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´╗┐Title: Polly of the Hospital Staff
Author: Dowd, Emma C.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Polly of the Hospital Staff" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



POLLY OF THE HOSPITAL STAFF

by

EMMA C. DOWD

Boston and New York
Houghton Mifflin Company
The Riverside Press Cambridge

1912



To 'The Mother of Polly'


Contents

   I.    The Cherry-Pudding Story
   II.   The Election of Polly
   III.  Popover
   IV.   David
   V.    With the Assistance of Lone Star
   VI.   Elsie's Birthday
   VII.  The Little Sad Lady
   VIII. A Warning From Aunt Jane
   IX.   A Night of Song
   X.    The Ward's Anniversary
   XI.   Polly Plays the part of Eva
   XII.  The Kidnapping of Polly
   XIII. The Return
   XIV.  Polly's "Anne Sisters"
   XV.   A Bid for Polly
   XVI.  A secret
   XVII. The Wedding



Illustrations

   The Story of the Wonderful White Flower
   "Once Upon a Time," she began
   Forgetting all but the music she loved
   This Document Makes You Legally our own Daughter

   From drawings by Irma Deremeaux



POLLY OF THE HOSPITAL STAFF



Chapter I

The Cherry-Pudding Story

The June breeze hurried up from the harbor to the big house on the
hill, and fluttered playfully past the window vines into the
children's convalescent ward.  It was a common saying at the
hospital that the tidal breeze always reached the children's ward
first.  Sometimes the little people were waiting for it, ready
with their welcome; but to-day there were none to laugh a
greeting.  The room was very quiet.  The occupants of the little
white cots had slept unusually long, and the few that had awakened
from their afternoon naps were still too drowsy to be astir.
Besides, Polly was not there, and the ward was never the same
without Polly.

As the young nurse in charge passed noiselessly between the rows
of beds, a small hand pulled at her apron.

"Ain't it 'most time for Polly to come?"

"Yes, I think she will be back pretty soon now." Miss Lucy
smiled down into the wistful little face.

"I want Polly to tell me a story," Elsie went on, with a bit of
a whine: "my hip aches so bad."

"Does it feel worse to-day?" asked the nurse sympathetically.

"No; I guess not," answered the little girl, glad of a listener.
"It aches all the time, 'cept when I'm asleep or Polly's tellin'
stories."

"I know," and Miss Lucy's face grew grave. "We shall miss
Polly."

"When's she goin' home?" The blue eyes went suddenly anxious.

"Oh, not until next week!" was the cheerful response. "There'll
be time for plenty of stories before then."

"A-h-h!" wailed little French Aimee, from the opposite cot.
"Pollee go?"

"Why, yes," smiled Miss Lucy, with a quick turn. "Polly is
almost well, and well little girls don't stay at the hospital, you
know.  Pretty soon you will go home, too."

The nurse passed on, but Aimee's face remained clouded.  Next
week--no Pollee!

Other ears besides Aimee's had overheard the news about Polly.
Maggie O'Donnell and Otto Kriloff stared at each other in dismay.
Why, Polly had been there long before they came!  It had never
occurred to them that Polly could leave.

When Miss Lucy reached Maggie's bed, the little girl was softly
crying.

"I--don't--want--Polly to go!" she sobbed.

"Dear me! Dear me!" exclaimed the nurse, "this will never do!"
Then, listening, she whispered, "Hark! Who is that skipping along
the hall?"

At the instant, the door opened, and a little girl, her brown eyes
shining with pleasure, her cheeks pink as the poppies on the front
lawn, and her yellow curls all tossed and tumbled by the wind,
whirled into the ward.

"Oh, Polly!" passed, a breath of joy, from lip to lip.

"I've had a lovelicious time!" she began.

"We went 'way down to Rockmoor!--Did you ever ride in an auto,
Miss Lucy?"

The nurse nodded happily.  It was good to have Polly back.

"Seems's if you'd never come!" broke out Elsie Meyer. "I've been
waitin' an' waitin' for a story."

"I'll have my things off in a minute," responded Polly, "and
you'll say my story is worth waiting for."

"A new one?"

"Brand-new!"

"Where'd you get it?"

"A lady told me--a lady Dr. Dudley took me to see.  It's a
'Cherry-Pudding Story.'--Oh, you just wait till I put my coat
and hat away, and change my dress!" Polly danced off, the young
nurse following with a soft sigh.  What should she do without this
little sunshine-maker!

The ward was wide awake when Polly returned.  The few that were
far enough along to be up and dressed had left their cots, and
were grouped around Elsie Meyer's bed, each solicitous for the
closest seat to the story-teller.

"Everybody ready?" questioned Polly, settling herself
comfortable in the little rocker.  Then she popped up.  "You need
this chair, Leonora, more than I do;" and before the lame girl
had time to protest the exchange had been made.

"Polly, talk loud, so I can hear!" piped up a shrill voice in
the corner of the ward.

"Sure I will, Linus," was the cherry response. "You must n't
miss a word of the 'Cherry-Pudding story.'"

"Once upon a time," she began, in the beautiful old way that all
fanciful stories should begin; and not the breath of a rustle
broke the sound of her gentle voice, while she narrated the
fortunes of the young king who loved stories so much that he
decided to wed only the girl that would write him a fresh one
every day.

As the little people followed the outcome of the royal edict,
their interest grew intense, for Polly was a real story-teller,
sweeping her listeners along with the narrative until all else was
forgotten.

When after long despairing days, young King Cerise found his
future queen in the very last girl, one who lived her stories
instead of writing them, and was as charming and good as she was
clever, the small folks became radiantly glad, and the tale drew
to a happy end with the king and queen living beautiful stories
and cherry puddings in every home all over the land.

Nobody spoke as Polly stopped.  Then little Linus, away over in
the corner, piped up:--

"I wasn't some cherry pudding!"

Than made them laugh, and set the tongues going.

"Aw, ye'll have ter wait till ye git home!" returned Cornelius
O'Shaughnessy.

"Why will he? Why can't we all have some, Miss Lucy?"

The rest fairly held their breath at Elsie Meyer's boldness.

The nurse laughed. "Perhaps," she began slowly,--"mind, I
don't say for sure, but only perhaps,--if you'll all live a
brave, patient, cheerful story, with never a bit of a whine in it,
from now until to-morrow noon,--well, who knows what may
happen!"

"A cherry pudding may!" cried the irrepressible Elsie. "Oh, Miss
Lucy, I won't whine or cry, no matter how bad you hurt my hip when
you dress it--not the teentiest bit! See if I do!"

"Will Polly make up our stories for us?" queried Leonora Hewitt.

"Why, Miss Lucy has made one for all of us," laughed Polly. "We
are to be brave and patient and not make a fuss about anything,
and help everybody else to be happy--is n't that what you
meant, Miss Lucy?"

"Oh," replied the little lame girl, "guess that'll be a hard
kind!"

"Beautiful stories are not often easy to live," smiled the young
nurse; "but let's see which of us can live the best one."

"Polly will!" cried Maggie O'Donnell and Otto Kriloff together.



Chapter II

The Election of Polly

The convalescent ward was finishing its noonday feast when Miss
Hortensia Price appeared.  Miss Hortensia Price was straight and
tall, with somber black eyes and thin, serious lips.  Many of the
children were greatly in awe of the dignified nurse; but Elsie
Meyer was bold enough to announce:--

"We're livin' a cherry-pudding story!" And she beamed up from
her ruby-colored plate.

"What?" scowled the visitor.

The tone was puzzled rather tan harsh, yet Elsie shrank back in
sudden abashment.

"Polly told us a story yesterday," explained Miss Lucy, the pink
deepening on her delicate cheeks, "and it made the children want
some cherry pudding for dinner. It is not rich," she added
apologetically.

The elder nurse responded only with a courteous "Oh!" and then
remarked, "What I came down to say is this: I shall send you
three cases from my ward at half-past two o'clock this afternoon."

"All right," was the cordial answer. "We shall be glad to
welcome them to our little family."

"High Price is awful solemn to-day," whispered Maggie O'Donnell
to Ethel Jones, as the door shut.

"High Price?" repeated Ethel, in a perplexed voice.

"Sh!" breathed the other. "She's 'High Price,' and Miss Lucy's
'Low Price,' 'cause she's so high and mighty and tall and
everything, and Miss Lucy's kind o' short and little and so
darling, and they ain't any relation either.  I'm glad they
ain't," she added decidedly. "I would n't have Miss Lucy related
to her for anything!"

"Oh, no!" returned Ethel, comprehendingly, as she scraped her
plate for a last morsel of pudding.

The three "cases," which appeared in the convalescent ward
promptly at the hour named, proved to be two girls and a boy,--
Brida MacCarthy, Isabel Smith, and Moses Cohn.  Polly did her
share in routing the evident fears of the small strangers, their
wide, anxious eye showing that they dreaded what might lie ahead
of them in these unknown quarters.

The wonderful giant story, which ended merrily,--as all of
Polly's stories did end,--made Moses her valiant follower as
long as he remained in the ward; the tender little slumber song,
which Polly's mother had taught her, put the tiny Isabel to sleep;
and the verses about the "Kit-Cat Luncheon" completely won the
heart of Irish Brida.

"I got a kitty, too!" she confided. "Her name's Popover, 'cause
when the kitties was all little, an' runnin' round, an' playin',
she'd pop right over on her back, jus' as funny!  She's all black
concept[sic] a little spot o' white--oh, me kitty is the
prettiest kitty in town!"

"How shall I ever get along without her!" sighed the young
nurse, as she watched Polly flitting about like a sprite,
comforting restless little patients, hushing, with her ready tact,
quarrelsome tongues, and winning every heart by her gentle, loving
ways.  Oh, the ward would be lonely indeed without Polly May!
None realized this more than Miss Lucy, unless it were Dr. Dudley,
the cherry house physician, whom all the children adored.

As the day set for Polly's going came near and nearer, the
mourning of the small convalescents increased, until the ward
would have been in danger of continual tears if it had not been
for Polly herself.  She was gayer than ever, telling the funniest
stories and singing the merriest songs, and making her little
friends half forget that the good times were not going to last.
The children never guessed that this was almost as much to help
herself over the hard place as to cheer them.  In fact, they
believed that her unusual high spirits came of her being glad to
leave the hospital.  Even Miss Lucy could n't quite understand it
all.  But Dr. Dudley knew; he had seen her face when she had been
told that she was soon to go.

It was not strange that Polly should dread parting from the people
with whom she had been so happy, for no mother or father or
pleasant home was waiting for her,--only Aunt Jane, in the
cramped, dingy little tenement,--Aunt Jane and her six unruly
girls and boys.  Poly did not permit herself to think much about
going away, however, and the last evening found her cheerful
still.  Then Elsie Meyer began her doleful suggestions.

"I wonder how often your Aunt Jane 'll let you come and see us.
P'r'aps she won't let you come at all--oh, my!  If she don't,
maybe we'll never see you again!"

"Nonsense, Elsie! Don't go to conjuring up any such thing!"
broke in Miss Lucy's laughing voice. "Of course--why, Polly!"
For the little girl had been brought suddenly face to face with an
awful possibility, and her courage had given way.  She was sobbing
on the foot of Elsie's bed.

A low rap on the half-open door sent Miss Lucy thither, and Polly
heard Dr. Dudley speak her name.  A new terror took instant
possession of her heart.  The Doctor had come to take her home!
She did not stop to reason.  Dropping to the floor, she crept
softly under the cot, from there to the next and the next.  Her
course was straight to the door through which the physician had
entered, and by the time he was halfway across the room she had
wriggled herself clear of the last cot, and was over the sill and
in the corridor, the twilight aiding her escape.  Regaining her
feet, she darted noiselessly down the long hall.  At the head of
the stairs she paused.  On the floor below was a small alcove
where she might hide.  Making sure that no one was in sight, she
sped down, but as she reached the lower step one of the nurses
opened the door opposite.

"What are you doing down here, Polly May?"

The question was pleasant, but the answer was miserably halting.

"I--I--thought--I'd just--come--"

"Did Miss Price send you for anything?"

This time the child detected a ring of suspicion.

"Oh, no! I--I--"

"Well, you'd better go right back.  It is too late to be running
around for play.  The halls must be kept quiet."

"Yes, Miss Bemont," responded Polly meekly, and turned to see
Dr. Dudley at the head of the flight.

There was nothing to do but to go forward, which she did, with
downcast eyes and a throbbing heart.

"Oh, here you are!" exclaimed the physician. "I've been looking
for you.  I thought you would like to take a ride up to
Warringford.  I shall be back before your bedtime, and Miss Lucy
says--why, Thistledown! What is the matter?"

The revulsion had been to great, and, leaning against the Doctor's
arm, Polly was softly sobbing.

The physician sat down on the stairs, and drew the fair little
head to his shoulder.  In a minute he knew it all,--the sudden
fear that had assailed her, the creeping flight across the ward,
and the baffled attempt at hiding.  As he listened, his eyes grew
grave and tender, for in the broken little confession he
comprehended the child's unspoken abhorrence of the life she had
left behind when she had come to the hospital five months before.

"I would n't worry about going back to Aunt Jane's," he said
brightly. "You may be sure I shan't let her monopolize my little
Polly. Now, run along and get on your hat and coat, for the air is
growing cool.  We'll have a nice spin up to Warringford, and
you'll sleep all the better for it."

Polly skipped away smiling, but presently was down in the office,
--without her wraps.

"The children feel so bad to have me go," she said soberly, "I
guess I'd better stay with them--seeing it's the last night."
Her lip quivered.

"Selfish little pigs!" returned the Doctor. "They are n't
willing anybody else shall have a taste of you."

Polly laughed. "Well, they want me to tell them a story, so I'd
better, don't you think?"

"I suppose it's kinder to them than to go for a joy ride; but
it's hard on me."

Dr. Dudley assumed a scowl of disapproval.

The child hesitated. "You know I'd rather go with you," she said
sweetly; "but they--"

"I understand all about it, brave little woman," throwing an arm
around the slender shoulders, "and I won't make it any harder for
you.  Go and tell your story, and let it be a merry one.
Remember, that's the Doctor's order!  Good-night."

Polly threw him a kiss from the doorway, and then he heard her
light footfalls on the stairs.

It was one of his few leisure hours, and he sat for a long time
looking out on the quiet street, where his small motor car stood
waiting.  He had no inclination for a spin to Warringford now; he
was thinking too deeply about the little girl who had held so
large a share of his big heart since the day when he had first
seen her, lying so white and still, with the life all but crushed
out of her.  It had not seemed possible then that she would ever
again dance around like the other children; yet her she was,
without even the bit of a limp--and going home to-morrow! Home!
He could imagine the kind of place it was, and he shook his head
gravely over the picture.  Twice in the first months of Polly's
stay at the hospital her aunt had been to visit her; recently she
had not appeared.  He recollected her well,--a tall, lean
woman, with unshapely garments, and a strident voice.

At eight o'clock Dr. Dudley cranked up his machine, and started
away; but he did not go in the direction of Warringford.  He
turned down one of the narrow streets that led to Aunt Jane's
home.

Meantime, up in the ward, Polly had been following the Doctor's
directions until the children had laughed themselves happy.

"I did n't let on that I saw you scoot under the bed when the
Doctor came," Elsie Meyer whispered to Polly, at the first
chance.  "Aimee saw you, an' Brida saw you, an' Francesca saw
you; but we did n't say nothin' when Miss Lucy an' the Doctor was
wonderin' where you could be.  What made you go that way?"

"Come, Polly, say good-night," called the nurse.

And with a soft, "I'll tell you sometime, Elsie," she obeyed.

The next morning Polly went about the little helpful tasks that
she had, one after another, taken upon herself, performing each
with even more than her usual care, feeling a strange ache in her
heart at the thought of its being the last time.

It was shortly after ten o'clock that Dr. Dudley appeared at the
door.

"Polly!" he called.

She ran to him, but her answering smile was pathetic, for her lip
quivered, as she said, "I'll be ready in a minute."

"You are ready now," he returned, and taking her hand in his led
her out into the hall.

"I want you for a little while," was all he said, as they went
downstairs together.

Poly was a bit surprised when she found that their destination was
the great room where the "Board" was in session, but she could
not be afraid with Dr. Dudley; so she smiled to all the gentlemen,
and answered their questions in her soft, sweet voice, and behaved
quite like the little lady that the physician had pictured to
them.

Presently Dr. Dudley left her, while he talked in low tones with
the white-haired man at the head of the long table.  When he came
back, he asked:--

"Polly, how should you like to stay here at the hospital all
summer, and help Miss Lucy and me to take care of your little
friends?"

The light that flashed into Polly's brown eyes gave them the gleam
of a sunny brook.  She clasped her small hands ecstatically,
crying, "O--o--h! it would be--super-bon-donjical!"

The gentlemen laughed, the tall, white-haired one until his
shoulders shook.  Then he rapped on the table, and said something
about "Miss Polly May," to which the little girl did n't pay
much attention, and there was a big chorus of ayes.  After that
Polly bade them all good-bye, and went upstairs with Dr. Dudley.

"Children, I have something to tell you," the physician
announced.

Everybody was at once alert.  A solemn hush fell on the ward.

"What do you think?" he went on;--"Polly May is a full-fledged
member of the hospital staff!"

Nobody spoke.  Nobody even smiled but Miss Lucy.  Black eyes and
brown eyes, blue eyes and gray eyes stared uncomprehendingly at
the Doctor.

"You don't quite understand that, do you?" he laughed. "Well, it
means that Polly is n't going home to her aunt.  Polly is going to
stay with you!"

Then what squeals and shouts and shrieks of joy from all over the
ward!



Chapter III

Popover

For a week the convalescent ward laughed and sang and almost
forgot that it was part of the big House of Suffering.  Polly
herself beamed on everybody, and all the hospital people seemed to
agree that very good fortune had come to her, and to be glad in
it.

Then there came a hot day which tried the patience of the small
invalids.  Polly flitted from cot to cot with her little
fluttering fan and her cooling drinks.  The afternoon breeze had
not yet arrived when Brida MacCarthy begged for a story.

"It will have to be and old one," was the smiling response, for
Polly's supply of cat tales--the kind which the little Irish
girl invariably wanted--was limited.

"I don't care what 't is," whined Brida,--"anything 'bout a
kitty.  Oh, don't I wisht I had me own darlin' Popover right here
in me arms!--Why don't yer begin?" urged the fretful voice,
for Polly sat gazing at the polished floor.

A kindly, fascinating scheme was taking shape in the story-teller's
brain.

"Oh, Brida," she cried, in suppressed eagerness, lowering her
voice to a whisper that should not reach Miss Lucy at the other
end of the ward, "I've thought of the loveliest thing!  Your home
is n't very far from here, is it?"

"A good ways--why?" and Brida's little pale, freckled face
showed only mild interest.

"But where do you live--when you're home?" Polly insisted.

"'T 739 Liberty Street is right down by Union!  I can find that
easy enough!  Say, don't you s'pose your mother 'd let me take
Popover and bring her up here?  You know Miss Lucy wants me to go
out to walk every day now."

"Oh, Polly!" the pale face grew pink with joy. "Sure, me mother
'd let her come!  Oh, Polly, if you would!"

"I will!  And I won't say a word to Miss Lucy about it till
Popover is here!  It's her birthday to-day, and it'll be such a
beautiful surprise!  I've been wishing and wishing we had
something to give her."

"Oh, not me darlin' kitty!" returned Brida, in sudden dismay.

"No, no!" laughed Polly reassuringly. "I only meant the
surprise.  Popover can amuse the whole ward, and won't Miss Lucy
be pleased!"

"It'll be splendid!" beamed Brida. "How'd yer ever think of
it?"

"I don't know; but I'm glad I did," Polly went on happily. "And
perhaps we can keep her a week or so, if we'll let her have a
little of our milk--just you and I.  You would n't mind, would
you?"

"Sure, I'll let her have all she can drink!" declared Brida.

"I guess I'd better go now," said Polly. "What is the number 7----"

"It's 739 Liberty Street," repeated Brida; "an old brown house
next to the corner."

Miss Lucy thought it was rather too warm for a walk, especially as
Polly was not very strong yet; but the little girl urged it with
such sparkling eyes that she finally let her go, bidding her keep
on the shady side of the street and not to stay out too long.

Polly reached Liberty Street where it was crossed by Union, but
was taken somewhat aback when she looked at a number on the west
side and found it to be only 452.

"Never mind!" was her second thought; "there are not quite three
hundred numbers more, and half of those are on the other side;
besides, they skip lots of them."

So she walked on contentedly, keeping track of the numbers as
she passed along.  They counted up fast, the houses were so
thickly set.  Polly thought the occupants must all be out of
doors, for lounging men and women filled the doorways, and the
sidewalks were scattered with children.  The air grew hot and
stifling and full of disagreeable odors.  The little girl half
wished that she had not come.  Then she remembered how pleased
Brida would be to see her kitten again, and that gave her new
strength and courage.

She was very tired when she came to the little shop numbered 703;
but with the glad thought that the "brown house" could not be
far off she began to look for it.

Directly across her way was stretched a jumping rope, which, as
she was about to step over, the girls at either end whirled up in
front of her.  To the astonishment of the mischievous tricksters,
Polly skipped into time as adroitly as the most expert rope-jumper
could have wished, and the giggling pair almost forgot their part.
But they recovered themselves to give Polly a half-dozen skips.
Then, clearing the rope with a graceful bound, she turned to one
of the girls.

"Can you tell me, please, where Mrs. MacCarthy lives?--Brida
MacCarthy's mother?"

With a second surprise on her freckled face, the child pointed to a
fat, red-cheeked woman, who was cooling herself with a big palm-leaf
fan, in a basement doorway just beyond.

"Thank you," was the polite response, and Polly descended the
short flight of steps into the bricked area.

The woman looked up expectantly.

"I'm Polly May, of the hospital staff," the little girl
announced modestly, "and Brida would like her kitten, please."

The smile on Mrs. MacCarthy's face expanded into a big, joyous
laugh.

"Does she now? Moira! Katie! D'ye here that? Brida's sint f'r her
cat!  Sure an' she moost be gittin' 'long rale well!  An' ye're
from th' hospital!  Moira! Where's yer manners? Fetch th' little
lady a chair!  Katie, git a mug o' wather an' wan o' thim big
crackers.  Don't ye know how to trate comp'ny?"

In a minute Polly was seated, a china mug of water in one hand,
and a crisp soda biscuit in the other, while the MacCarthy family
circled around her, eager for news from the beloved Brida.  There
were only encouraging accounts to give of the little girl with the
broken ankle; but they led to so many questions that Polly began
to wonder how she should ever escape from these friendly people,
when Popover herself solved the question.

The pretty black kitten suddenly appeared at the visitor's side,
and at the first caressing word from Polly jumped into her lap.

"D' ye see that?" cried the delighted mother, and in the
momentary excitement Polly arose and said that she must go.

Brida's sisters and small brother accompanied her for two blocks
up the street, and then, with numerous good-byes, they left her to
her long, wearisome walk.

She had not gone far before she realized that the warm little
animal was more of a burden than she had counted on, exhausted as
she was already with her unusual exercise; but she kept up
courageously, even making little spurts of speed as she would
wonder if Miss Lucy were becoming anxious about her.  After
awhile, however, instead of hurrying, she was obliged to stop now
and then on a corner, to catch the breeze coming up from the sea,
for she felt strangely faint.  When she finally trudged up
Hospital Hill, the air grew cool all at once, and she quite forgot
herself for thinking of Brida and Miss Lucy.

At the door of the ward she paused for a peep.  The nurse was not
in sight.  A few of the children were gathered at the windows with
books and pictures; several were on the floor playing quiet games.
So softly did she step that nobody knew she was there until she
was well in the room.  The, spying both her and the kitten, there
was a shout and a rush.

"No, you can't have her yet!" cried Polly, as small hands were
outstretched to lift the now uneasy burden from her arms. "Brida
has first right, because it's her kitten."

"Oh, Popover!" squealed the little owner delightedly, snuggling
the furry creature to her cheek.

"Where's Miss Lucy?" demanded Polly, waiving the children's
eager questions.

"Oh, they sent to have her come somewhere!" answered Ethel
Jones. "She went in an awful hurry, and said prob'ly she'd be
back pretty soon; but she has n't come yet."

"She let Leonora be monitor," put in Elsie Meyer. "I guess she'd
'a' let me, if I'd been up."

"I wish she would come," said Polly anxiously, "for I want to
surprise her with Popover--it's Miss Lucy's birthday, you
know."

"Somebody's coming now," and Cornelius O'Shaughnessy bent his
head to listen. "'T ain't her step," he decided disappointedly,
and the next moment the tall form of Miss Hortensia Price was seen
in the doorway.

"Quick! Keep her out o' sight!" whispered Polly, pushing
Popover's little black head down under the sheet.

The stately young woman walked the length of the room without a
word, and calmly sat down at the small table where Miss Lucy was
accustomed to prepare her medicines and to make such notes as were
needful.

As Miss Price took up the little memorandum book and began to look
it over, Polly's heart almost stood still with consternation.  She
had come to stay!  Polly knew the signs. Such sudden shifts were
common enough in the hospital, but only twice, during Polly's
stay, had the occurred in the convalescent ward, and Miss Lucy had
been in charge for so long now that she had ceased giving herself
any worry over a possible change.

For a moment the little girl stood hesitant; then the sight of
Brida, white and scared on her pillow, roused her to quick
thought.  If she could only smuggle Popover down into Dr Dudley's
office before she was discovered!  Instinct told her that "High
Price" would never tolerate a kitten in the ward.  She took one
step forward.

"Me-ew!" sounded faintly from Brida's cot.

The nurse raised her head, listened inquiringly, and then resumed
her work of examining the patients' records.

Polly stole nearer the bed.

"Me-ew!" came again, louder than before. This time there was no
mistaking its locality.

Miss Price sprang from her chair, and strode straight to where
Brida lay trembling. Popover's insistence for more air and a free
outlook was causing the coverlet to rise and fall in a startling
way.

"How came that cat here?" demanded the nurse, pulling aside the
bedclothing.

"I brought her," answered Polly. "She's Brida's kitty, and we
were going to give Miss Lucy a birthday surprise."

A faint smile flickered on the young woman's face.  The she made
a grab at the now frightened kitten; but the little creature
slipped from her hand, and jumping to the floor dared towards the
hall.

"Oh, me dirlin' kitty!" wailed Brida. "She'll be losted! Oh,
Polly, ketch her!"

Polly, however, was already flying in pursuit of the terrified
cat.

"Shut that door!" called the mistress of the ward, as the eager
children rushed after. "And stay inside, all of you!"

Cornelius O'Shaughnessy reluctantly obeyed the first order, and
the rest trailed back in disappointment.  So exciting a race was
not an everyday occurrence.

Polly, too far away to heed either command, was alarmed lest
Popover might manage to escape from the building, in which case
there would be small chance of catching her.  On and on the little
cat led her, giving no ear to the coaxing, "Kitty, Kitty,
Kitty!" which she was constantly calling.  Around and around the
big halls, up this flight of stairs and down that, into room after
room whose doors stood enticingly open, raced Popover and Poly,
while nurses and physicians that chanced their way stared and
laughed at the astonishing sight.

Just as the kitten reached the foot of the first-floor staircase,
with her pursuer close behind, the front door opened, and Popover
darted towards the passage of escape.

"Oh, shut the door quick! Catch her! Catch her! Don't let her get
out!"

This most unexpected command, in Polly's voice, Dr. Dudley
endeavored to obey.  He did succeed in slamming the door in front
of pussy, though at the risk of nipping her little black nose; but
when he stooped to snatch her she slipped between his feet, and
dashed into his office.  Polly flew after, and the door went
together just as the Doctor reached it.

