer her up, among us. If I was n't so busy I 'd
like to devote myself to her, she has done so much for me,said
I wish you could. I can't understand her, for she acts like a
weathercock, and I never know how I 'm going to find her. I hate to
have her mope so, but, upon my life, I don't know what to do,said
Tom; but as he uttered the wordssomething was suggested by the
sight before him. Chairs were fewand Polly had taken half of
Will's when they drew round the fire. Now she was leaning against
himin a cosyconfiding waydelightful to beholdwhile Will's
strong arm went round her with a protecting airwhich saidas
plainly as any wordsthat this big brother and small sister knew
how to love and help one another. It was a pleasant little picture
all the pleasanter for its unconsciousnessand Tom found it both
suggestive and agreeable.
Poor old Fan, she don't get much petting; maybe that 's what she
wants. I 'll try it and see, for she stands by me like a trump. If she
was a rosy, cosy little woman, like Polly, it would come easier,
though,thought Tomas he meditatively ate his last nutfeeling
that fraternal affection could not be very difficult of
demonstrationto brothers blessed with prettygood-tempered
I told Tom about the bad fellow who blew up the professor, and
he said he knew him, slightly; and I was so relieved, because I had
a kind of a feeling that it was Tom himself, you and Will laughed
so about it.
Maud had a queer way of going on with her own thoughtsand
suddenly coming out with whatever lay uppermostregardless of
timeplaceor company. As this remark fell from herthere was a
general smileand Polly saidwith mock solemnityIt was a sad
thing, and I 've no doubt that misguided young man is very sorry
for it now.
He looked perfectly bowed down with remorse last time I saw
him,said Willregarding Tom with eyes full of funfor Will was
a boy as well as a bookwormand relished a joke as well as
He always is remorseful after a scrape, I 've understood, for he is
n't a very bad fellow, only his spirits are one too many for him, and
he is n't as fond of his book as another fellow I know.
I 'm afraid he 'll he expelled if he don't mind,said Polly
Should n't wonder if he was, he 's such an unlucky dog,answered
I hope he 'll remember that his friends will be very much
disappointed if he is. He might make them so proud and happy;
that I guess he will, for he is n't half as thoughtless as he makes
himself out,said Pollylooking across at Tom with such friendly
eyes that he was quite touchedthough of course he did n't show it.
Thank you, Polly; he may pull through, but I have my doubts.
Now old man, let us 'pud' along; it 's getting late for the chicken,
he addedrelapsing into the graceful diction with which a classical
education gifts its fortunate possessor.
Taking advantage of the moment while Will was wrestling with
his boots in the closetand Maud was absorbed in packing her
apple into a large basketPolly said to Tom in a low toneThank
you very much, for being so kind to Will.
Bless your heart, I have n't done anything; he 's such a proud
fellow he won't let me,answered Tom.
But you do in many little ways; to-night, for example. Do you
think I don't know that the suit of clothes he 's just got would have
cost a good deal more, if your tailor had n't made them? He 's only
a boy, and don't understand things yet; but I know your way of
helping proud people; so that they don't find it out, and I do thank
you, Tom, so much.
Oh, come, Polly, that won't do. What do you know about tailors
and college matters?said Tomlooking as much confused as if
she had found him out in something reprehensible.
I don't know much, and that 's the reason why I 'm grateful for
your kindness to Will. I don't care what stories they tell about you,
I 'm sure, you won't lead him into trouble, but keep him straight,
for my sake. You know I 've lost one brother, and Will takes
Jimmy's place to me now.
The tears in Polly's eyes as she said that made Tom vow a
tremendous vow within himself to stand by Will through thick and
thinand "keep him straight for Polly's sake"; feeling all the time
how ill-fitted he was for such a task.
I 'll do my best,he saidheartilyas he pressed the hand Polly
gave himwith a look which assured her that he felt the appeal to
his honorand that henceforth the country lad was safe from all the
temptations Tom could have offered him.
There! now I shall give that to mamma to take her pills in; it 's
just what she likes, and it pleases her to be thought of,said Maud
surveying her gift with complacencyas she put on her things.
You 're a good little soul, to remember poor mum, said Tom, with
an approving nod.
Wellshe was so pleased with the grapes you brought herI
thought I 'd try somethingand maybe she 'd say 'Thank you
darling' to me too. Do you think she will?" whispered Maudwith
the wistful look so often seen on her little plain face.
See if she don't;and to Maud's great surprise Tom did n't laugh
at her project.
Good night, dear; take care of yourself, and keep your muffler
round your mouth going over the bridge, or you 'll be as hoarse as a
crow to-morrow,said Pollyas she kissed her brotherwho
returned it without looking as if he thought it "girl's nonsense"
Then the three piled into the sleigh and drove offleave Polly
nodding on the doorstep.
Maud found the drive altogether too shortbut was consoled by the
promise of a longer one if the sleighing lasted till next Saturday:
and when Tom ran up to bid his mother good-byand give her a
hint about Maud's giftshe stayed below to sayat the last minute
in unconscious imitation of Polly.
Good night; take care of yourself, my dear.
Tom laughedand was about to pinch the much enduring little
nose; butas if the words reminded him of somethinghe gave her
a kiss insteada piece of forbearance which almost took Maud's
breath away with surprise and gratification.
It was rather a silent drivefor Will obediently kept his muffler up
and Tom fell into a brown study.
He was not much given to reflectionbut occasionally indulged
when something gave him a turn in that directionand at such
times he was as sober and sincere as could be desired. Any one
might have lectured him for an hour without doing as much good
as that little call and the chat that grew out of itforthough
nothing very wise or witty was saidmany things were suggested
and every one knows that persuasive influences are better than any
amount of moralizing. Neither Polly nor Will tried to do anything
of the sortand that was the charm of it. Nobody likes to be talked
tobut nobody can resist the eloquence of unconscious preaching.
With all his thoughtlessnessTom was quick to see and feel these
thingsand was not spoilt enough yet to laugh at them. The sight of
Will and Polly's simple affection for one another reminded him of
a neglected duty so pleasantlythat he could not forget it. Talking
of early days made him wish he could go back and start again
doing better. Grandma's name recalled the tender memory that
always did him goodand the thought that Polly trusted her dearest
brother to his care stirred up a manful desire to deserve the
confidence. Tortures would n't have drawn a word of all this from
himbut it had its effectfor boys don't leave their hearts and
consciences behind them when they enter collegeand little things
of this sort do much to keep both from being damaged by the four
years' scrimmage which begins the battle of life for most of them.
CHAPTER XI NEEDLES AND TONGUES
DEAR POLLYThe Sewing Circle meets at our house this P. M.
This is in your lineso do come and help me through. I shall
depend on you.
Bad news, my dear?asked Miss Millswho had just handed the
note to Polly as she came in one noona few weeks after Jenny's
Polly told her what it wasaddingI suppose I ought to go and
help Fanny, but I can't say I want to. The girls talk about things I
have nothing to do with, and I don't find their gossip very amusing.
I 'm an outsider, and they only accept me on Fan's account; so I sit
in a corner and sew, while they chatter and laugh.
Would n't it be a good chance to say a word for Jenny? She wants
work, and these young ladies probably have quantities done
somewhere. Jenny does fine work exquisitely, and begins to feel
anxious to be earning something. I don't want her to feel dependent
and unhappy, and a little well-paid sewing would be all she needs
to do nicely. I can get it for her by running round to my friends, but
I really have n't the time, till I get the Mullers off. They are
paupers here, but out West they can take care of themselves, so I
've begged the money to send them, and as soon as I can get them
some clothes, off they go. That 's the way to help people help
themselves,and Miss Mills clashed her big scissors energetically
as she cut out a little red flannel shirt.
I know it is, and I want to help, but I don't know where to begin,
said Pollyfeeling quite oppressed with the immensity of the work.
We can't any of us do all we would like, but we can do our best
for every case that comes to us, and that helps amazingly. Begin
with Jenny, my dear; tell those girls about her, and if I 'm not much
mistaken, you will find them ready to help, for half the time it is n't
hardness of heart, but ignorance or thoughtlessness on the part of
the rich, that makes them seem so careless of the poor.
To tell the truth, I 'm afraid of being laughed at, if I try to talk
seriously about such things to the girls,said Pollyfrankly.
You believe that 'such things' are true? You are sincere in your
wish to help better them, and you respect those who work for that
Yes, I do.
Then, my dear, can't you bear a little ridicule for the sake of a
good cause? You said yesterday that you were going to make it a
principle of your life, to help up your sex as far and as fast as you
could. It did my heart good to hear you say it, for I was sure that in
time you would keep your word. But, Polly, a principle that can't
bear being laughed at, frowned on, and cold-shouldered, is n't
worthy of the name.
I want to be strong-minded in the real sense of the word, but I
don't like to be called so by people who don't understand my
meaning; and I shall be if I try to make the girls think soberly
about anything sensible or philanthropic. They call me
old-fashioned now, and I 'd rather be thought that, though it is n't
pleasant, than be set down as a rampant woman's rights reformer,
said Pollyin whose memory many laughsand snubsand
sarcasms still lingeredforgiven but not forgotten.
This love and thought and care for those weaker, poorer, or worse
than ourselves, which we call Christian charity, is a very old
fashion, my dear. It began eighteen hundred years ago, and only
those who honestly follow the beautiful example set us then, learn
how to get genuine happiness out of life. I 'm not a 'rampant
woman's rights reformer,'added Miss Millswith a smile at
Polly's sober face; "but I think that women can do a great deal for
each otherif they will only stop fearing what 'people will think'
and take a hearty interest in whatever is going to fit their sisters
and themselves to deserve and enjoy the rights God gave them.
There are so many ways in which this can be donethat I wonder
they don't see and improve them. I don't ask you to go and make
speechesonly a few have the gift for thatbut I do want every girl
and woman to feel this dutyand make any little sacrifice of time
or feeling that may be asked of thembecause there is so much to
doand no one can do it as well as ourselvesif we only think so."
I 'll try!said Pollyinfluenced more by her desire to keep Miss
Mills' good opinion than any love of self-sacrifice for her sex. It
was rather a hard thing to ask of a shysensitive girland the kind
old lady knew itfor in spite of the gray hair and withered faceher
heart was very youngand her own girlish trials not forgotten. But
she knew also that Polly had more influence over others than she
herself suspectedsimply because of her candidupright nature;
and that while she tried to help othersshe was serving herself in a
way that would improve heart and soul more than any mere social
success she might gain by following the rules of fashionable life
which drill the character out of girls till they are as much alike as
pins in a paperand have about as much true sense and sentiment
in their little heads. There was good stuff in Pollyunspoiled as
yetand Miss Mills was only acting out her principle of women
helping each other. The wise old lady saw that Polly had reached
that point where the girl suddenly blooms into a womanasking
something more substantial than pleasure to satisfy the new
aspirations that are born; a time as precious and important to the
after-lifeas the hour when the apple blossoms falland the young
fruit waits for the elements to ripen or destroy the harvest.
Polly did not know thisand was fortunate in possessing a friend
who knew what influences would serve her bestand who could
give her what all women should desire to give each otherthe
example of a sweetgood lifemore eloquent and powerful than
any words; for this is a right no one can deny us.
Polly turned the matter over in her mind as she dressedwhile
Jenny played waiting maidlittle dreaming what this new friend
was meaning to do for herif she dared.
Is it going to be a tea-party, Miss?asked Jennyas the black silk
went rustling onto her great admirationfor she considered Polly
Well, no, I think it will probably be a lecture,answered Polly
laughingfor Jenny's grateful service and affectionate eyes
confirmed the purpose which Miss Mills' little homily had
As she entered the Shaws' parlor an hour or two lateran appalling
array of well-dressed girls appearedeach provided with a dainty
reticulebasketor bagand each tongue going a good deal faster
than the needlewhile the white fingers stitched sleeves in upside
downput flannel jackets together hind part beforeor gobbled
button-holes with the best intentions in life.
You are a dear to come so early. Here 's a nice place for you
between Belle and Miss Perkins, and here 's a sweet little dress to
make, unless you like something else better,said Fannyreceiving
her friend with warmth and placing her where she thought she
would enjoy herself.
Thank you, I 'll take an unbleached cotton shirt if you have such a
thing, for it is likely to be needed before a cambric frock,replied
Pollysubsiding into her comer as quickly as possiblefor at least
six eye-glasses were upand she did n't enjoy being stared at.
Miss Perkinsa gravecold-looking young ladywith an
aristocratic nosebowed politelyand then went on with her work
which displayed two diamond rings to great advantage. Belle
being of the demonstrative sortsmiled and noddeddrew up her
chairand began a whispered account of Trix's last quarrel with
Tom. Polly listened with interest while she sewed diligently
occasionally permitting her eyes to study the elegant intricacies of
Miss Perkins' dressfor that young lady sat like a statuequirking
her delicate fingersand accomplishing about two stitches a
In the midst of Belle's storya more exciting bit of gossip caught
her earand she plunged into the conversation going on across the
tableleaving Polly free to listen and admire the witwisdomand
charitable spirit of the accomplished young ladies about her. There
was a perfect Babel of tonguesbut out of the confusion Polly
gathered scraps of fashionable intelligence which somewhat
lessened her respect for the dwellers in high places. One fair
creature asserted that Joe Somebody took so much champagne at
the last Germanthat he had to be got awayand sent home with
two servants. Another divulged the awful fact that Carrie P.'s
wedding presents were half of them hired for the occasion. A third
circulated a whisper to the effect that though Mrs. Buckminster
wore a thousand-dollar cloakher boys were not allowed but one
sheet to their beds. And a fourth young gossip assured the
company that a certain person never had offered himself to a
certain other personthough the report was industriously spread by
interested parties. This latter remark caused such a clamor that
Fanny called the meeting to order in a most unparliamentary
Girls! girls! you really must talk less and sew more, or our society
will be disgraced. Do you know our branch sent in less work than
any of the others. last month, and Mrs. Fitz George said, she did n't
see how fifteen young ladies could manage to do so little?
We don't talk a bit more than the old ladies do. I just wish you
could have heard them go on, last time. The way they get so much
done, is, they take work home, and make their seamstresses do it,
and then they take credit for vast industry,said Bellewho always
spoke her mind with charming candor.
That reminds me that mamma says they want as many things as
we can make, for it 's a hard winter, and the poor are suffering very
much. Do any of you wish to take articles home, to do at odd
times?said Fanwho was president of this energetic Dorcas
Mercy, no! It takes all my leisure time to mend my gloves and
refresh my dresses,answered Belle.
I think if we meet once a week, it is all that should be expected of
us, with our other engagements. Poor people always complain that
the winter is a hard one, and never are satisfied,remarked Miss
Perkinsmaking her diamonds sparkle as she sewed buttons on the
wrong side of a pink calico apronwhich would hardly survive one
Nobody can ask me to do any more, if they remember all I 've got
to attend to before summer,said Trixwith an important air. "I 've
got three women hard at workand want anotherbut everyone is
so busyand ask such abominable pricesthat I 'm in despairand
shall have to take hold myselfI 'm afraid."
There 's a chance for Jane,thought Pollybut had n't courage "to
speak out loud in meeting just then, and resolved to ask Trix for
work, in private.
Prices are highbut you forget how much more it costs to live
now than it used to do. Mamma never allows us to beat down
workwomenbut wishes us to pay them welland economize in
some other wayif we must said Emma Davenport, a quiet,
bright-eyed girl, who was called odd " among the young ladies
because she dressed simplywhen her father was a millionaire.
Just hear that girl talk about economy! I beg your pardon, she 's
some relation of yours, I believe!said Bellein a low tone.
Very distant; but I 'm proud of it; for with her, economy does n't
mean scrimping in one place to make a show in another. If every
one would follow the Davenports' example, workwomen would n't
starve, or servants be such a trouble. Emma is the plainest dressed
girl in the room, next to me, yet any one can see she is a true
And you are another,answered Bellewho had always loved
Pollyin her scatter-brained way.
Hush! Trix has the floor.
If they spent their wages properly, I should n't mind so much, but
they think they must be as fine as anybody, and dress so well that it
is hard to tell mistress from maid. Why our cook got a bonnet just
like mine (the materials were cheaper, but the effect was the
same), and had the impertinence to wear it before my face. I forbid
it, and she left, of course, which made papa so cross he would n't
give me the camel's hair shawl he promised this year.
It 's perfectly shameful!said Miss Perkinsas Trix paused out of
breath. "Servants ought to be made to dress like servantsas they
do abroad; then we should have no more trouble observed Miss
Perkins, who had just made the grand tour, and had brought home
a French maid.
Perky don't practise as she preaches whispered Belle to Polly, as
Miss P. became absorbed in the chat of her other neighbors. She
pays her chamber girl with old finery; and the other daywhen
Betsey was out parading in her missis's cast-off purple plush suit
Mr. Curtis thought she was mademoiselleand bowed to her. He is
as blind as a batbut recognized the dressand pulled off his hat to
it in the most elegant style. Perky adores himand was mad enough
to beat Betsey when she told the story and giggled over it. Betsey
is quite as stylish and ever so much prettier than Perkyand she
knows itwhich is an aggravation."
Polly could n't help laughingbut grew sober a minute afteras
Trix saidpettishlyWell, I 'm sick of hearing about beggars; I
believe half of them are humbugs, and if we let them alone they 'd
go to work and take care of themselves. There 's altogether too
much fuss made about charity. I do wish we could be left in
There can't be too much charity!burst out Pollyforgetting her
shyness all at once.
Oh, indeed! Well, I take the liberty to differ from you,returned
Trixputting up her glassand bestowing upon Polly her most
toploftical stare,as the girls called it.
I regret to say that Polly never could talk with or be near Trix
without feeling irritated and combative. She tried to conquer this
feelingbut she could n'tand when Trix put on airsPolly felt an
intense desire to box her ears. That eye-glass was her especial
aversionfor Trix was no more near-sighted than herselfbut
pretended to be because it was the fashionand at times used the
innocent glass as a weapon with which to put down any one who
presumed to set themselves up. The supercilious glance which
accompanied her ironically polite speech roused Pollywho
answered with sudden color and the kindling of the eyes that
always betrayed a perturbed spiritI don't think many of us would
enjoy that selfish sort of peace, while little children starve, and
girls no older than us kill themselves because their dreadful
poverty leaves them no choice but sin or death.
A sudden lull took placeforthough Pollydid not raise her voice
it was full of indignant emotionand the most frivolous girl there
felt a little thrill of sympathy; for the most utterly fashionable life
does not kill the heart out of womentill years of selfish pleasure
have passed over their heads. Trix was ashamed of herself; but she
felt the same antagonism toward Pollythat Polly did toward her;
andbeing less generoustook satisfaction in plaguing her. Polly
did not know that the secret of this was the fact that Tom often
held her up as a model for his fiance to followwhich caused that
young lady to dislike her more than ever.
Half the awful stories in the papers are made up for a sensation,
and it 's absurd to believe them, unless one likes to be harrowed
up. I don't; and as for peace, I 'm not likely to get much, while I
have Tom to look after,said Trixwith an aggravating laugh.
Polly's needle snapped in twobut she did not mind itas she said
with a look that silenced even sharp-tongued TrixI can't help
believing what my own eyes and ears have seen and heard. You
lead such safe and happy lives, you can't imagine the misery that is
all round you; but if you could get a glimpse of it, it would make
your hearts ache, as it has mine.
Do you suffer from heartache? Some one hinted as much to me,
but you looked so well, I could n't believe it.
Now that was cruel in Trixmore cruel than any one guessed; but
girls' tongues can deal wounds as sharp and sudden as the slender
stiletto Spanish women wear in their hairand Polly turned paleas
those words stabbed her. Belle saw itand rushed to the rescue
with more good-will than wisdom.
Nobody ever accused you of having any heart to ache with. Polly
and I are not old enough yet to get tough and cool, and we are still
silly enough to pity unhappy people, Tom Shaw especially,added
Belleunder her breath.
That was a two-edged thrustfor Trix was decidedly an old girl
and Tom was generally regarded as a hapless victim. Trix turned
red; but before she could load and fire againEmma Davenport
who labored under the delusion that this sort of skirmishing was
ill-naturedand therefore ill-bredspoke up in her pleasant way
Speaking of pitying the poor, I always wonder why it is that we
all like to read and cry over their troubles in books, but when we
have the real thing before us, we think it is uninteresting and
It 's the genius that gets into the books, which makes us like the
poverty, I fancy. But I don't quite agree that the real thing is n't
interesting. I think it would be, if we knew how to look at and feel
it,said Pollyvery quietlyas she pushed her chair out of the
arctic circle of Miss Perkinsinto the temperate one of friendly
But how shall we learn that? I don't see what we girls can do,
more than we do now. We have n't much money for such things,
should n't know how to use it if we had; and it is n't proper for us
to go poking into dirty places, to hunt up the needy. 'Going about
doing good, in pony phaetons,' as somebody says, may succeed in
England, but it won't work here,said Fannywho had begun
latelyto think a good deal of some one beside herselfand so
found her interest in her fellow-beings increasing daily.
We can't do much, perhaps, just yet; but still there are things left
undone that naturally fall to us. I know a house,said Polly
sewing busily as she talkedwhere every servant who enters it
becomes an object of interest to the mistress and her daughters.
These women are taught good habits, books are put where they can
get them, sensible amusements are planned for them sometimes,
and they soon feel that they are not considered mere scrubs, to do
as much work as possible, for as little money as possible, but
helpers in the family, who are loved and respected in proportion to
their faithfulness. This lady feels her duty to them, owns it, and
does it, as conscientiously as she wants them to do theirs by her;
and that is the way it ought to be, I think.
As Polly pausedseveral keen eyes discovered that Emma's cheeks
were very redand saw a smile lurking in the corners of the mouth
that tried to look demurewhich told them who Polly meant.
Do the Biddies all turn out saints in that well regulated family?
asked the irrepressible Trix.
No; few of us do that, even in the parlor; but every one of the
Biddies is better for being there, whether they are grateful or not. I
ought not to have mentioned this, perhaps, but I wanted to show
you one thing that we girls can do. We all complain about bad
servants, most as much as if we were house-keepers ourselves; but
it never occurs to us to try and mend the matter, by getting up a
better spirit between mistress and maid. Then there 's another thing
we can do,added Pollywarming up. "Most of us find money
enough for our little vanities and pleasuresbut feel dreadfully
poor when we come to pay for worksewing especially. Could n't
we give up a few of the vanitiesand pay the seamstresses better?"
I declare I will!cried Bellewhose conscience suddenly woke
and smote her for beating down the woman who did her plain
sewingin order that she might have an extra flounce on a new
dress. "Belle has got a virtuous fit; pity it won't last a week said
Wait and see retorted Belle, resolving that it should last, just to
disappoint that spiteful minx;" as she sweetly called her old
Now we shall behold Belle galloping away at a great pace, on her
new hobby. I should n't be surprised to hear of her preaching in the
jail, adopting a nice dirty little orphan, or passing round tracts at a
Woman's Rights meeting,said Trixwho never could forgive
Belle for having a lovely complexionand so much hair of her own
that she never patronized either ratsmicewaterfallsswitchesor
Well, I might do worse; and I think, of the two, I 'd rather amuse
myself so, than as some young ladies do, who get into the papers
for their pranks,returned Bellewith a moral air.
Suppose we have a little recess, and rest while Polly plays to us.
Will you, Polly? It will do us good; they all want to hear you, and
begged I 'd ask.
Then I will, with pleasure; and Polly went to the piano with such
obliging readinessthat several reproachful glances fell upon Trix
who did n't need her glass to see them.
Polly was never too sadperturbedor lazy to singfor it was
almost as easy to her as breathingand seemed the most natural
outlet for her emotions. For a minute her hands wandered over the
keysas if uncertain what to play; thenfalling into a sadsweet
strainshe sang "The Bridge of Sighs." Polly did n't know why she
chose itbut the instinct seemed to have been a true oneforold as
the song wasit went straight to the hearts of the hearersand Polly
sung it better than she ever had beforefor now the memory of
little Jane lent it a tender pathos which no art could give. It did
them all goodfor music is a beautiful magicianand few can resist
its power. The girls were touched by the appeal; Polly was lifted
out of herselfand when she turned roundthe softened look on all
the faces told her that for the moment foolish differences and
frivolous beliefs were forgotten in the one womanly sentiment of
pity for the wrongs and woes of which the listeners' happy lives
That song always makes me cry, and feel as if I had no right to be
so comfortable,said Belleopenly wiping her eyes on a crash
Fortunately such cases are very rare,said another young lady
who seldom read the newspapers.
I wish they were, but I 'm afraid they are not; for only three weeks
ago, I saw a girl younger than any of us, and no worse, who tried to
destroy herself simply because she was so discouraged, sick, and
Do tell about her,cried Belleeagerly.
Feeling that the song had paved the way for the storyand given
her courage to tell itPolly did tell itand must have done it well
for the girls stopped work to listenand when she endedother eyes
beside warm-hearted Belle's were wet. Trix looked quite subdued;
Miss Perkins thawed to such a degreethat something glittered on
her hand as she bent over the pink pinafore againbetter and
brighter than her biggest diamond; Emma got up and went to Polly
with a face full of affectionate respectwhile Fannymoved by a
sudden impulsecaught up a costly SSvres plate that stood on the
etagSreand laying a five-dollar bill in itpassed it roundquoting
Polly's wordsGirls, I know you 'll like to help poor little Jenny
'begin again, and do better this time.'
It was good to see how quickly the pretty purses were outhow
generously each gave of its abundanceand what hearty applause
broke from the girlsas Belle laid down her gold thimblesaying
with an April faceThere, take that; I never have any money,
somehow it won't stay with me, but I can't let the plate pass me this
When Fanny brought the contributions to Pollyshe just gathered it
up in her two hands with such a gladgrateful facethe girls
wished they had had more to give.
I can't thank you enough,she saidwith an eloquent little choke
in her voice. "This will help Jenny very much; but the way in
which it was done will do her more good than double the money
because it will prove to her that she is n't without friendsand
make her feel that there is a place in the world for her. Let her
work for you in return for this; she don't ask almsshe only wants
employment and a little kindnessand the best charity we can
bestow is to see that she has both."
I 'll give her as much sewing as she wants, and she can stay at our
house while she does it, if she needs a home,said Trixin a spasm
She does n't need a home, thank you; Miss Mills has given half of
hers, and considers Jane her child,answered Pollywith proud
satisfaction in the fact.
What an old dear!cried Belle.
I want to know her. May I?whispered Emma.
Oh, yes; I 'm glad to make her known to any one. She is a quiet
little old lady, but she does one heaps of good, and shows you how
to be charitable in the wisest way.
Do tell us about it. I 'm sure I want to do my duty, but it 's such a
muddle, I don't know how,said Belle.
Thenquite naturallythe conversation fell upon the great work
that none should be too busy to think ofand which few are too
young or too poor to help on with their mite. The faces grew more
earnestthe fingers flew fasteras the quick young hearts and
brains took in the new factsideasand plans that grew out of the
true storiesthe sensible hintsthe successful efforts which Polly
told themfresh from the lips of Miss Mills; forof latePolly had
talked much with the good ladyand learned quickly the lessons
her unselfish life conveyed. The girls found this more interesting
than gossippartly owing to its noveltydoubtless; but the
enthusiasm was sincere while it lastedand did them good. Many
of them forgot all about it in a weekbut Polly's effort was not lost
for EmmaBelleand Fanny remained firm friends to Janeso
kindly helping her that the poor child felt as if she had indeed been
born againinto a new and happy world.
Not till long afterward did Polly see how much good this little
effort had done herfor the first small sacrifice of this sort leads
the way to othersand a single hand's turn given heartily to the
world's great work helps one amazingly with one's own small
tasks. Polly found this out as her life slowly grew easier and
brighterand the beautiful law of compensation gave her better
purposes and pleasures than any she had lost. The parents of some
of her pupils were persons of real refinementand such are always
quick to perceive the marks of culture in othersno matter where
they find them. Theseattracted first by Polly's cheerful face
modest mannersand faithful worksoon found in her something
more than a good teacher; they found a real talent for musican
eager desire for helpful opportunitiesand a heart grateful for the
kindly sympathy that makes rough places smooth. Fortunately
those who have the skill to detect these traits also possess the spirit
to appreciate and often the power to serve and develop them. In
ways so delicate that the most sensitive pride could not resent the
favorthese true gentlefolk showed Polly their respect and regard
put many pleasures in her wayand when they paid her for her
workgave her also the hearty thanks that takes away all sense of
degradation even from the humblest servicefor money so earned
and paid sweetens the daily bread it buysand makes the mutual
obligation a mutual benefit and pleasure.
A few such patrons did much for Pollyand the music she gave
them had an undertone of gratitude that left blithe echoes in those
great houseswhich money could not buy.
Thenas her butterfly acquaintances deserted hershe found her
way into a hive of friendly beeswho welcomed herand showed
her how to find the honey that keeps life sweet and wholesome.
Through Miss Millswho was the counsellor and comforter of
severalPolly came to know a little sisterhood of busyhappy
independent girlswho each had a purpose to executea talent to
developan ambition to achieveand brought to the work patience
and perseverancehope and courage. Here Polly found her place at
oncefor in this little world love and liberty prevailed; talent
energyand character took the first rank; moneyfashionand
position were literally nowhere; for hereas in the big world
outsidegenius seemed to blossom best when poverty was head
gardener. Young teachersdoing much work for little pay; young
artiststrying to pencilpaintor carve their way to Rome; young
writersburning to distinguish themselves; young singers
dreaming of triumphsgreat as those of Jenny Lind; and some who
tried to conquer independencearmed only with a needlelike poor
Jane. All these helped Polly as unconsciously as she helped them
for purpose and principle are the best teachers we can haveand
the want of them makes half the women of America what they are
To outsiders that was a very hard-working and uneventful winter
to Polly. She thought so herself; but as spring came onthe seed of
new virtuesplanted in the winter timeand ripened by the
sunshine of endeavorbegan to bud in Polly's naturebetraying
their presence to others by the added strength and sweetness of her
characterlong before she herself discovered these May flowers
that had blossomed for her underneath the snow.
CHAPTER XII FORBIDDEN FRUIT
I 'M perfectly aching for some fun,said Polly to herself as she
opened her window one morning and the sunshine and frosty air
set her blood dancing and her eyes sparkling with youthhealth
and overflowing spirits. "I really must break out somewhere and
have a good time. It 's quite impossible to keep steady any longer.
Now what will I do?" Polly sprinkled crumbs to the doveswho
came daily to be fedand while she watched the gleaming necks
and rosy feetshe racked her brain to devise some unusually
delightful way of enjoying herselffor she really had bottled up her
spirits so longthey were in a state of uncontrollable
I 'll go to the opera,she suddenly announced to the doves. "It 's
expensiveI knowbut it 's remarkably goodand music is such a
treat to me. YesI 'll get two tickets as cheap as I cansend a note
to Willpoor ladhe needs fun as much as I doand we 'll go and
have a nice time in some corneras Charles Lamb and his sister
With that Polly slammed down the windowto the dismay of her
gentle little pensionersand began to fly about with great energy
singing and talking to herself as if it was impossible to keep quiet.
She started early to her first lesson that she might have time to buy
the ticketshopingas she put a five-dollar bill into her pursethat
they would n't be very highfor she felt that she was not in a mood
to resist temptation. But she was spared any strugglefor when she
reached the placethe ticket office was blocked up by eager
purchasers and the disappointed faces that turned away told Polly
there was no hope for her.
Well, I don't care, I 'll go somewhere, for I will have my fun,she
said with great determinationfor disappointment only seemed to
whet her appetite. But the playbills showed her nothing inviting
and she was forced to go away to her work with the money burning
her pocket and all manner of wild schemes floating in her head. At
nooninstead of going home to dinnershe went and took an ice
trying to feet very gay and festive all by herself. It was rather a
failurehoweverand after a tour of the picture shops she went to
give Maud a lessonfeeling that it was very hard to quench her
longingsand subside into a prim little music teacher.
Fortunately she did not have to do violence to her feelings very
longfor the first thing Fanny said to her was: "Can you go?"
Did n't you get my note?
I did n't go home to dinner.
Tom wants us to go to the opera to-night and Fan got no further
for Polly uttered a cry of rapture and clasped her hands.
Go? Of course I will. I 've been dying to go all day, tried to get
tickets this morning and could n't, been fuming about it ever since,
and now oh, how splendid!And Polly could not restrain an
ecstatic skipfor this burst of joy rather upset her.
Well, you come to tea, and we 'll dress together, and go all
comfortable with Tom, who is in a heavenly frame of mind
I must run home and get my things,said Pollyresolving on the
spot to buy the nicest pair of gloves the city afforded.
You shall have my white cloak and any other little rigging you
want. Tommy likes to have his ladies a credit to him, you know,
said Fannydeparting to take a beauty sleep.
Polly instantly decided that she would n't borrow Becky's best
bonnetas she at first intendedbut get a new onefor in her
present excited stateno extravagance seemed too prodigal in
honor of this grand occasion. I am afraid that Maud's lesson was
not as thorough as it should have beenfor Polly's head was such a
chaos of bonnetsglovesopera-cloaks and fansthat Maud
blundered throughmurdering time and tune at her own sweet will.
The instant it was over Polly rushed away and bought not only the
kids but a bonnet framea bit of illusionand a pink crape rose
which had tempted her for weeks in a certain shop windowthen
home and to work with all the skill and speed of a distracted
I 'm rushing madly into expense, I 'm afraid, but the fit is on me
and I 'll eat bread and water for a week to make up for it. I must
look nice, for Tom seldom takes me and ought to be gratified
when he does. I want to do like other girls, just for once, and enjoy
myself without thinking about right and wrong. Now a bit of pink
ribbon to tie it with, and I shall be done in time to do up my best
collar,she saidturning her boxes topsy-turvy for the necessary
ribbon in that delightful flurry which young ladies feel on such
It is my private opinion that the little shifts and struggles we poor
girls have to undergo beforehand give a peculiar relish to our fun
when we get it. This fact will account for the rapturous mood in
which Polly found herself whenafter making her bonnetwashing
and ironing her best setblacking her boots and mending her fan
she at lastlike Consueloput on a little dress of black silkand
with the smaller adornments pinned up in a paperstarted for the
Shaws'finding it difficult to walk decorously when her heart was
dancing in her bosom.
Maud happened to be playing a redowa up in the parlorand Polly
came prancing into the room so evidently spoiling for a dance that
Tomwho was therefound it impossible to resist catching her
about the waistand putting her through the most intricate
evolutions till Maud's fingers gave out.
That was splendid! Oh, Tom, thank you so much for asking me
to-night. I feel just like having a regular good time,cried Polly
when she stoppedwith her hat hanging round her neck and her
hair looking as if she had been out in a high wind.
Glad of it. I felt so myself and thought we 'd have a jolly little
party all in the family,said Tomlooking much gratified at her
Is Trix sick?asked Polly.
Gone to New York for a week.
Ah, when the cat's away the mice will play.
Exactly. Come and have another turn.
Before they could starthoweverthe awful spectacle of a little dog
trotting out of the room with a paper parcel in his mouthmade
Polly clasp her hands with the despairing cry: "My bonnet! Ohmy
Where? what? which?And Tom looked about himbewildered.
Snip's got it. Save it! save it!
I will!And Tom gave chase with more vigor than discretion.
Snipevidently regarding it as a game got up for his special
benefitenjoyed the race immensely and scampered all over the
houseshaking the precious parcel like a rat while his master ran
and whistledcommanded and coaxedin vain. Polly followed
consumed with anxietyand Maud laughed till Mrs. Shaw sent
down to know who was in hysterics. A piteous yelp from the lower
regions at last announced that the thief was capturedand Tom
appeared bearing Snip by the nape of the neck in one hand and
Polly's cherished bonnet in the other.
The little scamp was just going to worry it when I grabbed him. I
'm afraid he has eaten one of your gloves. I can't find it, and this
one is pretty well chewed up,said Tombereaving Snip of the
torn kidto which he still pertinaciously clung.
Serves me right,said Polly with a groan. "I 'd no business to get a
new pairbut I wanted to be extra gorgeous to-nightand this is my
punishment for such mad extravagance."
Was there anything else?asked Tom.
Only my best cuffs and collar. You 'll probably find them in the
coal-bin,said Pollywith the calmness of despair.
I saw some little white things on the dining-room floor as I raced
through. Go get them, Maud, and we 'll repair damages,said Tom
shutting the culprit into the boot closetwhere he placidly rolled
himself up and went to sleep.
They ain't hurt a bit,proclaimed Maudrestoring the lost
Neither is my bonnet, for which I 'm deeply grateful,said Polly
who had been examining it with a solicitude which made Tom's
So am I, for it strikes me that is an uncommonly 'nobby' little
affair,he said approvingly. Tom had a weakness for pale pink
rosesand perhaps Polly knew it.
I 'm afraid it 's too gay,said Pollywith a dubious look.
Not a bit. Sort of bridal, you know. Must be becoming. Put it on
and let 's see.
I would n't for the world, with my hair all tumbling down. Don't
look at me till I 'm respectable, and don't tell any one how I 've
been acting. I think I must be a little crazy to-night,said Polly
gathering up her rescued finery and preparing to go and find Fan.
Lunacy is mighty becoming, Polly. Try it again,answered Tom
watching her as she went laughing awaylooking all the prettier
for her dishevelment. "Dress that girl upand she 'd be a raving
tearing beauty added Tom to Maud in a lower tone as he look her
into the parlor under his arm.
Polly heard it and instantly resolved to be as raving and as
tearing" as her means would allowjust for one night,she said as
she peeped over the banistersglad to see that the dance and the
race had taken the "band-boxy" air out of Tom's elegant array.
I deeply regret being obliged to shock the eyes and ears of such of
my readers as have a prejudice in favor of pure English by
expressions like the abovebuthaving rashly undertaken to write a
little story about Young Americafor Young AmericaI feel bound
to depict my honored patrons as faithfully as my limited powers
permit. OtherwiseI must expect the crushing criticismWell, I
dare say it 's all very prim and proper, but it is n't a bit like us,and
never hope to arrive at the distinction of finding the covers of "An
Old-Fashioned Girl" the dirtiest in the library.
The friends had a social "cup o' tea" upstairswhich Polly
considered the height of luxuryand then each took a mirror and
proceeded to prink to her heart's content. The earnestness with
which Polly made her toilet that night was delightful to behold.
Feeling in a daring moodshe released her pretty hair from the
braids in which she usually wore it and permitted the curls to
display themselves in all their brown abundanceespecially several
dangerous little ones about the temples and forehead. The putting
on of the rescued collar and cuffs was a task which absorbed her
whole mind. So was the settling of a minute bit of court-plaster
just to the left of the dimple in her chinan unusual piece of
coquetry in which Polly would not have indulgedif an almost
invisible scratch had not given her an excuse for doing it. The
whitedown-trimmed cloakwith certain imposing ornaments on
the hoodwas assumed with becoming gravity and draped with
much advancing and retreating before the glassas its wearer
practised the true Boston gaitelbows backshoulders forwarda
bend and a slideoccasionally varied by a slight skip. But when
that bonnet went onPolly actually held her breath till it was safely
landed and the pink rose bloomed above the smooth waves of hair
with what Fanny called "a ravishing effect." At this successful
stage of affairs Polly found it impossible to resist the loan of a pair
of gold bands for the wrists and Fanny's white fan with the little
mirror in the middle.
I can put them in my pocket if I feel too much dressed,said Polly
as she snapped on the braceletsbut after a wave or two of the fan
she felt that it would be impossible to take them off till the
evening was overso enticing was their glitter.
Fanny also lent her a pair of three-button gloveswhich completed
her contentand when Tom greeted her with an approvingHere 's
a sight for gods and men! Why, Polly, you 're gorgeous!she felt
that her "fun" had decidedly begun.
Would n't Polly make a lovely bride?said Maudwho was
revolving about the two girlstrying to decide whether she would
have a blue or a white cloak when she grew up and went to operas.
Faith, and she would! Allow me to congratulate you, Mrs.
Sydney,added Tomadvancing with his wedding-reception bow
and a wicked look at Fanny.
Go away! How dare you?cried Pollygrowing much redder than
If we are going to the opera to-night, perhaps we 'd better start, as
the carriage has been waiting some time,observed Fan coolly
and sailed out of the room in an unusually lofty manner.
Don't you like it, Polly?whispered Tomas they went down
The deuce you do!
I 'm so fond of music, how can I help it?
I 'm talking about Syd."
Well, I 'm not.
You 'd better try for him.
I 'll think of it.
Oh, Polly, Polly, what are you coming to?
A tumble into the street, apparently,answered Polly as she
slipped a little on the stepand Tom stopped in the middle of his
laugh to pilot her safely into the carriagewhere Fanny was already
Here 's richness!said Polly to herself as she rolled awayfeeling
as Cinderella probably did when the pumpkin-coach bore her to
the first ballonly Polly had two princes to think aboutand poor
Cinderellaon that occasionhad not even one. Fanny did n't seem
inclined to talk muchand Tom would go on in such a ridiculous
manner that Polly told him she would n't listen and began to hum
bits of the opera. But she heard every wordneverthelessand
resolved to pay him for his impertinence as soon as possible by
showing him what he had lost.
Their seats were in the balconyand hardly were they settled
whenby one of those remarkable coincidences which are
continually occurring in our youthMr. Sydney and Fanny's old
friend Frank Moore took their places just behind them.
Oh, you villain! You did it on purpose,whispered Polly as she
turned from greeting their neighbors and saw a droll look on Tom's
I give you my word I did n't. It 's the law of attraction, don't you
If Fan likes it, I don't care.
She looks resigned, I think.
She certainly didfor she was talking and laughing in the gayest
manner with Frank while Sydney was covertly surveying Polly as
if he did n't quite understand how the gray grub got so suddenly
transformed into a white butterfly. It is a well-known fact that
dress plays a very important part in the lives of most women and
even the most sensible cannot help owning sometimes how much
happiness they owe to a becoming gowngracefully arranged hair
or a bonnet which brings out the best points in their faces and puts
them in a good humor. A great man was once heard to say that
what first attracted him to his well-beloved wife was seeing her in
a white muslin dress with a blue shawl on the chair behind her.
The dress caught his eyeandstopping to admire thatthe wearer's
intelligent conversation interested his mindand in timethe
woman's sweetness won his heart. It is not the finest dress which
does the most executionI fancybut that which best interprets
individual taste and character. Wise people understand thisand
everybody is more influenced by it than they knowperhaps. Polly
was not very wisebut she felt that every one about her found
something more attractive than usual in her and modestly
attributed Tom's devotionSydney's interestand Frank's
undisguised admirationto the new bonnet ormore likelyto that
delightful combination of cashmeresilkand swan's-downwhich
like Charity's mantleseemed to cover a multitude of sins in other
people's eyes and exalt the little music teacher to the rank of a
Polly scoffed at this sort of thing sometimesbut to-night she
accepted it without a murmur rather enjoyed it in factlet her
bracelets shine before the eyes of all menand felt that it was good
to seem comely in their sight. She forgot one thinghowever: that
her own happy spirits gave the crowning charm to a picture which
every one liked to see a blithe young girl enjoying herself with all
her heart. The music and the lightcostume and companyexcited
Polly and made many things possible which at most times she
would never have thought of saying or doing. She did not mean to
flirtbut somehow "it flirted itself" and she could n't help itfor
once startedit was hard to stopwith Tom goading her onand
Sydney looking at her with that new interest in his eyes. Polly's
flirting was such a very mild imitation of the fashionable thing that
Trix & Co. would not have recognized itbut it did very well for a
beginnerand Polly understood that night wherein the fascination
of it layfor she felt as if she had found a new gift all of a sudden
and was learning how to use itknowing that it was dangerousyet
finding its chief charm in that very fact.
Tom did n't know what to make of her at firstthough he thought
the change uncommonly becoming and finally decided that Polly
had taken his advice and was "setting her cap for Syd as he
gracefully expressed it. Sydney, being a modest man, thought
nothing of the kind, but simply fancied that little Polly was
growing up to be a very charming woman. He had known her since
her first visit and had always liked the child; this winter he had
been interested in the success of her plans and had done what he
could to help them, but he never thought of failing in love with
Polly till that night. Then he began to feel that he had not fully
appreciated his young friend; that she was such a bright and
lovable girl, it was a pity she should not always be gay and pretty,
and enjoy herself; that she would make a capital wife for
somebody, and perhaps it was about time to think of settling as
his sister often said. These thoughts came and went as he watched
the white figure in front, felt the enchantment of the music, and
found everybody unusually blithe and beautiful. He had heard the
opera many times, but it had never seemed so fine before, perhaps
because he had never happened to have had an ingenuous young
face so near him in which the varying emotions born of the music,
and the romance it portrayed, came and went so eloquently that it
was impossible to help reading them. Polly did not know that this
was why he leaned down so often to speak to her, with an
expression which she did not understand but liked very much
Don't shut your eyesPolly. They are so full of mischief to-nightI
like to see them said Tom, after idly wondering for a minute if
she knew how long and curly her lashes were.
I don't wish to look affectedbut the music tells the story so much
better than the acting that I don't care to look on half the time
answered Polly, hoping Tom would n't see the tears she had so
Now I like the acting best. The music is all very fineI knowbut
it does seem so absurd for people to go round telling tremendous
secrets at the top of their voices. I can't get used to it."
That 's because you 've more common-sense than romance. I don't
mind the absurdity, and quite long to go and comfort that poor girl
with the broken heart,said Polly with a sigh as the curtain fell on
a most affecting tableau.
What's-his-name is a great jack not to see that she adores him. In
real life we fellows ain't such bats as all that,observed Tomwho
had decided opinions on many subjects that he knew very little
aboutand expressed them with great candor.
A curious smile passed over Polly's face and she put up her glass to
hide her eyesas she said: "I think you are bats sometimesbut
women are taught to wear masksand that accounts for itI
I don't agree. There 's precious little masking nowadays; wish
there was a little more sometimes,added Tomthinking of several
blooming damsels whose beseeching eyes had begged him not to
leave them to wither on the parent stem.
I hope not, but I guess there 's a good deal more than any one
What can you know about broken hearts and blighted beings?
asked Sydneysmiling at the girl's pensive tone.
Polly glanced up at him and her face dimpled and shone againas
she answeredlaughing: "Not much; my time is to come."
I can't imagine you walking about the world with your back hair
down, bewailing a hard-hearted lover,said Tom.
Neither can I. That would n't be my way.
No; Miss Polly would let concealment prey on her damask cheeks
and still smile on in the novel fashion, or turn sister of charity and
nurse the heartless lover through small-pox, or some other
contagious disease, and die seraphically, leaving him to the
agonies of remorse and tardy love.
Polly gave Sydney an indignant look as he said that in a slow
satirical way that nettled her very muchfor she hated to be
That 's not my way either,she said decidedly. "I 'd try to outlive
itand if I could n'tI 'd try to be the better for it. Disappointment
need n't make a woman a fool."
Nor an old maid, if she 's pretty and good. Remember that, and
don't visit the sins of one blockhead on all the rest of mankind,
said Tomlaughing at her earnestness.
I don't think there is the slightest possibility of Miss Polly's being
either,added Sydney with a look which made it evident that
concealment had not seriously damaged Polly's damask cheek as
There 's Clara Bird. I have n't seen her but once since she was
married. How pretty she looks!and Polly retired behind the big
glass againthinking the chat was becoming rather personal.
Now, there 's a girl who tried a different cure for unrequited
affection from any you mention. People say she was fond of Belle's
brother. He did n't reciprocate but went off to India to spoil his
constitution, so Clara married a man twenty years older than she is
and consoles herself by being the best-dressed woman in the city.
That accounts for it,said Pollywhen Tom's long whisper ended.
The tired look in her eyes.
I don't see it,said Tomafter a survey through the glass.
Did n't expect you would.
I see what you mean. A good many women have it nowadays,
said Sydney over Polly's shoulder.
What's she tired of? The old gentleman?asked Tom.
And herself,added Polly.
You 've been reading French novels, I know you have. That 's just
the way the heroines go on,cried Tom.
I have n't read one, but it 's evident you have, young man, and you
'd better stop.
I don't care for 'em; only do it to keep up my French. But how
came you to be so wise, ma'am?
Observation, sir. I like to watch faces, and I seldom see a
grown-up one that looks perfectly happy.
True for you, Polly; no more you do, now I think of it. I don't
know but one that always looks so, and there it is.
Where?asked Pollywith interest.
Look straight before you and you 'll see it.
Polly did lookbut all she saw was her own face in the little mirror
of the fan which Tom held up and peeped over with a laugh in his
Do I look happy? I 'm glad of that,And Polly surveyed herself
Both young men thought it was girlish vanity and smiled at its
naive displaybut Polly was looking for something deeper than
beauty and was glad not to find it.
Rather a pleasant little prospect, hey, Polly?
My bonnet is straight, and that 's all I care about. Did you ever see
a picture of Beau Brummel?asked Polly quickly.
Well, there he is, modernized.And turning the fanshe showed
Any more portraits in your gallery?asked Sydneyas if he liked
to share all the nonsense going.
What do you call it?
The portrait of a gentleman.And the little glass reflected a
gratified face for the space of two seconds.
Thank you. I 'm glad I don't disgrace my name,said Sydney
looking down into the merry blue eyes that thanked him silently
for many of the small kindnesses that women never can forget.
Very good, Polly, you are getting on fast,whispered Tom
patting his yellow kids approvingly.
Be quiet! Dear me, how warm it is!And Polly gave him a frown
that delighted his soul.
Come out and have an ice, we shall have time.
Fan is so absorbed, I could n't think of disturbing her,said Polly
fancying that her friend was enjoying the evening as much as she
was a great mistakeby the wayfor Fan was acting for effectand
though she longed to turn and join themwould n't do itunless a
certain person showed signs of missing her. He did n'tand Fanny
chatted onraging inwardly over her disappointmentand
wondering how Polly could be so gay and selfish.
It was delicious to see the little airs Polly put onfor she felt as if
she were somebody elseand acting a part. She leaned backas if
quite oppressed by the heatpermitted Sydney to fan herand paid
him for the service by giving him a flower from her bouquet
proceedings which amused Tom immenselyeven while it piqued
him a little to be treated like an old friend who did n't count.
Go in and win, Polly; I 'll give you my blessing,he whisperedas
the curtain rose again.
It 's only part of the fun, so don't you laugh, you disrespectful
boy,she whispered back in a tone never used toward Sydney.
Tom did n't quite like the different way in which she treated them
and the word "boy" disturbed his dignityfor he was almost
twenty-one and Polly ought to treat him with more respect. Sydney
at the same moment was wishing he was in Tom's place young
comelyand such a familiar friend that Polly would scold and
lecture him in the delightful way she did Tom; while Polly forgot
them both when the music began and left them ample time to look
at her and think about themselves.
While they waited to get out when all was over Polly heard Fan
whisper to Tom: "What do you think Trix will say to this?"
What do you mean?
Why, the way you 've been going on to-night.
Don't know, and don't care; it 's only Polly.
That 's the very thing. She can't bear P.
Well, I can; and I don't see why I should n't enjoy myself as well
You 'll get to enjoying yourself too much if you are n't careful.
Polly 's waked up.
I 'm glad of it, and so 's Syd.
I only spoke for your good.
Don't trouble yourself about me; I get lecturing enough in another
quarter and can't stand any more. Come, Polly.
She took the arm he offered herbut her heart was sore and angry
for that phraseIt 's only Polly,hurt her sadly. "As if I was n't
anybodyhad n't any feelingsand was only made to amuse or
work for people! Fan and Tom are both mistaken and I 'll show
them that Polly is awake she thought, indignantly. Why should
n't I enjoy myself as well as the rest? Besidesit 's only Tom she
added with a bitter smile as she thought of Trix.