"Rather an unusual reception this is," he twinkled, as Polly let
him in, a minute later. "Frighten me out of my wits by screaming
at me to catch a wild animal, and then, when I've done my best,
shut the door of my office right in my face!  What do you mean by
such extraordinary conduct, Miss Polly May?" The physician shook
a threatening finger and the flushed and laughing little girl.

"You don't look very scared," she giggled; and then as he
dropped into his lounging-chair she slipped into her favorite
position, atilt on its arm, and leaned confidingly against him.

"Oh, I've had such a time with that kitten!" she sighed, smiling
across at the little creature, now curled up contentedly on the
Doctor's fur rug.

"I take it, by the way you are breathing, that you and the cat
have been having a race."

"All over everywhere," answered Polly, "till I thought I'd never
catch her.  You see she was going to be a birthday surprise to
Miss Lucy, and High Price went and spoiled it all."

The story of the afternoon was narrated in Polly's most vivid
style.

"Is n't it queer that High Price should come just then?" she
sighed. "I don't like her; do you?"

"She is an excellent young woman and a good nurse," Dr. Dudley
returned.

"Well, I don't want her for my nurse," Polly maintained soberly.

"Still, if you were very sick," smiled the Doctor, "I could not
hope for better care than she would give you."

"Oh, if I were awfully sick, and out of my head, maybe High Price
would do; but if I knew anything I should want Miss Lucy." And
Polly's curls waved in emphasis.

Dr. Dudley chuckled responsively.

"I don't think you appreciate Miss Lucy," Polly continued.

The Doctor's eyebrows went up. "Don't I?" he returned meekly.

"You don't act as if you did," Polly sighed; "and I want you to,
for she's so sweet and little and--cuddly, you know.  You could
n't call High Price cuddly; could you?"

"It is n't a term I should apply to her," agreed the Doctor,
with the hint of a smile.

"Miss Lucy would have liked Popover going to get along without
Miss Lucy, 'specially at bedtime."

"What does she do then?"

"Oh, we tell stories!--at least, I do, and sometimes she does,
and generally we sing--real soft, you know, so it won't disturb
anybody.  Then she says a little prayer, and we go to bed.  Dear
me, how we shall miss her!  Why, the other night, when Aimee's arm
ached, Miss Lucy took her right in her lap, and rocked her to
sleep!  And when little Isabel cries for her mamma, Miss Lucy's
just as nice to her, and cuddles her p so sweet!  This is the way
High Price will do: she'll say, 'Is-a-bel'" (and Polly's tone was
in almost exact imitation of the nurse's measured accent), "'lie
still and go to sleep!  The ward must be kept quiet.'"

Dr. Dudley laughed.  Then the said gravely:--

"Do you think that is really fair--to accuse Miss Price of
what she may never do?  Besides, Polly, it is n't quite
respectful."

"No, I suppose it is n't," the little girl admitted. "Excuse me,
please.  But I wish you could know the difference between High
Price and Low Price."

The Doctor's eyes twinkled; but Polly, all unseeing, went on:--

"How soon do you think Miss Lucy'll come back?  Where is she
now?"

"She has been assigned to one of the women's wards.  It is
uncertain when she will be changed again."

"Well, I s'pose we'll have to stand it," sighed Polly
philosophically. "Why, Popover!" for the kitten had come up
unnoticed, and now jumped to the Doctor's knee. "Is n't she cute?
Brida thinks lots of her--there!" she broke out compunctiously,
"I forgot all about Brida, and she does n't know what's become of
her!  I must run up and tell her.  Will it be very much trouble
to keep her here till to-morrow?  Thin I'll carry her home."

"Suppose we taker her home in the auto, after tea?"

"Oh, lovely!"

Dr. Dudley was looking at his watch.

"Is it 'most tea-time?" Polly inquired.

"They are probably all through up in the convalescent ward," he
laughed. "You'd better come into the dining-room and have supper
with me."

"Oh, thank you; that will be nice!  I'll run up and tell Brida,
and then I'll come."



Chapter IV

David

Dr. Dudley had been the rounds of the convalescent ward, to see
how his patients were progressing. Now he had paused at the small
table by the window, where Polly was waiting to carry some
medicine to Linus Hardy.

As she took the glass form Miss Price's hand, and started away,
she heard the physician say, "Can I have Polly for a few
minutes?"

"Certainly, Dr. Dudley," was the reply; and Polly returned
wondering what was wanted of her.

"There is a boy upstairs who is getting discouraged," the Doctor
began, as they went through the hall, and in hand, "and I think,
perhaps, you can cheer him up a little."

"Is he a big boy or a little boy?" asked Polly anxiously.

"I should say, about six months bigger than you," the Doctor
laughed. "He Is n't anybody you will be afraid of, Thistledown;
but he is a very nice boy.  His mother is just recovering from a
sever illness, so she has n't been able to come to see him yet,
and he feels pretty lonely."

"I wish he were down in our ward," returned Polly,--"that
is," she amended, "if Miss Lucy were only there."

"I shall have him transferred as soon as he is well enough," the
Doctor assured her.  And then they were at the entrance of the
children's ward.

Away to the farther end of the room Dr. Dudley went, and Polly
followed.  Some of the patients looked curiously at her as she
passed, for the news of her recent accession to the staff had
spread through the hospital, and nearly everybody was eager for a
sight of her.

Polly was thinking only of the boy whom she had come to see; and
when, at last, the Doctor stopped and turned towards her, she
glanced shyly at the lad on the pillow.

"David," began Dr. Dudley, "this is Miss Polly May, the chief
story-tell of the convalescent ward.  And, Polly, allow me to
present Master David Collins, who had a race a week or two ago,
with a runaway horse, and who was foolish enough to let the horse
beat."

The Doctor's eyes were twinkling, and Polly let go a giggle; so
the boy ventured to laugh.  A week little laugh it was; but it
helped to start the acquaintance pleasantly, which was just what
Dr. Dudley wanted.

"You can have exactly ten minutes to do all your talking in,"
was the physician's parting sally; "so you'd better hurry."

Polly's eyes and David's met in smiling appreciation.

"He says such funny things." praised Polly.

Polly did n't quite know how to begin to cheer the lad up.  Her
tender heart was stirred to unusual sympathy, as she gazed into
the pitifully drawn little face, with its big doll-blue eyes.  She
must surely say something to make David happier--and the
minutes were going fast.  After all, it was David that was first
to speak again.

"Do you like stories?" he asked.

"Oh, I just love them!"

"So do I.  You must know a great many.  The Doctor said you told
them to the children.  I wish there was time for you to tell me
one."

"I'm afraid there is n't to-day," responded Polly; "but maybe I
can stay longer when I come again."

"I hope so," returned David politely.  "My mother read me a story
the evening before I was hurt.  It was about a king and queen that
lived beautiful stories, and I was going to live such a brave,
splendid one every day--and then the horse knocked me down!
Such a lot of miserable stories as I've lived since I came here,
not much like the ones I'd planned!  But to-day's will be better,
because you'll be in it," he ended brightly.

Polly's eyes had been growing rounder and rounder with surprise
and delight.

"Oh! Was it a Cherry-Pudding Story?" she asked eagerly.

"Why, have you read it?" and the little white face actually grew
pink. "My aunt wrote it, and sent us a paper that had it in!"

"Why--ee!" cried Polly. "is n't that funny!  And we've been
trying to live nice stories, too--all of us, up in the ward!
Miss Lucy said we'd see which could live the best one.  A lady
told me the story.  And your aunt really made it all up?"

"Yes; she writes lots of stories," smiled David. "Then she sends
them to mamma and me and wen they're printed."

"How splendid!" beamed Polly. "When you get well enough to come
down in our ward, you can tell us some, can't you?"

The boy's face saddened. "I guess I can't ever come," he said.

"Why not?"

"Because I was hurt so badly.  I don't think I'm going to get
well."

"Oh, yes, you will!" asserted Polly. "Of course Dr. Dudley will
cure you!  Goodness! You ought to have seen how I was all smashed
up!  But Dr. Dudley cured me--he can cure anybody!"

"He can?" echoed David, a little doubtfully. "How 'd you get
hurt?  Were you run over?"

"Yes, by a building," Polly laughed. "Only it did n't run; it
fell.  I was 'way up on the third floor, and all of a sudden it
went--just like that!" Polly's little hands dropped flat in
her lap. "I heard a great noise, and felt myself going, and I
remember I clutched hold of Uncle Gregory.  Then I did n't know
another thing till I woke up over in that corner.  See that bed
with the dark-haired little girl in it, the third from the end?
That was my cot."

"Was your leg broken?" asked David, in a most interested tone.

"Yes, my leg was broken, and my hip was _discolated_ (Polly
sometimes twisted her long words a little), and my ankle was
hurt, and two ribs, and, oh, lots of things!  Doctor says now that
he really did n't think I'd ever walk again--I mean, without
crutches."

"And you're not lame a bit?" David returned incredulously.

"Not a mite, not the least mite!" Polly assured him.

"Then perhaps I shall get well," the boy began brightly.

"Of course you will!" broke in Dr. Dudley's happy voice.

He put his hand on the lad's wrist, and stood for a moment, noting
his pulse.

"It does n't seem to hurt you to have visitors," he smiled; "but
they must n't stay too long.  Say good-bye, Polly."

"Will you bring her again tomorrow?" invited David timidly. "And
let her stay long enough to tell me a story?"

"I should n't wonder," the Doctor promised.  And they left the
boy smiling as he had not smiled since he had been in the
hospital.

After that, Polly went every day to see David, until, one morning,
Dr. Dudley told her that he was not quite well enough to have a
visitor.  She had come to look forward to her quiet talks with the
blue-eyed lad as the happiest portion of the whole day, for Miss
Hortensia Price still stayed in the convalescent ward, and the
Doctor had been too busy to take her out in his automobile.  Elsie
and Brida and Aimee and the rest were all good comrades, yet none
of them possessed David's powers of quick comprehension.  Often
Polly had to explain things to them; David always kept up with her
thought--there was the difference.  And David, notwithstanding
his present proneness to discouragement, was a most winsome boy.

So the first day that she was not allowed to maker her customary
visit seemed a long day indeed, and eagerly she awaited the next
morning.  But several days passed before she again saw David.
Then it was but for a very few minutes, and he was so wan and weak
that she went away feeling sorrowful and anxious.  Yet Dr. Dudley
told her that she had done his patient good.  That was a slight
comfort.

The next day, and the next, the lad was again too ill for company,
and a few sentences which Polly overheard filled her with
foreboding.  She was putting fresh sheets on one of the cots--a
task which she had learned to do well--when she caught David's
name.

"His heart is very weak," one of the stairs nurses was saying to
Miss Price. "He can't stand many more such sinking spells.  Dr.
Dudley has given orders to be called at once, day or night, if he
should have another."

Here the voice dropped, and Polly could not catch the words; but
she had heard enough.  The sheet went on crookedly.  Polly did not
know it, her eyes were so blurred with tears.  She kept the sorry
news to herself, and all day long the children wondered what made
Polly so sober.

If she could have seen Dr. Dudley she would have asked him about
David; but for several days she caught only passing glimpses of
him, when he was too busy to be questioned.  The little girl grew
more and more anxious, but kept hoping that because she heard
nothing David must be better.

It was during the short absence of Miss Price, one afternoon, that
Elsie Meyer complained of the disagreeable liniment on her hip.

"It's just horrid!  I can't stand it a minute longer!" she fretted.
"Say, Polly, I wish you'd spray some of that nice-smellin' stuff
around--what do you call it?"

"The resodarizer, I guess you mean," responded Polly, with more
glibness than accuracy.

"Yes, that's it," Elsie returned. "Hurry up and use it, before
High Price gets back!"

"Perhaps I'd better wait and ask her," she hesitated.

"No, don't! Miss Lucy always lets you take it," Elsie urged.

"Yes, I know," doubtfully.  Then she went to the shelf in the
dressing-room, where the atomizer box stood.

"There is n't a drop in it," she said, holding the bottle to the
light. "Miss Lucy must have forgotten to fill it after I used it
last time." Then, spying a small phial on the shelf, close to
where the box had been, "Oh I guess she left it for me to fill!"
And, unscrewing the chunky little bottle from the spraying
apparatus, she soon had it half full.

Elsie smiled in blissful anticipation of the refreshing perfume,
but as the spray fell near her she greeted it with a torrent of
cries.

"Ugh, ugh! O-o-h! take it away!"

Then Polly, too, puckered her face in disgust. "Why, I must have
put--"

"What are you doing with that atomizer?" interrupted Miss
Price's voice. "How came kerosene oil in here?  Have you been
spraying it around?"

"I did n't know it was kerosene," answered Polly meekly. "I
s'posed it was the resodarizer--"

"Deoderizer, child!"

"Oh, yes, I get it twisted!  It's that kind that smells so
nice."

Miss Price gave a little laugh. "Well, this does n't smell
nice."

"I'm sorry," mourned Polly. "I don't see how a kerosene bottle
came up there--oh, I know!  Miss Lucy was putting some on her
watch, the other day, and she was called off--I remember!  She
must have left it there."

"But the bottle is labeled," Miss Price replied, fetching it
from the table where Polly had set it down. "Can't you read?"

"If course I can!" she answered, a little indignant at the
question. "I guess I was thinking of--something else," she
ended.

"David" had been on her tongue, but she kept the name back.

"Don't you know that you should always have your mind on what you
do?  It is a mercy that you did not get hold of anything worse."

"I could n't," Polly protested. "The poisons and all such things
are up in the medicine closet, and that's always locked."

"You have been allowed too much liberty," Miss Price went on.
"hereafter remember that you are not to touch a bottle of any
description.  But, then," she added, half to herself, but which
came plainly to Polly's ear, "there is no need of such an order
while I am in charge.  I shall see that none are left within
reach."

The child's eyes flashed.  This clear implication of the one she
adored set loose her temper, and she burst out passionately:--

"Miss Lucy always does everything just right, and I think it's
mean of you to hint that she does n't!"

Miss \Price looked steadily at Polly, the color wavering on her
cheeks; then she said, with more than her usual gentleness:--

"Polly, I am sorry, but I think I shall have to punish you.  You
may go and sit in that wooden chair over there, with your back to
the window.  Do not stir or speak until I give you permission."

Polly walked straight to the seat designated, but there was no
meekness in her obedience.  She carried her head defiantly, and
her face was hot with anger.  To think that "High Price" should
dare to find fault with Miss Lucy!  That rankled in her loyal
little heart.



Chapter V

With the Assistance of Lone Star

A strain of music floated up from the street, and the children
that were able to be on their feet rushed for the windows.

"It's a band wagon!" cried Ethel.

"Two!" amended Moses. "Say, Miss Price, can't Polly just come
and look at 'em?"

"No," was the quiet answer, while Cornelius O'Shaughnessy made
faces at the young woman's back.

But Polly was not missing as much as the children feared.  At
first her mind was in too great a tumult for her to care for band
wagons.  Then, as the music soothed her excited nerves and drew
her thoughts into pleasanter paths, she pictured the great wagons,
and ther performers in scarlet and gold, as she had seen them
scores of times, and she seemed to watch their progress under the
arch of elms as perfectly as if she were not in the idle of the
room with her eyes shut.

Them music grew faint and fainter, and was finally lost in the
noise of the street.  The children returned to their various
occupations, giving Polly furtive tokens of sympathy on their way
back.  Leonora squeezed her hand; Cornelius patted her shoulder;
Moses gently pulled a curl--one of his friendly amusements; and
Brida, who was now about on crutches, stooped to kiss her cheek.

"Brida, do not talk to Polly!"

The sudden command startled the child almost into tripping.

"I was n't talkin'!" she protested. "I was only kissin' her."

"Well, come away from her--clear away," for the little girl
was not making very quick time.

"I'm comin' s' fas' 's I can!" she pouted. "I can't _run_ on
these old crutches--so there!"

Polly almost giggled aloud at Brida's daring, but promptly
subsided into a safe look of gravity.  It was pleasant to feel
sure of her friends.  She was still thinking in this vein when a
rap on the half-closed door was at once followed by the frightened
face of one of the upstairs young nurses.

"Oh, Polly!" she cried, at sight of her, "run quick, and catch
Dr. Dudley for David!  He's out there cranking up, and I can't--"

But Polly had shot past her, and was already on the stairs.

The physician was starting his car, as she gained the front
entrance.

"Doctor!  Doctor!  OH, Doctor!" she screamed, dashing down steps
and walk at a reckless speed; but he did not look round and her
voice was lost in the noise of the machine.

Her feet never slackened.  Straight on she flew, like a real
thistledown, her fair curls streaming on the wind, her eyes big
with a vague terror.  As the Doctor sped farther and farther away
from her, she ceased calling realizing that she must reach him in
some other way.

The second house below the hospital was Colonel Gresham's.  The
Colonel himself was stepping into his light buggy, to give Lone
Star, his favorite trotter, a little exercise, when Polly rushed
up.

"Oh, please, sir!" she panted, "will you catch Dr. Dudley?--
They want  him at the hospital--and I could n't make him hear!
He's right ahead--in his auto--the dark green one!  David
will die if he don't come!"

For answer, Polly was whirled into the carriage, and before she
could recover her breath Lone Star was making as good time as he
had ever made in his short but famous life.

"Whew! The Colonel is going some!"--"Who's that pretty little
kid with him?"--"Don't he leg it, though!" These and kindred
observations were elicited all the way down the street, men
stopping to see the well-known horse go by, and children scurrying
across his track.

But the Doctor seemed bent on leading his pursuers a lengthy
chase, for no sooner had they gained on him sufficiently to set
Polly's heart dancing with hope than he suddenly increased his
speed, at once putting a greater distance between them.  Then,
slowing for an instant, he vanished round a distant corner.

"Zounds!" muttered the Colonel.

"He turned right opposite that white birch!" cried Polly.

"Sure?"

"Yes; I was keeping watch."

So was the Colonel; but he had not noticed the tree.

Polly's assurance held enough decision to satisfy the driver, and
he took the turn she had indicated, where the glint of the weeping
white birch on the opposite side of the street had caught her
observant eye.  But on the cross-road no dark green auto was in
sight.

As they came to the first street on the right, however, a solitary
car met their eager eyes.

Polly looked her delight, as the swept round the corner and along
the hard, clear stretch.  The flicker of a smile was on the
Colonel's rugged face.

"Doc-tor!  Doctor Dud-ley!" called Polly.

The physician turned his head.

"Oh, don't stop!" she entreated, for he was slowing up, as they
came alongside.

"Please go right back--quick!  David's worse!"

One astonished glance, and he comprehended, and obeyed.  Colonel
Gresham gave him room for the turn.  Then, with a graceful gesture
of farewell, and, "I thank you!" he whizzed past them and out of
sight.

"Oh, I hope he'll get there in time!" sighed Polly.

"I think he will," the Colonel nodded. "He looks it."

"I don't want David to die; he's such a nice boy."

Lone Star was taking the road easily, after his spurt of speed.
The lines lay loosely on the Colonel's knee.

"Is this David some relative of yours?" he asked.

"OH, no, sir!  I've only known him a few weeks, since he was
knocked down by a runaway horse, and hurt so badly.  He's David
Collins, and I'm Polly May.  Dr. Dudley took me up to see him,
because he needed cheering up; but now he has bad turns with his
heart, and I can't go.  He's a lovely boy.  It was so good of you
to take me to catch the Doctor--I don't know what I should have
done if you had n't!  And did n't your horse go fast!  I never saw
a horse go so fast before.  I think he's beautiful; don't you?"

"I like him." The Colonel smiled down into Polly's eyes quite as
if they were old friends. "Suppose I take you for a little longer
drive--would your friends mind?"

"Oh, thank you!" Polly began, "I'd love it!" Then she stopped,
with sudden recollection. "I guess I can't, though--I'd
forgotten all about it!--I must go back, and finish being
punished."

Colonel Gresham laughed outright, so Polly laughed too.

"I made an awful mistake," she explained; "I sprayed some
kerosene all around, instead of de-sodarizer."

The Colonel was grave for a polite moment.  Then, "And you did
n't smell it?" he laughed.

"Not till Elsie yelled at me to stop.  I don't see shy I did
n't."

"But it seems hardly fair to punish one for a mistake."

"Well," confessed Polly, "that was n't all.  I got mad, and I
guess I was pretty saucy to High Price.  She said something about
Miss Lucy that I did n't like, and I told her what I thought--I
just had to!  So she sent me to sit in a chair till she said to
get up.  Then when the nurse came for me to catch Dr. Dudley, I
was so scared about David that I ran right off, without even
asking permission--I don't know what she will do to me now!
But you can't stop for anything when folks are 'most dying, can
you?"

"I should say not," the Colonel replied. "I reckon she won't
treat you very badly."

"I don't care what she does, if David only gets well.  But, oh,
how can David's mother stand it, if he does n't!  She's sick, you
know, so she could n't come to see him--he's all she's got, and
such a dear boy!  He works to earn money for her when he's well,
sells papers, and everything.  I guess they're rather poor; but
perhaps I ought n't to talk about that.  Please don't tell anybody
I said it, 'cause I don't really know."

"I shall not speak of it," promised Colonel Gresham gravely.
"But how happens it that you're at the hospital?  You're not
sick, are you?"

"Not a bit now.  I was hurt, but Dr. Dudley cured me.  I'm on the
staff--that's why I stay," Polly explained soberly.

"Oh! You're that little girl, are you?"

She nodded.

"I heard something about it at the time.  Well, Lone Star and I
will be glad to take you for a drive some other day, when you have
n't any punishment on hand." He drew up the horse at the hospital
entrance.

"Oh! Is that his name?" exclaimed Polly. "What a loveluscious
one!  Would he mind if I stroked his nose?" she asked, as the
Colonel lifted her down.

"He would like it very much." And they went round to the horse's
head together.

"Now I must go in," Polly sighed, giving the affectionate animal
a last, loving pat. "I thank you ever and ever so much, Colonel
Gresham, and I should be happy to go to ride with you again some
day.  I hope I have n't hindered you.  Good-bye."

She skipped up the long walk to the house, the Colonel watching
her until she disappeared at a side door.

Polly could not resist peeping into the Doctor's office before
going upstairs.  The room was empty, and she went slowly on,
thinking of David.

Miss Price was standing near the door of the convalescent ward.
She turned as Polly entered.

"Where have you been staying?" she asked. "Dr Dudley came long
ago."

"Yes, I know; but I was with Colonel Gresham, and I could n't get
here till he did."

"Colonel Gresham!  Pray, how came you with him?" Miss Price was
plainly astonished.

"Why, he took me to catch the Doctor.  And Lone Star got there!
Oh, did n't he go!  Is n't it a love--luscious name?" Polly's
eyes shone.

"Child!" sighed the nurse, "what have I told you about using
that word?"

"I forgot," Polly answered meekly.

"You should n't forget.  I hope you did n't talk that way to
Colonel Gresham."

"He would n't care," replied Polly comfortably.

"He would think you had not had proper training.  Now, remember,
there is no such word as loveluscious.  In this case you should
have said that it was a good name or a pleasing name--though it
is rather too fanciful," she added.

"I love it!" cried Polly; "but it would n't sound as if I did,
just to say it was good."

Then Polly's thoughts suddenly went back to Lone Star's errand.

"Oh, Miss Price!" she asked, "how is David?"

"I have not heard," was the quiet reply.

"Well, I'll go and finish up being punished now," Polly said,
with a tiny sigh, and she walked over to the chair which stood
where she had left it.

Miss price did not appear to notice; but the children exchanged
surprised glances.  Voluntarily to continue a punishment was
something with which they were unacquainted.  They tried to
attract Polly's attention, but her eyes were feverishly watching
the half-open hall door.  Dr. Dudley might stop when he came down
--unless--!  Her heart grew sick with the possibility.

At last she caught his step.  Yes, he was coming there!  Smilingly
he pushed the door wide.  Polly smiled in response--at least,
David had not died!

"Want to come downstairs?" he invited, crossing over to her.

Still smiling, she shook her head, putting her finger to her lips.

With a puzzled look, the Doctor turned to Miss Price.

"What's happened?" he queried. "Has Polly suddenly become dumb?
Or is it a game?"

"She is being punished," was the grave answer.

"Oh!" he replied. "Well, when she has been punished enough,
please send her down to me."

He strode away, without one word of David, to Polly's overwhelming
disappointment.

In half an hour Miss Price said, "Polly, you may go now."

She bounded off, with not even a backward glance, and the children
felt lonelier than before.  But Polly's mind was too full of David
for her to think of the rest.

To her surprise the Doctor was not in his office; but upon a book
of bright color she spied a tiny note with her name on it.
Catching it up eagerly, she read:--

  Dear Thistledown,--

  Sorry to be called away, when I have invited
  Company; but wait and take tea with me.  I shall
  Be back soon.  I've been looking over this book,
  And I think you will like it.

  Sincerely,

  Robert Dudley.

  David is better.

"Oh, I'm so glad, glad, glad!" breathed Polly, clasping the note
in her small hands.

Then she read it once more, and afterwards established herself in
the Doctor's easiest chair, to begin the book he had suggested.
If she like the story she would tell it to David.

Polly was so far away in thought that she did not notice Dr.
Dudley's entrance, until he was inside the office.  Then she flew
to him.

He caught her in his arms, surveying her with a whimsical smile.

"All punished, are you?" he asked.

She laughed, responding with a gay affirmative.

"It does n't seem to have weighed you down much," he observed,
drawing her to a seat beside him.

"It was only sitting still and not talking," she explained, "and
I took two turns at it, so 't was n't bad.  I told Colonel Gresham
about the kerosene, and it made him laugh.  Is n't Lone Star
beautiful?"

"Decidedly; but how came you with the Colonel?" queried the
Doctor.

"Why, he was right out there, if front of his house, and I asked
him to catch you--there was n't any other way.  I could n't
make you hear.  Oh, I do wish you could have seen Lone Star go!"

"I'll venture he never did a more valuable service," said the
Doctor fervently. "Perhaps I might add, or you either.  If it had
not been for your ready wits things might have gone worse.  I
tried some new medicine for David, and it worked well, exceedingly
well."

"Is he a good deal better?"

"Very comfortable.  He was sleeping when I left him.  Don't
worry, Thistledown!" for tears stood in Polly's eyes. "I think
he is going to pull through all right, and we'll have him down in
the other ward before you know it."

Tea was served directly, and there were big, juicy blackberries,
with which Dr. Dudley piled Polly's dish high.

When they returned to the office the story of the afternoon was
finished, Polly holding back nothing, even repeating her saucy
speech to the nurse.

The Doctor received it with a queer little smile.

"It was dreadfully impolite things when I get mad."

"Most people do," he responded. "One of the worst features of
anger is that it robs us of self-control, and that is a terrible
loss, if only for a moment."

Polly did not speak and after a bit of a pause the Doctor went on.

"Miss Price is going through a pretty hard place just now.  Word
came yesterday that her only sister, who is a missionary in
Turkey, is very sick and not expected to live."

"Oh, I wish I had n't said that!" Polly broke out penitently. "I
might go up and tell her I'm sorry," she hesitated.

"It would n't be a bad plan," Dr. Dudley replied.

So Polly said good-night rather soberly, although carrying away
with her the gay-colored book and the happy belief that David was
going to get well.

Her feet lagged, as they drew near the ward.  What would Miss
Price say?  Would she make it easy or hard for her to apologize?
Then the thought of the sick sister far away in Turkey, and half
forgot herself.

The nurse was writing at her little table, when she looked up to
see Polly by her side.