Are you tiredPolly?" asked Tombending down to look into her
Yes, of being nobody.
Ah, but you ain't nobody, you 're Polly, and you could n't better
that if you tried ever so hard.said Tomwarmlyfor he really was
fond of Pollyand felt uncommonly so just then.
I 'm glad you think so, anyway. It 's so pleasant to be liked.And
she looked up with her face quite bright again.
I always did like you, don't you know, ever since that first visit.
But you teased me shamefully, for all that.
So I did, but I don't now.
Polly did not answerand Tom askedwith more anxiety than the
occasion required: "Do IPolly?"
Not in the same way, Tom,she answered in a tone that did n't
sound quite natural.
Well, I never will again.
Yes, you will, you can't help it.And Polly's eye glanced at
Sydneywho was in front with Fan.
Tom laughedand drew Polly closer as the crowd pressedsaying
with mock tenderness: "Did n't she like to be chaffed about her
sweethearts? Wellshe shan't be if I can help it. Poor deardid she
get her little bonnet knocked into a cocked hat and her little
temper riled at the same time?"
Polly could n't help laughingandin spite of the crushenjoyed the
slow journey from seat to carriagefor Tom took such excellent
care of hershe was rather sorry when it was over.
They had a merry little supper after they got homeand Polly gave
them a burlesque opera that convulsed her hearersfor her spirits
rose again and she was determined to get the last drop of fun
before she went back to her humdrum life again.
I 've had a regularly splendid time, and thank you ever so much,
she said when the "good-nights" were being exchanged.
So have I. Let 's go and do it again to-morrow,said Tomholding
the hand from which he had helped to pull a refractory glove.
Not for a long while, please. Too much pleasure would soon spoil
me,answered Pollyshaking her head.
I don't believe it. Good-night, 'sweet Mistress Milton,' as Syd
called you. Sleep like an angel, and don't dream of I forgot, no
teasing allowed.And Tom took himself off with a theatrical
Now it 's all over and done with,thought Polly as she fell asleep
after a long vigil. But it was notand Polly's fun cost more than the
price of gloves and bonnetforhaving nibbled at forbidden fruit
she had to pay the penalty. She only meant to have a good time
and there was no harm in thatbut unfortunately she yielded to the
various small temptations that beset pretty young girls and did
more mischief to others than to herself. Fanny's friendship grew
cooler after that night. Tom kept wishing Trix was half as
satisfactory as Pollyand Mr. Sydney began to build castles that
had no foundation.
CHAPTER XIII THE SUNNY SIDE
I 'VE won the wager, Tom.
Did n't know there was one.
Don't you remember you said Polly would be tired of her teaching
and give it up in three months, and I said she would n't?
Well, is n't she?
Not a bit of it. I thought she was at one time, and expected every
day to have her come in with a long face, and say she could n't
stand it. But somehow, lately, she is always bright and happy,
seems to like her work, and don't have the tired, worried look she
used to at first. The three months are out, so pay up, Tommy.
All right, what will you have?
You may make it gloves. I always need them, and papa looks
sober when I want money.
There was a minute's pause as Fan returned to her practisingand
Tom relapsed into the reverie he was enjoying seated astride of a
chairwith his chin on his folded arms.
Seems to me Polly don't come here as often as she used to,he
No, she seems to be very busy; got some new friends, I believe,
old ladies, sewing-girls, and things of that sort. I miss her, but
know she 'll get tired of being goody, and will come back to me
Don't be too sure of that, ma'am.Something in Tom's tone made
Fan turn roundand askWhat do you mean?
Well, it strikes me that Sydney is one of Polly's new friends. Have
n't you observed that she is uncommonly jolly, and don't that sort
of thing account for it?
Hope it is,coolly returned Tom.
What put it into your head?demanded Fannytwirling round
again so that her face was hidden.
Oh, well, I keep meeting Syd and Polly circulating in the same
directions; she looks as if she had found something uncommonly
nice, and he looks as if all creation was getting Pollyfied pretty
rapidly. Wonder you have n't observed it.
It was Tom's turn to look surprised nowfor Fanny's voice sounded
strange to him. He looked at her steadily for a minutebut saw
only a rosy ear and a bent head. A cloud passed over his faceand
he leaned his chin on his arm again with a despondent whistleas
he said to himselfPoor Fan! Both of us in a scrape at once.
Don't you think it would be a good thing?asked Fannyafter
playing a bar or twovery badly.
Yes, for Syd.
Not for Polly? Why, he 's rich, and clever, and better than most of
you good-for-nothing fellows. What can the girl expect?
Can't say, but I don't fancy the match myself.
Don't be a dog in the manger, Tom.Bless your little heart, I
only take a brotherly sort of interest in Polly. She 's a capital girl,
and she ought to marry a missionary, or one of your reformer
fellows, and be a shining light of some sort. I don't think setting up
for a fine lady would suit her.
I think it would, and I hope she 'll have the chance,said Fanny
evidently making an effort to speak kindly.
Good for you, Fan!and Tom gave an emphatic nodas if her
words meant more than she suspected "Mind you he added, I
don't know anythingand only fancied there might be some little
flirtation going on. But I dare say it 's nothing."
Time will show.Then Fan began to singand Tom's horse came
so he departed with the very unusual demonstration of a gentle pat
on the headas he said kindlyThat 's right, my dear, keep jolly.
It was n't an elegant way of expressing sympathybut it was hearty
and Fan thanked him for itthough she only saidDon't break
your neck, Tommy.
When he was goneFan's song ended as suddenly as it beganand
she sat thinkingwith varying expressions of doubt and trouble
passing rapidly across her face.
Well, I can't do anything but wait!she saidat lastslamming the
music-book together with a desperate look. "YesI can she
added, a minute after, it 's Polly's holiday. I can go and see her
and if there is anything in it I shall find it out."
Fanny dropped her face into her handswith a little shiveras she
said that; then got uplooking as pale and resolute as if going to
meet some dreadful doomand putting on her thingswent away to
Polly's as fast as her dignity would allow.
Saturday morning was Polly's clearing-up dayand Fan found her
with a handkerchief tied over her headand a big apron onjust
putting the last touches to the tidy little roomwhich was as fresh
and bright as waterairand a pair of hands could make it.
All ready for company. I 'll just whisk off my regimentals, and
Polly, the maid, becomes Polly, the missis. It was lovely of you to
come early; take off your things. Another new bonnet? you
extravagant wretch! How is your mother and Maudie? It 's a nice
day, and we 'll have a walk, won't we?
By the time Polly's welcome was utteredshe had got Fan on the
little sofa beside herand was smiling at her in such an infectious
mannerthat Fan could n't help smiling back.
I came to see what you have been doing with yourself lately. You
don't come and report, and I got anxious about you,said Fanny
looking into the clear eyes before her.
I 've been so busy; and I knew you would n't care to hear about my
doings, for they are n't the sort you like,answered Polly.
Your lessons did n't use to take up all your time. It 's my private
opinion that you are taking as well as giving lessons, miss,said
Fanputting on a playfully stern airto hide her real anxiety.
Yes, I am,answered Pollysoberly.
In what? Love?
A quick color came to Polly's cheeksas she laughedand said
looking awayNo; friendship and good works.
Oh, indeed! May I ask who is your teacher?
I 've more than one; but Miss Mills is head teacher.
She instructs in good works; who gives the friendship lessons?
Such pleasant girls! I wish you knew them, Fan. So clever, and
energetic, and kind, and happy, it always does me good to see
them,cried Pollywith a face full of enthusiasm.
Is that all?And Fan gave her a curious look of mingled
disappointment and relief.
There, I told you my doings would not interest you, and they
don't; they sound flat and prosy after your brilliant adventures. Let
's change the subject,said Pollylooking relieved herself.
Dear me, which of our sweethearts sends us dainty bouquets of
violets so early in the morning?asked Fannysuddenly spying the
purple cluster in a graceful little vase on the piano.
He sends me one every week; he knows I love them so,and
Polly's eyes turned that way full of pride and pleasure.
I 'd no idea he was so devoted,said Fannystooping to smell the
flowersand at the same time read a card that lay near them.
You need n't plague me about it, now you know it. I never speak
of our fondness for one another, because such things seem silly to
other people. Will is n't all that Jimmy was to me; but he tries to
be, and I love him dearly for it.
Will?Fanny's voice quite startled Pollyit was so sharp and
suddenand her face grew red and pale all in a minuteas she
upset the little vase with the start she gave.
Yes, of course; who did you think I meant?asked Pollysopping
up the water before it damaged her piano.
Never mind; I thought you might be having a quiet little flirtation
with somebody. I feel responsible, you know, because I told your
mother I 'd look after you. The flowers are all right. My head aches
so, I hardly know what I 'm doing this morning.
Fanny spoke fastand laughed uncomfortablyas she went back to
the sofawondering if Polly had told her a lie. Polly seemed to
guess at her thoughts as she saw the cardand turning toward her
she held it upsayingwith a conscious look in her eyesYou
thought Mr. Sydney sent them? Well, you are mistaken, and the
next time you want to know anything, please ask straight out. I like
it better than talking at cross purposes.
Now, my dear, don't be angry; I was only teasing you in fun. Tom
took it into his foolish head that something was going on, and I felt
a natural interest, you know.
Tom! What does he know or care about my affairs?demanded
He met you two in the street pretty often, and being in a
sentimental mood himself, got up a romance for you and Sydney.
I 'm much obliged to him for his interest, but it 's quite wasted,
Fan's next proceeding gave her friend another surpriseforbeing
rather ashamed of herselfvery much relievedand quite at a loss
what to sayshe took refuge in an hysterical fit of tearswhich
changed Polly's anger into tenderness at once.
Is that the trouble she has been hiding all winter? Poor dear, I
wish I 'd known it sooner,thought Pollyas she tried to soothe her
with comfortable patssniffs of cologne and sympathizing remarks
upon the subject of headachecarefully ignoring that other
feminine afflictionthe heartache.
There, I feel better. I 've been needing a good cry for some time,
and now I shall be all right. Never mind it, Polly, I 'm nervous and
tired; I 've danced too much lately, and dyspepsia makes me blue;
and Fanny wiped her eyes and laughed.
Of course it does; you need rest and petting, and here I 've been
scolding you, when I ought to have been extra kind. Now tell me
what I can do for you,said Pollywith a remorseful face.
Talk to me, and tell me all about yourself. You don't seem to have
as many worries as other people. What's the secret, Polly?And
Fan looked up with wet eyesand a wistful face at Pollywho was
putting little dabs of cologne all over her head.
Well,said PollyslowlyI just try to look on the bright side of
things; that helps one amazingly. Why, you 've no idea how much
goodness and sunshine you can get out of the most unpromising
things, if you make the best of them.
I don't know how,said Fandespondently.
You can learn; I did. I used to croak and fret dreadfully, and get
so unhappy, I was n't fit for anything. I do it still more than I ought,
but I try not to, and it gets easier, I find. Get a-top of your troubles,
and then they are half cured, Miss Mills says.
Everything is so contrary and provoking,said Fannypetulantly.
Now what in the world have you to fret about?asked Polly
Quantities of things,began Fanand then stoppedfor somehow
she felt ashamed to own that she was afflicted because she could
n't have a new set of fursgo to Paris in the springand make Mr.
Sydney love her. She hunted up something more presentableand
said in a despairing toneWell, mother is very poorly, Tom and
Trix quarrel all the time, Maud gets more and more wilful every
day, and papa is worried about his affairs.
A sad state of things, but nothing very desperate. Can't you lend a
hand anywhere? That might do good all round.
No; I have n't the talent for managing people, but I see what ought
to be done.
Well, don't wail about it; keep yourself happy, if you can; it will
help other people to see you cheerful.
Just what Tom said,'Keep jolly'; but, dear me, how can one, when
everything is so stupid and tiresome?
If ever a girl needed work, it 's you!cried Polly. "You began to
be a young lady so earlythat you are tired of everything at
twenty-two. I wish you 'd go at somethingthen you 'd find how
much talent and energy you really had."
I know ever so many girls who are just like me, sick to death of
fashionable life but don't know what to take in its place. I 'd like to
travel; but papa says he can't afford it, so I can only drag about and
get on as I may.
I pity you rich girls so much, you have so many opportunities, and
don't seem to know how to use them! I suppose I should do just the
same in your place, but it seems now as if I could be very happy
and useful with plenty of money.
You are that without it. There, I won't croak any more. Let us go
and take a good walk, and don't you tell any one how I came and
cried like a baby.
Never!said Pollyputting on her bonnet.
I ought to go and make calls,said Fannybut I don't feel now as
if I ever wanted to see any of the girls again. Dreadful state of
mind, is n't it?
Suppose you come and see some of my friends instead! They are
not fine or ceremonious, but lively, odd, and pleasant. Come, it
will amuse you.
I will,cried Fannywhose spirits seemed improved by the
shower. "Nice little old ladyis n't she?" added Fanas she caught
sight of Miss Millson their way outsitting at a table piled with
workand sewing away with an energy that made the gray curls
Saint Mehitable, I call her. Now, there is a rich woman who knew
how to get happiness out of her money,said Pollyas they walked
away. "She was poor till she was nearly fifty; then a comfortable
fortune was left herand she knew just how to use it. That house
was given herbut instead of living in it all aloneshe filled it with
poor gentlefolks who needed neatrespectable homesbut could n't
get anything comfortable for their little money. I 'm one of them
and I know the worth of what she does for me. Two old widow
ladies live below meseveral students overheadpoor Mrs. Kean
and her lame boy have the back parlorand Jenny the little
bedroom next Miss Mills. Each pays what they can; that 's
independentand makes us feel better but that dear woman does a
thousand things that money can't pay forand we feel her influence
all through the house. I 'd rather be marriedand have a home of
my own; but next to thatI should like to be an old maid like Miss
Polly's sober face and emphatic tone made Fanny laughand at the
cheery sound a young girl pushing a baby-carriage looked round
What lovely eyes!" whispered Fanny.
Yesthat 's little Jane returned Polly, adding, when she had
passed, with a nod and a friendly Don't get tiredJenny we help
one another at our houseand every fine morning Jenny takes
Johnny Kean out when she goes for her own walk. That gives his
mother time to restdoes both the children goodand keeps things
neighborly. Miss Mills suggested itand Jenny is so glad to do
anything for anybodyit 's a pleasure to let her."
I 've heard of Miss Mills before. But I should think she would get
tired to death, sitting there making hoods and petticoats day after
day,said Fannyafter thinking over Jenny's story for a few
minutesfor seeing the girl seemed to bring it nearerand make it
more real to her.
But she don't sit there all the time. People come to her with their
troubles, and she goes to them with all sorts of help, from soap and
soup, to shrouds for the dead and comfort for the living. I go with
her sometimes, and it is more exciting than any play, to see and
hear the lives and stories of the poor.
How can you bear the dreadful sights and sounds, the bad air, and
the poverty that can't be cured?
But it is n't all dreadful. There are good and lovely things among
them, if one only has eyes to see them. It makes me grateful and
contented, shows me how rich I am, and keeps me ready to do all I
can for these poor souls.
My good Polly!and Fanny gave her friends arm an affectionate
squeezewondering if it was this alone that had worked the change
You have seen two of my new friends, Miss Mills and Jenny, now
I 'll show you two more,said Pollypresentlyas they reached a
doorand she led the way up several flights of public stairs.
Rebecca Jeffrey is a regularly splendid girl, full of talent; she
won't let us call it genius; she will be famous some day, I know,
she is so modest, and yet so intent on her work. Lizzie Small is an
engraver, and designs the most delightful little pictures. Becky and
she live together, and take care of one another in true Damon and
Pythias style. This studio is their home, they work, eat, sleep, and
live here, going halves in everything. They are all alone in the
world, but as happy and independent as birds; real friends, whom
nothing will part.
Let a lover come between them, and their friendship won't last
I think it will. Take a look at them, and you 'll change your mind,
answered Pollytapping at a dooron which two modest cards
Come in!said a voiceand obeyingFanny found herself in a
largequeerly furnished roomlighted from aboveand occupied
by two girls. One stood before a great clay figurein a corner. This
one was tallwith a strong facekeen eyesshortcurly hairand a
fine head. Fanny was struck at once by this face and figurethough
the one was not handsomeand the other half hidden by a great
pinafore covered with clay. At a table where the light was clearest
sat a frail-looking girlwith a thin facebig eyesand pale haira
dreamyabsorbed little personwho bent over a blockskillfully
wielding her tools.
Becky and Bess, how do you do? This is my friend, Fanny Shaw.
We are out on a rampage; so go on with your work, and let us lazy
ones look on and admire.
As Polly spokeboth girls looked up and noddedsmilingly; Bess
gave Fan the one easy-chair; Becky took an artistic survey of the
new-comerwith eyes that seemed to see everything; then each
went on with her workand all began to talk.
You are just what I want, Polly. Pull up your sleeve, and give me
an arm while you sit; the muscles here are n't right, and you 've got
just what I want,said Beckyslapping the round arm of the statue
at which Fan was gazing with awe.
How do you get on?asked Pollythrowing off her cloakand
rolling up her sleevesas if going to washing.
Slowly. The idea is working itself clear, and I follow as fast as my
hands can. Is the face better, do you think?said Beckytaking off
a wet clothand showing the head of the statue.
How beautiful it is!cried Fannystaring at it with increased
What does it mean to you?asked Rebeccaturning to her with a
sudden shine in her keen eyes.
I don't know whether it is meant for a saint or a muse, a goddess
or a fate; but to me it is only a beautiful woman, bigger, lovelier,
and more imposing than any woman I ever saw,answered Fanny
slowlytrying to express the impression the statue made upon her.
Rebecca smiled brightlyand Bess looked round to nod
approvinglybut Polly clapped her handsand saidWell done,
Fan! I did n't think you 'd get the idea so well, but you have, and I
'm proud of your insight. Now I 'll tell you, for Becky will let me,
since you have paid her the compliment of understanding her
work. Some time ago we got into a famous talk about what women
should be, and Becky said she 'd show us her idea of the coming
woman. There she is, as you say, bigger, lovelier, and more
imposing than any we see nowadays; and at the same time, she is a
true woman. See what a fine forehead, yet the mouth is both firm
and tender, as if it could say strong, wise things, as well as teach
children and kiss babies. We could n't decide what to put in the
hands as the most appropriate symbol. What do you say?
Give her a sceptre: she would make a fine queen,answered
No, we have had enough of that; women have been called queens
a long time, but the kingdom given them is n't worth ruling,
I don't think it is nowadays,said Fannywith a tired sort of sigh.
Put a man's hand in hers to help her along, then,said Polly
whose happy fortune it had been to find friends and helpers in
father and brothers.
No; my woman is to stand alone, and help herself,said Rebecca
She 's to be strong-minded, is she?and Fanny's lip curled a little
as she uttered the misused words.
Yes, strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-souled, and
strong-bodied; that is why I made her larger than the miserable,
pinched-up woman of our day. Strength and beauty must go
together. Don't you think these broad shoulders can bear burdens
without breaking down, these hands work well, these eyes see
clearly, and these lips do something besides simper and gossip?
Fanny was silent; but a voice from Bess's corner saidPut a child
in her arms, Becky.
Not that even, for she is to be something more than a nurse.
Give her a ballot-box,cried a new voiceand turning roundthey
saw an odd-looking woman perched on a sofa behind them.
Thank you for the suggestion, Kate. I 'll put that with the other
symbols at her feet; for I 'm going to have needle, pen, palette, and
broom somewhere, to suggest the various talents she owns, and the
ballot-box will show that she has earned the right to use them.
How goes it?and Rebecca offered a clay-daubed handwhich the
new-comer cordially shook.
Great news, girls! Anna is going to Italy!cried Katetossing up
her bonnet like a school-boy.
Oh, how splendid! Who takes her? Has she had a fortune left her?
Tell all about it,exclaimed the girlsgathering round the speaker.
Yes, it is splendid; just one of the beautiful things that does
everybody heaps of good, it is so generous and so deserved. You
know Anna has been longing to go; working and hoping for a
chance, and never getting it, till all of a sudden Miss Burton is
inspired to invite the girl to go with her for several years to Italy.
Think of the luck of that dear soul, the advantages she 'll have, the
good it will do her, and, best of all, the lovely way in which it
comes to her. Miss Burton wants, her as a friend, asks nothing of
her but her company, and Anna will go through fire and water for
her, of course. Now, is n't that fine?
It was good to see how heartily these girls sympathized in their
comrade's good fortune. Polly danced all over the roomBess and
Becky hugged one anotherand Kate laughed with her eyes full
while even Fanny felt a glow ofpride and pleasure at the kind act.
Who is that?she whispered to Pollywho had subsided into a
Why, it Is Kate King, the authoress. Bless me, how rude not to
introduce you! Here, my King, is an admirer of yours, Fanny Shaw,
and my well beloved friend,cried Pollypresenting Fanwho
regarded the shabby young woman with as much respectas if she
had been arrayed in velvet and ermine; for Kate had written a
successful book by accidentand happened to be the fashionjust
It 's time for lunch, girls, and I brought mine along with me, it 's
so much jollier to eat in sisterhood. Let 's club together, and have a
revel,said Kateproducing a bag of orangesand several big
We 've got sardines, crackers, and cheese,said Bessclearing off
a table with all speed.
Wait a bit, and I 'll add my share,cried Pollyand catching up
her cloakshe ran off to the grocery store near by.
You 'll be shocked at our performances, Miss Shaw, but you can
call it a picnic, and never tell what dreadful things you saw us do,
said Rebeccapolishing a paint knife by rubbing it up and down in
a pot of ivywhile Kate spread forth the feast in several odd plates
and a flat shell or two.
Let us have coffee to finish off with; put on the pot, Bess, and
skim the milk,added Beckyas she produced cupsmugsand a
queer little vaseto supply drinking vessels for the party.
Here 's nuts, a pot of jam, and some cake. Fan likes sweet things,
and we want to be elegant when we have company,said Polly
flying in againand depositing her share on the table.
Now, then, fall to, ladies, and help yourselves. Never mind if the
china don't hold out; take the sardines by their little tails, and wipe
your fingers on my brown-paper napkins,said Katesetting the
example with such a relishthat the others followed it in a gale of
Fanny had been to many elegant lunchesbut never enjoyed one
more than that droll picnic in the studio; for there was a freedom
about it that was charmingan artistic flavor to everythingand
such a spirit of good-will and gayetythat she felt at home at once.
As they atethe others talked and she listenedfinding it as
interesting as any romance to hear these young women discuss
their plansambitionssuccessesand defeats. It was a new world
to herand they seemed a different race of creatures from the girls
whose lives were spent in dressgossippleasureor ennui. They
were girls stillfull of spirits funand youth; but below the
light-heartedness each cherished a purposewhich seemed to
ennoble her womanhoodto give her a certain powera sustaining
satisfactiona daily stimulusthat led her on to daily effortand in
time to some success in circumstance or characterwhich was
worth all the patiencehopeand labor of her life.
Fanny was just then in the mood to feel the beauty of thisfor the
sincerest emotion she had ever known was beginning to make her
dissatisfied with herselfand the aimless life she led. "Men must
respect such girls as these she thought; yesand love them too
for in spite of their independencethey are womanly. I wish I had a
talent to live forif it would do as much for me as it does for them.
It is this sort of thing that is improving Pollythat makes her
society interesting to Sydneyand herself so dear to every one.
Money can't buy these things for meand I want them very much."
As these thoughts were passing through her mindFanny was
hearing all sorts of topics discussed with feminine enthusiasm and
housekeepingdressand economyfor the minds and tongues
roved from subject to subject with youthful rapidityand seemed to
get something from the dryest and the dullest.
How does the new book come on?asked Pollysucking her
orange in public with a composure which would have scandalized
the good ladies of "Cranford."
Better than it deserves. My children, beware of popularity; it is a
delusion and a snare; it puffeth up the heart of man, and especially
of woman; it blindeth the eyes to faults; it exalteth unduly the
humble powers of the victim; it is apt to be capricious, and just as
one gets to liking the taste of this intoxicating draught, it suddenly
faileth, and one is left gasping, like a fish out of water,and Kate
emphasized her speech by spearing a sardine with a penknifeand
eating it with a groan.
It won't hurt you much, I guess; you have worked and waited so
long, a large dose will do you good,said Rebeccagiving her a
generous spoonful of jamas if eager to add as much sweetness as
possible to a life that had not been an easy one.
When are you and Becky going to dissolve partnership?asked
Pollyeager for news of all.
Never! George knows he can't have one without the other, and has
not suggested such a thing as parting us. There is always room in
my house for Becky, and she lets me do as she would if she was in
my place,answered Besswith a look which her friend answered
by a smile.
The lover won't separate this pair of friends, you see,whispered
Polly to Fan. "Bess is to be married in the springand Becky is to
live with her."
By the way, Polly, I 've got some tickets for you. People are
always sending me such things, and as I don't care for them, I 'm
glad to make them over to you young and giddy infants. There are
passes for the statuary exhibition, Becky shall have those, here are
the concert tickets for you, my musical girl; and that is for a course
of lectures on literature, which I 'll keep for myself.
As Kate dealt out the colored cards to the grateful girlsFanny took
a good look at herwondering if the time would ever come when
women could earn a little money and successwithout paying such
a heavy price for them; for Kate looked sicktiredand too early
old. Then her eye went to the unfinished statueand she said
impulsivelyI hope you 'll put that in marble, and show us what
we ought to be.
I wish I could!And an intense desire shone in Rebecca's faceas
she saw her faulty workand felt how fair her model was.
For a minutethe five young women sat silent looking up at the
beautifulstrong figure before themeach longing to see it done
and each unconscious that she was helpingby her individual effort
and experienceto bring the day when their noblest ideal of
womanhood should be embodied in flesh and bloodnot clay.
The city bells rung oneand Polly started up.
I must go, for I promised a neighbor of mine a lesson at two.
I thought this was a holiday,said Fanny.
So it is, but this is a little labor of love, and does n't spoil the day
at all. The child has talent, loves music, and needs help. I can't
give her money, but I can teach her; so I do, and she is the most
promising pupil I have. Help one another, is part of the religion of
our sisterhood, Fan.
I must put you in a story, Polly. I want a heroine, and you will
Me! why, there never was such a humdrum, unromantic thing as I
I 've booked you, nevertheless, so in you go; but you may add as
much romance as you like, it 's time you did.
I 'm ready for it when it comes, but it can't be forced, you know,
and Polly blushed and smiled as if some little spice of that
delightful thing had stolen into her lifefor all its prosaic seeming.
Fanny was amused to see that the girls did not kiss at partingbut
shook hands in a quietfriendly fashionlooking at one another
with eyes that said more than the most "gushing" words.
I like your friends very much, Polly. I was afraid I should find
them mannish and rough, or sentimental and conceited. But they
are simple, sensible creatures, full of talent, and all sorts of fine
things. I admire and respect them, and want to go again, if I may.
Oh, Fan, I am so glad! I hoped you 'd like them, I knew they 'd do
you good, and I 'll take you any time, for you stood the test better
than I expected. Becky asked me to bring you again, and she
seldom does that for fashionable young ladies, let me tell you.
I want to be ever so much better, and I think you and they might
show me how,said Fannywith a traitorous tremble in her voice.
We 'll show you the sunny side of poverty and work, and that is a
useful lesson for any one, Miss Mills says,answered Polly
hoping that Fan would learn how much the poor can teach the rich
and what helpful friends girls may be to one another.
CHAPTER XIV NIPPED IN THE BUD
ON the evening of Fan's visitPolly sat down before her fire with a
resolute and thoughtful aspect. She pulled her hair downturned
her skirt backput her feet on the fenderand took Puttel into her
lapall of which arrangements signified that something very
important had got to be thought over and settled. Polly did not
soliloquize aloudas heroines on the stage and in books have a
way of doingbut the conversation she held with herself was very
much like this: "I 'm afraid there is something in it. I 've tried to
think it 's nothing but vanity or imaginationyet I can't help seeing
a differenceand feeling as if I ought not to pretend that I don't. I
know it 's considered proper for girls to shut their eyes and let
things come to a crisis no matter how much mischief is done. But I
don't think it 's doing as we 'd be done byand it seems a great deal
more honest to show a man that you don't love him before he has
entirely lost his heart. The girls laughed at me when I said soand
they declared that it would be a very improper thing to dobut I 've
observed that they don't hesitate to snub 'ineligible parties' as they
call poorvery youngor unpopular men. It 's all right thenbut
when a nice person comes it 's part of the fun to let him go on to
the very endwhether the girls care for him or not. The more
proposalsthe more credit. Fan says Trix always asks when she
comes home after the summer excursions'How many birds have
you bagged?' as if men were partridges. What wicked creatures we
are! some of us at least. I wonder why such a love of conquest was
put into us? Mother says a great deal of it is owing to bad
education nowadaysbut some girls seem born for the express
purpose of making trouble and would manage to do it if they lived
in a howling wilderness. I 'm afraid I 've got a spice of itand if I
had the chanceshould be as bad as any of them. I 've tried it and
liked itand maybe this is the consequence of that night's fun."
Here Polly leaned back and looked up at the little mirror over the
chimney-piecewhich was hung so that it reflected the faces of
those about the fire. In it Polly saw a pair of telltale eyes looking
out from a tangle of bright brown haircheeks that flushed and
dimpled suddenly as the fresh mouth smiled with an expression of
conscious powerhalf proudhalf ashamedand as pretty to see as
the coquettish gesture with which she smoothed back her curls and
flourished a white hand. For a minute she regarded the pleasant
picture while visions of girlish romances and triumphs danced
through her headthen she shook her hair all over her face and
pushed her chair out of range of the mirrorsayingwith a droll
mixture of self-reproach and self-approval in her tone; "Oh
PuttelPuttelwhat a fool I am!"
Puss appeared to endorse the sentiment by a loud purr and a
graceful wave of her tailand Polly returned to the subject from
which these little vanities had beguiled her.
Just suppose it is true, that he does ask me, and I say yes! What a
stir it would make, and what fun it would be to see the faces of the
girls when it came out! They all think a great deal of him because
he is so hard to please, and almost any of them would feel
immensely flattered if he liked them, whether they chose to marry
him or not. Trix has tried for years to fascinate him, and he can't
bear her, and I 'm so glad! What a spiteful thing I am. Well, I can't
help it, she does aggravate me so!And Polly gave the cat such a
tweak of the ear that Puttel bounced out of her lap in high
It don't do to think of her, and I won't!said Polly to herself
setting her lips with a grim look that was not at all becoming.
What an easy life I should have plenty of money, quantities of
friends, all sorts of pleasures, and no work, no poverty, no cold
shoulders or patched boots. I could do so much for all at home
how I should enjoy that!And Polly let her thoughts revel in the
luxurious future her fancy painted. It was a very bright picturebut
something seemed amiss with itfor presently she sighed and
shook her headthinking sorrowfullyAh, but I don't love him,
and I 'm afraid I never can as I ought! He 's very good, and
generous, and wise, and would be kind, I know, but somehow I
can't imagine spending my life with him; I 'm so afraid I should get
tired of him, and then what should I do? Polly Sydney don't sound
well, and Mrs. Arthur Sydney don't seem to fit me a bit. Wonder
how it would seem to call him 'Arthur'?And Polly said it under
her breathwith a look over her shoulder to be sure no one heard it.
It 's a pretty name, but rather too fine, and I should n't dare to say
'Syd,' as his sister does. I like short, plain, home-like names, such
as Will, Ned, or Tom. No, no, I can never care for him, and it 's no
use to try!The exclamation broke from Polly as if a sudden
trouble had seized herand laying her head down on her kneesshe
sat motionless for many minutes.
When she looked upher face wore an expression which no one
had ever seen on it before; a look of mingled pain and patienceas
if some loss had come to herand left the bitterness of regret
I won't think of myself, or try to mend one mistake by making
another,she said with a heavy sigh. "I 'll do what I can for Fan
and not stand between her and a chance of happiness. Let me see
how can I begin? I won't walk with him any more; I 'll dodge and
go roundabout waysso that we can't meet. I never had much faith
in the remarkable coincidence of his always happening home to
dinner just as I go to give the Roths their lesson. The fact isI like
to meet himI am glad to be seen with himand put on airsI dare
saylike a vain goose as I am. WellI won't do it any moreand
that will spare Fan one affliction. Poor dearhow I must have
worried her all this timeand never guessed it. She has n't been
quite as kind as ever; but when she got sharpI fancied it was
dyspepsia. Ohme! I wish the other trouble could be cured as
easily as this."
Here puss showed an amiable desire to forgive and forgetand
Polly took her upsaying aloud: "Puttelwhen missis abuses you
play it 's dyspepsiaand don't bear malicebecause it 's a very
trying diseasemy dear."
Thengoing back to her thoughtsshe rambled on again; "If he
does n't take that hintI will give him a stronger onefor I will not
have matters come to a crisisthough I can't deny that my wicked
vanity strongly tempts me to try and 'bag a bird' just for the
excitement and credit of the thing. PollyI 'm ashamed of you!
What would your blessed mother say to hear such expressions
from you? I 'd write and tell her all the worryonly it would n't do
any goodand would only trouble her. I 've no right to tell Fan's
secretsand I 'm ashamed to tell mine. NoI 'll leave mother in
peaceand fight it out alone. I do think Fan would suit him
excellently by and by. He has known her all her lifeand has a
good influence over her. Love would do so much toward making
her what she might be; it 's a shame to have the chance lost just
because he happens to see me. I should think she 'd hate me; but I
'll show her that she need n'tand do all I can to help her; for she
has been so good to me nothing shall ever make me forget that. It
is a delicate and dangerous taskbut I guess I can manage it; at any
rate I 'll tryand have nothing to reproach myself with if things do
go 'contrary.' "
What Polly thought ofas she lay back in her chairwith her eyes
shutand a hopeless look on her faceis none of our business
though we might feel a wish to know what caused a tear to gather
slowly from time to time under her lashesand roll down on
Puttel's Quaker-colored coat. Was it regret for the conquest she
relinquishedwas it sympathy for her friendor was it an
uncontrollable overflow of feeling as she read some sad or tender
passage of the little romance which she kept hidden away in her
On MondayPolly began the "delicate and dangerous task." Instead
of going to her pupils by way of the park and the pleasant streets
adjoiningshe took a roundabout route through back streetsand
thus escaped Mr. Sydneywhoas usualcame home to dinner very
early that day and looked disappointed because he nowhere saw
the bright face in the modest bonnet. Polly kept this up for a week
and by carefully avoiding the Shaws' house during calling hours
she saw nothing of Mr. Sydneywhoof coursedid n't visit her at
Miss Mills'. Minnie happened to be poorly that week and took no
lessonso Uncle Syd was deprived of his last hopeand looked as
if his allowance of sunshine had been suddenly cut off.
Nowas Polly was by no means a perfect creatureI am free to
confess that the old temptation assailed her more than once that
weekforwhen the first excitement of the dodging reform had
subsidedshe missed the pleasant little interviews that used to put
a certain flavor of romance into her dullhard-working days. She
liked Mr. Sydney very muchfor he had always been kind and
friendly since the early times when he had treated the little girl
with a courtesy which the young woman gratefully remembered. I
don't think it was his wealthaccomplishmentsor position that
most attracted Pollythough these doubtless possessed a greater
influence than she suspected. It was that indescribable something
which women are quick to see and feel in men who have been
blessed with wise and good mothers. This had an especial charm to
Pollyfor she soon found that this side of his character was not
shown to every one. With most girlshe was very like the other
young men of his setexcept perhaps in a certain grace of manner
which was as natural to him as his respect for all womankind. But
with Fanny and Polly he showed the domestic traits and virtues
which are more engaging to womanly women than any amount of
cool intellect or worldly wisdom.
Polly had seen a good deal of him during her visits at the Shaws'
where he was intimateowing to the friendship between Madam
and his mother; but she had never thought of him as a possible
lover for either Fanny or herself because he was six or eight years
older than theyand still sometimes assumed the part of a
venerable mentoras in the early days. Lately this had changed
especially towards Pollyand it flattered her more than she would
confess even to herself. She knew he admired her one talent
respected her independenceand enjoyed her society; but when
something warmer and more flattering than admirationrespector
pleasure crept into his mannershe could not help seeing that one
of the good gifts of this life was daily coming more and more
within her reachand began to ask herself if she could honestly
receive the giftand reward the giver.
At first she tried to think she couldbut unfortunately hearts are so
contrarythat they won't be obedient to reasonwillor even
gratitude. Polly felt a very cordial friendship for Mr. Sydneybut
not one particle of the love which is the only coin in which love
can be truly paid. Then she took a fancy into her head that she
ought to accept this piece of good fortune for the sake of the
familyand forget herself. But this false idea of self-sacrifice did
not satisfyfor she was not a fashionable girl trained to believe that
her first duty was to make "a good match" and never mind the
consequencesthough they rendered her miserable for life. Polly's
creed was very simple: "If I don't love himI ought not to marry
himespecially when I do love somebody elsethough everything
is against me." If she had read as many French novels as some
young ladiesshe might have considered it interesting to marry
under the circumstances and suffer a secret anguish to make her a
romantic victim. But Polly's education had been neglectedand
after a good deal of natural indecision she did what most women
do in such casesthought she would "wait and see."
The discovery of Fanny's secret seemed to show her something to
dofor if the "wait and see" decision was making her friend
unhappyit must be changed as soon as possible. This finished
Polly's indecisionand after that night she never allowed herself to
dwell upon the pleasant temptation which came in a guise
particularly attractive to a young girl with a spice of the old Eve in
her composition. So day after day she trudged through the dull
back streetslonging for the sunny parkthe face that always
brightened when it saw her comingand most of all the chance of
meeting wellit was n't Trix.
When Saturday camePolly started as usual for a visit to Becky
and Bessbut could n't resist stopping at the Shaws' to leave a little
parcel for Fanthough it was calling time. As she stepped in
meaning to run up for a word if Fanny should chance to be alone
two hats on the hall table arrested her.
Who is here, Katy?
Only Mr. Sydney and Master Tom. Won't you stop a bit, Miss
Not this morning, I 'm rather in a hurry.And away went Polly as
if a dozen eager pupils were clamoring for her presence. But as the
door shut behind her she felt so left out in the coldthat her eyes
filledand when NepTom's great Newfoundlandcame
blundering after hershe stopped and hugged his shaggy head
saying softlyas she looked into the brownbenevolent eyesfull of
almost human sympathy: "Nowgo backold dearyou must n't
follow me. OhNepit 's so hard to put love away when you want
it very much and it is n't right to take it." A foolish little speech to
make to a dogbut you see Polly was only a tender-hearted girl
trying to do her duty.
Since he is safe with Fanny, I may venture to walk where I like. It
's such a lovely day, all the babies will be out, and it always does
me good to see them,thought Pollyturning into the widesunny
streetwhere West End-dom promenaded at that hour.
The babies were out in full forcelooking as gay and delicate and
sweet as the snow-dropshyacinthsand daffodils on the banks
whence the snow had melted. But somehow the babies did n't do
Polly the good she expectedthough they smiled at her from their
carriagesand kissed their chubby hands as she passed themfor
Polly had the sort of face that babies love. One tiny creature in
blue plush was casting despairing glances after a very small lord of
creation who was walking away with a toddling belle in white
while a second young gentleman in gorgeous purple gaiters was
endeavoring to console the deserted damsel.
Take hold of Master Charley's hand, Miss Mamie, and walk
pretty, like Willy and Flossy,said the maid.
No, no, I want to do wid Willy, and he won't let me. Do 'way,
Tarley, I don't lite you,cried little Blue-bonnetcasting down her
ermine muff and sobbing in a microscopic handkerchiefthe
thread-lace edging on which could n't mitigate her woeas it might
have done that of an older sufferer.
Willy likes Flossy best, so stop crying and come right along, you
As poor little Dido was jerked away by the unsympathetic maid
and Purple-gaiters essayed in vain to plead his causePolly said to
herselfwith a smile and a sigh; "How early the old story begins!"
It seemed as if the spring weather had brought out all manner of
tender things beside fresh grass and the first dandelionsfor as she
went down the street Polly kept seeing different phases of the
sweet old story which she was trying to forget.
At a street cornera black-eyed school-boy was parting from a
rosy-faced school-girlwhose music roll he was reluctantly
Don't you forget, now,said the boylooking bashfully into the
bright eyes that danced with pleasure as the girl blushed and
smiledand answered reproachfully; "Whyof course I shan't!"
That little romance runs smoothly so far; I hope it may to the
end,said Polly heartily as she watched the lad tramp away
whistling as blithely as if his pleasurable emotions must find a
ventor endanger the buttons on the round jacket; while the girl
pranced on her own doorstepas if practising for the joyful dance
which she had promised not to forget.
A little farther on Polly passed a newly engaged couple whom she
knewwalking arm in arm for the first timeboth wearing that
proud yet conscious look which is so delightful to behold upon the
countenances of these temporarily glorified beings.
How happy they seem; oh, dear!said Pollyand trudged on
wondering if her turn would ever come and fearing that it was
A glimpse of a motherly-looking lady entering a doorreceived by
a flock of pretty childrenwho cast themselves upon mamma and
her parcels with cries of rapturedid Polly good; and whena
minute after she passed a gray old couple walking placidly
together in the sunshineshe felt better stilland was glad to see
such a happy ending to the romance she had read all down the
As if the mischievous little god wished to take Polly at a
disadvantageor perhaps to give her another chancejust at that
instant Mr. Sydney appeared at her side. How he got there was
never very clear to Pollybut there he wasflushedand a little out
of breathbut looking so glad to see her that she had n't the heart to
be stiff and coolas she had fully intended to be when they met.
Very warm, is n't it?he said when he had shaken hands and
fallen into stepjust in the old way.
You seem to find it so.And Polly laughedwith a sudden sparkle
in her eyes. She really could n't help itit was so pleasant to see
him againjust when she was feeling so lonely.
Have you given up teaching the Roths?asked Sydneychanging
Do you go as usual?
Well, it 's a mystery to me how you get there.
As much as it is to me how you got here so suddenly.
I saw you from the Shaws' window and took the liberty of running
after you by the back street,he saidlaughing.
That is the way I get to the Roths,answered Polly. She did not
mean to tellbut his frankness was so agreeable she forgot herself.
It 's not nearly so pleasant or so short for you as the park.
I know it, but people sometimes get tired of old ways and like to
try new ones.
Polly did n't say that quite naturallyand Sydney gave her a quick
lookas he asked; "Do you get tired of old friendstooMiss
Not often; but And there she stuckfor the fear of being
ungrateful or unkind made her almost hope that he would n't take
the hint which she had been carefully preparing for him.
There was a dreadful little pausewhich Polly broke by saying
abruptly; "How is Fan?"
Dashing, as ever. Do you know I 'm rather disappointed in Fanny,
for she don't seem to improve with her years,said Sydneyas if he
accepted the diversion and was glad of it.
Ah, you never see her at her best. She puts on that dashing air
before people to hide her real self. But I know her better; and I
assure you that she does improve; she tries to mend her faults,
though she won't own it, and will surprise you some day, by the
amount of heart and sense and goodness she has got.
Polly spoke heartily nowand Sydney looked at her as if Fanny's
defender pleased him more than Fanny's defence.
I 'm very glad to hear it, and willingly take your word for it.
Everybody shows you their good side, I think, and that is why you
find the world such a pleasant place.
Oh, but I don't! It often seems like a very hard and dismal place,
and I croak over my trials like an ungrateful raven.
Can't we make the trials lighter for you?
The voice that put the question was so very kindthat Polly dared
not look upbecause she knew what the eyes were silently saying.
Thank you, no. I don't get more tribulation than is good for me, I
fancy, and we are apt to make mistakes when we try to dodge
Or people,added Sydney in a tone that made Polly color up to
How lovely the park looks,she saidin great confusion.
Yes, it 's the pleasantest walk we have; don't you think so?asked
the artful young manlaying a trapinto which Polly immediately
Yes, indeed! It 's always so refreshing to me to see a little bit of
the country, as it were, especially at this season.
OhPollyPollywhat a stupid speech to makewhen you had just
given him to understand that you were tired of the park! Not being
a fool or a cox-combSydney put this and that togetherand taking
various trifles into the accounthe had by this time come to the
conclusion that Polly had heard the same bits of gossip that he had
which linked their names togetherthat she did n't like itand tried
to show she did n't in this way. He was quicker to take a hint than
she had expectedand being both proud and generousresolved to
settle the matter at oncefor Polly's sake as well as his own. So
when she made her last brilliant remarkhe said quietlywatching
her face keenly all the while; "I thought so; wellI 'm going out of
town on business for several weeksso you can enjoy your 'little bit
of country' without being annoyed by me."
Annoyed? Oh, no!cried Polly earnestly; then stopped shortnot
knowing what to say for herself. She thought she had a good deal
of the coquette in herand I 've no doubt that with time and
training she would have become a very dangerous little personbut
now she was far too transparent and straightforward by nature even
to tell a white lie cleverly. Sydney knew thisand liked her for it
but he took advantage of itnevertheless by asking suddenly;
Honestly, now, would n't you go the old way and enjoy it as much
as ever, if I was n't anywhere about to set the busybodies
Yes,said Pollybefore she could stop herselfand then could
have bitten her tongue out for being so rude. Another awful pause
seemed impendingbut just at that moment a horseman clattered
by with a smile and a salutewhich caused Polly to exclaimOh,
there 's Tom!with a tone and a look that silenced the words
hovering on Sydney's lipsand caused him to hold out his hand
with a look which made Polly's heart flutter then and ache with
pity for a good while afterwardthough he only saidGood by,
He was gone before she could do anything but look up at him with
a remorseful faceand she walked onfeeling that the first and
perhaps the only lover she would ever havehad read his answer
and accepted it in silence. She did not know what else he had read
and comforted herself with the thought that he did not care for her
very muchsince he took the first rebuff so quickly.
Polly did not return to her favorite walk till she learned from
Minnie that "Uncle" had really left townand then she found that
his friendly company and conversation was what had made the
way so pleasant after all. She sighed over the perversity of things
in generaland croaked a little over her trials in particularbut on
the whole got over her loss better than she expectedfor soon she
had other sorrows beside her own to comfortand such work does
a body more good than floods of regretful tearsor hours of
She shunned Fanny for a day or twobut gained nothing by itfor
that young ladyhearing of Sydney's sudden departurecould not
rest till she discovered the cause of itand walked in upon Polly
one afternoon just when the dusk made it a propitious hour for
What have you been doing with yourself lately?asked Fanny
composing herselfwith her back toward the rapidly waning light.
Wagging to and fro as usual. What's the news with you?
answered Pollyfeeling that something was coming and rather glad
to have it over and done with.
Nothing particular. Trix treats Tom shamefully, and he bears it
like a lamb. I tell him to break his engagement, and not be worried
so; but he won't, because she has been jilted once and he thinks it
's such a mean thing to do.
Perhaps she 'll jilt him.
I 've no doubt she will, if anything better comes along. But Trix is
getting pass,e, and I should n't wonder if she kept him to his word,
just out of perversity, if nothing else.
Poor Tom, what a fate!said Polly with what was meant to be a
comical groan; but it sounded so tragical that she saw it would n't
passand hastened to hide the failure by sayingwith a laughIf
you call Trix pass,e at twenty-three, what shall we all be at
twenty-five?Utterly done with, and laid upon the shelf. I feel so
already, for I don't get half the attention I used to have, and the
other night I heard Maud and Grace wondering why those old girls
'did n't stay at home, and give them a chance.'
How is Maudie?
Pretty well, but she worries me by her queer tastes and notions.
She loves to go into the kitchen and mess, she hates to study, and
said right before the Vincents that she should think it would be
great fun to be a beggar-girl, to go round with a basket, it must be
so interesting to see what you 'd get.
Minnie said the other day she wished she was a pigeon so she
could paddle in the puddles and not fuss about rubbers.
By the way, when is her uncle coming back?asked Fannywho
could n't wait any longer and joyfully seized the opening Polly
made for her.
I 'm sure I don't know.
Nor care, I suppose, you hard-hearted thing.
Why, Fan, what do you mean?
I 'm not blind, my dear, neither is Tom, and when a young
gentleman cuts a call abruptly short, and races after a young lady,
and is seen holding her hand at the quietest corner of the park, and
then goes travelling all of a sudden, we know what it means if you
Who got up that nice idea, I should like to know?demanded
Pollyas Fanny stopped for breath.
Now don't be affected, Polly, but just tell me, like a dear, has n't
No, he has n't.
Don't you think he means to?
I don't think he 'll ever say a word to me.
Well, I am surprised!And Fanny drew a long breathas if a load
was off her mind. Then she added in a changed tone: "But don't
you love himPolly?"
Neither spoke for a minutebut the heart of one of them beat
joyfully and the dusk hid a very happy face.
Don't you think he cared for you, dear?asked Fannypresently. "I
don't mean to be pryingbut I really thought he did."
That 's not for me to say, but if it is so, it 's only a passing fancy
and he 'll soon get over it.
Do tell me all about it; I 'm so interested, and I know something
has happened, I hear it in your voice, for I can't see your face.
Do you remember the talk we once had after reading one of Miss
Edgeworth's stories about not letting one's lovers come to a
declaration if one did n't love them?
And you girls said it was n't proper, and I said it was honest,
anyway. Well, I always meant to try it if I got a chance, and I have.
Mind you, I don't say Mr. Sydney loved me, for he never said so,
and never will, now, but I did fancy he rather liked me and might
do more if I did n't show him that it was of no use.
And you did?cried Fannymuch excited.
I just gave him a hint and he took it. He meant to go away before
that, so don't think his heart is broken, or mind what silly tattlers
say. I did n't like his meeting me so much and told him so by going
another way. He understood, and being a gentleman, made no fuss.
I dare say he thought I was a vain goose, and laughed at me for my
pains, like Churchill in 'Helen.'
No, he would n't; He 'd like it and respect you for doing it. But,
Polly, it would have been a grand thing for you.
I can't sell myself for an establishment.
Mercy! What an idea!
Well, that 's the plain English of half your fashionable matches. I
'm 'odd,' you know, and prefer to be an independent spinster and
teach music all my days.
Ah, but you won't. You were made for a nice, happy home of your
own, and I hope you 'll get it, Polly, dear,said Fanny warmly
feeling so grateful to Pollythat she found it hard not to pour out
all her secret at once.
I hope I may; but I doubt it,answered Polly in a tone that made
Fanny wonder if shetooknew what heartache meant.
Something troubles you, Polly, what is it? Confide in me, as I do
in you,said Fanny tenderlyfor all the coldness she had tried to
hide from Pollyhad melted in the sudden sunshine that had come
Do you always?asked her friendleaning forward with an
irresistible desire to win back the old-time love and confidence
too precious to be exchanged for a little brief excitement or the
barren honor of "bagging a bird to use Trix's elegant expression.
Fanny understood it then, and threw herself into Polly's arms,
crying, with a shower of grateful tears; Ohmy dear! my dear!
did you do it for my sake?"
And Polly held her closesaying in that tender voice of hersI did
n't mean to let a lover part this pair of friends if I could help it.
CHAPTER XV BREAKERS AHEAD
GOING into the Shaws' one eveningPolly found Maud sitting on
the stairswith a troubled face.
Oh, Polly, I 'm so glad you 've come!cried the little girlrunning
to hug her.
What's the matter, deary?
I don't know; something dreadful must have happened, for
mamma and Fan are crying together upstairs, papa is shut up in the
library, and Tom is raging round like a bear, in the dining-room.
I guess it is n't anything very bad. Perhaps mamma is sicker than
usual, or papa worried about business, or Tom in some new scrape.