"I'm sorry I was so saucy this afternoon," came in a soft voice.
"I did n't know about your sister then.  I hope she'll get
well."

For a moment Miss Price did not speak, and Polly fancied she saw
tears in the black eyes.

"Thank you, my dear," she replied then. "Perhaps I was too
severe.  But we will be friends now, won't we?"

Polly gave a serious assent, in doubt whether she should proffer a
kiss or not; but finally went away without giving the token.  She
had a vague feeling that Miss Hortensia Price would not care for
kisses.



Chapter VI

Elsie's Birthday

For a week Elsie Meyers had been talking about her coming
birthday, and half wishing that she could be discharged early
enough to allow its celebration at home.

"Mamma always makes a cake for our birthdays," she told the
children, plaintively. "Last year mine was choc'late, and year
before that, jelly.  Mamma said next time she'd have it orange,
same's she did Ida's.  Now I can't have no cake or nothin', 'count
o' this old hip!" and she pouted discontentedly.

"But your arm is 'most well," suggested Polly. "That's one good
thing!"

"Yes," admitted Elsie.

"And it's nice that you can be all around, instead of having to
lie abed," Polly went on, hunting for happy birthday accompaniments.

"Bet you 't is!" smiled Elsie. "Ying' a-bed ain't much fun,
'specially when you ache anywhere."

"If Miss Lucy was here, maybe she'd have a cake for you," put in
Leonora.

"But she ain't," responded Cornelius unnecessarily.

"She ain't," echoed Otto Kriloff, his face reflecting his
thought.

"When do you s'pose she'll come back?" queried Maggie O'Donnell.

NOby could answer.

"Maybe she never will," said Elsie gloomily,--"anyway till we
all get gone."

"Oh, Elsie!" protested Polly.

"Well," was the outing retort, "if High Price stays here much
longer--"

"She!" hushed Cornelius, "she's comin'!" For light steps
sounded along the corridor.

The children cast furtive, half-frightened glances towards the
hall door; but it was not Miss Hortensia Price that smilingly
opened it.

"Miss Lucy!  Miss Lucy!" they shouted; and with a rush they were
upon her, embracing, pulling, squeezing, until she dropped into a
chair, laughing and breathless.

"Have yer come to stay?" queried Maggie anxiously.

"For the present," she nodded.

A big, squealing, "O-o-h!" of joy rang through the ward, while
Polly silently clung to one hand, as if she would never let it go.

"What's all this rumpus about?" came growlingly from the
entrance; and the children turned to see Dr. Dudley surveying
them, his eyes a-twinkle with fun.

Polly giggled.  The rest looked a bit disconcerted.

"Accept my congratulations," he said, extending his hand to the
nurse.

Polly reluctantly relinquished her hold of Muss Lucy, that the
physician's greeting might be properly responded to, while the
young lady blushed with pleasure.

"I'm jealous," the Doctor went on, looking around on the little
group. "You never make such a fuss over me when I come."

"Do you want us to?" ventured Cornelius.

The Doctor laughed. "Well," he responded, "I'll excuse you from
giving me such an ovation every day.  How is that back of yours,
Cornelius?" And he proceeded on his accustomed rounds.

One by one the children sidled back to Miss Lucy.

"It's my birthday to-day," announced Elsie, proceeding with her
usual information regarding the home birthday cakes.

The nurse received the news with all the interest that any little
girl could desire, even going so far as to "wonder" if a tea
party would n't make a pleasant ending for the afternoon.  That
set Elsie into a flutter of blissful anticipations, so that when
she overheard the Doctor telling Polly the auto got to wish she,
to, could have a drive.

"Did you ever go to ride with Dr. Dudley?"  queried Polly, as
Miss Lucy buttoned her into a fresh frock.

"Oh, no!"

"Did n't he ever invite you?" she persisted.

"Of course not!  Now, turn round, and let me see if you are all
right."

"Well, he ought to!  It is n't fair for me to have all the rides.
He's lovely to go with!"


Miss Lucy did not answer, but her cheeks were almost as pink as
Polly's dress, while she pulled out the neck ruffle and retied the
ribbon that caught up the bright curls.

Polly was starting off without a word.

"Good-bye, dear!  I hope you will have just as good a time as you
always do." And Miss Lucy detained her long enough to leave a
kiss on the red lips.

A gay little laugh was the only reply.  Then Polly ran out of the
dressing-room and across the ward.  The children heard her
tripping down the stairs, and hurried over to the windows to see
her go.  But nobody appeared outside, and presently Polly
returned.

"Put on your hat quick, Miss Lucy!" she cried gleefully. "You're
going, 'stead o' me!  Dr. Dudley says he shall feel very much
honored to have your company!  May I get your hat?"

"Polly May!" the young woman exclaimed, in a flutter of
astonishment, "what have you been telling him?"

"OH, nothing much!" laughed Polly. "He wants you--so go right
along!"

"Yes, do!" the children chimed in.

"Do!" echoed Elsie. "'Cause it's my birthday!"

Of course Miss Lucy insisted that she could not, would not, go.
She pleaded lack of time and unsuitable dress.  She summoned to
her aid every excuse at command.  But in the end she did exactly
as the children wished, and they had the delight of seeing her
drive away with the Doctor, while they chorused merry good-byes to
the frantic waving of handkerchiefs.

When the automobile was out of sight, Polly thoughtfully began to
paint the picture for those who had been shut off from a peep of
it.

"They looked just lovely together, Miss Lucy in her pretty gray
suit, with the pink rose on her hat!  She waved her hand, and Dr.
Dudley waved his!"

"Wonder how long they'll be gone," put in Elsie.

"I don't know--oh, say, let's clean up the dressing-room, and dust
everywhere, so Miss Lucy won't have it to do when she gets back!"
And Poly, assured of followers, skipped away for the dust-cloths.

Of course Polly did most of the little tasks; that was to be
expected, since she had no lame back or twisted leg or crutches in
the way.  But everybody that was on his feet had some share in the
general service, and was therefore free to appropriate a part of
the praise with which Miss Lucy showered them.

Yes, she had had a charming ride, she told them, and they felt it
must be so, since they had never seen her in a gayer mood.

"Run up to my room if you can slip away," she whispered to Polly.
"I shall be there changing my gown."

After Miss Lucy had gone, the attention of the rest was attracted
by a horseback party on the street, and Polly darted away as she
had been bidden.

"Dear child!" said Miss Lucy, taking the little face in both her
hands. "You have given me a great pleasure."

"It was n't I," laughed Polly. "It was Dr. Dudley.  Are n't you
glad now that you went?"

"Yes," she smiled. "Because if I had n't, Elsie might not have
had this birthday present.  Come, see what Doctor and I bought for
her."

She opened a small package, disclosing a tiny box.  In the box was
a little gold signet ring with and Old English "E" engraved upon
it.

"Oh," admired Polly, "is n't that lovelicious!  I'm so glad for
Elsie!"

"Yes," Miss Lucy went on, "I think she will like it.  We wanted
to give her something that she would keep to remember the day by,
and we could n't think of anything better.  She has a poor little
home, though her mother works hard and does all she can to make
the children happy.  But Elsie can't have had many bright things
in her life, so we're going to try to make her birthday as
pleasant as possible."

"I should think this would please anybody, it is so beautiful!"
and Polly laid it gently back in its little case.

Presently she was downstairs again, happy in the knowledge of
sharing a secret with Miss Lucy and Dr. Dudley.

After dinner she read to the children from her new book of fairy
tales, and the Miss Lucy taught them some new games that they
could all play--even those who were still in bed.

They were just finishing one of these, when the strains of an old
song suddenly sounded near by.

"Oh, a hand-organ!" somebody shouted, and they flocked to the
windows.

"And he's got a monkey!" squealed Brida.

"Oh, that's 'count o' my birthday!" cried the happy Elsie. "I do
wish he'd come up here!"

Her words floated down to the organ grinder, and at once he
allowed the monkey more length of cord.  The little animal began
to climb the wisteria vine, and presently was doffing his tiny red
cap to the children, who shrieked with delight.

"Here's a penny for him, Elsie," said Dr. Dudley, who had come
up behind them unnoticed.

The little birthday girl joyfully took the bright coin, and
dropped it into the monkey's outstretched paw, receiving from him
a characteristic "thank you," which caused more glee.

Again and again the little gay-coated messenger made trips up and
down the wisteria, transferring the pennies from the children's
hands to his master's pocket, until the yellow coins finally gave
out, and the Doctor was obliged to say, "No more!"

Even then the man smilingly played on, and when at last he and the
monkey bade their patrons good-bye, Elsie thought that no little
girl ever had so "splendid" a birthday as she was having.

The party tea was served precisely at half-past five o'clock, and
such a tea!  Little biscuits scarcely bigger than silver dollars,
small tarts filled with fig marmalade, great berries that the
children agreed were super-bondonjical, tiny nut cookies, a
frosted cake decorated with nine pink candles, chocolate in pretty
cups, and--to top off the feast--ice cream in the shape of
chickens!

Miss Lucy and Polly and Dr. Dudley served those little people who
could not be at the table, and nobody--not even the birthday
girl herself--enjoyed it all better than did Polly May.

Polly was eagerly anticipating the time when Elsie should be
presented with the signet ring, and followed Miss Lucy's movements
with watchful eyes.  At last the nurse left the ward, and
disappeared in the direction of her own room.  The moment must be
close at hand!

Dr. Dudley told funny stories, and Polly laughed with the rest;
but her eyes were on the doorway, and her heart in a flutter of
excitement.  The moments piled up, and Miss Lucy did not come
back.  Polly grew anxious. Even Dr. Dudley looked at his watch,
and glanced towards the door.

When, after a good quarter of an hour, the nurse returned, Polly
knew that something was wrong.  Dr. Dudley knew it, too; and soon
he and Miss Lucy were talking together in low tones beyond the
reach of Polly's ears.  Had something befallen the ring?  What
could be the matter?  The children gleefully discussing the
Doctor's last story; but Polly's thoughts were at the other end of
the room.  When Miss Lucy and Dr. Dudley came back to them,
however, both faces were so bright, Polly decided that she must
have been mistaken, and looked for the ring to appear.  But it was
not so much as mentioned.  The Doctor bade Elsie and the others
good-bye, and Miss Lucy accompanied him into the hall.

After a while the suspense became unbearable, and Polly started
for Miss Lucy's room.  It was around the corner, on another
corridor, and as Polly reached the turn she heard voices.
Involuntarily she halted.

"It's the strangest thing," Miss Lucy was saying. "I remember
laying it on the dresser after showing it to you, and then I was
called away, and I can't recollect putting it in the box.  I know
I locked the door when I went out--I don't understand it!"

"And you say nobody but Polly has been in the room since?"

The voice belonged to Miss Curtis, one of Miss Lucy's closest
friends.

"Unless it was entered with a skeleton key."

"Well, there's only one solution to the musterd, it seems to
me," Miss Curtis replied.

"I won't, I won't believe it!" Miss Lucy burst out. "Polly is
honesty itself.  She would n't do such a thing any more than--
you or I would.  If it were some children--but Polly!"

"You might question her anyway; ask her if she noticed the ring
when she came in after those napkins."

"I--can't! She'd see through it at once.  Polly is bright.  It
would break her heart to know we had such a thought.  I believe it
got knocked off the dresser some way and will be found sooner or
later; but I wanted to give it to Elsie to-day.  I'm all upset
about it!"

"Well, I can't help thinking--"

Polly, weak and wretched, shrank away, and went softly back
through the long corridor.  At the door of the ward she met Dr.
Dudley.

"I was looking for you," he said. "Don't you want to take that
ride you missed this morning?  I have a call to go down to
Linwood, and it is just cool enough now to be pleasant.  Better
put on your coat; your dress is thin."

"Could n't you--take Elsie?" faltered Polly faintly.

"Elsie?  Well, Thistledown, I feel hurt!  Twice in one day!  Have
you sworn off from auto riding?"

Usually this would have brought out a happy laugh, but now Polly
merely answered, "No," very soberly.

"I should n't dare to risk a ride for Elsie until her hip is
better," the Doctor resumed. "I'll try to taker her some day,
when she is a little further along.  Now, run and get you hat.
I'll wait for you."

Polly never quite forgot that ride.  The fresh, twilight air,
fragrant with dewy blossoms; the exhilarating motion; the Doctor's
merry speeches;--these would have been sufficient at any other
time to fill her with joy.  Now she was but half conscious of them
all; the dreadful ache in her heart over-powered everything else.
She wondered if Dr. Dudley felt as Miss Lucy did.  Or did he, with
Miss Curtis, suspect her to be--a thief!  She longed to cry
out, "Oh, I did n't!  I did n't!  I did n'!" But, instead, she
silently stared out on the dusky road, and wished herself at home,
in her own little bed where she could let the tears come, and not
have to push them back.

She was glad, in a vague kind of way, when the auto slowed up at
the hospital entrance, and the Doctor lifted her out.  They walked
up the flagging, hand in hand, the physician as silent as she.
She would have gone directly upstairs, but he drew her into his
office.

"Now, what is it, Thistledown?" he asked gently, taking her in
his arms.

She hid her face on his shoulder, and began to sob.

He let the tears have their way for a time, resting his cheek
lightly on her curls.  Finally he spoke again.

"Is it about the ring, dear?"

She nodded.

"What have they been saying to you?" he questioned savagely.

"N-nothing to me," she replied. "I--heard--Miss Curtis--
and Miss Lucy--talking.  Miss Curtis--she thinks I--oh,
dear!--she thinks I--took it!  You don't think--I--took--"

"_No!_" thundered the Doctor in so tremendous a voice that it
Polly had n't been in such depths of misery she would have laughed
outright.

As it was, she caught his hand to her lips, and kissed it, saying,
"You scared me!"

"Well, I'm sorry," he smiled; "but you must n't ask me such
questions about my Thistledown, if you don't want to hear me
roar."

A wee giggle delighted his ears.

"Now that's something like it!" he said. "Don't let's bother any
more about that ring.  Probably we'll find it to-morrow.  If we
don't, I'll buy Elsie another."

A faint, uncertain rapping made the physician set Polly gently on
her feet, while he opened the door.  Nobody was in sight, and he
kept on to the main entrance.

A man stood outside, who deferentially removed his hat.

"You b'long-a?" he asked.

"Yes, I belong here.  I am Dr. Dudley.  Whom do you wish to
see?"

"I play out-a here--af'-a-noon-a," with a sweep of his hand
towards the left. "Monkee--him ba-ad-a monkee!  Him take-a--
yours?" and he held out the missing ring.

"Oh, yes, that is ours!" the Doctor exclaimed. "We have been
trying to find it.--Polly!  Polly!  Come here!"

Polly obeyed, though slowly, because of her tears; but when she
recognized the organ grinder curiosity hastened her steps.

Dr. Dudley put the ring in her hand.

"Why--ee!" she cried joyously. "Elsie's ring!  Oh, I'm so
glad!"

"Him ba'ad-a monkee!" grinned the man. "Him go up-a, up-a--
window op'n--him go in-a. I see nobodee--I pull-a so!  Him
no come. I pull-a _so!_" and the man tugged hard on the imaginary
cord. "Him come.  Him got-a ring-a in leetle han'--I no see!
I take-a pennees--so," and he went over a handful of invisible
coins,--"I see!" pointing to the ring. "Where get-a?" He
stared wildly around, to show how great had been his amazement.
"Ah-h!--him ba-ad-a monkee!--him get-a up-a beeg house--
beeg seeck-house--yours!" He ended with a delighted grin,
which signified his pleasure in having his surmises come true.

"We thank you very much indeed," responded Dr. Dudley earnestly,
putting his hand in his pocket. "Accept this for your trouble."
And he held out a quarter.

"Ah-h, no!  Him ba-ad-a monkee!" He waved his hands gracefully.

He went away, however, carrying the coin, and grinning his
"Good-bye."

"Was n't he funny?" laughed Polly, when the door was shut. "He
called this a sick-house!"

"Why not a sick-house as well as a sick-bed?" the Doctor smiled.

But Polly only laughed, gazing down happily on the little ring.

"I'm so glad," she breathed. "Now Miss Curtis will know!"

"Miss Lucy and I knew before," was the instant reply. "Better
run upstairs and let Elsie have it while it is still her
birthday."

"Will you come, too?"

"No; I'll let you and Miss Lucy do the honors.  There are some
people I must see, and it is getting along towards sleep time.
Good-night, Thistledown!" He stooped for a kiss, and she clung to
him for a moment.

"It is so nice that  you did n't think I did!" she whispered.

She tripled lightly upstairs, and across the ward to Miss Lucy's
side.  She slipped the ring into her hand.

The nurse stared her amazement.

"The monkey went in at your window, and took it!" beamed Polly.
"The man's just brought it back!  He never knew it till he
counted his money!  OH, he told it so funny!"

"Well!" ejaculated the nurse.  Then the echoed Polly's own
words, "I'm so glad!"

The children were pressing near, eager to know what was exciting
Miss Lucy and Polly.

"Let's see if it fits your finger, Elsie!" taking the hand of
the astonished child. "Perfectly!  It is a birthday present from
Dr. Dudley and me.  We were going to give it to you directly after
tea; but when I looked for it, it was gone.  Polly will tell you
the rest."

And Polly did, imitating the organ grinder's words and gestures,
till her listeners were shaking with laughter.

Elsie was too overpowered with joy to want to go to bed at all.

"When the lights are out I can't see my ring!" she cried in
sudden dismay.

"But you can feel it," returned Polly.

"Oh! May I keep it on my finger all night long?" she asked
incredulously.

"Certainly, dear," the nurse replied.

That was enough.  Without another word she allowed herself to be
undressed.

The ward had been dark and quiet for at least two minutes when a
voice piped out, "Miss Lucy!  OH, Miss Lucy!"

"What is it, Elsie?" came the quick answer.

"I just happened to think--you and Dr. Dudley and Polly and
the organ man and the monkey and everybody have been living such a
splendid story for my birthday!  I did n't thank you half
enough!"

"You have done just right, dear.  All the thanks we wanted were
in your happy face.  Now pleasant dreams!"

With a glad good-night, Elsie settled back contentedly on her
pillow, the ring finger pressed against her cheek.  And, at last,
the hush of sleep brooded over the convalescent ward.



Chapter VII

The Little Sad Lady


David grew strong steadily, but not so fast that Polly was allowed
to see him as soon as they both wished.  When, at last, she went
up for a brief ten minutes, she was brimful of pleasure.

"I want to know about the day you ran after Dr. Dudley for me,"
began David, almost at once; "the time I was so sick.  The Doctor
said you had a race, and enjoyed it.  I don't see how you could
enjoy running your legs off for me; but it was awfully good of
you."

"Why," cried Polly, "it was n't I that ran--at least, not
much; it was Lone Star."

"Lone Star?" gasped David. "Polly! Do tell me quick!"

"I am telling you," she laughed. "Lone Star, Colonel Gresham's
beautiful horse, did the running--the trotting, I mean--why,
David! What's the matter?"

The boy's eyes had grown big with excitement, and his cheeks were
bright.

"Go on!" he breathed.

"That's about all.  I saw I was n't going to make the Doctor
hear, and Colonel Gresham was right out there, and I told him how
--sick you were, and asked him to catch the Doctor.  I never
thought of his taking me; but before I knew it I was in the buggy,
and we were flying down the street like mad! Oh, I do wish you
could have seen Lone Star go!"

"Did he know it was I?" whispered David excitedly.

"Lone Star--know?" and Polly's forehead puckered. "Oh," she
brightened, "you mean the Colonel!  Why, yes, of course, he did!
That is, I told him--no, I did n't tell him much, though, till
we were coming home.  But what difference does it make?"

"Lots!" murmured David disappointedly. "I hoped he knew--oh,
I hoped he knew! Polly!"--and the doll-blue eyes grew mournful
--"He's my Uncle David!"

"Colonel Gresham--your uncle?" Now Polly's eyes widened, too.

"My mother's uncle."

"Oh, is n't that splendid!" beamed Polly. "I should think he'd
have told me!"

David lay quite still for a moment.  When he spoke again it was on
an entirely different matter, and soon the ten minutes were up.

"Did you know that David is related to Colonel Gresham?" Polly
asked, as she went downstairs with Dr. Dudley.

"No; how?"

Polly told, adding what she had learned of the family history.

The Doctor shook his head sadly.

"I would n't say anything about it to the children," he
cautioned her. "Such things are better left untalked of.  David
is an unusual boy."

"When can he come down in our ward?" she questioned.

"Very soon, if he keeps on improving as fast as he has lately."

As they halted at the foot of the stairs, the Doctor looked at his
watch.

"Tired?" he queried.

"Not a bit," she laughed.

"Then we'll keep on," he smiled, taking her hand again. "There
is a lady I'd like you to see, one of my private patients."

"A young lady?"

"She has white hair."

"Oh, an old lady!"

"She is older than you and I."

"We are not old at all."

"And we never will grow old, will we?" twinkled the Doctor.

"We shall have to, if we live long enough."

"No, we won't; we'll always keep young."

Polly was laughing, as they entered a corridor in an "L" of the
main building, a part of the hospital with which she was not
familiar; but she grew grave instantly, for the Doctor paused at a
door, and she realized that here was the lady they had come to
see.

The introduction over, Polly found herself facing a worn little
woman, with weary gray eyes, who looked more small and frail in
contrast with the great oaken chair in which she was pillowed.
Mrs. Jocelyn, the Doctor had called her, and Polly like the sound
of the name; but she was not yet sure that she should like the
owner of it.  The lady did not smile when she said, almost as if
having a visitor bored her:--

"So you are staying here at the hospital, Dr. Dudley tells me.
What do you find to do with yourself all day long?"

Polly had the feeling that the little sad lady would never know
whether she returned an answer or not, for her eyes seemed to be
looking at something for away.  Yet the reply was without
hesitation, and primly courteous.

"I help Miss Lucy make the beds and dress the babies, and I dust
and I carry medicine and drinks of water.  Then, when there is n't
anything to do to help, I read stories out loud, or tell them, and
we play quiet games." She paused, hunting for facts. "Oh and I
go auto riding with Dr. Dudley!" she broke out brightly. "That's
very nice. A And I've been to ride with Colonel Gresham!" she
smiled. "I like that, Lone Star was so splendid.  Only David was
awfully sick, and I was afraid he'd die, and I kept thinking of
him.  He said he would take me again some day."

"My dear, I don't quite understand.  David Gresham sick?  What
David do you mean?" The little lady was waking up.

"Oh, David Collins!  He's upstairs in the ward.  Colonel Gresham
took me to catch the Doctor."

And Polly related the story of the chase.

"Collins!  Why, it was Jack Collins that Eva Gresham married--
the Colonel's niece."

"Yes; David has told me that Colonel Gresham is his mother's
uncle," Polly said simply.

"Well, well!  So he went after the Doctor for his grand-nephew--
and did n't know it till it was all over with!  What strange
things happen in this world!  A pretty good joke on David
Gresham!" And the little sad lady actually smiled.  Then she
sighed. "It is too bad!  If they'd only make up!  But they never
will.  David is n't built on the make-up plan--or Eva either, I
fancy.  Eva Gresham was a beautiful girl," she rambled on,
talking more to herself than to her interested listener. "She
lived with her uncle from the time her parents died, when she was
a tiny child.  The Colonel idolized her."

A bit of a break in the soft voice make a momentary pause in the
musing.  Then it went on again. "He had nothing in the world
against Jack Collins, except that he was an artist, and poor.  He
would n't have been poor, they say, if he had lived.  His pictures
were beginning to sell at good prices."

Suddenly she came back to Polly.

"So the Colonel is going to take you driving again!  Well, my
dear, you need n't be afraid he'll forget it; if he said he would,
he will.  I declare, you look a good deal as Eva used to when she
was your age.  She had just such golden hair and brown eyes."

"David has blue eyes--the bluest I ever saw," observed Polly.

"He probably favors his father," replied Mrs. Jocelyn.

The Doctor's entrance put a stop to the talk, and presently Polly
said good-bye, and went upstairs.

Not many days afterwards she was sent with a message to Mrs.
Jocelyn's nurse, and the little lady caught sight of her at the
door.

"Can't you come in and stay a while?" she called.

"I don't know," Polly hesitated, and she looked questioningly at
the nurse.

"Yes, I wish you would," the young woman nodded. "I shall have
to be away for a quarter of an hour or so, and if you will stay
with Mrs. Jocelyn while I'm gone it will be an accommodation to
me."

Polly seated herself smilingly.

"I wonder if you are as happy as you look," the little white-haired
lady began.

"Oh, I'm always happy!" responded Polly; "that is, here," she
added. "I could n't help being, it's so pleasant, and everybody
is so good to me."

The dull gray eyes rested sadly on her.  "Well, be happy while
you can be," their owner said. "When you get to be old you'll
forget what happiness feels like."

"Oh, but I shan't ever grow old!" laughed Polly. "Dr. Dudley and
I are going to stay young!"

The little lady shook her head, and then changed the subject.

"How is David Collins getting on?"

"He is ever so much better," answered Polly; "and is n't it too
bad?  He's almost strong enough to come down into our ward, and
there is n't any room for him!  I've had to go and sleep in Miss
Lucy's bed, so they could use my cot."

"Is the hospital so full as that?" scowled Mrs. Jocelyn. "Dear
me, how many sick people there are!"

"There are three or four waiting now to come down, ahead of
David," Poly went on. "I don't know what we shall do if he can't
come at all!  We've planned so many things.  He said he'd tell
part of the bedtime stories--oh, it was going to be lovely!"

"Perhaps there'll be a place for him pretty soon," the little
lady responded. "Dr. Dudley says that you are a story-teller,
too."

"Oh, yes!  Some days the children keep me telling them all day
long."

"Suppose you tell me one," invited the little lady.

"Well," returned Polly, a bit doubtfully, and then stopped to
think over her list. "The Cherry-Pudding Story," which usually
insisted on being uppermost, would scarcely do this time, she
thought.  It seemed to rollicking for this big, hushed room, with
only one sober-eyed listener.  She hastily decided that none of
the cat stories were suitable, or fairy tales--"Oh!" she
suddenly dimpled, "I wonder if you would n't like the story that
David lent me.  His aunt wrote it, and sent it to him.  I read it
to Miss Lucy and the children.  It is about little Prince Benito
and a wonderful flower."

"I shall be pleased to hear it," was the polite reply.

This seemed somewhat doubtful to Polly, used as she was to
enthusiastic responses.

"Won't it tire you?" she hesitated.

"I am always tired, little one.  Perhaps the story will rest
me."

"This I'll run right upstairs and get it," beamed Polly. "I
guess I can read it better than I can tell it.  You don't mind
staying alone while I'm gone?"

"No, indeed!" was the reply, yet she sighed after Polly had
disappeared.  All the brightness of the room seemed to have
vanished.

The little sad woman soon found herself watching for the light
returning footfalls, and she greeted the child with a faint smile.

Polly read as she talked, naturally and with ease, and before she
had finished the first page of the story her listener had settled
herself comfortably among her pillows, a look of interest on her
usually spiritless face.

It was a fanciful tale of a beautiful little prince who, by sowing
seeds of the Wonderful White Flower of Love, transformed his
father's kingdom, a country desolate from war and threatened by
famine and insurrection, into a land of prosperity and peace and
joy.

At the last word, Polly, flushed with the spirit of the story,
looked up expectantly; but her listener's weary eyes seemed to be
studying the pattern of the dainty comfort across her lap.  Sadly
Polly gathered together the scattered manuscript sheets, and
waited.

"Thank you, dear," the little lady finally said; but the words
were spoken as with an effort.