Don't look so frightened, Maudie, but come into the parlor and see
what I 've got for you,said Pollyfeeling that there was trouble of
some sort in the airbut trying to cheer the childfor her little face
was full of a sorrowful anxietythat went to Polly's heart.
I don't think I can like anything till I know what the matter is,
answered Maud. "It 's something horridI 'm surefor when papa
came homehe went up to mamma's roomand talked ever so
longand mamma cried very loudand when I tried to go inFan
would n't let meand she looked scared and strange. I wanted to go
to papa when he came downbut the door was lockedand he said
'Not nowmy little girl' and then I sat here waiting to see what
would happenand Tom came home. But when I ran to tell himhe
said'Go awayand don't bother' and just took me by the shoulders
and put me out. Ohdear! everything is so queer and horridI don't
know what to do."
Maud began to cryand Polly sat down on the stairs beside her
trying to comfort herwhile her own thoughts were full of a vague
fear. All at once the dining-room door openedand Tom's head
appeared. A single glance showed Polly that something was the
matterfor the care and elegance which usually marked his
appearance were entirely wanting. His tie was under one earhis
hair in a tossthe cherished moustache had a neglected airand his
face an expression both excitedashamedand distressed; even his
voice betrayed disturbancefor instead of the affable greeting he
usually bestowed upon the young ladyhe seemed to have fallen
back into the bluff tone of his boyish daysand all he said was
How do you do?answered Polly.
I 'm in a devil of a mess, thank you; send that chicken up stairs,
and come in and hear about it.he saidas if he had been longing
to tell some oneand welcomed prudent Polly as a special
Go up, deary, and amuse yourself with this book, and these ginger
snaps that I made for you, there 's a good child,whispered Polly
as Maud rubbed away her tearsand stared at Tom with round
You 'll tell me all about it, by and by, won't you?she whispered
preparing to obey.
If I may,answered Polly.
Maud departed with unexpected docilityand Polly went into the
dining-roomwhere Tom was wandering about in a restless way. If
he had been "raging like a bear Polly would n't have cared, she
was so pleased that he wanted her, and so glad to be a confidante,
as she used to be in the happy old days, that she would joyfully
have faced a much more formidable person than reckless Tom.
Nowthenwhat is it?" she saidcoming straight to the point.
You 've killed your horse racing.
Worse than that.
You are suspended again.
Worse than that.
Trix has run away with somebody,cried Pollywith a gasp.
Oh, Tom, you have n't horse whipped or shot any one?
Came pretty near blowing my own brains out but you see I did
I can't guess; tell me, quick.
Well, I 'm expelled.
Tom paused on the rug as he gave the answerand looked at Polly
to see how she took it. To his surprise she seemed almost relieved
and after a minute silencesaidsoberlyThat 's bad, very bad;
but it might have been worse.
It is worse;and Tom walked away again with a despairing sort of
Don't knock the chairs about, but come and sit down, and tell me
Can't do it.
Well, go on, then. Are you truly expelled? Can't it be made up?
What did you do?
It 's a true bill this time. I just had a row with the Chapel
watchman, and knocked him down. If it was a first offence, I
might have got off; but you see I 've had no end of narrow escapes,
and this was my last chance; I 've lost it, and now there 'll be the
dickens to pay. I knew it was all up with me, so I did n't wait to be
turned out, but just took myself off.
What will your father say?
It will come hard on the governor, but the worst of it is there
Tom stoppedand stood a minute in the middle of the room with
his head downas if he did n't find it easy to tell even kind little
Polly. Then out came the truth all in a breathjust as he used to
bolt out his boyish misdemeanorsand then back up against the
wall ready to take the consequences.
I owe an awful lot of money that the governor don't know about.
Oh, Tom, how could you?
I 've been an extravagant rascal, I know it, and I 'm thundering
sorry, but that don't help a fellow, I 've got to tell the dear old
buffer, and there 's where it cuts.
At another time Polly would have laughed at the contrast between
Tom's face and his languagebut there was a sincere remorse
which made even the dreadful word "buffer" rather touching than
He will be very angry, I dare say; but he 'll help you, won't he? He
always does, Fan says.
That 's the worst of it, you see. He 's paid up so often, that the last
time he said his patience could n't stand it, nor his pocket either,
and if I got into any more scrapes of that sort, I must get out as I
could. I meant to be as steady as Bunker Hill Monument; but here I
am again, worse than ever, for last quarter I did n't say anything to
father, he was so bothered by the loss of those ships just then, so
things have mounted up confoundedly.
What have you done with all your money?
Hanged if I know.
Can't you pay it anyway?
Don't see how, as I have n't a cent of my own, and no way of
getting it, unless I try gambling.
Oh, mercy, no! Sell your horse,cried Pollyafter a minute of
I have; but he did n't bring half I gave for him. I lamed him last
winter, and the beggar won't get over it.
And that did n't pay up the debts?
Only about a half of 'em.
Why, Tom, how much do you owe?
I have dodged figuring it up till yesterday; then things were so
desperate, I thought I might as well face the truth, so I overhauled
my accounts, and there 's the result.
Tom threw a blottedcrumpled paper into Polly's lapand tramped
up and down againfaster than ever. Polly took one look at the
total and clasped her handsfor to her inexperienced eyes it looked
Tidy little sum, is n't it?asked Tomwho could n't bear the
silenceor the startledgrieved look in Polly's eyes.
It 's awful! I don't wonder you dread telling your father.
I 'd rather be shot. I say, Polly, suppose we break it to him easy!
added Tomafter another turn.
How do you mean?
Why, suppose Fan, or, better still, you go and sort of pave the
way. I can't bear to come down on him with the whole truth at
So you 'd like to have me go and tell him for you?Polly's lip
curled a little as she said thatand she gave Tom a look that would
have shown him how blue eyes can flashif he had seen it. But he
was at the windowand did n't turnas he said slowlyWell, you
see, he 's so fond of you; we all confide in you; and you are so like
one of the family, that it seems quite natural. Just tell him I 'm
expelled, you know, and as much more as you like; then I 'll come
in, and we 'll have it out.
Polly rose and went to the door without a word. In doing soTom
caught a glimpse of her faceand saidhastilyDon't you think it
would be a good plan?
No, I don't.
Why not? Don't you think he 'd rather have it told him nicely by
you, than blurted out as I always do blurt things?
I know he 'd rather have his son go to him and tell the truth, like a
man, instead of sending a girl to do what he is afraid to do
If Polly had suddenly boxed his earsTom could n't have looked
more taken aback than by that burst. He looked at her excited face
seemed to understand the meaning of itand remembered all at
once that he was trying to hide behind a girl. He turned scarlet
said shortlyCome back, Polly,and walked straight out of the
roomlooking as if going to instant executionfor poor Tom had
been taught to fear his fatherand had not entirely outgrown the
Polly sat downlooking both satisfied and troubled. "I hope I did
right she said to herself, I could n't bear to have him shirk and
seem cowardly. He is n'tonly he did n't think how it seemed to
meand I don't wonder he was a little afraidMr. Shaw is so severe
with the poor fellow. Ohdearwhat should we do if Will got into
such scrapes. Thank goodnesshe 's poorand can't; I 'm so glad of
Then she sat silent beside the half-open doorhearing the murmur
of Tom's voice across the halland hopingwith all her heartthat
he would n't have a very hard time. He seemed to tell his story
rapidly and steadilywithout interruptionto the end; then Polly
heard Mr. Shaw's deeper voice say a few wordsat which Tom
uttered a loud exclamationas if taken by surprise. Polly could n't
distinguish a wordso she kept her seatwondering anxiously what
was going on between the two men. A sudden pause seemed to
follow Tom's ejaculationthen Mr. Shaw talked a long time in a
lowearnest toneso different from the angry one Polly had
expected to hearthat it made her nervousfor Mr. Shaw usually
blew Tom up first, and forgave him afterward,as Maud said.
Presently Tom's voice was heardapparently asking eager
questionsto which brief replies were given. Then a dead silence
fell upon the roomand nothing was heard but the spring rain
softly falling out of doors. All of a sudden she heard a movement
and Tom's voice say audiblyLet me bring Polly;and he
appearedlooking so pale and miserable that Polly was frightened.
Go and say something to him; I can't; poor old father, if I 'd only
known,and to Polly's utter dismayTom threw himself into a
chairand laid his head down on the tableas if he had got a blow
that was too much for him.
Oh, Tom, what is it?cried Pollyhurrying to himfull of fears
she dared not speak.
Without looking upTom answeredin a smothered voiceFailed;
all gone to smash; and to-morrow every one will know it.
Polly held on to the back of Tom's chairfor a minutefor the news
took her breath awayand she felt as if the world was coming to an
endfailedwas such a vaguely dreadful word to her.
Is it very bad?she askedsoftlyfeeling as if anything was better
than to stand still and see Tom so wretched.
Yes; he means to give up everything. He 's done his best; but it
can't be staved off any longer, and it 's all up with him.
Oh, I wish I had a million to give him!cried Pollyclasping her
handswith the tears running down her cheeks. "How does he bear
Like a man, Polly; and I 'm proud of him,said Tomlooking up
all red and excited with the emotions he was trying to keep under.
Everything has been against him, and he has fought all alone to
stand the pressure, but it 's too much for him, and he 's given in. It
's an honorable failure, mind you, and no one can say a word
against him. I 'd like to see 'em try it!and Tom clenched his
handsas if it would be an immense relief to him to thrash half a
dozen aspersers of his father's honest name.
Of course they can't! This is what poor Maud troubled about. He
had told your mother and Fan before you came, and that is why
they are so unhappy, I suppose.
They are safe enough. Father has n't touched mother's money; he
'could n't rob his girls,' he said, and that 's all safe for 'em. Is n't he
a trump, Polly?And Tom's face shone with prideeven while his
lips would twitch with a tenderer feeling.
If I could only do anything to help,cried Pollyoppressed with
her own powerlessness.
You can. Go and be good to him; you know how; he needs it
enough, all alone there. I can't do it, for I 'm only a curse instead of
a comfort to him.
How did he take your news?asked Pollywhofor a timehad
forgotten the lesser trouble in the greater.
Like a lamb; for when I 'd done, he only said, 'My poor lad, we
must bear with one another.' and then told his story.
I 'm glad he was kind,began Pollyin a soothing tone; but Tom
cried outremorsefullyThat 's what knocks me over! Just when I
ought to be a pride and a prop to him, I bring him my debts and
disgrace, and he never says a word of blame. It 's no use, I can't
stand it!and Tom's head went down again with something very
like a sobthat would come in spite of manful efforts to keep it
backfor the poor fellow had the warmest heart that ever wasand
all the fine waistcoats outside could n't spoil it.
That sound gave Polly more pain than the news of a dozen failures
and expulsionsand it was as impossible for her to resist putting
her hand tenderly on the bent headas it was for her to help
noticing with pleasure how brown the little curls were growing
and how soft they were. In spite of her sorrowshe enjoyed that
minute very muchfor she was a born consolerandit is hardly
necessary for me to addloved this reprehensible Tom with all her
heart. It was a very foolish thing for her to doshe quite agreed to
that; she could n't understand itexplain itor help it; she only felt
that she did care for him very muchin spite of his faultshis
indifferenceand his engagement. You seeshe learned to love him
one summerwhen he made them a visit. That was before Trix
caught him; and when she heard that piece of newsPolly could n't
unlove him all at oncethough she tried very hardas was her duty.
That engagement was such a farcethat she never had much faith
in itso she put her love away in a corner of her heartand tried to
forget ithoping it would either dieor have a right to live. It did
n't make her very miserablebecause patienceworkand
common-sense lent her a handand hope would keep popping up
its bright face from the bottom of her Pandora-box of troubles.
Now and thenwhen any one said Trix would n't jilt Tomor that
Tom did care for Trix more than he shouldPolly had a pangand
thought she could n't possibly bear it. But she always found she
couldand so came to the conclusion that it was a merciful
provision of nature that girls' hearts could stand so muchand their
appetites continue goodwhen unrequited love was starving.
Nowshe could not help yearning over this faultywell-beloved
scapegrace Tomor help thinkingwith a little thrill of hopeIf
Trix only cared for his money, she may cast him off now he 's lost
it; but I 'll love him all the better because he 's poor.With this
feeling warm at her heartI don't wonder that Polly's hand had a
soothing effectand that after a heave or twoTom's shoulders
were quietand certain smothered sniffs suggested that he would
be all right againif he could only wipe his eyes without any one's
seeing him do it.
Polly seemed to divine his wishand tucking a littleclean
handkerchief into one of his half-open handsshe saidI 'm going
to your father, now,and with a farewell smoothso comforting
that Tom wished she 'd do it againshe went away.
As she paused a minute in the hall to steady herselfMaud called
her from aboveand thinking that the women might need her more
than the menshe ran up to find Fanny waiting for her in her own
Mamma's asleep, quite worn out, poor dear, so we can talk in here
without troubling her,said Fannyreceiving her friend so quietly
that Polly was amazed.
Let me come, too, I won't make any fuss; it 's so dreadful to be
shut out everywhere, and have people crying and talking, and
locked up, and I not know what it means,said Maud
You do know, now; I 've told her, Polly,said Fanas they sat
down togetherand Maud perched herself on the bedso that she
might retire among the pillows if her feelings were too much for
I 'm glad you take it so well, dear; I was afraid it might upset
you,said Pollyseeing now that in spite of her quiet mannerFan's
eyes had an excited lookand her cheeks a feverish color.
I shall groan and moan by and by, I dare say, but at first it sort of
dazed me, and now it begins to excite me. I ought to be full of
sorrow for poor papa, and I am truly sorry, but, wicked as it may
seem, it 's a fact, Polly, that I 'm half glad it 's happened, for it
takes me out of myself, and gives me something to do.
Fanny's eyes fell and her color rose as she spokebut Polly
understood why she wanted to forget herselfand put her arm
round her with a more tender sympathy than Fanny guessed.
Perhaps things are not as bad as they seem; I don't know much
about such matters, but I 've seen people who have failed, and they
seemed just as comfortable as before,said Polly.
It won't be so with us, for papa means to give up everything, and
not have a word said against him. Mamma's little property is
settled upon her, and has n't been risked. That touched her so
much! She dreads poverty even more than I do, but she begged
him to take it if it would help him. That pleased him, but he said
nothing would induce him to do it, for it would n't help much, and
was hardly enough to keep her comfortable.
Do you know what he means to do?asked Pollyanxiously.
He said his plans were not made, but he meant to go into the little
house that belonged to grandma, as soon as he could, for it was n't
honest for a bankrupt to keep up an establishment like this.
I shan't mind that at all, I like the little house 'cause it 's got a
garden, and there 's a cunning room with a three-cornered closet in
it that I always wanted. If that 's all, I don't think bankrupting is so
very bad,said Maudtaking a cheerful view of things.
Ah, just wait till the carriage goes and the nice clothes and the
servants, and we have to scratch along as we can. You 'll change
your mind then, poor child,said Fannywhose ideas of failure
were decidedly tragical.
Will they take all my things away?cried Maudin dismay.
I dare say; I don't know what we are allowed to keep; but not
much, I fancy,and Fan looked as if strung up to sacrifice
everything she possessed.
They shan't have my new ear-rings, I 'll hide 'em, and my best
dress, and my gold smelling bottle. Oh, oh, oh! I think it 's mean to
take a little girl's things away!And Maud dived among the
pillows to smother a wail of anguish at the prospect of being bereft
of her treasures.
Polly soon lured her out againby assurances that she would n't be
utterly despoiledand promises to try and soften the hard hearts of
her father's creditorsif the ear-rings and the smelling-bottle were
I wonder if we shall be able to keep one servant, just till we learn
how to do the work,said Fannylooking at her white handswith
But Maud clapped hersand gave a joyful bounceas she cried
Now I can learn to cook! I love so to beat eggs! I 'll have an
apron, with a bib to it, like Polly's, and a feather duster, and sweep
the stairs, maybe, with my head tied up, like Katy. Oh, what fun!
Don't laugh at her, or discourage her; let her find comfort in bibs
and dust-pans, if she can,whispered Polly to Fanwhile Maud
took a joyful "header" among the pillowsand came up smiling
and blowzyfor she loved house-workand often got lectured for
stolen visits to the kitchenand surreptitious sweepings and
dustings when the coast was clear.
Mamma is so feeble, I shall have to keep house, I suppose, and
you must show me how, Polly,said Fan.
Good practice, ma'am, as you 'll find out some day,answered
Fanny smiledthen grew both grave and sad. "This changes
everything; the old set will drop meas we did the Mertons when
their father failedand my 'prospects' as we sayare quite ruined."
I don't believe it; your real friends won't drop you, and you 'll find
out which the true ones are now. I know one friend who will be
kinder than ever.
Oh, Polly, do you think so?and Fanny's eyes softened with
I know who she means,cried Maudalways eager to find out
things. "It 's herself; Polly won't mind if we are poor'cause she
Is that who you meant?asked Fanwistfully.
No, it 's a much better and dearer friend than I am,said Polly
pinching Fanny's cheekas it reddened prettily under her eyes.
You 'll never guess, Maud, so I would n't try, but be planning what
you will put in your cunning, three-cornered closet, when you get
Having got rid of "Miss Paulina Pry as Tom called Maud, who
was immediately absorbed by her cupboard, the older girls soberly
discussed the sudden change which had come, and Polly was
surprised to see what unexpected strength and sense Fanny
showed. Polly was too unconscious of the change which love had
made in herself to understand at first the cause of her friend's new
patience and fortitude; but she rejoiced over it, and felt that her
prophecy would yet be fulfilled. Presently Maud emerged from her
new closet, bringing a somewhat startling idea with her.
Do bankrupting men" (Maud liked that new word) "always have
Mercy, no! What put that into your head, child?cried Polly.
Why, Mr. Merton did; and I was thinking perhaps papa had got
one down there, and it kind of frightened me.
Mr. Merton's was a bad, disgraceful failure, and I don't wonder he
had a fit. Ours is n't, and papa won't do anything of that sort, you
may be sure,said Fannywith as proud an air as if "our failure"
was rather an honor than otherwise.
Don't you think you and Maud had better go down and see him?
Perhaps he would n't like it; and I don't know what to say, either,
began Fan; but Polly saideagerlyI know he would like it. Never
mind what you say; just go, and show him that you don't doubt or
blame him for this, but love him all the more, and are ready and
glad to help him bear the trouble.
I 'm going, I ain't afraid; I 'll just hug him, and say I 'm ever so
glad we are going to the little house,cried Maudscrambling off
the bedand running down stairs.
Come with me, Polly, and tell me what to do,said Fanny
drawing her friend after her.
You 'll know what to do when you see him, better than I can tell
you,answered Pollyreadily yieldingfor she knew they
considered her "quite one of the family as Tom said.
At the study door they found Maud, whose courage had given out,
for Mr. Merton's fit rather haunted her. Polly opened the door; and
the minute Fanny saw her father, she did know what to do. The fire
was low, the gas dim, and Mr. Shaw was sitting in his easy-chair,
his gray head in both his hands, looking lonely, old, and bowed
down with care. Fanny gave Polly one look, then went and took the
gray head in both her arms, saying, with a tender quiver in her
voice, Father dearwe 've come to help you bear it"
Mr. Shaw looked upand seeing in his daughter's face something
that never had been there beforeput his arm about herand leaned
his tired head against heras ifwhen least expectedhe had found
the consolation he most needed. In that minuteFanny feltwith
mingled joy and self-reproachwhat a daughter might be to her
father; and Pollythinking of feebleselfish Mrs. Shawasleep up
stairssaw with sudden clearness what a wife should be to her
husbanda helpmeetnot a burden. Touched by these unusual
demonstrationsMaud crept quietly to her father's kneeand
whisperedwith a great tear shining on her little pug nosePapa,
we don't mind it much, and I 'm going to help Fan keep house for
you; I 'd like to do it, truly.
Mr. Shaw's other arm went round the childand for a minute no
one said anythingfor Polly had slipped behind his chairthat
nothing should disturb the threewho were learning from
misfortune how much they loved one another. Presently Mr. Shaw
steadied himself and askedWhere is my other daughter, where 's
She was there at once; gave him one of the quiet kisses that had
more than usual tenderness in itfor she loved to hear him say "my
other daughter and then she whispered, Don't you want Tom
Of course I do; where is the poor fellow?
I 'll bring him;and Polly departed with most obliging alacrity.
But in the hall she paused a minute to peep into the glass and see if
she was all rightfor somehow she was more anxious to look neat
and pretty to Tom in his hour of trouble than she had ever been in
his prosperous days. In lifting her arms to perk up the bow at her
throat she knocked a hat off the bracket. Nowa shiny black
beaver is not an object exactly calculated to inspire tender or
romantic sentimentsone would fancybut that particular "stove
pipe" seemed to touch Polly to the heartfor she caught it upas if
its fall suggested a greater onesmoothed out a slight dintas if it
was symbolical of the hard knocks its owner's head was now in
danger of receivingand stood looking at it with as much pity and
respectas if it had been the crown of a disinherited prince. Girls
will do such foolish little thingsand though we laugh at themI
think we like them the better for itafter all.
Richard was himself again when Polly enteredfor the
handkerchief had disappearedhis head was erecthis face was
steadyand his whole air had a dogged composure which seemed
to say to fateHit away, I 'm ready.He did not hear Polly come
infor he was looking fixedly at the fire with eyes that evidently
saw a very different future there from that which it used to show
him; but when she saidTom, dear, your father wants you,he got
up at onceheld out his hand to hersayingCome too, we can't
get on without you,and took her back into the study with him.
Then they had a long talkfor the family troubles seemed to warm
and strengthen the family affection and confidenceand as the
young people listened while Mr. Shaw told them as much of his
business perplexities as they could understandevery one of them
blamed him or herself for going on so gayly and blindlywhile the
storm was gatheringand the poor man was left to meet it all
alone. Nowhoweverthe thunder-clap had comeand after the
first alarmfinding they were not killedthey began to discover a
certain half-anxioushalf-pleasant excitement in talking it over
encouraging one anotherand feeling unusually friendlyas people
do when a sudden shower drives two or three to the shelter of one
It was a sober talkbut not all sadfor Mr. Shaw felt inexpressibly
comforted by his children's unexpected sympathyand theytrying
to take the downfall cheerfully for his sakefound it easier to bear
themselves. They even laughed occasionallyfor the girlsin their
ignoranceasked queer questions; Tom made ludicrously
unbusiness-like propositions; and Maud gave them one hearty
pealthat did a world of goodby pensively remarkingwhen the
plans for the future had been explained to herI 'm so relieved;
for when papa said we must give up everything, and mamma
called us all beggars, I did think I 'd got to go round asking for cold
vittles, with a big basket, and an old shawl over my head. I said
once I 'd like that, but I 'm afraid I should n't, for I can't bear Indian
cake and cold potatoes, that 's what the poor children always seem
to get, and I should hate to have Grace and the rest see me scuffing
round the back gates.
My little girl shall never come to that, if I can help it,said Mr.
Shawholding her closewith a look that made Maud addas she
laid her cheek against his ownBut I 'd do it, father, if you asked
me to, for I truly want to help.
So do I!cried Fannywondering at the same minute how it
would seem to wear turned silksand clean her gloves.
Tom said nothingbut drew toward him a paper of figures which
his father had drawn upand speedily reduced himself to the verge
of distraction by trying to understand themin his ardent desire to
prove his willingness to put his shoulder to the wheel.
We shall pull through, children, so don't borrow trouble, only be
ready for discomforts and annoyances. Put your pride in your
pockets, and remember poverty is n't disgraceful, but dishonesty
Polly had always loved kind Mr. Shawbut now she respected him
heartilyand felt that she had not done him justice when she
sometimes thought that he only cared for making money.
I should n't wonder if this was a good thing for the whole family,
though it don't look so. Mrs. Shaw will take it the hardest, but it
may stir her up, so she will forget her nerves, and be as busy and
happy as mother is,said Polly to herselfin a hopeful moodfor
poverty was an old friendand she had learned long ago not to fear
itbut to take its bitter and its sweetand make the best of both.
When they parted for the nightPolly slipped away firstto leave
them freeyet could n't help lingering outside to see how tenderly
the girls parted from their father. Tom had n't a word to say for
himselffor men don't kisscaressor cry when they feel mostand
all he could do to express his sympathy and penitencewas to
wring his father's hand with a face full of respectregretand
affectionand then bolt up stairs as if the furies were after himas
they werein a mild and modern form.
CHAPTER XVI A DRESS PARADE
THE weeks that followed taught the Shawsas many other families
have been taughthow rapidly riches take to themselves wings and
fly awaywhen they once begin to go. Mr. Shaw carried out his
plans with an energy and patience that worked wondersand
touched the hearts of his hardest creditors. The big house was
given up as soon as possible and the little house taken; being made
comfortable with the furniture Madam left there when she went to
live with her son. The old-fashioned things had been let with the
houseand now seemed almost like a gift from Grandmadoubly
precious in these troublous times. At the auctionseveral persons
tried to show the family thatthough they had lost their fortune
friends still remainedfor one bid in Fanny's pianoand sent it to
her; another secured certain luxurious articles for Mrs. Shaw's
comfort; and a third saved such of Mr. Shaw's books as he valued
mostfor he had kept his word and given up everythingwith the
most punctilious integrity. So the little house was not barebut
made pleasant to their eyes by these waifs from the wreckbrought
them by the tide of sympathy and good-will which soon set in.
Everybody who knew them hastened to callmany from a real
regardbut more from mere curiosity to "see how they took it."
This was one of the hardest things they had to bearand Tom used
strong language more than oncewhen some fine lady came to
condoleand went away to gossip. Polly's hopes of Mrs. Shaw
were disappointedfor misfortune did not have a bracing effect.
She took to her bed at oncereceived her friends in tears and a
point-lace capand cheered her family by plaintively inquiring
when she was to be taken to the almshouse. This was hard for
Fanny; but after an interval of despairshe came to the conclusion
that under the circumstances it was the best thing her mother could
have doneand with something of her father's energyFanny
shouldered the new burdenfeeling that at last necessity had given
her what she had long neededsomething to do.
The poor girl knew as much of household affairs as Snip; but pride
and the resolution "to stand by Father kept up her courage, and
she worked away with feverish activity at whatever task came first
till, just as strength and heart were about to fail, order began to
emerge from chaos and the vision of a home made happy and
comfortable by her skill and care came to repay and sustain her.
Maud, being relieved from the fear of back-door beggary, soon
became reconciled to bankruptcy; thought it rather a good joke, on
the whole, for children like novelty, and don't care much for Mrs.
Grundy. She regarded the new abode as a baby house on a large
scale, where she was allowed to play her part in the most
satisfactory manner. From the moment when, on taking possession
of the coveted room, she opened the doors of the three-cornered
closet, and found a little kettle just like Polly's, standing there, she
felt that a good time was coming for her and fell to dusting
furniture, washing cups, and making toast, the happiest, fussiest
little housewife in the city. For Maud inherited the notable gifts of
her grandmother, and would have made a capital farmer's
daughter, in spite of her city breeding.
Polly came and went through all these changes, faithful, helpful,
and as cheery as she could be when her friends were in trouble.
The parts seemed reversed now, and it was Polly who gave, Fanny
who received; for where everything seemed strange and new to
Fan, Polly was quite at home, and every one of the unfashionable
domestic accomplishments now came into play, to the comfort of
the Shaws, and the great satisfaction of Polly. She could not do
enough to prove her gratitude for former favors, and went toiling
and moiling about, feeling that the hardest, most disagreeable tasks
were her especial duty. In the moving nothing suited her better
than to trot up and down, lugging heavy things, to pound her
fingers black and blue nailing carpets and curtains, and the day she
nearly broke her neck tumbling down the cellar stairs, in her
eagerness to see that Mrs. Shaw's wine was rightly stored, she felt
that she was only paying her debts, and told Tom she liked it,
when he picked her up looking as grimy as a chimney-sweep.
You can turn your hand to anythingyou clever girlso do come
and give me some advicefor I am in the depths of despair said
Fanny when the maid-of-all-work" as Polly called herselffound a
What is it? Moths in the furs, a smoky chimney, or small-pox next
door?asked Pollyas they entered Fan's roomwhere Maud was
trying on old bonnets before the looking-glass.
Actually I have nothing to wear,began Fan impressively; "I 've
been too busy to think or care till nowbut here it is nearly May
and I have hardly a decent rag to my back. Usuallyyou knowI
just go to Mrs. O'Grady and tell her what I want; she makes my
spring wardrobePapa pays the billand there I am. Now I 've
looked into the matterand I declare to youPollyI 'm frightened
to see how much it costs to dress me."
Not so much as some girls I know,said Polly encouragingly.
Perhaps not, for I have a conscience, and taste is economy
sometimes; but really, Polly, I have n't the heart to ask Papa for a
cent just now, and yet I must have clothes. You are such a genius
for planning and working wonders, that I throw myself upon you
and ask, 'How shall I make a spring wardrobe out of nothing?'
Let me see the 'nothing' before I advise. Bring out every rag you
've got, and we 'll see what can be done,said Pollylooking as if
she enjoyed the prospectfor she had a great deal of that feminine
faculty which we call "knack and much practice had increased it.
Fanny brought out her rags" and was astonished to see how many
she hadfor chairsofabedand bureau were coveredand still
Maudwho was burrowing in the closetskept cryingHere 's
There 's a discouraging heap of rubbish for you!said Fanas she
added a faded muslin to the last pile.
Now, to me your 'rubbish' looks very encouraging, because there
is good material there, and not much worn-out finery, that 's my
detestation, for you can't do anything with it. Let me see, five
bonnets. Put the winter ones away till autumn, rip up the summer
ones, and out of three old ones we 'll get a pretty new one, if my
eyes don't deceive me.
I 'll rip, and then do let me see you make a bonnet, it must be so
interesting,said Maudwhipping out her scissors and eagerly
beginning to reduce a shabby little bonnet to its original elements.
Now the dresses,continued Pollywho had rapidly sorted out the
Will you have the goodness to look at this?said Fanholding up
a gray street suit faded past cure.
Polly whisked it wrong side outand showing the cleanbright
fabricsaidwith a triumphant waveBehold your new suit; fresh
trimming and less of it will finish you off as smart as ever.
I never wore a turned dress in my life; do you suppose people will
know it?said Fan doubtfully.
What if they do? It won't hurt you. Not one in a hundred will ever
think anything about your dress, except that it is pretty. I 've worn
turned and dyed gowns all my days, and it don't seem to have
alienated my friends, or injured my constitution.
That it has n't; I 'm a goose, Polly, and I 'll get over the feeling that
it 's sort of disgraceful to be poor and have to economize. We 'll
turn the gray, and I 'll wear it bravely.
Then it will be more becoming than ever. Oh, here 's the pretty
violet silk. That will make a lovely suit,cried Pollygoing on
with the review.
Don't see how two draggled skirts and a stained waist can be
transformed into a whole rig,said Fansitting on the bedwith her
garments strewn about her in various attitudes of limp
Well, ma'am, my plan is this,began Pollyimitating Mrs.
O'Grady's important toneand bad grammar: "Gores is outand
plaits is in; thereforeas the top of this skirt is quite freshwe will
take off the rufflesturn it upside downand leave it plain. The
upper skirt will be made scanterand finished with a frill; then the
waist can be refreshed with the best parts of these wide flounces
and out of those new bits we will concoct a hat. The black lace
Maud has just taken off the green one will do to edge the violet
and with your nice silk mantilla you are completedon't you see?"
I don't quite see it yet, but I have firm faith that I shall in time,
and consider my calling costume finished,said Fannygetting
more and more interested as she saw her condemned wardrobe
coming out fresh again under Polly's magic knack.
There are two; then that piqu, is all right, if you cut the tail off
the jacket and change the trimming a bit. The muslins only need
mending and doing up to look as well as ever; you ought not to put
them away torn and soiled, my child. The two black silks will be
good stand-bys for years. If I were you, I 'd have a couple of neat,
pretty prints for home-wear, and then I don't see why you are n't
fixed well enough for our short season.
Can't I do anything with this barege? It 's one of my favorite
dresses, and I hate to give it up.
You wore that thoroughly out, and it 's only fit for the rag-bag.
Yes, it was very pretty and becoming, I remember, but its day is
Fanny let the dress lie in her lap a minute as she absently picked at
the fringesmiling to herself over the happy time when she wore it
last and Sydney said she only needed cowslips in her lap to look
like spring. Presently she folded it up and put it away with a sigh
but it never went into the rag-bagand my sentimental readers can
understand what saved it.
The ball dresses had better be put nicely away till next year,
began Pollycoming to a rainbow colored heap.
My day is over, I shall never use them again. Do what you like
with them,said Fan calmly.
Did you ever sell your cast-off finery, as many ladies do?asked
Never; I don't like the fashion. I give it away, or let Maud have it
I wonder if you would mind my telling you something Belle
If it 's an offer to buy my clothes, I should mind,answered
Then I won't,and Polly retired behind a cloud of arsenic-green
gauzewhich made her look as if she had the cholera.
If she wanted to buy that horrid new 'gooseberry-colored gown,' as
Tom calls it, I 'd let her have it cheap,put in Maudwho was of a
Does she want it, Polly?asked Fanwhose curiosity got the
better of her pride.
Well, she merely asked me if I thought you 'd be mortally
offended, if she offered to take it off your hands, as you 'd never
worn it. You don't like it, and in another season it will be all out of
fashion,said Polly from her verdant retreat.
What did you say?
I saw she meant it kindly, so I said I 'd ask. Now between
ourselves, Fan, the price of that dress would give you all you 'll
want for your spring fixings, that 's one consideration; then here 's
another, which may have some weight with you,added Polly
slyly. "Trix told Belle she was going to ask you for the dressas
you would n't care to wear it now. That made Belle fire upand say
it was a mean thing to do without offering some return for a costly
thing like that; and then Belle saidin her blunt way'I 'll give Fan
all she paid for itand moretooif it will be any help to her. I
don't care for the dressbut I 'd like to slip a little money into her
pocketfor I know she needs it and is too good to ask dear Mr.
Shaw for anything she can get on without.' "
Did she say that? I 'll give her the dress, and not take a penny for
it,cried Fanflushing up with mingled anger toward Trix and
gratitude to Belle.
That won't suit her; you let me manage it, and don't feel any
shame or anxiety about it. You did many a kind and generous thing
for Belle when you had the power, and you liked to do it; now let
her pay her debts, and have the same pleasure.
If she looks at it in that way, it makes a difference. Perhaps I 'd
better the money would be an immense help only I don't quite like
to take it.
Kings and queens sell their jewels when times are hard or they get
turned off their thrones, and no one thinks it anything amiss, so
why need you? It 's just a little transaction between two friends
who exchange things they don't want for things which they do, and
I 'd do it if I were you.
We 'll see about it,said Fanprivately resolving to take Polly's
If I had lots of things like Fan, I 'd have an auction and get all I
could for them. Why don't you?asked Maudbeginning on her
We will,said Pollyand mounting a chairshe put upbid inand
knocked down Fan's entire wardrobe to an imaginary group of
friendswith such droll imitations of each one that the room rang
That 's enough nonsense; now we 'll return to business,said
Pollydescending breathless but satisfied with the effect of her
These white muslins and pretty silks will keep for years, so I
should lay them by till they are needed. It will save buying, and
you can go to your stock any time and make over what you want.
That 's the way Mother does; we 've always had things sent us from
richer friends, and whatever was n't proper for us to wear at the
time, Mother put away to be used when we needed it. Such funny
bundles as we used to have sometimes, odd shoes, bonnets without
crowns, stockings without heels or toes, and old finery of all sorts.
We used to rush when a bundle came, and sit round while Mother
opened it. The boys always made fun of the things, though they
were as grateful, really, as any of us. Will made a verse one day
which we thought pretty well for a little chap: 'To poor country
folks Who have n't any clothes, Rich folks, to relieve them, Send
old lace gowns and satin bows.'
I think that Will is going to be as nice a poet as Mr. Shakespeare,
remarked Maud in a tone of serious conviction.
He is already a Milton; but I don't believe he will ever be anything
but a poet in name,said Pollyworking away while she talked.
Did n't your mother ever let you wear the nice things that came?
No, she thought it was n't the thing for a poor minister's girls to go
flourishing about in second-hand finery, so she did what I 'm doing
now, put away what would be useful and proper for us by and by,
and let us play with the shabby, silk bonnets and dirty, flounced
gowns. Such fun as we used to have up in our big garret! I
remember one day we 'd been playing have a ball, and were all
rigged up, even the boys. Some new neighbors came to call, and
expressed a wish to see us, having been told that we were pattern
children. Mother called us, but we had paraded out into the garden,
after our ball, and were having a concert, as we sat about on the
cabbages for green satin seats, so we did n't hear the call, and just
as the company was going, a great noise arrested them on the
doorstep, and round the corner of the house rattled Ned in full
costume, wheeling Kitty in a barrow, while Jimmy, Will, and I ran
screaming after, looking like Bedlamites; for we were playing that
Lady Fitz Perkins had fainted, and was being borne home senseless
in a cab. I thought mother would kill herself with laughing; and
you can imagine what a fine impression the strangers received of
the model children.
Maud was so tickled with this youthful prank that she unguardedly
sat down to laugh on the edge of an open trunkimmediately
doubled upfell inand was with difficulty extricated.
People in the country have great deal nicer times than we do. I
never rode in a wheelbarrow, I never sat on cabbages, and I don't
think it 's fair,she said with an injured expression. "You need n't
save any old silk gowns for me; I don't mean to be a fine lady
when I grow upI 'm going to be a farmer's wifeand make butter
and cheeseand have ten childrenand raise pigs she added in
one enthusiastic burst.
I do believe she will if she can find a farmer anywhere said
OhI 'm going to have Will; I asked him and he said'All right.'
He 's going to preach Sundaysand work on the farm the rest of the
time. Wellhe isso you need n't laughfor we 've made all our
plans said Maud with comical dignity as she tried the effect of an
old white bonnet, wondering if farmers' wives could wear ostrich
feathers when they went to meeting.
Blessed innocence! Don't you wish you were a childand dared
tell what you want?" murmured Fanny.
I wish I had seen Will's face when Maud proposed,answered
Pollywith a nod which answered her friend's speech better than
Any news of anybody?whispered Fanaffecting to examine a
sleeve with care.
Still at the South; don't think late events have been reported yet;
that accounts for absence,answered Polly.
I think Sir Philip was hit harder than was supposed,said Fan.
I doubt it, but time cures wounds of that sort amazing quick.
Wish it did!
Who is Sir Philip?demanded Maudpricking up her ears.
A famous man who lived in the time of Queen Elizabeth,
answered Fanwith a look at Polly.
Oh!And Maud seemed satisfiedbut the sharp child had her
There will be an immense deal of work in all this fixing over and
I hate to sew,said Fannyto divert a certain person's thoughts.
Jenny and I are going to help. We are your debtors, as well as
Belle, and demand the privilege of paying up. Blessings, like
curses, come home to roost, Fan.
Mine come home a good deal bigger than they went,answered
Fannylooking pleased that little favors should be so faithfully
The interest on that sort of investment rolls up beautifully, you
know. Now rip that dress for Jenny to put in order, and I 'll toss
you up a bonnet in less than no time,said Pollydetermined to
have things go smoothlyfor she knew Fan's feelings had been a
good deal tried latelyin many ways.
I must have something to match my dress, and blue inside,said
Fannybringing out her ribbon boxes.
Anything you like, my dear; when it comes to bonnets, I am
usually inspired. I have it! There we are! And nothing could be
nicer,cried Pollymaking a dive among the silks Fan was turning
over with a lost expression. "This bit of silver-gray is all I askhere
's enough for a killing bonnetand those forget-me-nots are both
pretty and appropriate."
You wretch, be still!cried Fannyas Polly looked up at her with
a wicked laugh in her eyes.
It will be done in time, and the dress likewise, so look your
prettiest, and accept my blessing,continued Pollyseeing that Fan
liked her raillery.
Time for what?asked Paulina Pry.
Your wedding, dear,sweetly answered Fanfor Polly's pleasant
hints and predictions put her in a charming humorand even made
old clothes of little consequence.
Maud gave an incredulous sniffand wondered why "big girls need
to be so dreadful mysterious about their old secrets."
This silk reminds me of Kitty's performance last summer. A little
checked silk was sent in our spring bundle from Mrs. Davenport,
and Mother said Kit might have it if she could make it do. So I
washed it nicely, and we fussed and planned, but it came short by
half of one sleeve. I gave it up, but Kit went to work and matched
every scrap that was left so neatly that she got out the half sleeve,
put it on the under side, and no one was the wiser. How many
pieces do you think she put in, Maud?
Fifty,was the wise reply.
No, only ten, but that was pretty well for a fourteen-year-old
dressmaker. You ought to have seen the little witch laugh in her
sleeve when any one admired the dress, for she wore it all summer
and looked as pretty as a pink in it. Such things are great fun when
you get used to them; besides, contriving sharpens your wits, and
makes you feel as if you had more hands than most people.
I think we 'll get a farm near your house; I should like to know
Kitty,said Maudfeeling a curious interest in a girl who made
such peculiar patchwork.
The dress-parade is over, and I 'm ever so much obliged to you,
Polly, for helping me through, and showing me how to make the
best of things. I hope in time to have as many hands as you,said
Fan gratefullywhen the simple bonnet was done and everything
planned out ready to be finished.
I hope you will soon have two good, strong ones beside your own,
my dear,answered Pollyas she vanishedwith a parting twinkle
that kept Fan's face bright all day.
CHAPTER XVII PLAYING GRANDMOTHER
I THINK Tom had the hardest time of allfor besides the family
troubleshe had many of his own to perplex and harass him.
College scrapes were soon forgotten in greater afflictions; but
there were plenty of tongues to blame "that extravagant dog and
plenty of heads to wag ominously over prophecies of the good time
Tom Shaw would now make on the road to ruin. As reporters
flourish in this country, of course Tom soon heard all the friendly
criticisms passed upon him and his career, and he suffered more
than anybody guessed; for the truth that was at the bottom of the
gossip filled him with the sharp regret and impotent wrath against
himself as well as others, which drives many a proud fellow, so
placed, to destruction, or the effort that redeems boyish folly, and
makes a man of him.
Now that he had lost his heritage, Tom seemed to see for the first
time how goodly it had been, how rich in power, pleasure, and
gracious opportunities. He felt its worth even while he
acknowledged, with the sense of justice that is strong in manly
men, how little he deserved a gift which he had so misused. He
brooded over this a good deal, for, like the bat in the fable, he did
n't seem to find any place in the new life which had begun for all.
Knowing nothing of business, he was not of much use to his father,
though he tried to be, and generally ended by feeling that he was a
hindrance, not a help. Domestic affairs were equally out of his
line, and the girls, more frank than their father, did not hesitate to
tell him he was in the way when he offered to lend a hand
anywhere. After the first excitement was over, and he had time to
think, heart and energy seemed to die out, remorse got hold of him,
and, as generous, thoughtless natures are apt to do when suddenly
confronted with conscience, he exaggerated his faults and follies
into sins of the deepest dye, and fancied he was regarded by others
as a villain and an outcast. Pride and penitence made him shrink
out of sight as much as possible, for he could not bear pity, even
when silently expressed by a friendly hand or a kindly eye. He
stayed at home a good deal, and loafed about with a melancholy
and neglected air, vanished when anyone came, talked very little,
and was either pathetically humble or tragically cross. He wanted
to do something, but nothing seemed to appear; and while he
waited to get his poise after the downfall, he was so very miserable
that I 'm afraid, if it had not been for one thing, my poor Tom
would have got desperate, and been a failure. But when he seemed
most useless, outcast, and forlorn, he discovered that one person
needed him, one person never found him in the way, one person
always welcomed and clung to him with the strongest affection of
a very feeble nature. This dependence of his mother's was Tom's
salvation at that crisis of his life; and the gossips, who said softly
to one another over their muffins and tea. It really would be a
relief to that whole family if poordear Mrs. Shaw could be ahem!
mercifully removed did not know that the invalid's weak, idle
hands were unconsciously keeping the son safe in that quiet room,
where she gave him all that she had to give, mother-love, till he
took heart again, and faced the world ready to fight his battles
Deardear! how old and bent poor father does look. I hope he
won't forget to order my sweetbread sighed Mrs. Shaw one day,
as she watched her husband slowly going down the street.
Tom, who stood by her, idly spinning the curtain tassel, followed
the familiar figure with his eye, and seeing how gray the hair had
grown, how careworn the florid face, and how like a weary old
man his once strong, handsome father walked, he was smitten by a
new pang of self-reproach, and with his usual impetuosity set
about repairing the omission as soon as he discovered it.
I 'll see to your sweetbreadmum. Good-byback to dinner and
with a hasty kiss, Tom was off.
He did n't know exactly what he meant to do, but it had suddenly
come over him, that he was hiding from the storm, and letting his
father meet it alone; for the old man went to his office every day
with the regularity of a machine, that would go its usual round
until it stopped, while the young man stayed at home with the
women, and let his mother comfort him.
He has a right to be ashamed of mebut I act as if I was ashamed
of him; dare say people think so. I 'll show them that I ain't; yesby
the powersI will!" and Tom drew on his gloves with the air of a
man about to meet and conquer an enemy.
Have an arm, sir? If you don't mind I 'll walk down with you.
Little commission for mother, nice day, is n't it?
Tom rather broke down at the end of his speechfor the look of
pleased surprise with which his father greeted himthe alacrity
with which he accepted and leaned on the strong arm offered him
proved that the daily walks had been solitary and doubtless sad
ones. I think Mr. Shaw understood the real meaning of that little
act of respectand felt better for the hopeful change it seemed to
foretell. But he took it quietlyand leaving his face to speak for
himmerely saidThanky, Tom; yes, mother will enjoy her
dinner twice as much if you order it.
Then they began to talk business with all their mightas if they
feared that some trace of sentiment might disgrace their masculine
dignity. But it made no difference whether they discussed lawsuits
or lovemortgages or mothersthe feeling was all right and they
knew itso Mr. Shaw walked straighter than usualand Tom felt
that he was in his proper place again. The walk was not without its
trialshowever; for while it did Tom's heart good to see the cordial
respect paid to his fatherit tried his patience sorely to see also
inquisitive or disapproving glances fixed upon himself when hats
were lifted to his fatherand to hear the hearty "Good dayMr.
Shaw drop into a cool or careless, That 's the son; it 's hard on
him. Wild fellowdo him good."
Granted; but you need n't hit a man when he 's down,muttered
Tom to himselffeeling every moment a stronger desire to do
something that should silence everybody. "I 'd cut away to
Australia if it was n't for mother; anythinganywhere to get out of
the way of people who know me. I never can right myself here
with all the fellows watchingand laying wagers whether I sink or
swim. Hang Greek and Latin! wish I 'd learned a tradeand had
something to fall back upon. Have n't a blessed thing nowbut
decent French and my fists. Wonder if old Bell don't want a clerk
for the Paris branch of the business? That would n't be bad; faithI
'll try it."
And when Tom had landed his father safely at the officeto the
great edification of all beholdershe screwed up his courageand
went to prefer his requestfeeling that the prospect brightened a
little. But Mr. Bell was not in a good humorand only gave Tom a
severe lecture on the error of his wayswhich sent him home much
depressedand caused the horizon to lower again.
As he roamed about the house that afternoontrying to calculate
how much an Australian outfit would costthe sound of lively
voices and clattering spoons attracted him to the kitchen. There he
found Polly giving Maud lessons in cookery; for the "new help"
not being a high-priced articlecould not be depended on for
dessertsand Mrs. Shaw would have felt as if the wolf was at the
door if there was not "a sweet dish" at dinner. Maud had a genius
for cookingand Fanny hated itso that little person was in her
glorystudying receipt booksand taking lessons whenever Polly
could give them.
Gracious me, Tom, don't come now; we are awful busy! Men
don't belong in kitchens,cried Maudas her brother appeared in
Could n't think what you were about. Mum is asleep, and Fan out,
so I loafed down to see if there was any fun afoot,said Tom
lingeringas if the prospect was agreeable. He was a social fellow
and very grateful just then to any one who helped him to forget his
worries for a time. Polly knew thisfelt that his society would not
be a great affliction to herself at leastand whispering to Maud
He won't know,she addedaloudCome in if you like, and stir
this cake for me; it needs a strong hand, and mine are tired. There,
put on that apron to keep you tidy, sit here, and take it easy.
I used to help grandma bat up cake, and rather liked it, if I
remember right,said Tomletting Polly tie a checked apron on
himput a big bowl into his handsand settle him near the table
where Maud was picking raisinsand she herself stirring busily
about among spice-boxesrolling-pinsand butter-pots.
You do it beautifully, Tom. I 'll give you a conundrum to lighten
your labor: Why are bad boys like cake?asked Pollyanxious to
cheer him up.
Because a good beating makes them better. I doubt that myself,
though,answered Tomnearly knocking the bottom of the bowl
out with his energetic demonstrationsfor it really was a relief to
Bright boy! here 's a plum for you,and Polly threw a plump
raisin into his mouth.
Put in lots, won't you? I 'm rather fond of plum-cake,observed
Tomlikening himself to Hercules with the distaffand finding his
employment pleasantif not classical.
I always do, if I can; there 's nothing I like better than to shovel in
sugar and spice, and make nice, plummy cake for people. It 's one
of the few things I have a gift for.
You 've hit it this time, Polly; you certainly have a gift for putting
a good deal of both articles into your own and other people's lives,
which is lucky, as, we all have to eat that sort of cake, whether we
like it or not,observed Tomso soberly that Polly opened her
eyesand Maud exclaimedI do believe he 's preaching.
Feel as if I could sometimes,continued Tom; then his eye fell
upon the dimples in Polly's elbowsand he addedwith a laugh
That 's more in your line, ma'am; can't you give us a sermon?
A short one. Life, my brethren, is like plum-cake,began Polly
impressively folding her floury hands. "In some the plums are all
on the topand we eat them gaylytill we suddenly find they are
gone. In others the plums sink to the bottomand we look for them
in vain as we go onand often come to them when it is too late to
enjoy them. But in the well-made cakethe plums are wisely
scattered all throughand every mouthful is a pleasure. We make
our own cakesin a great measuretherefore let us look to itmy
brethrenthat they are mixed according to the best receiptbaked
in a well regulated ovenand gratefully eaten with a temperate
Good! good!cried Tomapplauding with the wooden spoon.
That 's a model sermon, Polly, short, sweet, sensible, and not a bit
sleepy. I 'm one of your parish, and will see that you get your
'celery punctooal,' as old Deacon Morse used to say.
'Thank you, brother, my wants is few, and ravens scurser than
they used to be,' as dear old Parson Miller used to answer. Now,
Maud, bring on the citron;and Polly began to put the cake
together in what seemed a most careless and chaotic manner
while Tom and Maud watched with absorbing interest till it was
safely in the oven.
Now make your custards, dear; Tom may like to beat the eggs for
you; it seems to have a good effect upon his constitution.
First-rate; hand 'em along,and Tom smoothed his apron with a
cheerful air. "By the waySyd's got back. I met him yesterdayand
he treated me like a man and a brother he added, as if anxious to
contribute to the pleasures of the hour.
I 'm so glad!" cried Pollyclapping her handsregardless of the
egg she heldwhich dropped and smashed on the floor at her feet.
Careless thing! Pick it up, Maud, I 'll get some more;and Polly
whisked out of the roomglad of an excuse to run and tell Fan
who had just come inlesthearing the news in publicshe might
be startled out of the well-bred composure with which young
ladies are expected to receive tidingseven of the most vital
You know all about history, don't you?asked Maudsuddenly.
Not quite,modestly answered Tom.