"I am afraid I have tired you," mourned Polly.

"No, little one; you have only given me something to think of.
You read unusually well.  Perhaps we'll have another story some
day.  You don't need to stay, of you have anything else to do.  I
shall want nothing until Miss Parkin comes."

Polly felt that she was dismissed, yet she had promised the nurse
to remain.  She hesitated a moment, and then said, "Good-bye,"
and went out.  She met Miss Parkin in the hall, and explained.

Up in the ward, Miss Lucy was quick to see that Polly was
troubled.

"How did the story go?" she asked.

"I don't know," Polly sighed. "I guess she did n't like it,
'cause she seemed to be thinking about something else, and she
said I need n't stay any longer.  I thought it would make her
happier," she lamented, "and all it did was to tire her!"
Polly's eyes were brimming over with tears.

"Never mind, dear," said Miss Lucy comfortingly. "You did your
part, and as well as you could; that's all any of us can do.  So
don't worry about it.  There's Brida looking this way, as if she
were just longing to talk with you."

"She shan't wait another minute," smiled, and off she skipped,
to make Brida and her followers merry.



Chapter VIII

A warning From Aunt Jane


Towards noon came a telephone call for Polly to go down to Dr.
Dudley's office.  Usually she sped gladly to obey such a summons;
now she was assailed by a sudden fear.

"Have I made her very much worse?" was her instant inquiry, as
the Doctor opened his door?

"Made whom worse?" he questioned.

"Why, Mrs. Jocelyn!"

"I have heard nothing from her.  What is it?"

Polly told of her visit and of the reading.

"Is that all!" the Doctor laughed. "Don't worry about it any
more, little girl!  Your stories are not the kind that harm
people.  What did you read?  One that I know?"

"I don't think so," Polly replied. "I did n't tell you about
Prince Benito, did I?"

The physician shook his head. "Suppose you tell it to me now,"
he suggested.

So, perched comfortably upon the arm of his chair, Polly related
the story of "The Wonderful White Flower."

"I see," he mused, as Polly stopped speaking.  He was silent a
moment.  Then he went on.

"Mrs. Jocelyn lost her only child, a beautiful little boy, when
he was eight years old.  It is not unlikely that this story
awakened tender memories."

"I'm sorry I made her feel bad," grieved Polly.

"I would n't be if I were you."

A "Why!" of wonder was rounding Polly's lips, as the physician
continued:--

"Perhaps you have done Mrs. Jocelyn more good than you will ever
know.  Since her husband and little boy died she has shut people
out of her life, seldom leaving her home, and rarely entertaining
a guest.  From what she has said to me I judge that she has
allowed herself to brood over her sorrows till she has become
bitter and melancholy.  Let's hope that your little story will
open her eyes."

"Does she live all alone when she is home?" queried Polly.

"Alone with her servants."

"Oh, then she is n't poor!  I thought she must be."

Dr. Dudley smilingly shook his head. "She has more money than
probably you or I will ever handle, little girl; but we'll have
better riches than gold, won't we?"

"Yes; you'll make people well, and I'll try to make them happy,"
returned Polly, a sweet seriousness on her usually merry face. "I
wish I could make everybody in the world happy," she added.

"That is too big a job for one little Thistledown," laughed Dr.
Dudley. "There!" he exclaimed, "I nearly forgot what I called
you down for!  Colonel Gresham hailed me out here, and asked if
you could go to Forest Park, this afternoon, with him and Lone
Star. I said yes.  Was that all right?

"Of course!" beamed Polly. "Is n't it lovely of him to ask me?
Had I better tell him that David is better?"

"Not unless he inquires," the Doctor answered. "He said he would
be here at three o'clock.  You can come down a little before that,
and keep a lookout for him, so as not to make him wait."

Polly was on hand, in the Doctor's office, while it still lacked
fifteen minutes of the hour; but the Colonel was early, and the
waiting time was short.  Very sweet she looked, as she ran down
the stone walk to the street, in her dainty new white dress with
simple ruffles edging neck and sleeves.  In the delight of the
moment Polly did not forget the children up an the ward windows,
but waved them a gay good-bye, while Colonel Gresham greeted the
bobbing heads with a graceful swing of his straw hat.

There was not much talk at first, for the way to the park lay
through the heart of the city; but Polly was content silently to
watch the changing throngs around them.

Suddenly the Colonel drew up his horse in response to call from
the sidewalk, and presently was in a business talk with the man
who arrested him.

"I shall have to leave you for a moment," he said, at length,
turning to Polly. "I'll be back shortly." And, having fastened
Lone Star, he disappeared up a stairway.

Polly was enjoying this little break, when she caught sight of a
well-known face. "It's Aunt Jane!" she murmured, and was
promptly seized with a desire to hide.  Breathlessly she watched
the woman in the black dress, hoping for escape from those ferret
eyes; but the horse and carriage were conspicuous, and Aunt Jane's
glance fell first on Lone Star and then passed to the little girl
upon the seat.

"Polly May!" she exclaimed, and Polly smiled a somewhat
uncertain greeting.

"How in the world did you come here?" twanged the remembered
voice.

"Colonel Gresham is taking me to ride," was the explanation,
"and he's gone upstairs a minute."

"Colonel Gresham!  Goodness gracious me!  Well, you are coming up
in the world!  Why hain't you been round to see me?"

"I'm--pretty busy," answered Polly, "I--"

"Busy!  Huh, you must be!  Well, so'm I busy, or I should 'a'
been up after you before this.  Guess you've stayed at that
hospital 'bout long enough.  You might 's well be helpin' me as
gallivantin' round with Tom, Dick, and Harry."

"I--thought I was going to stay all summer," faltered Polly.

"I did n't make no special agreement, and now there's cannin' and
picklin' and what-not to do, I could keep you out o' mischief
easy.  Where'd you get that dress?"

"Miss Lucy bought it for me."

"She did, hey?  Well, 't ain't hurt with trimmin', is it?"

The Colonel appearing at the moment, Aunt Jane made a rather
hurried departure, while she assured Polly that she would "be
round before long."

"Who is that woman?" inquired Colonel Gresham.

"My Aunt Jane," was the soft answer.

"What's her other name?"

"Mrs. Simpson.  Uncle Gregory--that was her husband--was
killed when the building fell, and I was hurt."

"Oh, yes!  I recollect.  Well, is Aunt Jane good to you?  Do you
love her very much?"

Polly waived the first question, and proceeded to the second.
"I'm afraid I don't love her at all," she replied honestly. "Of
course, I ought to; but I don't."

"It is mighty hard to love some folks," meditated the Colonel.  "I
think I should rather do a season's ploughing than to attempt to
love that Aunt Jane."

Polly smiled, and then returned to the question she had left
behind. "I guess she's pretty good to me," she said. "She never
whipped me."

"Whipped you!" the Colonel exclaimed. "I should hope not!"

"Aunts do whip sometimes," Polly nodded soberly. "Bessie
Jackson's aunt whipped her--awful!  I'd run away!"

"Yes," the Colonel agreed, "that would be the best thing in such
a case--though perhaps this Bessie deserved the whipping."

"No, she did n't!" Polly assured him.

"Well, now, I'll tell you," he went on confidentially, "if
anybody ever lays a finger on you, just you come to my house, and
I'll see that you are treated all right.  Remember that now!"

Polly chuckled a "thank you," and Colonel Gresham began talking
about the park, the entrance of which they were nearing.

Polly tried to put Aunt Jane from her mind; but the threatened
possibilities kept thrusting themselves into the Colonel's merry
speeches, until she scarcely comprehended what he was saying.
Little by little, however, the beauties of her surroundings
overpowered all else, and Aunt Jane was for the time almost
forgotten.

The wise men who had planned Forest Park had known better than to
try to improve on nature's handiwork, and rocks and ravines,
brooks and pools, wooded slopes and ferny tangles, were left
practically unchanged.  Polly loved birds and flowers and all the
scents and sounds of summer fields and woods, and now, as the air
came laden with faint perfume, and a carol burst into the
stillness, she clasped her little hands together with a soft
breath of delight.

Colonel Gresham watcher her in furtive silence.  Finally she
turned towards him.

"I should think it would make sick people well to come out, here
should n't you?"

"Some of them," he nodded.

"I'm going to tell Mrs. Jocelyn all about it.  Perhaps it would
make her happier if she's come."

"What Mrs. Jocelyn is that?" asked the Colonel.

"I don't know her other name.  The one that's at the hospital--
she's small, and has white hair.  Her husband and little boy
died."

"Oh, yes!  Juliet Jocelyn, probably; but I did n't know that she
was sick."

"She's had an operation, I think; but she's getting well now.
I've been to see her twice.  Yesterday I read her a story."

"I hope she appreciated it," observed the Colonel dryly.

"I'm not sure," Polly replied; "she did n't say.  Do you know
Mrs. Jocelyn?"

"I knew her a long time ago," was the grave answer, as he turned
his horse into the road that wound up the eastern side of the
mountain.

"Oh, you're going to take the Cliff Drive!" cried Polly
delightedly. "Dr. Dudley could n't go, because they won't let
autos up there."

"No, for one might meet a skittish horse.  I like to come up here
once in a while for the view."

"I'm not going to look till we get clear up," Polly declared.
And resolutely she kept her eyes the other way.

"Now!" announced Colonel Gresham.

Polly turned her head--and held her breath.  Then she let it
out in one long sigh of rapture.

Before them lay the city, glittering in the afternoon sunshine,
while beyond, to the north and east and south, green hills formed
a living frame for the picture.

"It is worth coming for," said the Colonel, at last. "There is
your home--see?"

"Oh, yes!  It looks like a castle in a forest."

And then--when joy was uppermost--Aunt Jane's threat crowded
in.

Polly's eyes wandered from the "castle" in the direction of the
home she dreaded.

Colonel Gresham noted the sudden shadow on the bright face, and
took up the reins.

On the way back they stopped at a confectioner's, and the Colonel
brought out a package and laid it on Polly's lap. "There is
something to remember the drive by," he said.

"Oh, thank you!" she beamed. "But I don't need anything more to
make me remember it," she added. "It has been beautiful--right
straight through!--Except Aunt Jane!" she put in honestly, under
her breath, and again her face was shadowed.

"It is the best way," observed the Colonel, "to let disagreeable
things slip off our shoulders at once.  If we should carry them
all, we should have a sorry load."

"I guess I'll do that way," smiled Polly; "but Aunt Jane don't
slip easy!"

"Shake her off," laughed the Colonel, "and she'll go!"

It was a happy moment up in the ward when Polly opened her box of
candy.  Such chocolates, such candied cherries and strawberries,
with tiny tongs to lift them with, the children had never seen.
They chose one apiece all round, which Miss Lucy said was enough
for that day, and Polly carried the box down to the Doctor's
office, that he might taste her sweets.  It never occurred to her
that she was entitled to more than the others.

Dr. Dudley heard all about the drive, but nothing of Aunt Jane.
Polly had decided to take the Colonel's advice--if she could,
and she recollected with relief that Aunt Jane was always more
ready to threaten than to perform.

A few days afterwards Dr. Dudley early for Polly.

"Anyway it is n't Aunt Jane at this time," she assured herself,
as she ran downstairs.

"Mrs. Jocelyn wants to see you right away," the Doctor told her.

"She does?" wondered Polly. "Do you know for what?"

"I don't _know_ anything," he smiled; "but I _guess_ a good
deal."

"Oh! What do you guess it is?" she entreated.

He shook his head laughingly. "I should hate to have you discover
that I was n't a good guesser," he said. "Run along, and find
out for sure!"

Polly was astonished to see how greatly the little lady had
changed.  Her cheeks reflected the delicate pink of the robe she
was wearing, and her eyes were glad.  Her voice was full of
eagerness.

"Here comes the little sunbeam!" she smiled. "Did I interrupt
any tasks or play?" She drew Polly within the circle of her arm.
"I could n't wait another moment to thank you for reading me that
story of the little price.  It brought back my own little Lloyd,
who was always planting those seeds of love wherever he went.  But
since he left me I have been like that forgetful queen mother, too
wrapped up in myself to think of others.  Now I am going to begin
to grow those 'wonderful white flowers.'" Her eyes shone through
tears.

Polly did not know what to say; she only looked her sympathy and
appreciation.

"Tell me about David," the little lady went on. "Is he well
enough to come downstairs?"

"Yes, he's all ready," was the reply; "but he's go to wait for
somebody to go.  Elsie was to leave to-day to to-morrow; but she
needs a little more treatment, Dr. Dudley says.  So I don't know
when David can come."

"I know!" responded Mrs. Jocelyn confidently. "He is coming down
to the convalescent ward--let me see, I think it may be this
afternoon, but to-morrow morning sure!"

"Wh-y! how can he?" gasped Polly. "There are three ahead of
him, and there are n't any more beds!"

"There will be before long," chuckled the little lady gaily. "I
have been having a bit of a talk with Dr. Dudley, and he tells me
that there is plenty of room in your ward for six or more cots--
and Polly May is going to buy them!  That is, she can if she
chooses."

Polly's face was one big interrogation point. "Why! I don't--"
she began, but was interrupted by a kiss right on her lips.

"Oh, you dear, precious little innocent!" cried Mrs. Jocelyn.
"Read that, and see if it will tell you anything!" She took a
strip of paper from the table, and put it into Polly's hand.

Across the top, in large letters, was the name of a back.  The
rest was partly printed and partly written.  Polly read
wonderingly:--

  Pay to the order of Polly May Three Hundred Dollars.
    Juliet P. Jocelyn.

"O-o-h!" and Polly's face was beautiful in its joy; "does this
mean that you're going to give me three hundred dollars to buy
some new cots with?"

 "It means that the money is your own to use exactly as you
please." The little lady was scarcely less excited than the
child.  Giving was to her almost an untried pleasure.

"Oh, I can't, I can't, I can't thank you enough!  It is so
lovelicious!" Then Polly threw her arms around the happy donor in
a way that would have made her cry out with actual pain if she had
not been too delighted to realize it.

"I think that will cover the cost of six or seven cots, equipped
for use," said Mrs. Jocelyn,--"that is, if you wish to spend
the money for them." The gray eyes actually twinkled.

"Why, of course I do!" cried Polly. "What else could I do with
it?"

"_You_ could n't, you blessed child!  So we'll have David
downstairs just as soon as his bed is ready, won't we?"

"Yes, and how glad he'll be!  Oh, how glad he'll be!  And Brida
and Elsie--they've been dreadfully afraid they'd have to go
home before he came down; they want to see him so!  Won't they be
pleased!"

"I want to see David, too," declared the little lady, "and he
must come down with you as soon as his is strong enough--unless
I get well first," she laughed. "I feel almost well now."

Polly beamed her delight, and presently was racing upstairs to
tell her good news to everybody.

Dr. Dudley managed to get away before noon for the pleasant errand
of purchasing the beds, and Polly was overflowing with bliss.  She
had her choice in everything, with the Doctor and the merchant as
advisers; and although the bill footed up to a little more than
the check, the difference was struck off, and the cots and bedding
promised to be at the hospital by two o'clock that afternoon.

The convalescent ward was in such an ecstasy of excitement that
dinner went poorly; but finally it was cleared away, and the cots
moved to make room for those were coming.  Everybody helped that
could walk--even those that had to hobble on crutches, for
there were many little things to do, and only a short time to do
them in.  Polly was Miss Lucy's ready right hand, with always a
flock of eager assistants.  When the beds were actually in place
and the men had gone away, came the delightful task of spreading
on the sheets and blankets and pretty coverlets.  All was in
readiness before the hour specified, and then there was nothing to
do but wait for the coming of the new patients.

At last there were footsteps on the stairs, uneven footsteps, as
of one bearing a burden--the children had started!  David was
the last, and Polly had begun to be troubled, lest, after all,
something might have delayed him until another day.  But there he
was, smiling to her, and waving a thin little hand in greeting.
Polly wished that Mrs. Jocelyn could be there to see it all.  When
David was finally in bed, with Polly by his side, he said:--

"Now, tell me all about it, please!  It was such a splendid
surprise!"

So Polly told just how it had happened, and talked and kept on
talking, until she suddenly discovered that David was looking a
little weary--though he insisted that he was not tired.  But in
her motherly way, that was the delight of the ward, she bade him
shut his eyes and "go right to sleep," giving his hand a final
caressing pat, and then running away to let him have a chance to
follow her injunction.



Chapter IX

A Night of Song


David had been nearly three whole days in the convalescent ward,
taking big leaps on the road to health, when Polly was summoned to
Dr. Dudley's office.  Since her meeting with Aunt Jane, the
sharp-voiced woman was ever close at hand, ready instantly to
appear in the little girl's thought and fill her with sickening
fear.  Now Polly's feet lagged as she went downstairs; she dreaded
to look into the office.  But Dr. Dudley was there quite alone,
smiling a blithe good-morning.

"Miss Price wishes you assistance in the care of a patient," he
began.

"Wh-y!" breathed Polly, "How funny--for her to want me!"

"She is nursing Burton Leonard," the physician explained, "a
little six-year-old boy who was operated upon yesterday for
appendicitis.  His life depends on his being quiet, but he will
not keep still.  Miss Price thinks you can help out by telling him
a story or two, something that will make him forget, if possible,
how terribly thirsty he is."

"Can't he have anything to drink?" questioned Polly, with a
sympathetic little frown.

"Only an occasional sip of warm water--nothing cold."

"I'll do my best," she promised. "I shall love to help, if I
can."

Dr. Dudley took her hand, and down the corridor they went, the one
with long strides, the other on dancing feet.

Master Burton stared at his visitor, his big black eyes looking
bigger in a contrast with the white, drawn little face.

"What you come for?" he asked fretfully.

"To see you," smiled Polly.

"I do' want to be seen," was the unexpected reply, and he pulled
the sheet over his head.

Polly laughed, and waited.

Presently the black eyes again appeared.

"Why don't you lie abed?" he whined.

"I did till I got well."

"Did they make you lie still?" he questioned.

"Yes, I had to keep very still indeed."

"I don't," he whispered, glancing towards the Doctor, who was
just passing out. "When they ain't lookin' I wriggle round!"

"You'd get well quicker if you'd do just as Miss Price and Dr.
Dudley tell you," advised Polly.

"Huh! My mamma says nobody on earth can make me mind!" He
beckoned her nearer. "Say," he chuckled, "she put an ice bag on
me," with a wink towards the nurse, "_and I got out some o' the
ice!_  It's awful good!  She would n't give me a drop o' water,
only horrid old warm stuff." He showed his tongue, with a bit of
ice upon it.

Polly was shocked.  In the light of what the physician had told
her, she realized that the boy was ignorantly thwarting the
efforts of those who were trying to save his life.  She did not
know what to say."

"Do you like stories?" she finally asked.

The lad looked surprised, but answered, "Some kinds. Why?"

"I thought I'd tell you one, if you'd like me to."

"Do you know one 'bout soldiers?"

"I don't believe I do; but I know a song about a soldier."

"Can you sing?"

"Yes."

"Sing, then."

"Will you lie still if I will?" asked Polly.

"It's a go!"

So Polly sang the old, old song of "The Drummer Boy of
Waterloo," one that her grandmother had taught her when she was a
wee girl.

The boy was true to his promise, and remained motionless until the
last note ceased.

"Sing it again!" he commanded. "That's a dandy!"

Twice, three times more, the sad little ditty was sung; then the
sweet voice slipped softly into Holland's "Lullaby," which had
been learned from hearing it sung by Miss Lucy to restless little
patients.

   "Rockaby, lullaby, bees in the clover,
       Crooning so drowsily, crying so low.
     Rockaby, lullaby, dear little rover,
         Down into wonderland,
         Down to the underland,
     Down into wonderland go!

   "Rockaby, lullaby, dew on the clover!
       Dew on the eyes that will sparkle at dawn.
     Rockaby, lullaby, dear little rover,
         Into the stilly world,
         Into the lily world.
     Into the lily world gone!"

Before Polly reached the last word the song had died almost to a
breath, for Burton was "gone"--fast asleep.  For a time she
watched him.  His breathing was slow and steady.  Finally she
slipped softly from her chair, and glanced across the room.  Miss
Price nodded and smiled, and Polly tip-toed towards the door,
beckoning her to follow.

Outside, in the corridor, the nurse heard of the mischievous act
of her little patient.

"I did n't think he would do that!" sighed Miss Price, and she
shook her head gravely. "You are right to tell me at once," she
went on; "but I will not let Burton know that I learned of it
through you.  Thank you for coming down.  You may like to hear,"
she added, as Polly was starting away, "that I had good news from
Turkey this morning.  MY sister is better; they think she is going
to get well."

"Oh, I'm so glad!" beamed Polly.  Then impulsively, she put up
her arms, and the next minute they were around the neck of Miss
Hortensia Price.

This time she felt sure that the stately nurse did like kisses,
else why should she return them so cordially, and presently Polly
was skipping upstairs, full of gladness that her service had been
a success.

That night, in the hour before bedtime, David was entertainer.
Polly had promised the children delightful stories from him, and
now he made good her word.  He chose for his recital something of
his aunt's that Polly had never heard, the true account of how
some little trickey Southern boys obtained a pet goat.  David had
shown his wisdom in making his first selection a story that would
please the crowd.  The children laughed and laughed over it, and
begged for another.  The second was as unlike the first as
possible.  It was about a little princess who was carried into
captivity by some rough people, and who won the hearts of
everybody, even those of her captors, by her gentleness and love,
and who finally, through her brave unselfishness, found her way to
freedom and happiness.

"I'd love to be like that Princess Yvonne," sighed Polly.

It was in David's heart to say, "You are more nearly like her
than any girl I ever saw," but the words were not spoken.  He
only smiled across to Miss Lucy, who sent him a smile of
comprehension in return.  The two had quickly learned to
understand each other without words.

"It is so hard always to love everybody," Polly went on.  She was
thinking of Aunt Jane. "Do you love everybody, Miss Lucy,--every
single body?"

The nurse laughed softly. "I'm afraid I sometimes find it a
difficult task," she admitted; "but even when we dislike people,
or do not exactly love them, we can wish them well, and be ready
to do them kindness whenever it is possible.  And we can usually
find something lovable in everybody, if we look for it deep enough
and long enough."

There was a moment's hush, and then Elsie piped out:--

"David, can't you tell another story, please?"

"It is pretty nearly bedtime," Miss Lucy suggested. "If we have
one, it must be short."

"Oh, David, sing a song--do!" begged Polly.

"Can he sing?" queried Cornelius wonderingly.

"Beautifully!" answered Polly.

"You don't know!" laughed David.

"You never heard me."

"Yes, I do know!" insisted Polly. "They would n't let you sing
solos at St. Paul's Church if you did n't sing well--so!"

The children waited in astonished silence. This was an
accomplishment of David's which had not been told them.

Miss Lucy propped him up a little higher among his pillows, and
then he began the sweet vesper hymn, "The King of Love my
Shepherd is."

The children were very quiet until they were sure that the singing
was over.  Then Brida voiced everybody's thought.

"Was n't that beautiful!"

Presently Polly was going about her little nightly tasks humming
the melody to herself.  She was quick to catch an air, and with a
bit of prompting from David she soon had the words.

"Oh, you David can sing it to us together to-morrow night!"
cried Elsie, and there was a responsive chorus from all over the
ward.

Polly went to sleep singing the hymn in her heart.

Miss Lucy's cot was nearest the door, and shortly after midnight
she waked with the sound of a rap in her ears.  Hastily throwing
on a robe which was always at hand, she answered with a soft,
"What is it?"

"Burton Leonard is worse," came in Dr. Dudley's low voice, "and
he wants Polly to sing to him.  Get her ready as quick as you can,
please."

The little girl was dreaming of Aunt Jane.  She was trying to hold
a tall ladder straight up in the air, while Aunt Jane climbed to
the top, and her aunt was fretting because she did not keep it
steady. "Oh, I can't hold on a minute longer!" Polly dreamed she
was saying to herself. "But I must!  I must! Because Miss Lucy
said we were to do kindness for anybody we did n't love!"

Then she roused enough to know that Miss Lucy was bending over
her, whispering:

"Polly dear! Can you wake up?"

"Oh! David?" Polly's first thought was for her friend.

"No, darling; David's all right.  Dr. Dudley wants you to come
down and sing to little Burton Leonard."

"Oh, of course I'll go!" Polly was wide awake now, and ready for
anything.

She and Miss Lucy made speedy work of the dressing.  Dr. Dudley
was outside the door waiting for her, and quietly they went
downstairs.

"I'll have to sing pretty soft; shan't I?" she questioned; "or
it will disturb the other folks."

"Yes," the physician agreed. "But the room is rather isolated
anyway, and the end of the wing.  There's nobody near that there
's any danger of harming."

"Hullo!" came in a weak little voice, as Polly entered the
doorway. "I told 'em I'd keep still of you'd sing to me; but I
did n't b'lieve you'd come.  I thought you'd be too sleepy."

The boy's mother was nervously smoothing his pillow, but at a word
from the physician she retired to a seat beside the nurse.

A small electric light glowed at the other end of the apartment,
and the night wind blew in at the open window, fluttering the
leaves of a magazine that lay near.  Polly felt awed by the hush
of seriousness that seemed to fill the room.  Although the Doctor
spoke in his usual tone, the voices of the others scarcely rose
above a whisper.  She was glad when Dr. Dudley took her upon his
knee.  His encircling arm gave her instant cheer.

"Sing 'bout the 'Drummer Boy'!" begged the sick child,
plaintively, and there was something in his tone that gave Polly a
pang of fear.  How different from his commands of the morning!

Ver soft was the singing, as if in keeping with the occasion and
the hour, yet every ward was clear.

From "The Drummer Boy" Polly slipped easily into "The Star-Spangled
Banner," "America," "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," and "The
Battle Hymn of the Republic." Then came two or three negro melodies
and some songs she had learned at school, at the end of which Dr.
Dudley whispered to her to stop and rest.

While she was singing, the sick boy had lain motionless; but now
he began to nestle, and called fretfully, "Water! Water! Do give
me some water!"

The nurse fetched a glass, but as soon as he discovered that it
was warm, he would not taste it.

"Sing more!" he pleaded.

So again Polly sang, beginning with "My Old Kentucky Home," and
then charming the Doctor with one of his favorites, "'Way down
upon the Swanee Ribber." "Annie Laurie" came next, then "Those
Evening Bells," and other old songs which her grandmother had
taught her.

"I'm afraid you're getting too tired," Dr. Dudley told her; but
she smilingly shook her head, and sang on.

Once or twice the lad drowsed, and she stopped for a bit of a
rest, until his insistent, "Sing more!" roused her from a
momentary dream.

The mother sat a little apart, but kept her eyes on her boy's
face, ready for instant service.

Several times the physician reached over to feel his patient's
pulse, and seemed satisfied with what he found.

So the night dragged by.

It was early dawn when Miss Price, in answer to the repeated call,
again fetched water, and, as before, the child refused it.

"Take away that nasty old hot stuff, and bring me some cold!" he
commanded, with a spurt of his usual lordliness.

The nurse gently urged him to taste it; but he only pushed the
spoon away.

Dr. Dudley was about to speak, when Polly interposed with the
first lines of "The Secret," a little song she had learned in
her last days of school.  Her voice was loud enough to catch the
boy's attention, but the words were sung slowly and confidentially.

  "What do you think is in our back yard?
    P'rhaps you can guess, if you try real hard.
    It is n't a puppy, or little white mice,
    But it's something that's every bit as nice!
    Oh, no, it's not chickens or kittens at all!"

She broke off, her eyes smilingly meeting Burton's.

"What is it?" he asked feebly.