I just want to know if there really was a man named Sir Philip, in
the time of Queen Elizabeth.
You mean Sir Philip Sidney? Yes, he lived then and a fine old
fellow he was too.
There; I knew the girls did n't mean him,cried Maudwith a
chop that sent the citron flying.
What mischief are you up to now, you little magpie?
I shan't tell you what they said, because I don't remember much of
it; but I heard Polly and Fan talking about some one dreadful
mysterious, and when I asked who it was, Fan said,'Sir Philip.' Ho!
she need n't think I believe it! I saw 'em laugh, and blush, and poke
one another, and I knew it was n't about any old Queen Elizabeth
man,cried Maudturning up her nose as far as that somewhat
limited feature would go.
Look here, you are letting cats out of the bag. Never mind, I
thought so. They don't tell us their secrets, but we are so sharp, we
can't help finding them out, can we?said Tomlooking so much
interestedthat Maud could n't resist airing her knowledge a little.
Well, I dare say, it is n't proper for you to know, but I am old
enough now to be told anything, and those girls better mind what
they say, for I 'm not a stupid chit, like Blanche. I just wish you
could have heard them go on. I 'm sure there 's something very nice
about Mr. Sydney, they looked so pleased when they whispered
and giggled on the bed, and thought I was ripping bonnets, and did
n't hear a word.
Which looked most pleased?asked Tominvestigating the
kitchen boiler with deep interest.
Well, 'pears to me Polly did; she talked most, and looked funny
and very happy all the time. Fan laughed a good deal, but I guess
Polly is the loveress,replied Maudafter a moment's reflection.
Hold your tongue; she 's coming!and Tom began to pump as if
the house was on fire.
Down came Pollywith heightened colorbright eyesand not a
single egg. Tom took a quick look at her over his shoulderand
paused as if the fire was suddenly extinguished. Something in his
face made Polly feel a little guiltyso she fell to grating nutmeg
with a vigor which made red cheeks the most natural thing in life.
Maudthe traitorsat demurely at worklooking very like what
Tom had called hera magpie with mischief in its head. Polly felt a
change in the atmospherebut merely thought Tom was tiredso
she graciously dismissed him with a stick of cinnamonas she had
nothing else just then to lay upon the shrine. "Fan's got the books
and maps you wanted. Go and rest now. I 'm much obliged; here 's
Good luck to your messes,answered Tomas he walked away
meditatively crunching his cinnamonand looking as if he did not
find it as spicy as usual. He got his booksbut did not read them;
forshutting himself up in the little room called "Tom's den he
just sat down and brooded.
When he came down to breakfast the next morning, he was greeted
with a general Happy birthdayTom!" and at his place lay gifts
from every member of the family; not as costly as formerly
perhapsbut infinitely deareras tokens of the love that had
outlived the changeand only grown the warmer for the test of
misfortune. In his present state of mindTom felt as if he did not
deserve a blessed thing; so when every one exerted themselves to
make it a happy day for himhe understood what it means "to be
nearly killed with kindness and sternly resolved to be an honor to
his family, or perish in the attempt. Evening brought Polly to what
she called a festive tea and when they gathered round the table,
another gift appeared, which, though not of a sentimental nature,
touched Tom more than all the rest. It was a most delectable cake,
with a nosegay atop, and round it on the snowy frosting there ran a
pink inscription, just as it had been every year since Tom could
Nameageand datelike a nice white tombstone observed
Maud, complacently, at which funereal remark, Mrs. Shaw, who
was down in honor of the day, dropped her napkin, and demanded
Whose doing is that?" asked Tomsurveying the gift with
satisfaction; for it recalled the happier birthdayswhich seemed
very far away now.
I did n't know what to give you, for you 've got everything a man
wants, and I was in despair till I remembered that dear grandma
always made you a little cake like that, and that you once said it
would n't be a happy birthday without it. So I tried to make it just
like hers, and I do hope it will prove a good, sweet, plummy one.
Thank you,was all Tom saidas he smiled at the giverbut Polly
knew that her present had pleased him more than the most elegant
trifle she could have made.
It ought to be good, for you beat it up yourself, Tom,cried
Maud. "It was so funny to see you working awayand never
guessing who the cake was for. I perfectly trembled every time you
opened your mouthfor fear you 'd ask some question about it.
That was the reason Polly preached and I kept talking when she
Very stupid of me; but I forgot all about to-day. Suppose we cut
it; I don't seem to care for anything else,said Tomfeeling no
appetitebut bound to do justice to that cakeif he fell a victim to
I hope the plums won't all be at the bottom,said Pollyas she
rose to do the honors of the cakeby universal appointment.
I 've had a good many at the top already, you know,answered
Tomwatching the operation with as much interest as if he had
faith in the omen.
Cutting carefullyslice after slice fell apart; each firm and dark
spicy and richunder the frosty rime above; and laying a specially
large piece in one of grandma's quaint little china platesPolly
added the flowers and handed it to Tomwith a look that said a
good dealforseeing that he remembered her sermonshe was
glad to find that her allegory held goodin one sense at least.
Tom's face brightened as he took itand after an inspection which
amused the others very much he looked upsayingwith an air of
reliefPlums all through; I 'm glad I had a hand in it, but Polly
deserves the credit, and must wear the posy,and turning to herhe
put the rose into her hair with more gallantry than tastefor a thorn
pricked her headthe leaves tickled her earand the flower was
Fanny laughed at his want of skillbut Polly would n't have it
alteredand everybody fell to eating cakeas if indigestion was one
of the lost arts. They had a lively teaand were getting on famously
afterwardwhen two letters were brought for Tomwho glanced at
oneand retired rather precipitately to his denleaving Maud
consumed with curiosityand the older girls slightly excitedfor
Fan thought she recognized the handwriting on oneand Pollyon
One half an hour and then another elapsedand Tom did not
return. Mr. Shaw went outMrs. Shaw retired to her room escorted
by Maudand the two girls sat together wondering if anything
dreadful had happened. All of a sudden a voice calledPolly!and
that young lady started out of her chairas if the sound had been a
Do run! I 'm perfectly fainting to know what the matter is,said
You 'd better go,began Pollywishing to obeyyet feeling a little
He don't want me; besides, I could n't say a word for myself if that
letter was from Sydney,cried Fannyhustling her friend towards
the doorin a great flutter.
Polly went without another wordbut she wore a curiously anxious
lookand stopped on the threshold of the denas if a little afraid of
its occupant. Tom was sitting in his favorite attitudeastride of a
chairwith his arms folded and his chin on the top rail; not an
elegant posturebut the only one in whichhe saidhe could think
Did you want me, Tom?
Yes. Come in, please, and don't look scared; I only want to show
you a present I 've had, and ask your advice about accepting it.
Why, Tom, you look as if you had been knocked down!
exclaimed Pollyforgetting all about herselfas she saw his face
when he rose and turned to meet her.
I have; regularly floored; but I 'm up again, and steadier than ever.
Just you read that, and tell me what you think of it.
Tom snatched a letter off the tableput it into her handsand began
to walk up and down the little roomlike a veritable bear in its
cage. As Polly read that short noteall the color went out of her
faceand her eyes began to kindle. When she came to the endshe
stood a minuteas if too indignant to speakthen gave the paper a
nervous sort of crumple and dropped it on the floorsayingall in
one breathI think she is a mercenary, heartless, ungrateful girl!
That 's what I think.
Oh, the deuce! I did n't mean to show that one; it 's the other.
And Tom took up a second paperlooking half angryhalf
ashamed at his own mistake. "I don't carethough; every one will
know to-morrow; and perhaps you 'll be good enough to keep the
girls from bothering me with questions and gabble he added, as
if, on second thoughts, he was relieved to have the communication
made to Polly first.
I don't wonder you looked upset. If the other letter is as badI 'd
better have a chair before I read it said Polly, feeling that she
began to tremble with excitement.
It 's a million times betterbut it knocked me worse than the
other; kindness always does." Tom stopped short thereand stood a
minute turning the letter about in his hand as if it contained a
sweet which neutralized the bitter in that smaller noteand touched
him very much. Then he drew up an armchairand beckoning
Polly to take itsaid in a sobersteady tonethat surprised her
greatlyWhenever I was in a quandary, I used to go and consult
grandma, and she always had something sensible or comfortable to
say to me. She 's gone now, but somehow, Polly, you seem to take
her place. Would you mind sitting in her chair, and letting me tell
you two or three things, as Will does?
Mind it? Polly felt that Tom had paid her the highest and most
beautiful compliment he could have devised. She had often longed
to do itforbeing brought up in the most affectionate and frank
relations with her brothersshe had early learned what it takes
most women some time to discoverthat sex does not make nearly
as much difference in hearts and souls as we fancy. Joy and
sorrowlove and fearlife and death bring so many of the same
needs to allthat the wonder is we do not understand each other
betterbut wait till times of tribulation teach us that human nature
is very much the same in men and women. Thanks to this
knowledgePolly understood Tom in a way that surprised and won
him. She knew that he wanted womanly sympathyand that she
could give it to himbecause she was not afraid to stretch her hand
across the barrier which our artificial education puts between boys
and girlsand to say to him in all good faithIf I can help you, let
Ten minutes sooner Polly could have done this almost as easily to
Tom as to Willbut in that ten minutes something had happened
which made this difficult. Reading that Trix had given Tom back
his freedom changed many things to Pollyand caused her to
shrink from his confidencebecause she felt as if it would be
harder now to keep self out of sight; forspite of maiden modesty
love and hope would wake and sing at the good news. Slowly she
sat downand hesitatingly she saidwith her eyes on the ground
and a very humble voiceI 'll do my best, but I can't fill
grandma's place, or give you any wise, good advice. I wish I
You 'll do it better than any one else. Talk troubles mother, father
has enough to think of without any of my worries. Fan is a good
soul, but she is n't practical, and we always get into a snarl if we
try to work together, so who have I but my other sister, Polly? The
pleasure that letter will give you may make up for my boring you.
As he spokeTom laid the other paper in her lapand went off to
the windowas if to leave her free to enjoy it unseen; but he could
not help a glance now and thenand as Polly's face brightenedhis
Oh, Tom, that 's a birthday present worth having, for it 's so
beautifully given I don't see how you can refuse it. Arthur Sydney
is a real nobleman!cried Pollylooking up at lastwith her fact
glowingand her eyes full of delight.
So he is! I don't know another man living, except father, who
would have done such a thing, or who I could bring myself to take
it from. Do you see, he 's not only paid the confounded debts, but
has done it in my name, to spare me all he could?
I see, it 's like him; and I think he must be very happy to be able
to do such a thing.
It is an immense weight off my shoulders, for some of those men
could n't afford to wait till I 'd begged, borrowed, or earned the
money. Sydney can wait, but he won't long, if I know myself.
You won't take it as a gift, then?
Then don't think I will. I 'm a pretty poor affair, Polly, but I 'm not
mean enough to do that, while I 've got a conscience and a pair of
A rough speechbut it pleased Polly better than the smoothest Tom
had ever made in her hearingfor something in his face and voice
told her that the friendly act had roused a nobler sentiment than
gratitudemaking the cancelled obligations of the boydebts of
honor to the man.
What will you do, Tom?
I 'll tell you; may I sit here?And Tom took the low footstool that
always stood near grandma's old chair. "I 've had so many plans in
my head latelythat sometimes it seems as if it would split
continued the poor fellow, rubbing his tired forehead, as if to
polish up his wits. I 've thought seriously of going to California
Australiaor some out-of-the-way placewhere men get rich in a
Oh, no!cried Pollyputting out her hand as it to keep himand
then snatching it back again before he could turn round.
It would be hard on mother and the girls, I suppose; besides, I
don't quite like it myself; looks as if I shirked and ran away.
So it does,said Pollydecidedly.
Well, you see I don't seem to find anything to do unless I turn
clerk, and I don't think that would suit. The fact is, I could n't stand
it here, where I 'm known. It would be easier to scratch gravel on a
railroad, with a gang of Paddies, than to sell pins to my friends and
neighbors. False pride, I dare say, but it 's the truth, and there 's no
use in dodging.
Not a bit, and I quite agree with you.
That 's comfortable. Now I 'm coming to the point where I
specially want your advice, Polly. Yesterday I heard you telling
Fan about your brother Ned; how well he got on; how he liked his
business, and wanted Will to come and take some place near him.
You thought I was reading, but I heard; and it struck me that
perhaps I could get a chance out West somewhere. What do you
If you really mean work, I know you could,answered Polly
quicklyas all sorts of plans and projects went sweeping through
her mind. "I wish you could be with Ned; you 'd get on togetherI
'm sure; and he 'd be so glad to do anything he could. I 'll write and
askstraight awayif you want me to."
Suppose you do; just for information, you know, then I shall have
something to go upon. I want to have a feasible plan all ready,
before I speak to father. There 's nothing so convincing to business
men as facts, you know.
Polly could not help smiling at Tom's new toneit seemed so
strange to hear him talking about anything but horses and tailors
dancing and girls. She liked ithoweveras much as she did the
sober expression of his faceand the way he had lately of swinging
his arms aboutas if he wanted to do something energetic with
That will be wise. Do you think your father will like this plan?
Pretty sure be will. Yesterday, when I told him I must go at
something right off, he said, 'Anything honest, Tom, and don't
forget that your father began the world as a shop-boy.' You knew
that, did n't you?
Yes, he told me the story once, and I always liked to hear it,
because it was pleasant to see how well he had succeeded.
I never did like the story, a little bit ashamed, I 'm afraid; but
when we talked it over last night, it struck me in a new light, and I
understood why father took the failure so well, and seems so
contented with this poorish place. It is only beginning again, he
says; and having worked his way up once, he feels as if he could
again. I declare to you, Polly, that sort of confidence in himself,
and energy and courage in a man of his years, makes me love and
respect the dear old gentleman as I never did before.
I 'm so glad to hear you say that, Tom! I 've sometimes thought
you did n't quite appreciate your father, any more than he knew
how much of a man you were.
Never was till to-day, you know,said Tomlaughingyet looking
as if he felt the dignity of his one and twenty years. "Oddis n't it
how people live together ever so longand don't seem to find one
another outtill something comes to do it for them. Perhaps this
smash-up was sent to introduce me to my own father."
There 's philosophy for you,said Pollysmilingeven while she
felt as if adversity was going to do more for Tom than years of
They both sat quiet for a minutePolly in the big chair looking at
him with a new respect in her eyesTom on the stool near by
slowly tearing up a folded paper he had absently taken from the
floor while he talked.
Did this surprise you?he askedas a little white shower fluttered
from his hands.
Well, it did me; for you know as soon as we came to grief I
offered to release Trix from the engagement, and she would n't let
me,continued Tomas ifhaving begun the subjecthe wished to
explain it thoroughly.
That surprised me,said Polly.
So it did me, for Fan always insisted it was the money and not the
man she cared for. Her first answer pleased me very much, for I
did not expect it, and nothing touches a fellow more than to have a
woman stand by him through thick and thin.
She don't seem to have done it.
Fan was right. Trix only waited to see how bad things really were,
or rather her mother did. She 's as cool, hard, and worldly minded
an old soul as I ever saw, and Trix is bound to obey. She gets
round it very neatly in her note, 'I won't be a burden,' 'will sacrifice
her hopes,' 'and always remain my warm friend,' but the truth is,
Tom Shaw rich was worth making much of, but Tom Shaw poor is
in the way, and may go to the devil as fast as he likes.
Well, he is n't going!cried Pollydefiantlyfor her wrath burned
hotly against Trixthough she blessed her for setting the bondman
Came within an ace of it,muttered Tom to himself; adding
aloudin a tone of calm resignation that assured Polly his heart
would not be broken though his engagement wasIt never rains
but it pours, 'specially in hard times, but when a man is down, a
rap or two more don't matter much, I suppose. It 's the first blow
that hurts most.
Glad to see you take the last blow so well.There was an ironical
little twang to that speechand Polly could n't help it. Tom colored
up and looked hurt for a minutethen seemed to right himself with
a shrugand saidin his outspoken wayTo tell the honest truth,
Polly, it was not a very hard one. I 've had a feeling for some time
that Trix and I were not suited to one another, and it might be
wiser to stop short. But she did not or would not see it; and I was
not going to back out, and leave her to wear any more willows, so
here we are. I don't bear malice, but hope she 'll do better, and not
be disappointed again, upon my word I do.
That 's very good of you, quite Sydneyesque, and noble,said
Pollyfeeling rather ill at easeand wishing she could hide herself
behind a cap and spectaclesif she was to play Grandma to this
It will be all plain sailing for Syd, I fancy,observed Tomgetting
up as if the little cricket suddenly ceased to be comfortable.
I hope so,murmured Pollywondering what was coming next.
He deserves the very best of everything, and I pray the Lord he
may get it,added Tompoking the fire in a destructive manner.
Polly made no answerfearing to pay too muchfor she knew Fan
had made no confidant of Tomand she guarded her friend's secret
as jealously as her own. "You 'll write to Ned to-morrowwill
you? I 'll take anything he 's gotfor I want to be off said Tom,
casting down the poker, and turning round with a resolute air
which was lost on Polly, who sat twirling the rose that had fallen
into her lap.
I 'll write to-night. Would you like me to tell the girls about Trix
and Sydney?" she asked as she rosefeeling that the council was
I wish you would. I don't know how to thank you for all you 've
done for me; I wish to heaven I did,said Tomholding out his
hand with a look that Polly thought a great deal too grateful for the
little she had done.
As she gave him her handand looked up at him with those
confiding eyes of hersTom's gratitude seemed to fly to his head
forwithout the slightest warninghe stooped down and kissed her
a proceeding which startled Polly so that he recovered himself at
onceand retreated into his den with the incoherent apologyI
beg pardon could n't help it grandma always let me on my
While Polly took refuge up stairsforgetting all about Fanas she
sat in the dark with her face hiddenwondering why she was n't
very angryand resolving never again to indulge in the delightful
but dangerous pastime of playing grandmother.
CHAPTER XVIII THE WOMAN WHO DID NOT DARE
POLLY wrote enthusiasticallyNed answered satisfactorilyand
after much correspondingtalkingand planningit was decided
that Tom should go West. Never mind what the business was; it
suffices to say that it was a good beginning for a young man like
Tomwhohaving been born and bred in the most conservative
class of the most conceited city in New Englandneeded just the
healthyheartysocial influences of the West to widen his views
and make a man of him.
Of course there was much lamentation among the womenbut
every one felt it was the best thing for him; so while they sighed
they sewedpacked visions of a brilliant future away with his new
pocket handkerchiefsand rejoiced that the way was open before
him even in the act of bedewing his boots with tears. Sydney stood
by him to the lastlike a man and a brother(which expression of
Tom's gave Fanny infinite satisfaction)and Will felt entirely
consoled for Ned's disappointment at his refusal to go and join
himsince Tom was to take the place Ned had kept for him.
Fortunately every one was so busy with the necessary preparations
that there was no time for romance of any sortand the four young
people worked together as soberly and sensibly as if all sorts of
emotions were not bottled up in their respective hearts. But in spite
of the silencethe workand the hurryI think they came to know
one another better in that busy little space of time than in all the
years that had gone beforefor the best and bravest in each was up
and stirringand the small house was as full of the magnetism of
love and friendshipself-sacrifice and enthusiasmas the world
outside was full of spring sunshine and enchantment. Pity that the
end should come so soonbut the hour did its work and went its
wayleaving a clearer atmosphere behindthough the young folks
did not see it thenfor their eyes were dim because of the partings
that must be.
Tom was off to the West; Polly went home for the summer; Maud
was taken to the seaside with Belle; and Fanny left alone to wrestle
with housekeepinghelp,and heartache. If it had not been for
two thingsI fear she never would have stood a summer in town
but Sydney often calledtill his vacation cameand a voluminous
correspondence with Polly beguiled the long days. Tom wrote
once a week to his motherbut the letters were short and not very
satisfactoryfor men never do tell the interesting little things that
women best like to hear. Fanny forwarded her bits of news to
Polly. Polly sent back all the extracts from Ned's letters concerning
Tomand by putting the two reports togetherthey gained the
comfortable assurance that Tom was wellin good spiritshard at
workand intent on coming out strong in spite of all obstacles.
Polly had a quiet summer at homeresting and getting ready in
mind and body for another winter's workfor in the autumn she
tried her plan againto the satisfaction of her pupils and the great
joy of her friends. She never said much of herself in her letters
and Fanny's first exclamation when they met againwas an anxious
Why, Polly, dear! Have you been sick and never told me?
No, I 'm only tired, had a good deal to do lately, and the dull
weather makes me just a trifle blue. I shall soon brighten up when
I get to my work again,answered Pollybustling about to put
away her things.
You don't look a bit natural. What have you been doing to your
precious little self?persisted Fannytroubled by the changeyet
finding it hard to say wherein it lay.
Polly did not look sickthough her cheeks were thinner and her
color paler than formerlybut she seemed spiritlessand there was
a tired look in her eyes that went to Fanny's heart.
I 'm all right enough, as you 'll see when I 'm in order. I 'm proper
glad to find you looking so well and happy. Does all go smoothly,
Fan?asked Pollybeginning to brush her hair industriously.
Answer me one question first,said Fannylooking as if a sudden
fear had come over her. "Tell metrulyhave you never repented
of your hint to Sydney?"
Never!cried Pollythrowing back the brown veil behind which
she had half hidden her face at first.
On your honor, as an honest girl?
On my honor, as anything you please. Why do you suspect me of
it?demanded Pollyalmost angrily.
Because something is wrong with you. It 's no use to deny it, for
you 've got the look I used to see in that very glass on my own face
when I thought he cared for you. Forgive me, Polly, but I can't help
saying it, for it is there, and I want to be as true to you as you were
to me if I can.
Fanny's face was full of agitationand she spoke fast and frankly
for she was trying to be generous and found it very hard. Polly
understood now and put her fear at rest by saying almost
passionatelyI tell you I don't love him! If he was the only man in
the world, I would n't marry him, because I don't want to.
The last three words were added in a different tonefor Polly had
checked herself there with a half-frightened look and turned away
to hide her face behind her hair again.
Then if it 's not him, it 's some one else. You 've got a secret,
Polly, and I should think you might tell it, as you know mine,said
Fannyunable to rest till everything was toldfor Polly's manner
There was no answer to her questionbut she was satisfied and
putting her arm round her friendshe saidin her most persuasive
toneMy precious Polly, do I know him?
You have seen him.
And is he very wise, good, and splendid, dear?
He ought to be if you love him. I hope he is n't bad?cried Fan
anxiouslystill holding Pollywho kept her head obstinately
I 'm suited, that 's enough.
Oh, please just tell me one thing more. Don't he love back again?
No. Now don't say another word, I can't bear it!and Polly drew
herself awayas she spoke in a desperate sort of tone.
I won't, but now I 'm not afraid to tell you that I think, I hope, I do
believe that Sydney cares a little for me. He 's been very kind to us
all, and lately he has seemed to like to see me always when he
comes and miss me if I 'm gone. I did n't dare to hope anything, till
Papa observed something in his manner, and teased me about it. I
try not to deceive myself, but it does seem as if there was a chance
of happiness for me.
Thank heaven for that!cried Pollywith the heartiest satisfaction
in her voice. "Now come and tell me all about it she added,
sitting down on the couch with the air of one who has escaped a
I 've got some notes and things I want to ask your opinion about
if they really mean anythingyou know said Fanny, getting out a
bundle of papers from the inmost recesses of her desk. There 's a
photograph of Tomcame in his last letter. Goodis n't it? He
looks olderbut that 's the beard and the rough coatI suppose.
Dear old fellowhe is doing so well I really begin to feel quite
proud of him."
Fan tossed her the photographand went on rummaging for a
certain note. She did not see Polly catch up the picture and look at
it with hungry eyesbut she did hear something in the low tone in
which Polly saidIt don't do him justice,and glancing over her
shoulderFan's quick eye caught a glimpse of the truththough
Polly was half turned away from her. Without stopping to think
Fan dropped her letterstook Polly by the shouldersand cried in a
tone full of astonishmentPolly, is it Tom?
Poor Polly was so taken by surprisethat she had not a word to say.
None were needed; her telltale face answered for heras well as
the impulse which made her hide her head in the sofa cushionlike
a foolish ostrich when the hunters are after it.
Oh, Polly, I am so glad! I never thought of it you are so good, and
he 's such a wild boy, I can't believe it but it is so dear of you to
care for him.
Could n't help it tried not to but it was so hard you know, Fan, you
know,said a stifled voice from the depths of the very fuzzy
cushion which Tom had once condemned.
The last wordsand the appealing hand outstretched to hertold
Fanny the secret of her friend's tender sympathy for her own love
troublesand seemed so patheticthat she took Polly in her arms
and cried over herin the fondfoolish way girls have of doing
when their hearts are fulland tears can say more than tongues.
The silence never lasts longhoweverfor the feminine desire to
talk it overusually gets the better of the deepest emotion. So
presently the girls were hard at itPolly very humble and
downcastFanny excited and overflowing with curiosity and
Really my sister! You dear thing, how heavenly that will be,she
It never will be,answered Polly in a tone of calm despair.
What will prevent it?
Maria Bailey,was the tragic reply.
What do you mean? Is she the Western girl? She shan't have Tom;
I 'll kill her first!
Too late, let me tell you is that door shut, and Maud safe?
Fanny reconnoiteredand returninglistened breathlesslywhile
Polly poured into her ear the bitter secret which was preying on her
Has n't he mentioned Maria in his letters?
Once or twice, but sort of jokingly, and I thought it was only
some little flirtation. He can't have time for much of that fun, he 's
Ned writes good, gossipy letters I taught him how and he tells me
all that 's going on. When he 'd spoken of this girl several times
(they board with her mother, you know), I asked about her, quite
carelessly, and he told me she was pretty, good, and well educated,
and he thought Tom was rather smitten. That was a blow, for you
see, Fan, since Trix broke the engagement, and it was n't wrong to
think of Tom, I let myself hope, just a little, and was so happy!