"Take some of that," she replied, pointing to the cup, and I'll
sing "the rest."

He frowned at her, as she leaned back on the Doctor's shoulder.
In her attitude he saw nothing of hope, unless he complied with
her requirement.  Without another protest he swallowed a few
spoonfuls of liquid.

  "Can't you think what is soft and round and small?
    It's two little--somethings, as white as snow!
    _Two dear baby rabbits!_--there, now--you know!"

"Sing it again!" he begged.

Soon his eyelids dropped together, but as the song was ended he
opened them wide, with a silent appeal for more.

So the tired little girl sang the lullaby that had put him to
sleep early the day before.  This time it did not have the
hoped-for effect, and the vesper hymn which David had sung--at
the bedtime hour which now seemed so very far away--came to the
singer's mind.  Softly she began the tender little song, going
through it without a break.

At its close the boy lay quite still, and with a sight of relief
her bright head dropped on the pillowing shoulder.

The Doctor leaned forward, and listened.  The lad's breathing was
soft and regular.

"Sound asleep at last!  Now, Thistledown--a-h!" he gasped,
for Polly lay on his arm, a limp little heap.

With great strides he carried her to the window.

The nurse reached the couch as soon as he, and thrust the globule
into his hand.

Crushing it in his handkerchief, he passed it before the child's
nostrils, and with a little fluttering breath the brown eyes
opened.

"I guess--I--was--a little tired," Polly said brokenly.

"You were faint--that's all.  Don't try to talk."

Miss Price brought some medicine in a glass, and Polly obediently
swallowed the draught.

"Is she all right now?" whispered Mrs. Leonard, who had been
standing back, frantically clasping and unclasping her nervous
little hands.

The nurse nodded. "For a minute I was afraid--she is not very
strong; but it was only a faint."

"If anything had happened, I should never forgiven myself for
letting her sing so long!  But did n't he go off to sleep
beautifully.  Just look at him--still as a mouse!" And the two
moved nearer the bed.

Polly went upstairs in Dr. Dudley's arms.

"I can--walk," she murmured.

"No; I want the pleasure of carrying you," was the light
response, and for answer a soft little hand stroked his own.

Miss Lucy met them at the door of the ward, and her face was white
with fear.

"She was tired and a little faint," the Doctor explained. "I
thought I'd better bring her up."

"Don't worry--Miss Lucy!" smiled Polly. "I'm--all right."
She sighed softly, as her head touched the pillow.

"Precious child!" murmured the nurse, and then followed the
Doctor to the door.

"Has she been singing all this time?" Reproach was in the gentle
tone.

He bowed. "I know!  It was too severe a strain.  But she did n't
seem very tired until just at the last--and it has probably
saved the boy's life."

"That is good--if it has n't hurt her," Miss Lucy added
anxiously.

"I think not," he replied. "She seems to be all right now.  She
will probably sleep late from exhaustion.  Do you suppose you can
keep the children quiet?"

"Quiet!  Bless them! They won't stir, if they know it is going to
disturb Polly!"

Dr. Dudley laughed softly. "Don't let her get up till I come,"
he charged her. "I'll be in early." And he turned away.

Miss Lucy undressed Polly so gently that she did not awake.  Then
she sat by her side until broad daylight.  The children were still
asleep around her, when her name was whispered across the ward.

David was sitting up in bed, his face shadowed with fear.

"What's the matter with Polly?" he questioned.

Miss Lucy told briefly the incident of the night, and he lay down
again, but not to sleep.  If the nurse so much as stirred, David
was always looking her way.

The ward was greatly excited at the news; but Miss Lucy had been
true in her predictions.  Never had such noiseless toilets been
made within its walls.  Everybody went about on tiptoe, and
Leonora Hewitt would not walk at all, lest the thump of her crutch
on the floor might waken Polly.

The little girl was still asleep when Dr. Dudley came, but soon
afterward she opened her eyes to find him at her side.  Almost her
first words were an inquiry about Burton Leonard.

"He is very much better," the Doctor replied. "He wanted me to
tell you not to worry about him to-day, for he would keep still
without your singing.  I did n't know there was such good stuff in
him.  He has been angelic, Miss Price says, ever since he heard
that you were tired out.  That seemed to touch his little heart.
He called you 'a dandy girl.' You have quite won him over."

"I'm glad," smiled Polly. "I guess I can sing a little for him
to-day, if he needs me."

"You won't!" Dr. Dudley replied. "You are to stay in bed, Miss
Polly May!  When young ladies are out all night they must lie abed
the next day."

"All day long?" she queried.

"Yes."

Polly sighed a bit of a sigh; then she smiled again.

"I may talk, may n't I?" she begged.

"Not many bedside receptions to-day," he answered. "I want you
to sleep all you can."

With a little chuckle she shut her eyes tight. "Good-night!" she
said demurely.

"That is a gentle hint for me to go," the Doctor laughed.  Then
he bent for a whisper in her ear. "If you sleep enough to-day, I
think we'll have a ride to-morrow."

She opened her eyes, returned a happy "thank you," and then
cuddled down on her pillow.



Chapter X

The Ward's Anniversary


The convalescent ward was generally a happy place, for everybody
was getting well, and getting well is pleasant business.  Just now
it was at its best.  The majority of the children had lived
together long enough to be loyal friends, and there were no
discordant dispositions.  In fact, discords knew better than to
push in where Miss Lucy reigned.  Her gentle tack had proved quite
sufficient for any disagreeable element that had yet appeared in
the ward, and lately all had been harmony.  The nurse would have
told you that this was greatly due to Polly May, and Polly would
have insisted it was entirely Miss Lucy's work; but as long as
happiness was there nobody cared whence it came.

David Collins was a decided acquisition; the ward agreed in that.

"He can tell stories almost as well as Polly," declared Elsie
Meyer to a knot of her chosen intimates.

"Not qui-te," objected loyal little Brida, glancing over her
shoulder to make sure that they were far enough away from the ears
of the boy under discussion.

"I did n't say quite," returned Elsie, in a lover voice, "I said
almost. 'Course, nobody tells 'em so good as Polly--she's
'special!"

"But David is a dandy fine feller!" asserted Cornelius. "He can
play ball, reg'lar baseball!  A college feller on a team showed
him how!"

"Wisht I could play ball," sighed Leonora Hewitt, a bit
dejectedly.

"Girls don't play baseball!" laughed Cornelius.

"They do some kinds anyway--I used to!" And again Leonora
sighed.  It is hard to be shut out from things when you are only
ten.

"I would n't care, if I were you," comforted Elsie, in a way
that showed her to be an unconscious pupil of her adored Polly.
She threw an arm around the little girl who the Doctor feared
would never walk again on two strong feet. "There's lots of
things better than playing ball."

"What?" demanded Cornelius, with more curiosity than
thoughtfulness.

Elsie flashed him a look that meant, "How can you?" for
Cornelius had been able to throw aside his own helps to walking.
Then she answered triumphantly, "Playing with dolls--for one
thing!"

"Dolls!" echoed Cornelius, laughing "Ho, ho! Dolls!"

"Well, I don't care, they are!  Ain't they, Miss Lucy?"

"What is it, Elsie?" smiled the nurse across from her desk. "I
was n't noticing."

"Dolls--ain't dolls more fun that playing ball?"

"That depends," answered Miss Lucy. "Cornelius or Moses would no
doubt enjoy a game of ball better than the prettiest doll that
ever was made; but you and Leonora and Corinne, for instance,
would be unusual little girls if you did n't like dolls best."

Elsie and Cornelius faced each other with good-natured laughter.

"But I hain't got any doll," lamented Leonora.

"Nary a ball!" declared Cornelius, striking his reast
dramatically. "So we're even!"

"My doll's 'most worn out," mourned Elsie. "Guess it will be
quite by the time I get home, with Rosie and Esther bangin' it
round."

"I want my dolly!  I want my dolly!" piped up little Isabel.
"Where's my dolly?"

"Oh! May I get her the doll, Miss Lucy?" cried Elsie, running
over to the chest of drawers where the ward's few playthings were
kept.

Isabel trotted after, her face shining with expectation.

Barely waiting for the desired permission, Elsie dived down into the
lower drawer, and, after a brief search among torn picture-books
and odds and ends of broken toy, brought forth a little battered
rubber doll, which had lost most of its coloring and all of its cry.
But Baby Isabel hugged it to her heart, and at once dropped to the
floor, crooning over her new treasure.

While the ward was thus discussing dolls, Mrs. Jocelyn and Polly,
downstairs, in the little lady's room, were conversing on the same
subject.

It was Polly's first visit since the night she had sung to Burton
Leonard, and they had talked of that any many other things.

"It is too bad for you to be shut up in a hospital all this
beautiful summer," lamented Mrs. Jocelyn. "If I were only well,
I'd carry you off home with me this very day, and we'd go driving
out in the country, and have woodsy picnics, and all sorts of
delightful things."

"I went to ride yesterday with Dr. Dudley," said Polly
contentedly.

"Yes, that's all right as far as it goes; but your pleasures are
too serious ones for the most part.  You ought to be playing with
dolls--without a care beyond them. By the way, I never have
seen you with a doll yet."

"No, I have n't any," replied Polly sadly.

"But you have them up in the ward, don't you?"

"There's a little old rubber doll that somebody left because it
had n't any squeak--that's all."

"For pity's sake!" exclaimed the little lady. "The idea!--not
a single doll that can be called a doll!  I never heard anything
like it!  What do yo play with?  Or don't you play at all?"

"Oh, yes!" laughed Polly. "We play games, and Dr. Dudley has
given me two story-books, and there are some toy soldiers--but
they're 'most all broken now.  Then there's a big book with
pictures pasted in it--that's nice!  There was Noah's Ark; but
a little boy threw Noah and nearly all the animals out of the
window, and before we found them the rain spoiled some of them,
and the rest were lost."

"I declare, it's pitiful!" sorrowed the little lady.

"Oh, we have a nice time!" smiled Polly.

"I believe you'd find something to enjoy on a desert, without a
soul within fifty miles!" laughed Mrs. Jocelyn.

"Guess I'd be lonesome!" chuckled Polly. "But I always thought
the sand would be lovely to play in."

"There, I told you so!  Oh, you'd have a good time!  But, child,
have n't you any doll of your own--at home, I mean?"

"No, not now--I did have"--and pain crept into the sweet
little face. "Mamma gave me a pretty doll the last Christmas--
oh, I loved it so!  But after I went to live with Aunt Jane I
helped her 'most all the time I was out of school, and I did n't
have much time to play with Phebe--she was named for mamma.
Phebe was mamma's name.  So finally Aunt Jane said that Maude
might just as well have my doll.  I felt as if I could n't give
her up, but I had to--" Polly's lip quivered, and she swallowed
hard.

"Poor little girl!" Mrs. Jocelyn put out a hand and gently
stroked the bright curls. "How could anybody be so cruel!"

"I would n't have cared--much, if Maude had loved Phebe; but
she did n't. She'd swing her round by one leg, and pull her hair
when she got mad, or--anything.  It seemed as if I could n't
stant it!"

"Bless you!  I don't see how you could!" sympathized her
listener.

"Why, I had to!" replied Polly simply. "But one day--I never
told anybody this, even Miss Lucy--one day Aunt Jane took the
children to a circus, and I stayed home all alone.  After they'd
been gone about half an hour I went and dug as deep a hole as I
could right in the middle of the clothes-yard--the woman
upstairs was gone, too, so she could n't see me--and I wrapped
Phebe up in a clean piece of paper, after I'd kissed her and bid
her good-bye--and then I buried her!  It 'most killed me to do
it; but I could n't see any other way.  Do you think it was
dreadfully wicked?"

Polly looked up with wet, appealing eyes, and, to her amazement,
saw that tears were running down the little lady's cheeks.

"Wicked!" Mrs. Jocelyn ejaculated. "If nobody ever did anything
more wicked than that it would be a blessed sort of world!  NO,
dearest; I'm glad you were brave enough to do it--as glad as
can be!  But what did they say when the came home?  Did n't they
miss the doll?"

"Not that night; they were so excited about the circus.  They
never said a word till some time the next morning; then Maude
wondered where Phebe was.  I was dreadfully afraid they'd ask me
if I knew; but Maude only looked for her a little while--she
did n't love her a bit.  Aunt Jane told her she was probably
kicking round somewhere, and it served her right for not taking
better of her.  I guess they forgot all about her pretty soon; but
I did n't--I never shall forget Phebe!"

Mrs. Jocelyn put her arm around Polly, and held her close,
murmuring sympathetic words, which were very comforting to the
bereft little mother.

"How did Phebe look?" asked Mrs. Jocelyn, at last. "Do you want
to tell me?"

"Oh, yes!  She had light curly hair, just like mine, and such
pretty blue eyes and red cheeks!  She was about _so_ tall,"
measuring a foot or more with her hands. "She had on a little
white muslin dress, with blue sprigs on it--the other dresses
Maude spoiled.  She was just as sweet as she could be!"  Polly's
eyes almost brimmed over, and the lady gently led her thoughts to
other things.

Soon Dr. Dudley came in, and then the little girl said good-bye.

On the stairs she heard her name called and looking back she saw
Miss Hortensia Price, a bunch of sweet peas in her hand.

"I was bringing these to you," the nurse smiled. "How do you do,
my dear?  Are you feeling quite well again?"

"Oh, yes, thank you!" cried Polly, her little nose among the
flowers. "Doctor would n't let me get up day before yesterday,
and now I'm so rested I don't feel as if I'd ever get tired."

"I am very glad.  I meant to come up to see you sooner, but I did
n't wish to disturb you that first day, and yesterday I was
extremely busy."

"Burton is not worse, is he?" asked Polly quickly.

"Oh, no! his is doing even better than we anticipated.  And at
last he has decided to keep still--did Dr. Dudley tell you?"

"Yes," beamed Polly, "and I'm so glad!"

"We all are.  He has been a hard child to manage.  We have much
to thank you for--I shall never forget what you have done!"

Polly was astonished at this praise that she could do nothing but
blush and murmur a few words of dissent.

"Burton's mother," Miss Price went on, "wishes you would come in
some time and sing her that hymn again, the last one you sang,
'The King of Love my Shepherd is.'"

"Oh," smiled Polly, "I wish she could hear David sing that!  He
sings it beautifully!  I never heard it till that night, so I did
n't know it very well; but if she could come up into the ward, I'm
sure David would sing it for her."

Miss Price seemed to ignore David altogether, for she only said:--

"Polly May, if you can learn like that, with your sweet voice,--
why, you must have a musical education!  I shall speak to Dr.
Dudley about it at once.  But I'm keeping you standing here,
child, and you not strong!"

Polly assured her that she was not tired in the least, and thanked
her again for the flowers.  Then she ran upstairs, to tell the
astonishing news to Miss Lucy and the ward, and to show her sweet
peas in proof of Miss Hortensia Price's wonderful kindness.

After everybody had had a sniff of the fragrant blossoms, Polly
proposed moving a little table to the side of David's cot, and
placing the flowers on it.

"Because," she argued, "if David had n't sung the hymn that
night, I could n't have and if I had n't, maybe Miss Price would
n't have given me the sweet peas; so I think they belong to David
as much as to me."

The children--all but David, and his protests went for
naught--accepted Polly's reasoning as perfectly logical, and readily
helped carry out her suggestion.  Miss Lucy smiled to herself,
while she allowed them to do as they pleased.

"Will they keep till to-morrow, s'pose?" Questioned Elsie
anxiously.

"Of course," answered Polly. "Why?"

"Cause they'll help celebrate," Elsie returned.

"Celebrate what?" queried Polly, wiping a drop of overrunning
water from the glass which Miss Lucy had supplied.

"Why, the war's birthday!  Don't you know about it?" And Elsie
looked her astonishment at having heard any new with which Polly
was not already acquainted.

"I don't know what you mean," Polly replied.

Then what a babel of tongues! Each wanted to be first to inform
Polly.

"The ward's five years old to-morrow!"--"Miss Lucy's been tellin'
us!"--"it was started five years ago!"--"There was only three
children in it then!"--"She said we ought to celebrate!"--"A
lady give it to the hospital!"

"We'll every one wear a sweet pea all day!" announced Polly.

"That'll be lovely!" beamed Elsie.

"They'll wilt," objected practical Moses.

"Never mind!" returned Polly. "We can give 'em a drink once in a
while."

So it was agreed.  Meantime Miss Lucy, at her table, textbook in
hand, overheard and wished and planned.  Downstairs, too, where
Mrs. Jocelyn sat talking with Dr. Dudley, more planning was going
on, and in the physician's own heart a little private scheme was
brewing.  Thus the ward's birthday came nearer and more near.

The sweet peas were placed on a broad sill outside the window for
the night, lest they might take it into their frail little heads
to wither before their time.  They showed their appreciation of
Miss Lucy's thoughtfulness by being as sweet and bright as
possible, and early in the morning everybody in the ward wore a
decoration.

About ten o'clock Dr. Dudley appeared, and Polly and Elsie hurried
to pin a posy in his buttonhole.  Elsie had chosen a pink and
Polly a blue blossom, and one little girl held them in place while
the other pinned them fast, the Doctor sending telegraphic
messages over their heads to Miss Lucy.

"Now, let me see," he began, after he had returned thanks for
his sweets; "think I can squeeze in seven or eight of them?"
nodding to the nurse.

"They're none of them very bulky," she laughed.

"Fell strong enough for an auto ride, Elsie?" he twinkled.

"Me?" gasped the little girl. "You don't mean me, do you?"

"If your name is Elsie Meyer, you're the one," he replied.

"Oh, my! O-h, m-y!" she cried. "Polly! Polly!  He's goin' to
take me to ride!" And she whirled Polly round and round in her
excited joy.

"Cornelius and Moses," he counted, "and Elsie and Polly,"--
his eyes had reached the little girl with a crutch, whose pale
face was growing pink and paler by turns,--"and Leonora and
Brida," he went on; "that makes six."

"Oh, me too?" squealed Brida delightedly, clutching her chair
for support in the trying moment.

Leonora said nothing, only gazed at the Doctor as if she feared he
would vanish, together with her promised ride, if she did not keep
close watch.

"There are only two more for whom I dare risk the bumpety-bumps,"
laughed Dr. Dudley. "Corinne, I think you can bear them, and
perhaps we can wedge in Isabel."

"Oh, we can hold her!" volunteered Elsie.

"Sure, we can!" echoed Cornelius.

"No, I want to thit in Polly'th lap," lisped the midget, edging
away from the others, and doing her best to climb to Polly's arms.

Polly clasped the tiny one tight, smiling her promise, to full of
joy in her friends' happiness for any words.

"I'll give you fifteen minutes to prink up in," the Doctor told
them; and away they scampered, Polly halting by David's cot long
enough to wish he "were going too."

The eight were downstairs within the specified time, and they
whirled off in the big motor car, which seated them all
comfortably without crowding anybody.  Very demure they were,
passing along the city streets, but in the open country their
delight found vent in shouts and squeals and jubilant laughter.
Dr. Dudley chose a route apart from the traveled highways, leading
through woods and between blossoming fields.

"Could we get out and pick just a few o' those flowers?" Elsie
ventured; and presently they were all over the stone wall, Leonora
with the rest, right down among the goldenrod and asters.

The went home with their arms full of beauty, too overjoyed even
to guess that they had been away nearly two whole hours, and that
it was dinner time.

Leonora was first to discover it--the beautiful copy of the
Sistine Madonna, hanging opposite David's bed.  Then dinner had to
wait, while they flocked over to look at Dr. Dudley's gift to the
ward.

"Why, it's just like a story," cried Elsie. "Something keeps
happening all the time."

Miss Lucy smiled mysteriously, which made Polly wonder if there
were more happenings in reserve for the day.

Dinner was barely cleared away when a rap sent Moses to the door.
There stood one of the porters grinning behind a pyramid of white
boxes tied with gay ribbons.

Moses was too astonished for anything but speechlessly to let the
man pass him.  The pile was deposited beside the nurse, and Elsie
squealed out:--

"They look 'xac'ly like Christmas!"

"Perhaps the inside will look like Christmas, too," smiled Miss
Lucy. "Let's see what this card says:--'For the young folds of
the Convalescent Ward, in honor of the Ward's fifth birthday. From
Mrs Juliet P. Jocelyn.'

"This box is addressed to Miss Polly May;" and she handed out
the one on top.

Polly received it with an "Oh, thank you!" A sudden tumultuous
hope had sprung in her heart, and she gazed down at the oblong box
with a mingled anticipation and fear.  What could it be but--!
Yet what if it should n't be!  With trembling fingers she
hurriedly untied the blue ribbon.  She hardly dared lift the
cover; but--it was!

"Oh, Phebe!" she cried, with almost a sob, clasping the
beautiful doll to her heart.

It was not Phebe, but so nearly like the cherished one it was not
surprising in that first ecstatic moment Polly should think it was
really her los darling.  Golden curls, blue eyes, and a frock of
white muslin with blue sprigs made the resemblance very true.  In
her own bliss, Polly for a minute, forgot her surroundings.  Then
she became suddenly aware that Elsie was dancing about, shrieking
with delight, holding a doll the counterpart of Polly's own,
except for the color of dress and eyes.

Brida's doll had blue eyes, alike the new Phebe, and Leonora's
brown, like Elsie's.

Miss Lucy could not untie the boxes fast enough now, the children
were so wildly excited.  Every girl had a beautiful doll, and
every boy a gift that made him shout in glee or wrapped him in
speechless joy, according to his nature.

"How _did_ she know I'd ruther have 'em than anything in th'
biggest store you ever saw?" cried Cornelius, with a yell of
rapture, throwing off the cover of his box to see a ball, a bat,
and a catcher's mitt. "How did she did she know it?"

The other big boys had similar presents and the younger lads
mechanical toys of various kinds,--Railway and Track, Steamer,
Automobile, Fire Engine, and a real little Flying Machine.
Besides these there were a number of fascinating games and a box
of stone blocks.

In the late afternoon some of the nurses made a brief visit,
bringing their combined gift,--a dozen books and a shelf to
keep them on.  Miss Price, who could not leave her patient, sent a
set of crayons and outline picture-books to color.  And so one
delight followed another until the children were in a state of the
happiest excitement.

Just before supper time Dr. Dudley came in, full of merriment and
droll stories.

The tea was there on time, a regular "party tea," with a
birthday cake and five small candles.  The goodies seemed ready to
be eaten; the little folks were eager to taste; still Miss Lucy
did not give the word.  She and the Doctor would turn towards the
door at the slightest sound; then they would go on talking again.
Finally Polly's sharp ears heard footsteps, approaching footsteps.
Dr. Dudley listened, jumped up, and slipped outside the door,
shutting it behind him.  The steps drew nearer, there were low
voices and faint laughter.  Then something like a small commotion
seemed to be taking place just outside.  Elsie's impatience let
loose her tongue.

"Oh, Miss Lucy! What is it?  Do tell us!  Please do!"

"In a minute there'll be no need of telling," was the smiling
answer.

At the instant a light rap sent Polly and Elsie flying to the
door.  Polly was ahead and threw it wide open on a pretty picture,
--little Mrs. Jocelyn seated in a wheel chair, Dr. Dudley and a
porter in the background.

"Oh, o-h!" cried Polly, "how perfectly lovelicious!" And she
stepped aside to let the guest roll herself in.

Miss Lucy came forward with a glad greeting, while the flock of
girls and boys retreated, struck with sudden shyness.

Polly laid hold of Elsie and Leonora. "come!" she whispered.
"Come, and shake hands with her!"

"No, no! I can't!" gasped Leonora, terrified at the thought of
speaking to that beautiful little white-haired lady in the
exquisite gray silk.

"Yes, come!" urged Polly. "She gave us our dolls, and we must
thank her!" Her hand on Leonora's gave the timid girl courage,
and she allowed herself to be led towards the wheel chair.

They were all presented by name, and Mrs. Jocelyn won the girls'
hearts with kisses and kindly words, while the boys, from
Cornelius O'Shaughnessy to little John Fritz, were so charmed by
her interest in their sports that they afterwards voted her "a
dandy one"--their highest praise.

The tea went off, as all party teas ought to go, to the music of
merry laughter; and when the ice cream came on, the children's
glee reached its height--it was in the form of a quaint little
girls and boys!

It was nearly bedtime when the last gift arrived.  The parcel was
oblong and flat and heavy.

"I bet it's another picture!" ventured Moses.

Polly fairly shouted when Miss Lucy folded back the wrappings.
There lay a superb photograph, handsomely framed in oak, of Lone
Star and his master.  The note accompanied it:--

   To the Children's Convalescent Ward:

   Dear Ward:--News has just come that you are having a birthday.
   I congratulate you on having lived and prospered for five long
   years.  As I have counted only four birthdays myself, I have
   great respect for those that have attained to five.

   I cannot let the day pass without sending you a small token of
   neighborly affection, and because the hour is late and I have
   nothing better in sight I trust you will pardon my seeming
   egotism in presenting my own picture.

   Wish bushels of joyful wishes for you future, I will sign myself

     Your fast friend,

       Lone Star



Chapter XI

Polly Plays the Part of Eva


Summer still lingered, but signs were abroad of her coming
departure.  Noons were hot, and nights were chill; bird carols
were infrequent; chrysanthemums were unfurling their buds.  The
vines that festooned the windows of the children's convalescent
ward sent an occasional yellow-coated messenger to the lilac
bushes below--a messenger that never came back.

Inside the ward there were even greater changes.  Of the old set
of summer patients only a few remained to keep Polly company.
Elsie and Brida, Corinne and Isabel, with Moses and Cornelius, had
received their discharge and had returned to their homes.  Leonora
stayed for more of the treatment that was slowly lessening her
lameness and pain.  David had so far recovered as to have been
appointed office boy for Dr. Dudley, a position which was,
according to David's version, "all pay and no work." But
somebody was needed to answer telephone calls during the
physician's absence, as well as to note any messages that might
arrive for him, and David's strength was now sufficient for the
service.  So the arrangement was proving a very happy one, and was
especially enjoyed by Polly and Leonora.

As their acquaintances drifted away from the hospital, and
strangers drifted in, these three became close friends.  The girls
would join David in the office, generally bringing their dolls
with them, when David would be the one to tell or read a story,
for his aunt kept him well supplied with interesting tales.
Sometimes, especially in the early twilight hour, Dr. Dudley was
story-teller; or more often they would talk over together the
happenings of the day, the children unconsciously gathering from
the physician's rich store bits of wisdom that would abide with
them as long as memory lived.

They were watching for him, one night, when the telephone bell
rang.

David sprang to answer the call, and the girls heard him say:--

"No, sir, he is not in.--He went out about an hour ago.--We
expect him every minute now.--Yes, sir, I will."

The boy came back looking a little excited.

"It was Uncle David!" he told them. "He says he is sick, and he
wants Dr. Dudley to come over."

"Oh, dear," scowled Polly; "I hope ther is n't anything bad the
matter with him!"

"It is the first time I ever spoke to him," said David slowly.
"But, of course, he did n't know it was I that was talking."

"There's the Doctor!" cried Leonora, as a runabout stopped at
the entrance.

"Shall I go tell him?" and Polly started. But the lad was already
on his way.

"Let me, please!" he answered. "I want to do that much for Uncle
David."

"I thought it might tire him to go fast," murmured Polly,
apologetically, as she joined Leonora at the window.

"He'll get all out of breath!" worried Leonora. "Just see him
run!"

"He is n't thinking of himself," Polly responded. "It's just
like him!  But his heart is pretty strong now, I guess. Though
Doctor told him to be careful."

David returned a little pale, and Polly made him lie down on the
couch.

He did not seem inclined to talk, and the girls waited at the
window, conversing in low tones over their dolls.  By and by Dr.
Dudley came up the walk, and Polly ran to open the door for him.

The physician acknowledged the attention with a grave smile, and
then went directly to the telephone, calling for Miss Batterson.

David sat up.  The girls listened breathlessly.

Presently they heard arrangements being made for the nurse to go
to the Colonel at once, and they gathered from what was said that
David's great-uncle was ill with typhoid fever, and that the
Doctor had ordered him to bed.

"He has kept up too long," regretted Dr. Dudley, as he hung the
receiver on its hook. "As it is he'll have to go through a course
of fever.  He is furious at the prospect, but it can't be helped.

"I'm so sorry," mourned Polly.

Then, seeing that there was no likelihood of a story or even talk
from the Doctor, she proposed, softly to Leonora, that they go
upstairs.

"No, stay here with David, if you wish; you're not in the way.
I'm going back with Miss Batterson."

So they remained, while the physician put some medicines in his
case, and gave David directions regarding a problem caller.

Soon the nurse came in, suit case in hand, and the two went off
together.

"I hope mother won't hear of it right away," the lad mused. "She
thinks so much of Uncle David.  She'd want to go and do something
for him, you know, and she could n't, and so she'd worry."

Polly recalled her recent drive through Forest Park, and could
scarcely realize that the big, strong man who had made the time so
pleasant for her was now weak and miserable from disease.

David related incidents of his mother's life with her uncle when
she was a small girl, one leading to another, until, suddenly, Dr.
Dudley opened the door.

"What!" he exclaimed. "My girlies not abed yet!  Why, it is
nearly nine o'clock!  Miss Lucy will think I have kidnapped you."

They hurried away, with laughing good-nights, after being assured
by the Doctor that probably Colonel Gresham would "come out all
right."

David slept downstairs now, in a tiny room adjoining the
physician's, and his last thought that night was of the
strangeness of it all--Uncle David's hurrying to catch Dr.
Dudley for him, and his being the first to notify the Doctor of
his uncle's illness, while they had not even a bowing acquaintance
with each other!

For a few days there was no alarming change in colonel Gresham's
condition. Then he grew worse.  He became delirious, and remained
so, recognizing no one.  The anxiety felt in Dr. Dudley's office
extended upstairs to the little people of the convalescent ward,
for since the Colonel's birthday gift they had taken great
interest in the master of the famous trotter.  Every morning they
were eager for the latest news from the second house away where
their friend lay so ill.

The twentieth of September was hot and oppressive.  Early in the
evening thunder clouds heaped the western sky, and occasional
flashes of lightning portended a shower.

After the children were established for the night, Miss Lucy sat
long by the open window watching the electrical display.  The
clouds rose slowly, lingering beyond the western hills with no
wind to aid their progress.  Finally she partly undressed, and
throwing on a kimono settled herself comfortably upon her cot, to
await the uncertain storm, ready to shut the windows in case of
driving rain.  By and by fitful breezes fluttered through the
room, the low rumbling of thunder was heard, and presently a soft
patter of drops on the leaves.  The lightning grew brilliant.  The
nurse dreamed and waked by turns.  At length she was aroused by
steps along the corridor.  They sounded like Dr. Dudley's. S She
was at the door as the physician's knuckle touched it.  In
response to his voice she stepped outside, that they might not
disturb the sleepers.

"I want to take Polly over to Colonel Gresham's," the Doctor
explained. "He keeps on calling for 'Eva,' and nothing will quite
him.  He is on the verge of collapse."

"Did n't Mrs. Collins come?"

"Yes; but he did n't know her.  It broke her all up.  I think now
that he has gone back to the time when she was a little girl, and
possibly has confounded her with Polly.  At any rate, I'm going to
try the experiment of taking Polly over.  It can do no harm, and
may do some good."

The hall suddenly burst into light, and there was a simultaneous
roar of thunder.

"We're going to have a shower," observed the Doctor.

"I should think it was already here," returned Miss Lucy. "Had
n't you better wait till it passes, before taking Polly out?"

"Oh, no!  Wrap her up well, and I'll carry her.  It is only a few
stops; she won't get wet."

Polly was a quaint little figure in the long mackintosh, and it
tripped her feet once or twice, until the doctor drew it from her
and threw it across his arm.

The thunder had been lighter for some minutes; but as they halted
at the entrance before going out a tremendous crash jarred the
building.

"Not afraid, Thistledown?" smiled Dr. Dudley, as he wrapped her
again in the long cloak.

"I don't like it," she confessed; "but I shan't mind with you,"
putting her arms around his neck.

The rain was pouring as they left the piazza, and before they were
off the grounds big stones of hail were pelting their umbrella.
The Doctor hurried along, the lightning glaring about them and the
air filled with thunder.

Colonel Gresham's house was nearly reached, when a sudden gust
turned the umbrella, and almost at once came a blaze of light and
a terrific crash--a great oak across the street had been split
from top to root!

With a gasp of terror Polly clung to the Doctor's neck, and he
sped up the walk on a quick run.

"There!" he exclaimed, setting her down inside the door, "You're
safe and sound!  But next time we'll take Miss Lucy's advice, and
not run any such risks."

"It was awful, was n't it?" breathed Polly.

"A little too close for comfort," he smiled, taking her wet coat
and spreading it over a chair.

At the foot of the stairs he halted for a few instructions.

"Humor the Colonel in every way possible," he told Polly. "If he
names you 'Eva," let him think he is right, and call him 'Uncle
David.'"

"I'm afraid I shall make a mistake," replied Polly.

"You won't," he assured her. "Just imagine you are his little
niece, doing everything to please him--that is all."

Miss Batterson smiled down on Polly, as she entered the sick-room,
and spoke in a low voice to the physician.

Colonel Gresham had been muttering indistinctly, and now broke
into his persistent call:--

"Eva!  Eva!  Where's Eva?"

Dr. Dudley gave Polly a gentle push towards the bed.

"Here I am, Uncle David!" she answered, standing where the light
slanted across her yellow curls.

The sick man started up, and then dropped back on his pillow.

"Oh, you've come!" he cried, with a breath of relief, "Why did
you stay away--so--long?"

"I did n't know you wanted me till now, Uncle David," replied
the soft voice.

"Come nearer, child!  Let me feel you little hand!  I dreamed--I
dreamed--you were gone--forever!"

"He lay quiet for a moment, her cool fingers in his hot,
trembling palm.  Then he startled her bu the sudden cry:--

"That water!  It's dripping, dripping right on my head!  Eva, put
up your hand, and catch it!"

Standing beside his pillow, Polly held her hand high.

"I'll catch it all, Uncle David," she assured him. "You shan't
feel another drop!"

"That's a good girl!  You always are a good girl, Eva!  Seems as
--if--"

The voice trailed off into confused mutterings, and with trembling
fingers he began picking at the sheet and working it into tiny
rolls.

Very gently Polly took one of the restless hands in both her own,
and smoothed it tenderly.

This had a quieting effect, and he lay still for so long that Dr.
Dudley drew Polly softly away, letting her rest on his knee, her
head against his shoulder.

But in a moment the old call burst out:--

"Eva!  Eva!  Where are you, Eva?"

Her prompt assurance, "I'm right here, Uncle David!" hushed him
at once.  Presently, however, he began again.

"Eva!  Eva!  You love your old uncle, don't you, Eva? Just a--
little--bit?"

"More than a little bit!  I love you dearly, Uncle David!"

"Don't go away any more!  Promise, Eva!  Promise me!"

"I'll stay just as long as you want me Uncle David.  Can't you go
to sleep? Remember, I'll be right here all the time!"

Reassured by this, he closed his eyes, and was quiet for a while;
yet only to rouse again and repeat the same old cry.

The thunder was now only an occasional rumble in the distance, and
the lightning had faded to a glimmer; but the rain still kept on,
and as the nurse raised another window the ceaseless patter of the
drops seemed to disturb the sick man, for he began his complaint
of the dripping water upon his head.

Polly pacified him, as before, and once more he drowsed.

The little girl slept, to, in the Doctor's arms, until, towards
morning the Colonel was resting so calmly that they returned to
the hospital.

Miss Lucy clasped Polly with almost a sob.

"If you ever go away again in such a storm," she declared, "I
shall go, too!  I saw the lightning come down--and--" her
voice broke.

"And we were not harmed in the least," finished the Doctor
cheerily. "But next time I promise to act upon your higher
wisdom, and not venture among such thunderbolts.  Now, hustle into
bed, both of you, and don't dare to wake up till breakfast time!"

The convalescent ward slept late; the nurse and Polly strictly
obeyed orders.  Nobody cared, however, and unusual gayety
prevailed at the tardy breakfast, to match the bright September
morning and the good news of Colonel Gresham.  For word had come
up from Dr. Dudley that the Colonel was going to get well.

Of course the children eagerly heard the story of Polly's midnight
trip in the physician's arms through the fearful storm.  It had to
be told over and over again, and the more daring ones wished they
had been awake to see it all.

The details of what had taken place in the sick-room Polly wisely
withheld; but the girls and boys were undoubtedly more interested
in the account of the lightning's striking the familiar big oak
tree than they would have been in the more important part of that
night's strange story.

It was not many weeks afterward that Dr. Dudley brought Polly a
message.

"The Colonel says he feels slighted because you don't come to see
him, and I promised to send you over."

"OH, I shall have to go!" cried Polly. "I'll run right off and
change my dress."

Colonel Gresham was in a great chair by the window, and begged his
small guest pardon for not rising to greet her.

"I'm not quite firm on my legs yet," he laughed, "and I must n't
topple over, as Miss Batterson has left me for a whole hour."

"Oh, then I'll stay and wait on you!" beamed Polly. "And if you
get tired hearing me talk, you can go to sleep."

But the Colonel seemed very wide awake, and after a gay chat he
began:--

"Dr. Dudley has been telling me about bringing you over here in
that thunderstorm, and how you quieted me when nobody else
could."

"Yes," replied Polly innocently, "You thought I was your little
niece, Eva, and--"

"What?" broke in her listener, amazement in his tone.

"Oh, I s'posed he 'd told you!" cried Polly, in dismay. "I ought
not to have--"

"Yes, you ought!" he interrupted. "What did I say?"

Polly hesitated.  She was not at all sure that Dr. Dudley would
wish her to disclose the wanderings of the Colonel's mind, since
he had not done so himself.  But there seemed no other way, so she
replied simply:--

"Oh, you did n't say much!  Only you kept calling for Eva, and so
I pretended I was she, and I called you Uncle David.  And you
heard the rain, and thought it was dripping on your head, and you
wanted me to hold my hand up to catch it.  That was about all."

Polly cast furtive glances at the Colonel.  She could make nothing
of his face, beyond that it was very grave.  She wondered if he
were displeased with her.

After a time he spoke.

"You have done me a kindness that can never be repaid.  Such
debts cannot be balanced with money.  So we won't talk about pay.
But I should like to do something for you--give you a sort of
remembrance.  I don't know what would make you happiest; but you
may chose, 'to the half of my kingdom'--anything but Lone Star.
I'm afraid I should hate to give up Lone Star!"

Polly laughed, and the Colonel laughed too, which put the talk on
a cheery footing, and she assured him that she should n't have
chosen Lone Star anyway, because she did n't know how to take care
of a horse, and had n't any place to keep him in.

Then her face grew suddenly serious, and she sat gazing at the
pattern of the rug so long that Colonel Gresham smiled to himself.

"Is it too much of a problem?" he finally asked. "Can't you
think of anything within my power that would give you a little
happiness?"

"Oh, yes!" Polly answered quickly; "but I'm afraid--" she
stopped.

"Afraid of what?" he questioned.

"Afraid it is too much to ask," she replied softly, lifting her
thoughtful eyes to his.

"No, it is n't!  Anything that will add to your happiness--"

"Oh, this would make me very happy!"

"Out with it then! 'To the half of my kingdom,' remember!"

"And you won't be offended?"

"I give you my word," he smiled.

"Well," she began slowly, "I should like best of all to have you
--oh, I wish you would forgive David's mother, and love her
again!  She loves you so much!"

For several minutes--it seemed an hour to Polly--the marble
clock over the fireplace, with the bronze mother and child sitting
there, tick-tocked its way uninterruptedly.  The little girl did
not dare to look up.  Her heart beat very fast indeed.  It hurt
her to breathe.  Had she made Colonel Gresham so angry that he
would never speak to her again?  She wondered how long it would be
before she could gain enough courage for just one glance at his
face.  The he spoke.

"You have given me a hard task, little Polly!  It would be easier
to go through the fever again!" His voice was gentle--very
gentle, but sad.

"Oh, please, please excuse me!" she exclaimed earnestly. "I ought
not to have asked it!  I'll take it all back!  You said what would
make me happiest--and so--and so--" She put her face down in her
hands. "I did n't mean to hurt you!" she sobbed, "I did n't!  I
did n't!"

"Child!  Child!  This will never do!  It is I who am wholly to
blame!  You have done nothing to excuse.  I shall keep my promise
to you, if you are sure that what you have asked will give you the
greatest happiness."

He waited for her answer--Polly never guessed with what selfish
longing.

Her face burst into radiance.

"Oh, will you!" she exclaimed. "It will make me so happy, happy,
I shan't know what to do!"

Colonel Gresham was very pale, but Polly did not notice.  She was
looking through rose-colored glasses.

"Is David still at the hospital?" the Colonel inquired.

"Yes, sir; he stays in Dr. Dudley's office now, to answer the
telephone and attend to things.  He's almost well."

"Well enough to walk over here, think?"

"Oh, yes, sir!" Polly beamed.

"Suppose you run and fetch him then.  Say to him that I should
like to make his acquaintance."

Polly needed no urging for such a blissful errand, and in her
excitement failed to hear the Doctor's approaching footsteps.  At
the threshold she nearly ran into his arms.

"Why such haste, Thistledown?  Have you and Colonel Gresham
quarreled?"

"Oh, no!  I'm going after David.  Do you care if he leaves the
office for just a little while?"

"Certainly not.  Tell him from me that he can come."

If the Doctor felt any surprise, neither his voice nor his face
showed it.

It cost Polly a deal of talk to convince David that his uncle had
actually sent for him, and then, after he had said that he would
go, he was afraid that his clothes were not just right for such a
visit.

"Never mind you clothes!" cried Polly. "He'll never know what
you have on."

"Well, I must brush my hair," delayed the boy, dreading the
ordeal before him.

"Oh, you hair's well enough!  Don't flat it down!  It's so pretty
as it is now--all curly and fluffy!"

So they were finally started, Polly talking so fast that David had
small chance for nervousness or fear.

Dr. Dudley was not in sight when the children entered Colonel
Gresham's room, and Polly made a silent wild guess regarding his
speedy going away.  To David's pleasure the Colonel received him
as he would have received any other lad whom Polly had brought for
a call.  There was no reference to his mother or to their kinship,
and the boy began at once to feel at ease.  He inquired about his
recent injury and his stay at the hospital, and then, by a chance
remark of Polly's, the subject of David's church singing was
brought up.

Conversation had not begun to flag, when Polly spied the Doctor's
auto at the curb.  Mrs. Collins was stepping out!

David's sentence broke off square in the middle; but Colonel
Gresham did not appear to notice.  Footsteps neared the door, and
the children sat breathless; yet the Colonel still talked on as
quietly as before.

When the door opened, Polly saw his fingers grip the arms of his
chair.  His voice faltered off into silence.

Dr. Dudley stepped aside, and David's mother appeared on the
threshold, a little slight, fair-haired woman, her face now pink
with emotion, her eyes big and shining.

The held out both hands; there was a swish of skirts an something
like a sob.

Polly heard, "Eva!"--"Oh, Uncle David!" Then she slipped out
to the Doctor, and he softly shut the door.

They went downstairs hand in hand, and so to the street.

"We'll have a little ride," he proposed, "to let off steam.
There are n't any patients that will hurt by waiting."

The car passed slowly up the pleasant street.

"Thistledown," he said tenderly, "you have accomplished a
blessed work this morning."

"Why," exclaimed Polly, in surprise, "I have n't done a single
thing--only go after David!  It's the Colonel that's done it
all!  But is n't it splendid of him?  Are n't you glad for
David?"

"I am glad for them all.  It is what I feared never would come to
pass.  Colonel Gresham is sure to like David, and it is going to
mean everything for the boy."



Chapter XII

The Kidnapping of Polly


"Mamma and I are going to live with Uncle David." So the boy told
Polly late that afternoon. "He says he has lost time enough, and
now we must come as soon as we can pack up."

"Is n't that splendid!" beamed Polly, thinking she had never
seen David look so happy or so handsome.

"Uncle David is nicer--a great deal nicer--than I dreamed
he could be.  O Polly, I can't thank you enough!"

"Thank me?" repeated Polly. "What for?"

"Polly May!" and David gazed at her incredulously.  Then he
laughed.

"Oh, you little bunch of unselfishness!" he cried. "I believe
you have n't the least idea that Uncle David's making up with us
is all your doing!"

"Why, David Collins, it is n't!  I just told him it would make me
happy if he would--that's all!"

"Just as I said!" he laughed. "O Polly, Polly!  Don't you see--
no, no, I'd rather you would n't!  Don't try to see!"

"I could n't!" chuckled Polly. "There is n't anything to see!"

"All right!  It's grand anyway!  Mamma looks so much prettier and
younger!  Oh, you can't think how happy--"

The telephone cut off his sentence, and he ran across the office.

He listened a moment; then Polly heard him say, "She is right
here.  If you'll wait, please, I'll ask her."

David turned from the instrument. "It is Mrs. Jocelyn," he
explained. "She wants you to come up there to-morrow afternoon,
and stay all night and next day.  Her cousin's little girl--
Dorothy Cannon, I think the name is--will be there, and she
wants you too."

"Oh, of course I'll go!" and Polly's eyes shone: "that is, if
Miss Lucy or Dr. Dudley don't need me for anything, and I don't
suppose they will.  Tell her I'll come, unless they do.  Oh, and,
David,"--for he had taken up the receiver again,--"ask her
what time she wants me, please!"

He gave the message, and then turned back to Polly.

"She says to come as early as you can after dinner.  Dear me, it
will be awfully lonesome without you!"

"It will, won't it?" Polly's face sobered. "But then," she
brightened, "you'll have to be home helping your mother pack up,
shan't you?"

"So I shall," he returned. "And it will be a good time for you
to go.  Ever hear of this Dorothy before?"

"Oh, yes!  Mrs. Jocelyn has told me lots about her.  I guess
she's nice.  She's twelve."

"You'll have a fine time, and I'll try to be glad you're going,"
laughed David.

Polly danced off to tell Miss Lucy and Leonora of her invitation,
waving a gay good-bye to David from the doorway.  She had made
several visits of a day to Mrs. Jocelyn, who had left the hospital
some weeks before; but she had never remained overnight.  And to
see the Dorothy Cannon of whom she had heard so many happy things!
She went upstairs on tiptoe of anticipation.

Miss Lucy was please, and Leonora tried to be.  Polly saw through
her forced smiles, however, and proposed all the pleasant make-ups
she could think of.

"You can take care of Phebe while I'm gone, and play she's twin
sister to your Juliet" (Leonora had named her doll after its
donor), "and you make take the book Burton Leonard sent me.  We
have n't read more than half the stories in it yet."

Leonora was beaming her thanks and her delight, when Miss Lucy
declared that she should depend on her to help entertain the ward,
and that made her look so joyful, Polly knew there would be little
lonesomeness for the lame girl.

When Dr. Dudley heard that Polly was going, he promised to carry
her in his automobile, for it was a long walk to Mrs. Jocelyn's
home.

"Then I shall have you to myself a little longer than the rest of
the," he twinkled.

"Anybody'd think I was n't ever coming back!" laughed Polly.

"Oh, don't say so!" shivered Leonora. "Talk about what you're
going to wear!"

"All right!" Polly agreed. "Miss Lucy and I have got it all
planned.  I shall wear my best white dress, if it is as warm as it
is today, and take my white sweater with me, so I'll have it if it
comes off cold.  And I'm going to wear my beautiful locket and
chain that Mrs. Leonard gave me, and my newest blue hair ribbon,
and my best ties, and my best hat."

"Dear me," mused Dr. Dudley gravely, "I did n't know I should
have to sit beside so fine a young lady as that!  I wonder if I
must put on my dress suit."

Polly giggled, and Leonora squealed, and they were not sobered
down when they bade the Doctor good-night.

"Is n't he nice?" admired the lame girl, as they went slowly
upstairs, hand in hand.

"He's the very nicest man in the whole world!" asserted Polly,
and her nodding curls emphasized her praise.

Dressing came directly after dinner, and Polly had the eager
assistance of every girl in the ward that was able to be about on
two feet.

Angiola Cuneo fetched the pretty black ties, and Mabel Camp the
long stockings.  Frederica Schmelzer held the box containing the
hair ribbon of delicate blue while Miss Lucy brushed the fluffy
curls into smoothness.  Stella Pope, greatly puffed up by the
importance of her errand, went to Miss Lucy's own room, and
brought back the dainty white frock, all spotless from the
laundry.  But Leonora's was the crowning service of all.  With
trembling fingers she clasped around Polly's white neck the
exquisite little gold chain, with its pendent locket, which had
been Mrs. Leonard's farewell gift when Burton left the hospital.

"There," she whispered delightedly, patting Polly's shoulder,
"you look too sweet for anything!"

Polly dimpled and blushed, but only said:--

"I wish you were going, too!"

"Oh my!" gasped Leonora; "I should n't know how to act or what
to say!  I guess I'd rather stay with Miss Lucy."

The nurse, gathering up some of Polly's tossed-off belongings,
smiled comfortably to herself, overhearing Leonora's words.  She
rarely had so much as to hint of reproof to Polly for any breach
of courtesy; the child seemed instinctively to know what was due
to others.  She could be trusted anywhere without a fear.

The auto was waiting at the curb, Dr. Dudley and Polly were on
their way from office to entrance, when there came a hurried call
for the Doctor from one of his patients in a private ward.

"That's too bad!" he ejaculated. "I wish she had put off her
attack an hour.  Now you'll have to walk--or wait, and it is
uncertain how soon I shall be at liberty."

"Oh, I don't mind walking!" smiled Polly.

"Well, here's for a good time, Thistledown!" And the Doctor
kissed her on both cheeks.

She watched him up the stairs, and then went out alone.

"I wish I could have had the ride with him," she sighed, as she
passed the inviting auto; "but it's a lovely day for a walk,"
she added. "I shall be there before I know it."

She waved her hand to Miss Lucy and the children, up at the
window, who looked astonished to see her walking.  Laughing at
their surprise, she flourished her sweater and the little bundle
containing her nightgown.  Then shrubbery hid them from view.  As
she went by Colonel Gresham's, she wondered how soon David would
be living there.  Today he was at home, helping his mother, as she
had predicted he might be.

A full third of the distance was passed, when, turning a corner,
she met a tall woman in a brown skirt and white waist.

"Wh--", she gasped; "Aunt Jane!"

The woman gave a short laugh.

"You did n't expect to see mi; did you?  Where you bound for, all
rigged out so fine?"

"I'm going to Mrs. Jocelyn's," Polly answered faintly.

"What! That rich Mrs. Jocelyn?"

"I guess so."

"Where does she live?"

"Up on Edgewood Avenue."

"Yes, that's the one," nodded the other. "You are comin' on!  I
s'pose you don't go to see anybody but millionaires now'days!  You
hain't been down to my house in an age."

"Mrs. Jocelyn was at the hospital," Polly explained, "and she's
invited me up to stay all night, because her cousin's coming."

"Well, I was on my way to see you and take you home with me.
Glad you happened along, for it will save my climbin' that hill.
Here I am slavin' myself to death, and you're kitin' off hither
and yon just to have a good time.  I thought you was goin' to help
'em out at the hospital."

"I do help all I can," Polly put in meekly.

"Looks like it!  Well, come on!  I've got a pile o' work waitin'
for me at home.  Much as ever I could get away anyhow."

Polly stepped forward, and the two walked along together.

"I thought you'd come over and see you new uncle, even if you did
n't care anything about me and your cousins."

"My new uncle?" repeated Polly, looking puzzled.

The woman laughed. "Did n't you hear I'd got married again?" she
asked.

"Why, no!" cried Polly.

"I was married three weeks ago to-day," was the proud
announcement. "He's got a good job at the Silver Plate, and I'm
takin' work from the button fact'ry; so we're gittin' on.  We've
moved over on Chestnut Street--got a flat now.  The kids think
it's fine."

"I'm glad, Aunt Jane," Polly managed to say, just as she reached
the street which led out in the direction of Edgewood Avenue. "I
have to go this way." She stepped back to allow her aunt to pass
on.

"Well, I guess not much!" and the child's arm was gripped by a
strong hand. "You're goin' home with me--that's what!"

"Oh, not to-day!" cried Polly, in a sudden terror. "I can't,
Aunt Jane!  I've promised to go up to Mrs. Jocelyn's!"

"That don't make any difference!  You can go up there some other
time--or you can stay away, just as I choose to have you!  Now,
you need n't go to cryin' and makin' a fuss!" for Polly's lip was
quivering. "I guess you know me well enough to know that when I
set out to do a thing I do it, and this afternoon I said I was
goin' to fetch you home, and I expect to keep my word."

A wild thought of flight swept through Polly's mind; but she at
once realized how futile would be an attempt to run away.  Her arm
was still held as in a vise, and she was being led along an
unfamiliar street.  Aunt Jane nodded now and then to people they
met, and could quickly call any number to her assistance.  Polly
decided that this was no time for escape.

"Where'd you get that locket and chain?" her captor queried.

"They were a present from Mrs. Leonard."

"What Mis' Leonard?"

"I don't know,  Her little boy was sick at the hospital, and I
sung--"

"Oh, that one!  Mis' Marvin Leonard it is.  Well, they'd ought to
given you some money, too--they've got enough.  I read in the
paper about your singin'--and faintin' away."

"In the newspaper?" Polly's face showed her astonishment.

"Sure!  Did n't you know it?  I should think some o' them doctors
or nurses might have let you see the piece.  And they'd ought to
had your picture taken to go along with it."

"Oh, no!" breathed Polly shrinkingly.

"Huh! You're a great kid!  Folks round here thought it was a
pretty smart thing.  You hain't no call to be ashamed of it."

The little girl attempted no reply.  She felt that Aunt Jane would
not understand.

Arrived on the fourth floor of the big tenement house, Polly was
at once called upon to praise the new quarters.

"Ain't this more swell than that old-fashioned rent on Brewery
Street?"

"Yes, I guess it is," was the rather doubtful response, for
Poly, in her swift survey of the narrow, gaudy parlor, discerned
little to admire.

"I s'pose it ain't much compared to the elegance of your
millionaire friends, Aunt Jane flung out, nettled at the child's
lack of approval.

"Mrs. Jocelyn' furniture is very plain--if you mean her,"
replied Polly gently.

"Well, come in here and put your things," leading the way to a
little dim bedroom, lighted only from the apartment in front.
"Better take off that white dress, and keep it clean; I'll get
you one of Sophia's to wear till I can send for your clothes."

Slowly and sadly Polly laid aside her hat, and began to unbutton
her dainty frock.  Tears welled up in her eyes, at thoughts of
Miss Lucy; but with a mighty effort she winked them back.

"There!--try that, and see how it fits."

Aunt Jane had emerged from the depths of a dark closet, and now
tossed a limp calico print towards Polly.

The child could discern soiled patches on front and sleeves, and
she revolted against the unclean garment; but silently she put it
on.