Now I must give it up, and now I see how much I hoped, and what
a dreadful loss it 's going to be.
Two great tears rolled down Polly's cheeksand Fanny wiped them
awayfeeling an intense desire to go West by the next trainwither
Maria Bailey with a single lookand bring Tom back as a gift to
It was so stupid of me not to guess before. But you see Tom
always seems so like a boy, and you are more womanly for your
age than any girl I know, so I never thought of your caring for him
in that way. I knew you were very good to him, you are to every
one, my precious; and I knew that he was fond of you as he is of
me, fonder if anything, because he thinks you are perfect; but still I
never dreamed of his loving you as more than a dear friend.
He does n't,sighed Polly.
Well, he ought; and if I could get hold of him, he should!
Polly clutched Fan at thatand held her tightsaying sternlyIf
you ever breathe a word, drop a hint, look a look that will tell him
or any one else about me, I 'll yes, as sure as my name is Mary
Milton I 'll proclaim from the housetops that you like Ar Polly
got no furtherfor Fan's hand was on her mouthand Fan's alarmed
voice vehemently protestedI won't! I promise solemnly I 'll
never say a word to a mortal creature. Don't be so fierce, Polly;
you quite frighten me.
It 's bad enough to love some one who don't love you, but to have
them told of it is perfectly awful. It makes me wild just to think of
it. Oh, Fan, I 'm getting so ill-tempered and envious and wicked, I
don't know what will happen to me.
I 'm not afraid for you, my dear, and I do believe things will go
right, because you are so good to every one. How Tom could help
adoring you I don't see. I know he would if he had stayed at home
longer after he got rid of Trix. It would be the making of him; but
though he is my brother, I don't think he 's good enough for you,
Polly, and I don't quite see how you can care for him so much,
when you might have had a person so infinitely superior.
I don't want a 'superior' person; he 'd tire me if he was like A. S.
Besides, I do think Tom is superior to him in many things. Well,
you need n't stare; I know he is, or will be. He 's so different, and
very young, and has lots of faults, I know, but I like him all the
better for it, and he 's honest and brave, and has got a big, warm
heart, and I 'd rather have him care for me than the wisest, best,
most accomplished man in the world, simply because I love him!
If Tom could only have seen Polly's face when she said that! It was
so tenderearnestand defiantthat Fanny forgot the defence of her
own lover in admiration of Polly's loyalty to hers; for this faithful
all absorbing love was a new revelation to Fannywho was used to
hearing her friends boast of two or three lovers a yearand
calculate their respective valueswith almost as much coolness as
the young men discussed the fortunes of the girls they wished for
but "could not afford to marry." She had thought her love for
Sydney very romanticbecause she did not really care whether he
was rich or poorthough she never dared to say soeven to Polly
for fear of being laughed at. She began to see now what true love
wasand to feel that the sentiment which she could not conquer
was a treasure to be accepted with reverenceand cherished with
I don't know when I began to love Tom, but I found out that I did
last winter, and was as much surprised as you are,continued
Pollyas if glad to unburden her heart. "I did n't approve of him at
all. I thought he was extravagantrecklessand dandified. I was
very much disappointed when he chose Trixand the more I
thought and saw of itthe worse I feltfor Tom was too good for
herand I hated to see her do so little for himwhen she might
have done so much; because he is one of the men who can be led
by their affectionsand the woman he marries can make or mar
That 's true!cried Fanas Polly paused to look at the picture
which appeared to regard her with a gravesteady lookwhich
seemed rather to belie her assertions.
I don't mean that he 's weak or bad. If he was, I should hate him;
but he does need some one to love him very much, and make him
happy, as a good woman best knows how,said Pollyas if
answering the mute language of Tom's face.
I hope Maria Bailey is all he thinks her,she addedsoftlyfor I
could n't bear to have him disappointed again.
I dare say he don't care a fig for her, and you are only borrowing
trouble. What do you say Ned answered when you asked about this
inconvenient girl?said Fanny turning hopeful all at once.
Polly repeated itand addedI asked him in another letter if he did
n't admire Miss B. as much as Tom, and he wrote back that she
was 'a nice girl,' but he had no time for nonsense, and I need n't get
my white kids ready for some years yet, unless to dance at Tom's
wedding. Since then he has n't mentioned Maria, so I was sure
there was something serious going on, and being in Tom's
confidence, he kept quiet.
It does look bad. Suppose I say a word to Tom, just inquire after
his heart in a general way, you know, and give him a chance to tell
me, if there is anything to tell.I 'm willing, but you must let me
see the letter. I can't trust you not to hint or say too much.
You shall. I 'll keep my promise in spite of everything, but it will
be hard to see things going wrong when a word would set it right.
You know what will happen if you do,and Polly looked so
threatening that Fan trembled before herdiscovering that the
gentlest girls when roused are more impressive than any shrew; for
even turtle doves peck gallantly to defend their nests.
If it is true about Maria, what shall we do?said Fanny after a
Bear it; People always do bear things, somehow,answered Polly
looking as if sentence had been passed upon her.
But if it is n't?cried Fanunable to endure the sight.
Then I shall wait.And Polly's face changed so beautifully that
Fan hugged her on the spotfervently wishing that Maria Bailey
never had been born.
Then the conversation turned to lover number twoand after a long
confabulationPolly gave it as her firm belief that A. S. had
forgotten M. M.and was rapidly finding consolation in the regard
of F. S. With this satisfactory decision the council ended after the
ratification of a Loyal Leagueby which the friends pledged
themselves to stand staunchly by one anotherthrough the trials of
the coming year.
It was a very different winter from the last for both the girls. Fanny
applied herself to her duties with redoubled ardorfor "A. S." was
a domestic manand admired housewifely accomplishments. If
Fanny wanted to show him what she could do toward making a
pleasant homeshe certainly succeeded better than she suspected
for in spite of many failures and discouragements behind the
scenesthe little house became a most attractive placeto Mr.
Sydney at leastfor he was more the house-friend than everand
seemed determined to prove that change of fortune made no
difference to him.
Fanny had been afraid that Polly's return might endanger her
hopesbut Sydney met Polly with the old friendlinessand very
soon convinced her that the nipping in the bud process had been
effectualfor being taken earlythe sprouting affection had died
easyand left room for an older friendship to blossom into a
Fanny seemed glad of thisand Polly soon set her heart at rest by
proving that she had no wish to try her power. She kept much at
home when the day's work was donefinding it pleasanter to sit
dreaming over book or sewing alonethan to exert herself even to
go to the Shaws'.
Fan don't need me, and Sydney don't care whether I come or not,
so I 'll keep out of the way,she would sayas if to excuse her
Polly was not at all like herself that winterand those nearest to
her saw and wondered at it most. Will got very anxiousshe was so
quietpale and spiritlessand distracted poor Polly by his
affectionate stupiditytill she completed his bewilderment by
getting cross and scolding him. So he consoled himself with Maud
whonow being in her teensassumed dignified airsand ordered
him about in a style that afforded him continued amusement and
Western news continued vaguefor Fan's general inquiries
produced only provokingly unsatisfactory replies from Tomwho
sang the praises of "the beautiful Miss Bailey and professed to be
consumed by a hopeless passion for somebody, in such half-comic,
half-tragic terms, that the girls could not decide whether it was all
that boy's mischief or only a cloak to hide the dreadful truth.
We 'll have it out of him when he comes home in the spring said
Fanny to Polly, as they compared the letters of their brothers, and
agreed that men were the most uncommunicative and provoking
animals under the sun." For Ned was so absorbed in business that
he ignored the whole Bailey question and left them in utter
Hunger of any sort is a hard thing to bearespecially when the
sufferer has a youthful appetiteand Polly was kept on such a short
allowance of happiness for six monthsthat she got quite thin and
interesting; and oftenwhen she saw how big her eyes were
gettingand how plainly the veins on her temples showed
indulged the pensive thought that perhaps spring dandelions might
blossom o'er her grave. She had no intention of dying till Tom's
visit was overhoweverand as the time drew nearshe went
through such alternations of hope and fearand lived in such a
state of feverish excitementthat spirits and color came backand
she saw that the interesting pallor she had counted on would be an
May came at lastand with it a burst of sunshine which cheered
even poor Polly's much-enduring heart. Fanny came walking in
upon her one daylooking as if she brought tidings of such great
joy that she hardly knew how to tell them.
Prepare yourself somebody is engaged!she saidin a solemn
tonethat made Polly put up her hand as if to ward off an expected
blow. "Nodon't look like thatmy poor dear; it is n't Tomit 's I!"
Of course there was a rapturefollowed by one of the deliciously
confidential talks which bosom friends enjoyinterspersed with
tears and kissessmiles and sighs.
Oh, Polly, though I 've waited and hoped so long I could n't
believe it when it came, and don't deserve it; but I will! for the
knowledge that he loves me seems to make everything possible,
said Fannywith an expression which made her really beautiful
for the first time in her life.
You happy girl!sighed Pollythen smiled and addedI think
you deserve all that 's come to you, for you have truly tried to be
worthy of it, and whether it ever came or not that would have been
a thing to be proud of.
He says that is what made him love me,answered Fannynever
calling her lover by his namebut making the little personal
pronoun a very sweet word by the tone in which she uttered it. "He
was disappointed in me last yearhe told mebut you said good
things about me and though he did n't care much thenyet when he
lost youand came back to mehe found that you were not
altogether mistakenand he has watched me all this winter
learning to respect and love me better every day. OhPollywhen
he said thatI could n't bear itbecause in spite of all my tryingI
'm still so weak and poor and silly."
We don't think so; and I know you 'll be all he hopes to find you,
for he 's just the husband you ought to have.
Thank you all the more, then, for not keeping him yourself,said
Fannylaughing the old blithe laugh again.
That was only a slight aberration of his; he knew better all the
time. It was your white cloak and my idiotic behavior the night we
went to the opera that put the idea into his head,said Polly
feeling as if the events of that evening had happened some twenty
years agowhen she was a giddy young thingfond of gay bonnets
and girlish pranks.
I 'm not going to tell Tom a word about it, but keep it for a
surprise till he comes. He will be here next week, and then we 'll
have a grand clearing up of mysteries,said Fanevidently feeling
that the millennium was at hand.
Perhaps,said Pollyas her heart fluttered and then sunkfor this
was a case where she could do nothing but hopeand keep her
hands busy with Will's new set of shirts.
There is a good deal more of this sort of silent suffering than the
world suspectsfor the "women who dare" are fewthe women
who "stand and wait" are many. But if work-baskets were gifted
with powers of speechthey could tell stories more true and tender
than any we read. For women often sew the tragedy or comedy of
life into their work as they sit apparently safe and serene at home
yet are thinking deeplyliving whole heart-historiesand praying
fervent prayers while they embroider pretty trifles or do the weekly
CHAPTER XIX TOM'S SUCCESS
Come, Philander, let us be a marching, Every one his true love a
WOULD be the most appropriate motto for this chapterbecause
intimidated by the threatsdenunciationsand complaints
showered upon me in consequence of taking the liberty to end a
certain story as I likedI now yield to the amiable desire of giving
satisfactionandat the risk of outraging all the unitiesintend to
pair off everybody I can lay my hands on.
Occasionally a matrimonial epidemic appearsespecially toward
springdevastating societythinning the ranks of bachelordomand
leaving mothers lamenting for their fairest daughters. That spring
the disease broke out with great violence in the Shaw circle
causing paternal heads much bewildermentas one case after
another appeared with alarming rapidity. Fannyas we have seen
was stricken firstand hardly had she been carried safely through
the crisiswhen Tom returned to swell the list of victims. As Fanny
was out a good deal with her Arthurwho was sure that exercise
was necessary for the convalescentPolly went every day to see
Mrs. Shawwho found herself lonelythough much better than
usualfor the engagement had a finer effect upon her constitution
than any tonic she ever tried. Some three days after Fan's joyful
call Polly was startled on entering the Shaws' doorby Maudwho
came tumbling down stairssending an avalanche of words before
herHe 's come before he said he should to surprise us! He 's up in
mamma's room, and was just saying, 'How 's Polly?' when I heard
you come, in your creep-mouse way, and you must go right up. He
looks so funny with whiskers, but he 's ever so nice, real big and
brown, and he swung me right up when he kissed me. Never mind
your bonnet, I can't wait.
And pouncing upon PollyMaud dragged her away like a captured
ship towed by a noisy little steam-tug.
The sooner it 's over the better for me,was the only thought Polly
had time for before she plunged into the room abovepropelled by
Maudwho cried triumphantlyThere he is! Ain't he splendid?
For a minuteeverything danced before Polly's eyesas a hand
shook hers warmlyand a gruffish voice said heartilyHow are
you, Polly?Then she slipped into a chair beside Mrs. Shaw
hoping that her reply had been all right and properfor she had not
the least idea what she said.
Things got steady again directlyand while Maud expatiated on the
great surprisePolly ventured to look at Tomfeeling glad that her
back was toward the lightand his was not. It was not a large
roomand Tom seemed to fill it entirely; not that he had grown so
very muchexcept broader in the shouldersbut there was a brisk
genialfree-and-easy air about himsuggestive of a stirring
out-of-door lifewith people who kept their eyes wide openand
were not very particular what they did with their arms and legs.
The rough-and-ready travelling suitstout bootsbrown faceand
manly beardchanged him so muchthat Polly could find scarcely
a trace of elegant Tom Shaw in the hearty-looking young man who
stood with one foot on a chairwhile he talked business to his
father in a sensible waywhich delighted the old gentleman. Polly
liked the change immenselyand sat listening to the state of
Western trade with as much interest as if it had been the most
thrilling romanceforas he talkedTom kept looking at her with a
nod or a smile so like old timesthat for a little whileshe forgot
Maria Baileyand was in bliss.
By and by Fanny came flying inand gave Tom a greater surprise
than his had been. He had not the least suspicion of what had been
going on at homefor Fan had said to herselfwith girlish malice
If he don't choose to tell me his secrets, I 'm not going to tell
mine,and had said nothing about Sydneyexcept an occasional
allusion to his being often thereand very kind. Thereforewhen
she announced her engagementTom looked so staggered for a
minutethat Fan thought he did n't like it; but after the first
surprise passedhe showed such an affectionate satisfactionthat
she was both touched and flattered.
What do you think of this performance?asked Tomwheeling
round to Pollywho still sat by Mrs. Shawin the shadow of the
I like it very much,she said in such a hearty tonethat Tom
could not doubt the genuineness of her pleasure.
Glad of that. Hope you 'll be as well pleased with another
engagement that 's coming out before long; and with an odd
laughTom carried Sydney off to his denleaving the girls to
telegraph to one another the awful messageIt is Maria Bailey.
How she managed to get through that eveningPolly never knew
yet it was not a long onefor at eight o'clock she slipped out of the
roommeaning to run home aloneand not compel any one to
serve as escort. But she did not succeedfor as she stood warming
her rubbers at the dining-room firewondering pensively as she did
so if Maria Bailey had small feetand if Tom ever put her rubbers
on for herthe little overshoes were taken out of her handsand
Tom's voice saidreproachfullyDid you really mean to run away,
and not let me go home with you?
I 'm not afraid; I did n't want to take you away,began Polly
secretly hoping that she did n't look too pleased.
But I like to be taken away. Why, it 's a whole year since I went
home with you; do you remember that?said Tomflapping the
rubbers about without any signs of haste.
Does it seem long?
Polly meant to say that quite easilyand smile incredulously at his
answer; but in spite of the coquettish little rose-colored hood she
woreand which she knew was very becomingshe did not look or
speak gaylyand Tom saw something in the altered face that made
him say hastilyI 'm afraid you 've been doing too much this
winter; you look tired out, Polly.
Oh, no! it suits me to be very busy,and she began to drag on her
gloves as if to prove it.
But it does n't suit me to have you get thin and pale, you know.
Polly looked up to thank himbut never didfor there was
something deeper than gratitude in the honest blue eyesthat could
not hide the truth entirely. Tom saw itflushed all over his brown
faceand dropping the rubbers with a crashtook her hands
sayingin his old impetuous wayPolly, I want to tell you
Yes, I know, we 've been expecting it. I hope you 'll be very
happy, Tom;and Polly shook his hands with a smile that was
more pathetic than a flood of tears.
What!cried Tomlooking as if he thought she had lost her mind.
Ned told us all about her; he thought it would be so, and when
you spoke of another engagement, we knew you meant your own.
But I did n't! Ned's the man; he told me to tell you. It 's just
Is it Maria?cried Pollyholding on to a chair as if to be prepared
Of course. Who else should it be?
He did n't say you talked about her most and so we thought
stammered Pollyfalling into a sudden flutter.
That I was in love? Well, I am, but not with her.
Oh!and Polly caught her breath as if a dash of cold water had
fallen on herfor the more in earnest Tom grewthe blunter he
Do you want to know the name of the girl I 've loved for more
than a year? Well, it 's Polly!As he spokeTom stretched out his
arms to herwith the sort of mute eloquence that cannot be
resistedand Polly went straight into themwithout a word.
Never mind what happened for a little bit. Love scenesif genuine
are indescribable; for to those who have enacted themthe most
elaborate description seems tameand to those who have notthe
simplest picture seems overdone. So romancers had better let
imagination paint for them that which is above all artand leave
their lovers to themselves during the happiest minutes of their
Before longTom and Polly were sitting side by sideenjoying the
blissful state of mind which usually follows the first step out of our
work-a-day worldinto the glorified region wherein lovers
rapturously exist for a month or two. Tom just sat and looked at
Polly as if he found it difficult to believe that the winter of his
discontent had ended in this glorious spring. But Pollybeing a
true womanasked questionseven while she laughed and cried for
Now, Tom, how could I know you loved me when you went away
and never said a word?she beganin a tenderly reproachful tone
thinking of the hard year she had spent.
And how could I have the courage to say a word, when I had
nothing on the face of the earth to offer you but my worthless
That was all I wanted!whispered Pollyin a tone which caused
him to feel that the race of angels was not entirely extinct.
I 've always been fond of you, my Polly, but I never realized how
fond till just before I went away. I was n't free, you know, and
besides I had a strong impression that you liked Sydney in spite of
the damper which Fan hinted you gave him last winter. He 's such
a capital fellow, I really don't see how you could help it.
It is strange; I don't understand it myself; but women are queer
creatures, and there 's no accounting for their tastes,said Polly
with a sly lookwhich Tom fully appreciated.
You were so good to me those last days, that I came very near
speaking out, but could n't bear to seem to be offering you a poor,
disgraced sort of fellow, whom Trix would n't have, and no one
seemed to think worth much. 'No,' I said to myself, 'Polly ought to
have the best; if Syd can get her, let him, and I won't say a word. I
'll try to be better worthy her friendship, anyway; and perhaps,
when I 've proved that I can do something, and am not ashamed to
work, then, if Polly is free, I shan't be afraid to try my chance.' So I
held my tongue, worked like a horse, satisfied myself and others
that I could get my living honestly, and then came home to see if
there was any hope for me.
And I was waiting for you all the time,said a soft voice close to
his shoulder; for Polly was much touched by Tom's manly efforts
to deserve her.
I did n't mean to do it the first minute, but look about me a little,
and be sure Syd was all right. But Fan's news settled that point, and
just now the look in my Polly's face settled the other. I could n't
wait another minute, or let you either, and I could n't help
stretching out my arms to my little wife, God bless her, though I
know I don't deserve her.
Tom's voice got lower and lower as he spokeand his face was full
of an emotion of which he need not be ashamedfor a very sincere
love ennobled himmaking him humblewhere a shallower
affection would have been proud of its success. Polly understood
thisand found the honesthearty speech of her lover more
eloquent than poetry itself. Her hand stole up to his cheekand she
leaned her own confidingly against the rough coatas she saidin
her frank simple wayTom, dear, don't say that, as if I was the
best girl in the world. I 've got ever so many faults, and I want you
to know them all, and help me cure them, as you have your own.
Waiting has not done us any harm, and I love you all the better for
your trial. But I 'm afraid your year has been harder than mine, you
look so much older and graver than when you went away. You
never would complain; but I 've had a feeling that you were going
through a good deal more than any of us guessed.
Pretty tough work at first, I own. It was all so new and strange, I
'm afraid I should n't have stood it if it had not been for Ned. He 'd
laugh and say 'Pooh!' if he heard me say it, but it 's true
nevertheless that he 's a grand fellow and helped me through the
first six months like a well, a brother as he is. There was no reason
why he should go out of his way to back up a shiftless party like
me, yet he did, and made many things easy and safe that would
have been confoundedly hard and dangerous if I 'd been left to
myself. The only way I can explain it is that it 's a family trait, and
as natural to the brother as it is to the sister.
It 's a Shaw trait to do the same. But tell me about Maria; is Ned
really engaged to her?
Very much so; you 'll get a letter full of raptures tomorrow; he
had n't time to send by me, I came off in such a hurry. Maria is a
sensible, pretty girl and Ned will be a happy old fellow.
Why did you let us think it was you?
I only teased Fan a little; I did like Maria, for she reminded me of
you sometimes, and was such a kind, cosy little woman I could n't
help enjoying her society after a hard day's work. But Ned got
jealous, and then I knew that he was in earnest, so I left him a clear
field, and promised not to breathe a word to any one till he had got
a Yes or No from his Maria.
I wish I 'd known it,sighed Polly. "People in love always do such
So they do; for neither you nor Fan gave us poor fellows the least
hint about Syd, and there I 've been having all sorts of scares about
Serves us right; brothers and sisters should n't have secrets from
We never will again. Did you miss me very much?
Yes, Tom; very, very much.
My patient little Polly!
Did you really care for me before you went?
See if I did n't;and with great pride Tom produced a portly
pocket-book stuffed with business-like documents of a most
imposing appearanceopened a private compartmentand took out
a worn-looking paperunfolded it carefullyand displayed a small
brown object which gave out a faint fragrance.
That 's the rose you put in the birthday cake, and next week we 'll
have a fresh one in another jolly little cake which you 'll make me;
you left it on the floor of my den the night we talked there, and I
've kept it ever since. There 's love and romance for you!
Polly touched the little relictreasured for a yearand smiled to
read the words "My Polly's rose scribbled under the crumbling
I did n't know you could be so sentimental she said, looking so
pleased that he did not regret confessing his folly.
I never was till I loved youmy dearand I 'm not very bad yetfor
I don't wear my posy next my heartbut where I can see it every
dayand so never forget for whom I am working. Should n't
wonder if that bit of nonsense had kept me economicalhonest
and hard at itfor I never opened my pocket-book that I did n't
think of you."
That 's lovely, Tom,and Polly found it so touching that she felt
for her handkerchief; but Tom took it awayand made her laugh
instead of cryby sayingin a wheedlesome toneI don't believe
you did as much, for all your romance. Did you, now?
If you won't laugh, I 'll show you my treasures. I began first, and I
've worn them longest.
As she spokePolly drew out the old locketopened itand showed
the picture Tom gave her in the bag of peanuts cut small and fitted
in on one side on the other was a curl of reddish hair and a black
button. How Tom laughed when he saw them!
You don't mean you 've kept that frightful guy of a boy all this
time? Polly! Polly! you are the most faithful 'loveress,' as Maud
says, that was ever known.
Don't flatter yourself that I 've worn it all these years, sir; I only
put it in last spring because I did n't dare to ask for one of the new
ones. The button came off the old coat you insisted on wearing
after the failure, as if it was your duty to look as shabby as
possible, and the curl I stole from Maud. Are n't we silly?
He did not seem to think soand after a short pause for
refreshmentsPolly turned seriousand said anxiouslyWhen
must you go back to your hard work?
In a week or two; but it won't seem drudgery now, for you 'll write
every day, and I shall feel that I 'm working to get a home for you.
That will give me a forty-man-power, and I 'll pay up my debts and
get a good start, and then Ned and I will be married and go into
partnership, and we 'll all be the happiest, busiest people in the
It sounds delightful; but won't it take a long time, Tom?
Only a few years, and we need n't wait a minute after Syd is paid,
if you don't mind beginning rather low down, Polly.
I 'd rather work up with you, than sit idle while you toil away all
alone. That 's the way father and mother did, and I think they were
very happy in spite of the poverty and hard work.
Then we 'll do it by another year, for I must get more salary
before I take you away from a good home here. I wish, oh, Polly,
how I wish I had a half of the money I 've wasted, to make you
Never mind, I don't want it; I 'd rather have less, and know you
earned it all yourself,cried Pollyas Tom struck his hand on his
knee with an acute pang of regret at the power he had lost.
It 's like you to say it, and I won't waste any words bewailing
myself, because I was a fool. We will work up together, my brave
Polly, and you shall yet be proud of your husband, though he is
'poor Tom Shaw.'
She was as sure of that as if an oracle had foretold itand was not
deceived; for the loving heart that had always seenbelievedand
tried to strengthen all good impulses in Tomwas well repaid for
its instinctive trust by the happiness of the years to come.
Yes,she saidhopefullyI know you will succeed, for the best
thing a man can have, is work with a purpose in it, and the will to
do it heartily.
There is one better thing, Polly,answered Tomturning her face
up a littlethat he might see his inspiration shining in her eyes.
What is it, dear?
A good woman to love and help him all his life, as you will me,
Even though she is old-fashioned,whispered Pollywith happy
eyesthe brighter for their tearsas she looked up at the young
manwhothrough herhad caught a glimpse of the truest success
and was not ashamed to owe it to love and labortwo beautiful old
fashions that began long agowith the first pair in Eden.
Lest any of my young readers who have honored Maud with their
interest should suffer the pangs of unsatisfied curiosity as to her
futureI will add for their benefit that she did not marry Willbut
remained a busylively spinster all her daysand kept house for
her father in the most delightful manner.
Will's ministerial dream came to pass in the course of time
howeverand a gentlebright-eyed lady ruled over the parsonage
whom the reverend William called his "little Jane."
Farther into futurity even this rash pen dares not proceedbut
pauses hereconcluding in the words of the dear old fairy tales
And so they were married, and all lived happily till they died.