"Well, that ain't so bad!" approved Aunt Jane. "Sophia's a whole
year younger than you; but she takes a bigger waist.  Stand out
there--my, but it's short!  Never mind!  Here's a petticoat to
go with it."

Polly looked down in dismay.  She had thought she might perhaps
steal away to the hospital, just to let the Doctor and Miss Lucy
know where she was; but she could never brave the street in such a
skirt.

"Now I'll go to sewin' buttons, and you can do up the dinner
dishes.  I left 'em, thinkin' you'd be here.  This is the way to
the kitchen." And presently Polly found herself in a little
stuffy box of a room, with a tableful of greasy dishes before her.

"Where are the children?" she ventured.

"At school, of course,--where you ought to be.  Marcus and
'Melie I left at Mis' Cobbe's.  That Marcus is a terror!  I shall
be thankful when he goes to school.  Why did n't they send you
this fall?  You'll be 'way back in your books."

"Dr. Dudley has made arrangements for me to go to a school near
the hospital; it does n't begin till next week."

"Oh, a private school!  My, if they ain't puttin' the airs on to
you!"

"It's near.  That's why--"

"Huh!  Well, 't ain't near here.  I guess you can git along with
the one my kids go to."

Polly did not reply.  Experience had taught her to be sparing of
words with Aunt Jane.  She was still toiling with the heavy
crockery, when a rush of feet in the hallway announced that school
was out.

The door banged wide.

"Hoh! You've got back, have you?"

"Hullo, Poll!"

"Say, what you wearin' my dress for?"

"Oh, you've got on a gold locket!  Le' me see it!" Katie's
fingers began pulling at the clasp.

"Oh, don't, please!" cried Polly. "I'll unfasten it for you as
soon as I get the dishes done."

"I want to see it now!  Mamma, shan't Polly take off her locket,
and let me see it?"

"Polly, why can't you try to please you cousin, and not be so
stingy with your things?"

"My hands are soapy," she apologized, "and--"

"Well, don't you know enough to wipe them?" snapped Aunt Jane.
"You seem to have grown very helpless."

"Say, what are these blue stones in here?" queried Katie,
turning the locket curiously.

"Turquoises," Polly answered, eyeing with fear Katie's rough
handling.

"Whose picture is this?" was the next question. "Stop, you
Gregory--you'll break it!  Mamma, shant' he stop pulling it
so?"

"Yes, Gregory, you just wait, like a good boy, till your sister's
seen it; then you can take it."

Polly trembled.  Her beautiful locket and chain in Gregory's dirty
fingers!

"You have n't told me who this is," complained Katie.

"Burton Leonard."

"It's the kid she sung to," added the mother; "the one the paper
told about."

"Oh!" cried Katie. "What big eyes he's got!" And she snapped
the locket together.

"Now it's my turn!" asserted Maude, snatching the pretty thing
from her sister's hand.

Gregory burst into a wail.

"Yer said I could have it next!" he lamented.

"Let him take it!" urged the mother.  But Maude only clasped the
chain about her own neck, and danced off to the looking-glass over
the sink.

"Yer mean old thing!" screamed Gregory.

"Come get it, Greg!" Sophia darted towards her sister.

"When yer do, let me know!" jeered Maude, eluding their
outstretched hands, and putting a chair between them and herself.

A short skirmish was followed by a chase around the room, until
their mother interposed.

"Gracious me! What a hubbub! Maude Simpson, bring that locket to
me this minute!"

"It was n't my fault at all!" whimpered Maude, taking off the
chain and dropping it in her mother's lap.

"There's never no peace when you kids are in the house!"
grumbled the woman, tossing aside her work, and disappearing in
the next room.

"What yer done with it?" whined Gregory, as she came back with
empty hands.

"I've put it where you won't find it in a hurry," she answered
tartly. "Now hustle outdoors, the whole of you, and don't show
your heads in here again till supper time!"

Polly drew a breath of relief, as the last Simpson vanished.  She
had forgotten how turbulent the children were.

When the dishes were out of the way began Polly's first lesson in
sewing buttons to cards, and to Aunt Jane's delight she could soon
do the work quickly and well.

"You'll be quite a help," was the commendation that brought a
little solace to her sore heart. "Thank goodness, you're quieter
than my own kids!"

So passed the afternoon, until came supper and the new uncle.

Polly had been helping set the table, when the door opened, and a
little, thin-featured man stepped softly in.

"Polly May, I'll make you acquainted with your Uncle 'Rastus,
'Rastus Bean," called Aunt Jane from the cupboard that served for
china closet and pantry.

"How do you do, my dear?  How do you do?" smiled Mr. Erastus
Bean, holding out his hand. "I'm very glad to see you."

Polly's little fingers had barely touched the strong, wiry ones,
when Mrs. Bean's rasping voice broke in.

"Come along and wash up, 'Rastus!  The water's good and hot."

Polly's hand was dropped, as if it had been of the temperature of
the water.

"Yis, I'm comin' Jane!  I'm comin' fas' 's I can!" The little
man hurried across to the sink.

The children tumbled in, Gregory sprawling across the threshold
and knocking Katie against a chair.

"Why don't yer ever look where you goin'?" fretted Sophia.

"He's always runnin' over me!" wailed Katie.

"Say, where's Marcus and 'Melie?" demanded Maude.

"Over to Mis' Cobbe's, where I hope they'll stay till after
supper," answered their mother. "Her kids have been here enough,
and I guess she can 'tend to mine for one meal."

"I can't go after 'em, 'cause I got to study my spellin',"
announced Sophia.

"Nobody asked yer to," retorted Mrs. Bean. "They'd ought to know
enough to come home alone."

The meal progressed to the accompaniment of jarring speech, and
Polly was glad when it was over.

"Mamma, can we go up on the roof?" asked Katie. "The other folks
are up there, and we'll keep away from the edge."

"I don't care; but, remember, the first one that goes near that
rail gets a whippin'!"

The door slammed behind Maude, and Polly began to clear the table.
She was taking up her old tasks as naturally as if she had never
been free from them.

"Guess I'll go up myself for a few minutes," mused Mrs. Bean.
"'Rastus, you go fetch Marcus and 'Melie home!  Marcus 'u'd have
a fit if we went up on the roof without him.  And, Polly, you can
put 'Melie to bed, and do up the dishes, and then come on up, if
you want to. 'Rastus!"

The little man halted in the doorway.

"What, Jane?"

"Split up some kindlin's when you git back, and you may as well
fix the fire for mornin'--it must be about out now."

The dishes were nearly washed when the children were brought in;
and the boy had departed for the roof, and his small sister was in
bed, by the time the new uncle had finished his chores.

"I'll put them plates up in the cupboard," volunteered the
little man. "Set ri' down and rest."

But Polly helped, until the last dish was in place and the pan
hung up on its mail.  Then she dropped wearily into a chair.

"That Maude ought to have wiped 'em for yer," he sympathized.
"But them kids!" He wagged his head soberly. "I'd ruther stan'
at the bench, down to the shop, all day long, than be round with
such actin' mortals.  Jane, she can manage 'em if she sets out;
but 'most gen'ally she don't set out.  Wisht I could do somethin'
for yer," we proffered. "Ye're all tuckered out!"

"Oh, I'm just a little tired--that's all!" smiled Polly. "You
are ever so good!  I wanted to go up to the hospital, and tell
them where I am--they don't know, and I'm afraid they'll worry!
But I guess I can't to-night," she ended sadly.

"Why, I can run up there for yer, jus' 's well 's not," he
nodded.

"Oh! Will you?" she brightened. "I'll be so glad!  But won't it
be too much trouble?"

"Not a bit!" he returned glibly.  Then his pinched face shaded.
"If I can git back before she comes down," he hesitated,
wavering between kindness and fear.  "I guess I can," he
decided, and put on this hat.

"If Dr. Dudley is n't there," Polly told him, "please ask for
Miss Lucy Price.  She'll do just as well.  She's the nurse in our
ward."

"I'll do it up all straight," he exulted, stepping briskly with
the importance of his errand.  But as his hand touched the knob,
another's was before it.  His wife opened the door.

"Where you goin', 'Rastus Bean?" she demanded.

"I--I was just goin' out for a little walk," he faltered.

"A walk!" she snapped. "If you've got your chores done, you'd
better walk into bed!"

Without a word he disappeared in an adjoining room, while his wife
lifted the stove cover, to see if his tasks had been faithfully
performed.

Polly's forlorn hope vanished with the little man; but no tears
came until she was on her pillow, shut from all eyes.  Then they
gushed forth in a flood.



Chapter XIII

The Return


Polly was awakened early by clashing talk.  The girls, whose room
she shared, were in a wrangle over her pretty, blue hair ribbon.

Sophia had spied it first, and was slyly using it for her own
straight locks, when Maude had snatched it away, and a hubbub
followed.

The owner of it did not interfere, but began to dress, as if she
had no interest in the cause of the quarrel.

"She's more stuck-up 'n she used to be!" Polly overheard Maude
sneer, as she hurried away in response to her aunt's call.

Mr. Bean wass already eating breakfast, and he greeted the little
girl pleasantly, though keeping watch of his wife, who was frying
cakes.

"Here! Give these to you uncle," Polly was bidden; whereupon the
little man began such attempts at kindliness as to draw out a
contemptuous, "Huh!" from over the griddle.  After that he
fastened his eyes on his plate, and ate in silence.

By the time the elder children were off for school, and the
younger had departed to a neighboring tenement, Polly's early
tasks were completed, and she sat down again to the button-sewing.

The little kitchen was very still, and Polly's thoughts sped back
to the big house on the hill.  She wondered how long it would be
before she should see Dr. Dudley and Miss Lucy.  Were they
worrying about her and trying to find her?  She could only guess.

"I b'lieve I'll run up and get that ginger-bread receipt of Mis'
Moore's." The nasal voice broke in rudely upon the wondering.

Mrs. Bean shook the threads from her apron, and turned towards the
door.

"If the kids come in and want something to eat, before I get
back," she halted to say, "there's cookies in that little stone
pot in the cupboard.  Don't let 'em have but two apiece."

Wild thoughts, entirely foreign to Aunt Jane's directions, were
flashing through Polly's mind.

If only there were time!  She could try it!  She must let Dr.
Dudley and the others know!

"I shan't be gone long," her aunt was saying. "You stick to your
work!"

Polly waited only to hear her walk the length of the hall above,
and a door open and shut.  The she cautiously stole out, and down
the stairs, three long flights.  Not more than a block away she
had noticed a grocery.  Groceries have telephones.  She would run
down there, and call up the hospital!  At the outer door she
paused an instant for one troubled look at her short skirt; but
time was precious, and quickly she was speeding down the sidewalk.

"Hoh!  Look at her!" jeered a big boy from across the street.

She did not even glance his way.

"Have  you a telephone?" was her breathless inquiry of a man at
the entrance of the little shop.

A jerk of his fat thumb towards the dim interior was his only
answer.

"Please, may I use it?"

He nodded indifferently, and then she was hurrying in the
direction indicated.

The instrument was on the wall, and Polly on tiptoe could not
reach the mouthpiece.  Looking around for a possible foot-stool,
she spied a small box, which might have been used before for a
similar service, and pulling it into position she found that it
brought her to the proper height.  With a trembling hand she
lifted the receiver from its hook.  She was familiar with the
hospital number, and gave it without hesitation.

"Put in your nickel!" came distinctly to her ear.

Polly started in dismay.  This was a pay station!

"I--have n't any!" she faltered pathetically, and the merciless
snap of the wire told her that her last hope had been cut off.

She pushed the box back where she had found it, and walked slowly
out of the shop.  Her feet still lagged when she turned towards
the tenement.  What mattered it if Aunt Jane should return and
find her absent?  What mattered anything now?  Then came a sudden
daring temptation.  The road was free--and she was there!   Why not
keep on to the hospital?   She looked down--her skirts were inches
above her knees!  If only Aunt Jane had not insisted that she wear
Sophia's petticoats, to match the length of the borrowed dress!
Could she brave the crowded streets in such attire?  One thought
of those she loved best brought instant decision.  She could dare
anything for their sakes.  With a shrinking, fast-beating heart.
She turned, and went quickly forward.

She had not gone far, when ahead, whirling towards her, seemed a
familiar object.  Could it be?   There were other dark green
automobiles--but it was!--it was Dr. Dudley!

Polly dashed into the road,--perilously near the track of the
approaching car,--wildly waving her hands.  It stopped almost
at her feet, and then she was in Dr. Dudley's arms.

For a moment she could only sob out her joy.

"Where have you been, Polly, child?  We were all so worried--"

"I knew you would be!  I knew it!  But Aunt Jane made me come!
She held me tight and I could n't get away!  Mr. Bean was going to
tell you last night; but she would n't let him--she sent him to
bed!  And I tried to telephone to you just now, and I had n't any
five cents--oh, dear!"

"Poor little girl!" and the Doctor's voice was very tender.

His eyes passed beyond the curly head to the curb, where a knot of
men and boys regarded them curiously.

"Where is the telephone, Polly?" he asked.

"Up there, in the little grocery store." Her hand showed the
direction.

He swung her gently into the auto, stepped in beside her, and
steered slowly towards the conspicuous sign.

"I'll be back in a minute," he told her and disappeared between
the shelves of fruit and vegetables.

Polly's eyes followed him lovingly.  Presently he was beside her
again.

"I wanted to let them know that you are safe," he smiled. "Now
we will see that Aunt Jane."

They went up the long stairs, Polly in advance.  Her aunt heard
her, and opened the kitchen door.

"Where in the world--" she began sharply, but stopped at sight
of the tall man.

"I did n't know anybody was with you," she muttered; and then
recognized Dr. Dudley.

"I've had quite a hunt for you," he remarked. "You have moved
recently."

"Yes," she assented, "when I was married; this is nearer his
ship.  I s'pose you're after Polly," she added; "but I've made
up my mind not to let her stay at the hospital any longer.  I need
her at home."

"You will allow her to come to us for a day," he smiled, in a
tone that admitted of no refusal.

"Ain't no need of her goin' back," she fretted; "I can send for
her things."

"I'll agree to bring her luggage, when she comes for good," the
Doctor returned pleasantly' "but we want her for another day or
two, at the least.  Polly, run and get ready!  I shall be due at
the hospital before long."

In the little dim bedroom the eager fingers made quick work with
the buttons.  This was what Polly had not dared hope for, a day or
two more with those she loved!  Presently she was back in her
pretty dress and shoes, and was fastening on her hat before the
little cracked mirror.  OH, her locket!  She had come near
forgetting it.

"Please, Aunt Jane, can I have my locket and chain?" she asked,
facing the somewhat disturbed woman.

"There's not call for you to wear it today," was the sullen
reply.

"Oh, but I'd like it, please, if you don't mind!" Polly
insisted, gaining courage from Dr. Dudley's presence.

With a toss of her head, Mrs. Bean stalked into the next room.
The moments passed.  Still she did not return.  When she did
appear, she looked actually troubled.

"That Gregory must have got hold of it, and gone and hid it away,
or something!" she worried. "I've hunted high and low, but 't
ain't anywhere!  Now you need n't go to bein' scared, Polly!" for
the little girl's face plainly showed her distress. "I guess you
can stand it if you don't have on any _geegaws_ to-day!  I'll get
it fast enough when that kid comes home from school.  But, oh,
he's a terror, Gregory is!"

They went downstairs, Polly clinging to the Doctor's hand, as if
she feared that even now something might separate her from him.
In the auto, however, she settled back restfully in her seat.  It
was so unspeakably good to feel a loving protector close beside.

Dr. Dudley made quick time on the return trip to the hospital, and
David was waiting for them by the stepping-stone.

"Hullo!" cried Polly blithely.

"Hullo!" he responded; adding, "Oh! What made you give us such a
scare?"

"I could n't help it; truly I could n't!" she replied.

"Well, I'm glad you're back again!" David declared fervently,
insisting on carrying her bundle and her little white sweater.

"Better run up to the ward, and let them have a sight of you,"
the Doctor advised. "Did you tell your uncle?" turning to the
lad.

"Yes, sir.  And I called up Mrs. Jocelyn, too; but she said she
had just heard from you."

Polly's eyes grew wide and grave.  Had her friends all been
worrying like this?

Dr. Dudley glanced at his watch. "I shall be busy until noon,"
he said; "but, Polly, I wish you would come down directly after
dinner.  I want to talk with you."

She went upstairs wondering if the "talk" were to be about going
back to Aunt Jane's.  She had not reached any conclusion when the
sight of Miss Lucy and Leonora put the troublesome matter from
their mind.

"My precious!" breathed Miss Lucy in her ear.

"Oh, you darling Polly!" squealed the little lame girl, with a
frantic hug. "We thought you must be kid--kid--kid'aped, or
whatever 't is!" she ended desperately.

"I was--by Aunt Jane," laughed Polly; "but Dr. Dudley rescued
me."

"Maybe he would n't, if it had n't been for Colonel Gresham,"
returned Leonora, with a shake of her head, as the other children
jostled her carelessly, in their eagerness to be at the front.

"What did the Colonel do?" queried Polly wonderingly' but the
rest claimed her, and the answer had to wait.

"You've lost your locket!" cried Stella Pope. "Did you know
it?"

"It is n't los exactly," Polly explained, instinctively
shielding the guilty lad as much as possible in her brief
narration of facts.

"Aw, what a kid!" sniffed Johnny Ryan.

"The horrid boy!" worried Mabel Camp. "What if they don't ever
find it!"

"Where's yer hair ribbon?" asked Frederica, feeling responsible
for the safety of that bit of dainty blue, since she had aided in
its first use.

Again Polly stood in defense.

"My cousin Maude wore it to school, and she had n't come home
when I left."

"What made yer let her?" mourned Frederica. "Bet yer I would
n't!"

"Come, Polly, and change your dress," interposed Miss Lucy,
guessing somewhat of the truth from the little girl's reddening
cheeks and hesitating voice.

In the dressing-room, behind the closed door, the nurse took Polly
in her arms.

"It is so good to have you back again," she told her, with
kisses for emphasis.

The words stabbed the child's heart.  The time was to be so short!
Still Polly would not spoil to-day with to-morrow's nor next day's
troubles, and she summoned brave smiles and gay responses, until
she half forgot the dreary fourth-floor flat where she had passed
the night.

Leonora caught an early chance to draw Polly away to a corner
where they could talk--or where she could, for she was bubbling
with excitement over the untold story of last night's doings.

"My!  I thought we'd go crazy when Mrs. Jocelyn telephoned to
know why you did n't come!  There you'd had time to get to her
house over 'n' over again!  Dr. Dudley just left ev'rything and
went off in his auto, and hunted and hunted, and you was n't
anywhere!  The he told the police, and they went to lookin'!"

"The police!" repeated Polly, big-eyed with astonishment.

"Yes; but they could n't find you.  Miss Lucy 'most cried, and
Dr. Dudley looked so sober I did n't dare speak to him.  OH, it
was awful!  We was sure you'd been kid--" Leonora hesitated, as
before.

"Kidnaped," prompted Polly.

"Oh, yes, kidnapped!  I never can remember how it goes.  Well,
David said he knew you had been, and Miss Lucy kep' saying, 'Oh,
no! it can't be!' But she looked as if she'd sink when she said
it."

"And what was it about Colonel Gresham?" Polly asked. "You said
--"

"Yes," Leonora hurried on, "I'm comin' to it!  We never any of
us thought of your Aunt Jane, till Colonel Gresham he said had n't
you gone to see her.  Dr. Dudley told him of course you wouln n't,
when you' started for Mrs. Jocelyn's, and the Colonel he said he
should try her anyway.  So Dr. Dudley jumped right into his auto
and raced off to where you aunt used to live.  When she was n't
there, and the folks did n't know where she'd gone, and her name
was n't in the directory at any new place, he did n't know _what_
to do!"

"She's married Mr. Bean," Poly put in, "so she'd Mrs. Bean
now."

"Oh, maybe that's why he could n't find her!  Well, he come home,
and he and Miss Lucy talked and talked, and High Price she talked,
too, and--"

"High Price!" Poly broke out.

"Yes, she felt awful about you bein' lost--my!  I guess we all
did!  You don't know!  I did n't want to go to bed, and Miss Lucy
let me sit up, hoping we'd hear something; but finally I had to,
'cause there was a woman sick, and the Doctor had to stop huntin'
for you, and go and 'tend to her, and David went home, for there
was n't anybody any more to telephone to.   This morning Dr.
Dudley he said he was going to find your Aunt Jane if she was in
this city, and the next thing we knew David come rushin' in, and
sayin' you was safe and sound--the Doctor had telephoned to
him.  My! How glad we were!  I never wanted to dance so much in
all my life!  Say, why did n't you send word where you was?"


"I could n't." And Polly related something of her unhappy stay
in the house on Chestnut Street.

She had not finished when David called up to know if Polly and
Leonora could be spared.  He was alone in the office, and wanted
them.

The lad was eager for Polly's story, and much of it had to be
retold.  Then he disclosed news of his own.

"We're going to move up to Uncle David's the first of next week.
Won't that be jolly?  You can come over any time; it is so near."

Leonora beamed her pleasure.  Polly pushed back the tears.

David's face shaded with sudden dismay.

"You have n't got to go back to your Aunt Jane's?" he demanded
fiercely.

Polly's head gave the answer.  At the moment speech seemed
impossible.

"You shall not!" he burst out. "If Dr. Dudley lets you go and
live with those--those heathen, I'll never speak to him again
as long as I live!"

"Why, David Collins!" Polly's gentle voice was grieved and full
of astonishment.

The pale, blue-eyed lad seemed to have vanished, and another to be
standing there before her.  His eyes, grown suddenly dark, set in
that flaming face, gave him a most unnatural look.

"I shall have to go--Aunt Jane says I must," she went on
sadly. "There's no other way."

"There would be another way, if I was a man!" he raged. "Oh, oh!
I wish I were!  I wish I were!" he cried passionately; and
throwing himself upon the couch, face downward, his shoulders
shook with sobs.

Leonora bent her head on her arm, and wept silently.

Polly was endeavoring to soothe them both when Dr. Dudley came in.

Learning the cause of the tears, he remonstrated in his humorous
way, until Leonora smiled again; but David scorned such comfort,
refusing to move or to speak.  Finally the Doctor started to
prepare the medicine he had come for, and the girls went upstairs,
Polly renewing to return directly after the noon meal.



Chapter XIV

Polly's "Anne Sisters"


Dr. Dudley's office was without an occupant when Polly peeped in.
The Doctor had not returned from dinner, and David had gone home
for the rest of the day.  The little girl wandered about the room,
too full of vague dread to care for books, or even for the fine
collection of sea shells, which usually she never tired of.  They
had been brought home from foreign shores by an old uncle of the
physician's, and now, ranged on their wide shelves, they gleamed
out from a farther corner of the office in all the delicate tints
of their wonderful family.

But to-day Polly passed them by with only a sigh, remembering the
happy times that she and David and Leonora had had in their close
company, now playing that they were mermaids, come to tell them
strange tales of the under-seas, now holding them to their ears,
to catch the mysterious, fascinating songs of the ocean which they
were always singing.

"Here already?" broke in the Doctor's pleasant voice. "I don't
believe they gave you much of a dinner."

"Yes, it was good; but I was n't hungry this noon," Polly
replied, with a wan little smile.

"You were in such a hurry to come down and see me that it took
away your appetite--was that it?" he laughed.

"I don't know," was the sober answer.

The Doctor glanced furtively at her face, and grew grave at once.
He squared some books and magazines upon the table, and then sat
down in his lounging-chair, pulling Polly to his knee.

"I want to know more about that Aunt Jane of yours," he began.
"Was you mother her sister, or--"

"Oh, no, she was n't!" Polly interrupted. "Mamma was an only
child, just like me."

"And your father--did he have brothers or sisters?"

"I don't know," she answered slowly.

"He died when I was three years old.  I can only just remember
him."

"Do you recollect what Aunt Jane's name was before she married?
Was it May?"

Polly shook her head doubtfully. "I can't seem to think," she
mused. "Oh!  I guess it was Carter, 'cause she's always saying
that Maude is clear Carter, just like her folds, and Marcus is all
Simpson, like Uncle Gregory."

"What was you mother's maiden name, her name when she was a
girl?" the Doctor next questioned.

"Phebe Illingworth.  Grandma Illingworth was her mother.  She
lived with us.  She died the year before mamma did."

"Thistledown," went on the Doctor, "some of my questions may
sound rude, but it is important that I know a little more than I
ever have known of your family history.  I think you told me that
your mother gave piano lessons."

"Yes, and grandma gave lessons on the violin and guitar, and
singing lessons too."

"And what became of the piano and other musical instruments?"
asked the Doctor quickly.

"I think Aunt Jane sold them.  She sold 'most everything.  Some
of the furniture she's got now."

"Was it nice furniture?"

"I think it was lovely.  There was a beautiful sideboard--that
was grandma's--with carved birds on it, and the wood was light
brown--kind of yellowish--and so pretty!"

"Was that sold?"

Polly nodded sadly.

"Did you mother ever go to the bank, do you remember?"

"Oh, yes, she did!  She used to carry a little book."

"Did you always have plenty of money to use--for food and
clothes and so on?"

"I guess so.  We had nice things to eat, and pretty things to
wear."

"You never heard of any will, I suppose?"

The curls shook slowly.

"Your mother was not sick long, was she?" the Doctor asked
gently.

"She was never sick.  She was giving a music lesson, one
afternoon, and she fainted away--they could n't make her
live." The sorrowful voice softened almost to a whisper, and the
golden head drooped to Dr. Dudley's shoulder.

He touched his lips to the white forehead, and tightened his clasp
of the slender little form.

"I am sorry enough to have to bring all this back," he said;
"but, Thistledown, I must discover a way, if possible, to keep
you from that woman.  I want to find out just how much legal right
she has in regard to you.  If we could only obtain sufficient
evidence to prove that she is not a proper person to care for you
--"

Polly had suddenly sat up straight, her eyes round with the
startling, beautiful thought.

"Do you mean," she broke in excitedly, "that I should n't have
to go back to Aunt Jane?"

The Doctor bowed. "But--" he began.

"Oh, then I can stay with you!" she burst out. "She is n't
proper, she is n't nice, she is n't--anything!"

"I know, my dear!" smiled the Doctor. "But such things are hard
to prove.  I shall keep you, Thistledown, just as long as the law
will let me; but the law must be obeyed, and we can't tell how
things will come out."

"Won't I have to go back to-morrow?" she asked eagerly.

"No, indeed," he assured her. "Were you dreading that?  Don't be
afraid, Thistledown!  Keep up a stout heart!  You shall stay here
for the present anyway." He looked at his watch. "I think I'll
find Jack at home now," he said; and, letting Polly slip to her
feet, he placed her in his chair and crossed over to the
telephone.

Polly listened breathlessly.  She knew that "Jack" must mean
only Jack Brewster, a lawyer of the city, who had been a college
classmate of the Doctor's.  The two were close friends.

"That you, Jack?" Polly heard. "Yes.  I want to see you
professionally, as soon as possible.  No," laughing; "but it is
important.  Can you come up this evening?  All right. Good-bye."

"Jack Brewster will do his best for us," the Doctor said, coming
back. "He says he will be here at seven or a little after.  I
think it probably that he will wish to ask you a few questions;
but you won't be afraid of him.  He is one of the gentlest men I
ever knew--and the strongest," he added.

"I am not afraid of anybody that is your friend," returned
Polly.

The Doctor smiled. "A very pretty compliment!" he told her; but
she gave his praise scant notice.

"I wonder," she said, "if you would like to see the little book
mama wrote about my Anne sisters."

"You what?" he queried.

"My Anne sisters."

Only his twinkling eyes disclosed his amusement. "Ancestors you
mean, don't you?" he corrected gently.

"Maybe," doubtfully; "but there are lots of Annes in it that are
related to me."

"Where is the book?"

"Right upstairs, in 'Under the Lilacs.' Don't you remember, you
went down to Aunt Jane's, and got some of my books when I was able
to sit up?"

"I recollect," he nodded.

"Well, that was why I sent for this one 'specially, because I
knew it had the little book init, and mamma told me always to keep
it.  So I thought I'd better have it with me."

"Run up and get it, child!  It may be--" Polly was gone.

It was indeed a very little book that she put in the Doctor's
hand, simply a few sheets of small note paper sewed together.

"It has about the Illingworth family in one part, and about the
May folds in the other," Polly explained; but it is to be doubted
if Dr. Dudley heard her, so eagerly was he scanning those lists of
names.  He clutched at one forlorn thread of hope, and as he read,
the feeble thread waxed into a cord of strength.

"Polly--" he began brightly, and then stopped.  After all he
could not be sure, and he must not raise happy anticipations only
to see them blasted.  His face shaded, and he finished the
sentence quite differently from what he had intended.  He went on
gravely, "Did the Simpsons take charge of everything after your
mother went?  Was nobody else there?"

"Not to stay, except Mrs. Brooks, who lived downstairs.  She was
n't there much.  I guess Aunt Jane did n't want her."

"Probably not," remarked the Doctor grimly.

"Is the book any good?" she asked wistfully.

Again he was tempted to tell her, and again he restrained himself.

"I think it will be of use to us," he replied.

"Did you see all the Annes?" she queried. "Are n't there a lot
of them?"

He nodded laughingly. "It is a good name and I have discovered
yours among them."

"Did n't you know it before?  It is Marry Anne, after my great-aunt
Mary Anne Illingworth.  I don't like it so well as Polly."

"Or Thistledown," he added gaily.  His spirits had risen
wonderfully since seeing the little book.

The sudden change had its effect on Polly, and when she went
upstairs it was with something of her accustomed blitheness.

The afternoon passed pleasantly, but after supper the little girl
grew unaccountably nervous.  She started at every ring of the
telephone, and gave queer, absent-minded answers to Leonora's
questions.  Finally Miss Lucy, comprehending the situation,
proposed a game; but Polly, usually the quickest of the children,
allowed the others to eclipse her, while her ears were strained
for the expected summons.  At last, when the message came, she
started downstairs with a fluttering heart, her nerves a-quiver
with irrational fear.

At any other time she would have been pleased at the thought of
meeting Dr. Dudley's friend of whom she had heard so many
delightful things; but now a vague terror possessed her, lest he,
being a part of that awful law,--which to her was only a name
of dread,--might send her directly back to Aunt Jane's.

Polly rarely had a fall, so light and sure of foot was she; but at
the top of the flight she stumbled and came near going headlong.
This, turning her thoughts suddenly into another path, seemed
somewhat to steady her quaking nerves, and when she reached the
office door she was ready to smile a brave, though shy, greeting
to the lawyer.

Jack Brewster was in appearance the opposite of Dr. Dudley.  The
physician was tall and broad-shouldered, with no surplus flesh;
yet none would have called him thin.  The lawyer was slight almost
as a boy, of fair complexion, with an abundance of wavy brown
hair, and eyes that had a habit of shining as if their owner had
just received a bit of good news.  They shone now, as he took one
of Polly's little hands in both his own, and told her how glad he
was to make her acquaintance.

"I have n't any little girl at my house," he went on smilingly,
"but there's a boy who makes things pretty lively.  When I
started to come away this evening he hugged my leg, and kept
saying, 'No sir-ee-sir! No sir-ee-sir!' till I finally had to go
back and tell him his usual bedtime story."

"How old is he?" asked Polly, her fears quite forgotten.

"He will be two years, the third of next month.  Bob," whirling
around to the Doctor, "why have n't you brought Miss Polly out to
see us?  I'm ashamed of you!"

The physician laughed. "I am not very neighborly, I'll admit,"
he returned. "Sick people have crowded out the well ones lately.
I know well folks will keep."

"Then the only way for me to get hold of you is to feign a chill
or a fever or a broken leg--all right!  Thank you for the cue!
And now, Miss Polly," he went on cheerily, "I want you hones
opinion of that aunt of yours.  Tell me, please, just how she
makes you feel."

"Wh-y," hesitated the surprised little girl, "if I should say
right out, I'm afraid it would n't sound very polite or--"

"Don't think anything about politeness just now, please.  Open
your heart frankly, and let me see what is there in regard to her.
Don't be afraid to say exactly what you think.  It may help me
very much.  I want to be able to look at her through your clear
eyes."

A shadow darkened the fair little face, and pain crept in, and
stayed.

"She seems," Polly began slowly, "like a dreadful dream--you know,
when you wake up all shivery, and are so glad it is n't real.
Only"--with a little catch--"Aunt Jane is real!  Sometimes I feel
sick all over when I think about her, and going back there--oh,"
she burst out passionately, "I'd rather die than go back to live
with her!  Mr. Brewster, don't make me go! Please don't make me
go!" The words came with a half sob, but she fought the tears
back, and her appealing eyes searched his face for hope.

"My dear child," he exclaimed tenderly, "you must not worry one
bit more about this!  You have given me exactly what I want.  Now
leave the matter with Dr. Dudley and me.  Will you agree to do
this?"

"If I can," she answered softly; "but Aunt Jane is very hard to
forget!"

"I dare say she is," smiled the lawyer; "but I think you can do
it.  You know the best way to forget a disagreeable thing?"

No, Polly did not.

"It is to keep thinking of other things, pleasant things, until
the mind is so full of them that there is n't a scrap of room for
whatever is annoying.  You try it, and see if I am not right!"

"There are lots of pleasant things to think of," smiled Polly.

"To be sure there are!  One is, that Dr. Dudley is going to bring
you out to my house some morning to stay all day."

"Oh," beamed Polly, "that would be nice!" She looked across at
the Doctor.

He nodded happily.

"If he does n't do it," and the lawyer made a comical grimace in
Dr. Dudley's direction, "I'll come after you myself."

Polly gurgled out her little laugh, which sounded as if she had
already begun to follow the lawyer's advice, and she thanked him
very sweetly for his invitation and his promise.  Presently she
went upstairs, and Miss Lucy was relieved to see that she appeared
more like her usual self.  But she was very quiet, repeating
nothing of what had passed in the office.  It had been a hard day,
and Polly was glad when the time came for her to creep into bed.

On Saturday Miss Lucy and her small assistant had a busy morning.
There was scant time to think about Aunt Jane.  When she did
appear in Polly's mind, the little girl remembered Mr. Brewster's
counsel, and hastened to perform her task in hand with exceeding
faithfulness, putting on fresh pillows slips with as much care as
if the welfare of the ward depended on their being straight to a
thread.  Her efforts were successful, for they pushed away Aunt
Jane.  So the forenoon passed, leaving her at dinner time a little
more tired than usual, but free from the worry of the day before.

Soon after the meal Miss Lucy went downstairs.  When she came back
Polly was playing Authors with Leonora, Mabel, Frederica, and
Stella.  She stopped beside Polly's chair.

"Dr. Dudley wants you," she smiled. "Run right along, and I will
take your place."

Polly went, wondering, but fearing little.  Miss Lucy's face was
too radiant to betoken anything unpleasant.

Dr. Dudley held out his arms, and the little girl ran into them.

"Glorious news, Thistledown!  It is all settled! 'Aunt Jane' has
no right to you whatever!"

"Oh!" she gasped, and went suddenly white.

The Doctor dropped into a chair, and took her in his lap, letting
her lean against him.

"I'm glad you are going to school next week," he declared. "You
will get out of doors more.  I'm not going to have you paling up
in this way every little while.  You are in the house too much."

"I'm all right," she argued. "Tell me about it, please!"

"To begin with," he smiled, "these people are no relatives of
yours."

Polly's eyes rounded with amazement.

"And Aunt Jane is n't my aunt at all?"

"Not the least mite of an aunt," he laughed. "It was a hard
thing for her to admit; but she had to do it."

"You have seen her?" queried Polly.

"Mr. Brewster and I were there this forenoon.  It seems that she
lived next door to you at the time your father died, and,
according to her own statement, she gave you mother a great deal
of assistance at that time.  It is easy to see how she made your
mother feel under obligations to her, and the rest came about as
it naturally might with such a woman.  When she saw her chance for
gain she improved it.  She has defrauded you out of household
goods and money; but Jack thinks we should hardly make anything by
taking the matter into court.  There is nearly two thousand
dollars still to your credit in the bank, and that shall stay
there till you are of age.  She was allowed only a certain sum per
week for your support--the rest she could not touch; but she
did what she pleased, it seems, with the money received for
furniture and so on.  She has no property that we can get hold of,
except the things which belonged to your mother.  Those we can
take, if you will tell me what they are."

"Oh! Can I have mamma's little rosewood work-table!  I saw it
there the other day."

The Doctor was busy with pad and pencil.

"The sooner we get them the better, so think hard now, and I'll
note them down."

"There's a good deal of china, and some nice glass dishes, and
the silver spoons and forks--I could tell which they were if I
could see them."

"You are going to pick them out, with Mr. Brewster and me."

"I'm going there?" Polly cried.

Dr. Dudley nodded. "You're not afraid?" He smiled reassuringly.

"Oh, no, not with you!" she replied. "There's two trunks," she
went on, "with some of mamma's clothes in.  A good many are worn
out--she wore 'em, and make 'em over for the girls and me.
Then there are all our books, and three or four chairs, and a
lovely clock--oh, and a great pile of mamma's music, with some
pieces that she wrote herself!"

The list was longer than Dr. Dudley had expected.  When Polly
could think of nothing more, he called up the lawyer by telephone,
making an appointment to meet him.  Shortly afterwards he put
Polly in the auto, and they started for Mrs. Bean's.

On the way the little girl thought of her precious locket.

"We shall get it if we can," the Doctor told her. "Mrs. Bean
appears to be honest about that.  She believes the boy has it; but
he professes innocence.  I fancy she will keep him out of our way
if possible."

They took the lawyer in at his office, and Polly finished her ride
sitting on his knee.

When Mrs. Bean learned their errand, she turned, then white, and
seemed greatly excited.  At first she was inclined to resent their
coming as an intrusion, declaring, "There ain't much belongin' to
the kid anyhow." But, as earlier in the day, she quailed before
Mr. Brewster's firm, quiet speech, and sullenly led the way to the
various articles called for.  Finally nothing remained unchecked
on the list except the two trunks.

"I h'ain't got no trunks," the woman bristled. "You've seen my
rooms an' all there is in 'em!  Them trunks prob'ly was sold along
with other things."

"Why, Aunt Jane," put in Polly, "they were here just before I
was hurt.  I remember, because--"

"Huh!" she cackled. "I was n't here then, an' I guess they
wa'n't!"

"I mean where we lived then," corrected Polly.

"Wal, they ain't here nor there now," she insisted.

"Can't we go up attic?" questioned Polly. "You said, the other
day, there was an attic to--"

"I hain't got nothin' up there," Mrs. Bean broke in, with
flaming face.

"Will you allow us to look through it, please?" The lawyer's
voice was low, but tense.

"There ain't no call for you to go paradin' up there," she
snapped. "Pretty how d' y' do, if you can't take my word for
it!"

"It is an easy matter to be mistaken," Mr. Brewster smiled.
"Have you a key to the apartment?  Or is it open?"

Mrs. Bean took time for reply, narrowing her eyes, as if in deep
thought.  She was quick to see the loophole of escape which the
lawyer had shown her.  Still she hesitated.

"Wal," she muttered finally, "it's barely possible I was
thinkin' o' some other trunks; but I don't b'lieve I was.  I do'
know; I'm driven to death.  I sh'd think I'd forgit my own name,
slavin' 's I have to! 'T won't do no hurt, I s'pose, for you to go
up an' see."

The trunks were found, as Mr. Brewster had been sure they would
be.  He opened both, and he and Polly hastily looked over their
contents.  Besides bundles of old letters, photographs, and
numerous little mementoes, there was much of value,--fine table
and bed linen, and silk dress, some exquisite laces, and a little
box of odd pieces of jewelry.

"Oh!" Polly burst out, "I forgot grandma's watch!  And mama's
coral pin and her topaz ring!"

"They're downstairs," volunteered Mrs. Bean. "I forgot them,
too!"

After the trunks were locked, and the keys in Mr. Brewster's
pocket, he and the Doctor carried them into the hallway.  While
they were busy, there was a clatter of feet on the lower stairs,
and Mrs. Bean slipped hurriedly away.

"I guess the children have come," said Polly.

But when the three reached the apartment below, no young folds
were visible, and the lawyer silently concluded to defer his
attempt with Gregory until another time.

Another later Polly's goods were brought to the hospital, and
Leonora and several other children, who were able to be
downstairs, were given the unbounded delight of seeing them
unloaded.



Chapter XV

A Bid For Polly


Early on Monday morning Polly received an urgent request from Mrs.
Jocelyn that she begin her delayed visit that very hour.  So, as
school was to open on Wednesday, it was decided that the little
girl should accept the renewed invitation, and that Dr. Dudley
should fetch her home on the succeeding afternoon.

"By that time," observed David, "we shall be all moved, and we
can go to school together in the morning."

"But, oh, dear!" groaned Leonora, "that Aunt Jane will get you
again, sure!  Oh, Dr. Dudley, don't let her go alone, please
don't!"

Polly laughed happily.  It was hard for Leonora to realize that
Mrs. Bean had no more power over her beloved friend.

But Dr. Dudley did not laugh.  Leonora had been of the band of
anxious ones on that night of suspense, and he could understand
how she still feared to have Polly venture for without a
protector.

"You need not worry," he assured her. "I shall not let Polly out
of my sight until she is safely inside Mrs. Jocelyn's house."

"I could go alone just as well," smiled the little girl. "There
is n't any danger."

"It is too long a walk," returned the Doctor, "and don't you
dare to come back, young lady, until you come with me!" He shook
his finger at her threateningly.

She giggled, while David remarked, with a mischievous twinkle:--

"That would be a good way to keep her there--you need n't go
after her!"

"Do you want me to stay away, David Collins?" demanded Polly.

"No, I don't," he admitted laughing.

"Oh, don't talk about her staying away!" pleaded Leonora. "We
did, just in fun, last time, and then she was lost!"

"Oh, you funny, blessed Leonora!" cried Polly, putting her arms
around her friend's neck, "I'm not going to get lost, or stay
away, either--only one night.  I guess you can stand it for
just one night."

Dr. Dudley saw his charge inside Mrs. Jocelyn's door, according to
his promise; but the little lady told him that he need not come
after her, for she would bring her back on the following day.

Mrs. Jocelyn's home was in a delightful quarter of the city,
opposite a park of many acres.  The house was dignified mansion,
full of stately old furniture, and if it had not been for its
owner's cheery hospitality it would have been rather awe-inspiring
to a little girl like Polly.  But Polly, having been several times
a guest in the big house, now felt quite at home, and ran up and
down the polished oaken stairs and through the grand, dimly
lighted hallways as merrily as if she had always been used to such
imposing surroundings.

"It is too bad Dorothy could n't stay over till this week," Mrs.
Jocelyn said; "but never mind!  She'll come again before long,
and then you'll see her.  We'll have such pleasant times to-day
and to-morrow, that she won't be missed.  This afternoon are going
shopping, and you are to buy presents for everybody you like."

"Oh!" beamed Polly.

"And to-morrow morning," her hostess went on, "we are invited to
a musicale across the street, at Mrs. Trowbridge's, where we shall
the wonderful little violinist who is being made so much of by
musicians."

"Won't that be lovely!" cried Polly. "I have n't heard any music
in ever so long, except at church, and David's singing."

Mrs. Jocelyn smiled appreciatively. "I knew you would enjoy it,"
she said. "Now I shall be busy for a few minutes, and you can do
anything you choose,--mouse around the library, or play on the
piano, or make out a list of what you'd like to give your friends.
We will start soon after luncheon.  You won't have time for much;
I'm only going to make a salad dressing which I fancy I can mix a
little better than Tilly can.  Then I'll help you with the
presents."

Polly had taken lessons of her mother, and her fingers still
remembered bits of the pieces she had learned; so the piano was
her first choice.  Lured on by the familiar airs, she played and
played, forgetting all but the music she loved.

Mrs. Jocelyn returned from the kitchen, and, unnoticed, slipped
into a seat back of the player.

Finally Polly turned around.

"I felt you there!" she laughed. "Have I hindered you?"

"You have been charming me.  Why, child, I did n't know you could
play so well!  And all out of practice, too!  I should n't think
you could recollect a note."

"My fingers seem to," Polly smiled. "I'll think I don't know a
piece, and then my hands go right along and play it."

"I wish mine would," laughed Mrs. Jocelyn. "But I've let my
music go too long; it will never come back." Her last tones were
a little sad, but she quickly recovered her gayety. "Suppose we
think over now," she proposed, "what you would like to purchase
at the stores, and where we shall need to go.  Then we can the
better map out our afternoon."

Polly was all eagerness at once, and her hostess was no less
interested.

"Are n't there some new girls in the ward who have n't any
dolls?"

"Yes," Polly answered, "there are five or six.  Let me see,"
tapping off the names on her fingers, "there's Mabel, and Stella,
and Frederica, and Angiola, and Trotty,--she's only four,--
and Mary Pender, and Ida Regan,--she's real pretty; that makes
seven: I think that's all."

"You shall choose a doll for each one of them.  You will know
better than I just what will suit."

"Oh, it will be such fun!" chuckled Polly. "And you sure so good
to do it!"

"Pshaw!" exclaimed the little lady. "I'm only being good to
myself.  I have just begun to learn what money is for, and I am
enjoying it--for the first time in years!" A shadow stole over
the wrinkled pink-and-white face; but a smile quickly chased it
away. "Now, my love, whose name shall head your list of especial
friends?"

"I don't know," Polly hesitated. "Do you mean children?"

"I mean anybody that you would like to honor with a gift.
Suppose you begin with Miss Price--Miss Lucy Price."

"Oh, I'd love to!  But what could I get?"

"Plenty of things to choose from,--books and jewelry and all
sorts of knick-knacks, besides pretty bits to wear."

"I think she'd like a new hand bag," ventured Polly. "Hers is so
gray and shabby. Would it cost too much?"

"No, indeed!" laughed Mrs. Jocelyn. "You shall buy the very
prettiest one we can find.  But before I forget it I must see
about something else.  I want your picture, and I know your
hospital friends would like it, too.  Wait a minute, and I'll call
up Fisher, and secure an appointment for this afternoon if
possible."

She disappeared in the tiny room back of the staircase, set apart
for the telephone, and Polly heard her voice, as she talked over
the wire. "I have promised to have you there at three o'clock,"
she announced presently. "That will give us a good two hours for
shopping, if we don't talk too long over our luncheon."

"Am I dressed all right?" queried Polly, anxiously; adding, "Who
will want my picture?  The folks at the hospital see me all the
time."

"Oh, you precious bit of humanity!" cried the little lady,
taking Polly in her arms. "If I should tell you that you will
make so sweet a picture that everybody will want it, would you
believe it?"

"No," Polly laughed, "because it would n't be true."

Mrs. Jocelyn kissed her for answer, and then asked what she would
like to give to David.

"He has a knife," mused Polly, scowling her forehead over the
problem.

"How would a sterling silver fruit knife do?" suggested the
little lady.

That was decided to be just the thing, and went down on the list.
For Dr. Dudley, in addition to the photograph, Polly thought a
nice handkerchief would be suitable gift, and Mrs. Jocelyn wrote,
"Box of H." opposite his name.

"Could I give Leonora Hewitt something to wear?" ventured Polly.
"She thinks so much of pretty things; but she can't have many,
because her father is poor, and there are a lot of children
besides her.  Leonora is a sweet girl--and, oh, is n't it
lovely?  Dr. Dudley says now that she will get over her lameness,
and be able to walk as well as anybody!"

"That is delightful!" agreed Mrs. Jocelyn. "You shall surely get
a beautiful something for Leonora."

"Don't you think a pink hair ribbon would be nice?" Polly asked.

Her hostess smiled over the modesty of the gift, and was about to
suggest some article of jewelry; but she finally let it go as
Polly had chose, only adding on the paper, "and sash."

"We may change every one of these, when we come to the real
selection," laughed the little lady; "but the list will be a
guide."

Nobody was forgotten, not even Miss Hortensia Price, an
"Illustrated Browning" being against her name.

They were on their way shortly after one o'clock, in Mrs.
Jocelyn's stately coach, drawn by the handsome iron-grays that
were Polly's admiration.  It would be hard to say which enjoyed
the shopping most, Polly in her innocent delight of giving, or
the old little lady who was fast growing young in her now-found
life. With a carriage full of bundles, they drove up to the
photographer's precisely at the hour appointed, and Polly, radiant
from her joyful experience, made a picture that charmed the artist
as well as his patron.

The next morning's musicale was quite the feast that Polly had
anticipated, and Mrs. Jocelyn's was a twofold enjoyment.  The
little girl had feared that her white dress was too wrinkled for
grand a party; so her hostess's maid had smoothed it into its
original perfection, and, to make good the hair ribbon that had
been lost, Mrs. Jocelyn had bought an even prettier one--the
palest blue sprinkled with forget-me-nots, and sash too match.

After luncheon came the delightful task of giving the presents
pretty holiday touches with fancy tissue papers and gay ribbons.

"We're having the best part of it, are n't we?" chuckled Polly,
tilting her head to one side as she tied a pink baby ribbon around
Leonora's dainty box.

The little lady did not instantly answer; then, dropping her work,
she caught the surprised child in her arms with almost a sob.

"O Polly, Polly!" she cried passionately, "I must have you!  I
must!  I must!  You have taught me how to live, and you belong to
me!  O Polly! Will you come?" She held her off, gazing pleadingly
into her face.

"What--do you mean?" faltered the little girl.

"My darling! Did I frighten you?  I mean I want you for my own
dear daughter!  I have n't said anything before, because I feared
the woman you have supposed was your aunt would not give you up.
But now that you are free I feel that I must have you?  I meant to
speak to Dr. Dudley first; but I could n't wait, dearest!  Don't
you want to come and live with me?  I know it's a gloomy old
house, but I will make it all over into the sunshiniest home you
ever saw.  You shall have everything you wish!  I will buy you the
very prettiest pair of Shetland ponies I can find, and the
loveliest little carriage!  You can take your friends driving
every day!"

"That would be beautiful," responded Polly, with a faint smile.

"And you shall have the nicest doll house you ever heard of, and
a whole set of furniture for your biggest doll!  I'll fit you up
two of the prettiest rooms in the house, and furnish them in white
and blue!  You shall have a new piano and take lessons of the very
best master, and next summer we will go abroad and see all the
wonders of Europe!  Oh, there's no end to the happy things we'll
do, if you will come and be my little girl!  You will; won't you,
Polly?"

"Why, I--don't know!" gasped the child. "You take my breath
away!" She looked actually distressed.

"Poor darling!" The little lady folded Polly in her arms. "Of
course you can't make up your mind all in a minute!  I've thought
of it so long, I did n't realize that it was news to you.  I'm
such an impatient body!  Talk it over with Dr. Dudley, and he will
make things all clear.  Now we'll forget it, and finish up these
packages.  What do yo suppose Leonora will say to her new
ribbons?"

The voice was gay, so sure was the little lady that Polly,
counseled by the far-seeing doctor, would make quick choice of so
auspicious an offer.

But Polly could not easily be won back to her former blitheness.
She finished her part of the task in an absent-minded manner; yet
by the time she was on her way to deliver her presents she was
more talkative and merry.

So splendid a coach was seldom seen on the poor, narrow street
where Brida lived, and big-eyed babies and listless loungers
watched its progress.  Brida was at school; but her mother
received with loud expressions of gratitude and praise the pretty
doll carriage which Polly had brought.

Elsie, in a still narrower, dirtier street, had a similar gift;
while for the others of Polly's hospital friends who had returned
to their homes there were books and paper dolls, pocket knives and
boxes of candy.  It was a pleasant hour, yet Polly was not sorry
when the carriage turned towards the hospital.

Mrs. Jocelyn would not go in, and the little girl bade her good-bye
with a clinging embrace.

"I love you de-arly!" she whispered: which made the little lady
smile happily to herself all the way up the street.

Nobody was in the Doctor's office, and Polly lingered by the pile
of packages which the footman had deposited on the couch.  She was
pulling out David's present from under the others, the present
that had finally been changed from a fruit knife to a flute, when
a voice from the doorway called out:--

"Hul-lo, Pol-lee!"

She turned, to see David's merry face.

"You can't guess what I've got for you!" chuckled the lad.

"You could n't possibly guess what I've got for you!" she
retorted gaily.

David's eyes opened wonderingly, falling on the pile of bundles.
Then he went back to his own secret.

Putting his hand in his pocket, he drew forth what Polly had
feared she should never see again.

"My locket and chain!" she cried.

David grinned happily, and passed over the necklace.

"Where did you get it?" she questioned.

"You may thank Cornelius for it," he told her. "I met him down
on Grant Street, and--I don't know what made me--I happened
to speak of your losing this.  He was interested all at once, and
wanted me to tell him just how it looked.  When I said the locket
was set with turquoises, he clapped his hand on his side and cried
out, 'I bet yer that was it!  I bet yer 't was!' It seems he'd
seen a boy--only this morning--showing a locket to a little
kid, and he thought then it was queer he should be having a girl's
locket round that way.  Cornelius said he could get it easy enough
of the boy had it with him.  So we went round to the school, and
waited till 't was out.  He had to go on an errand for his father
this afternoon, and so was excused early.

"Burt Sehl is the boy's name, and Cornelius and I walked along
with him till we got off the street--Cornel' was sharp enough
not to tackle him near the school.  As soon as the crowd thinned
out, he asked him if he had that locket, and at first Burt put up
a bluff.  Finally he admitted that he got it from Greg. Simpson;
said he swapped a lot of tops and marbles for it."

"I should n't suppose he'd have given it up," cried Polly
excitedly.

David laughed. "He did n't without a tussle; but Cornelius was
more than a match for him--my! Don't I wish I were as strong as
he!"

"You will be some day," encouraged Polly. "But I'm glad I chose
that book for Cornelius--it's all about a knight!"

"What book?" queried David.

"Oh, the book I left at his home for him this afternoon!  I
forgot," and she caught up the long parcel for David. "I hope
you'll like that," she said.

The boy's eyes glistened when he saw what it was.

"Oh, you don't know how many times I've wished I had a flute!"
he cried, fingering the little instrument delightedly.

"What's going on here?" called Dr. Dudley, from the open door.

"These are going _in here!_" flashed Polly, deftly transferring
a square, thin package from the couch to the Doctor's pocket.

It caught and held by one corner, but the physician did not leave
it long.  He looked at it critically, and then laid it on the
table, and began untying the bright ribbon which bound it.

"You have seen the hole in my Sunday handkerchief!" exclaimed
the Doctor, dramatically, his eyes a-twinkle as he opened the box.

Polly and David laughed.

The handkerchiefs were fine and dainty enough to suit the most
fastidious gentleman, and Dr. Dudley expressed sincere admiration
for the gift.

Then the story of the locket had to be told again, and at its end
David discovered that it was time for him to be at his new home.

Polly began to look over the packages, picking out what she wished
to carry upstairs at once.

"Are n't you going to tell me about your visit?" asked the
Doctor, dropping into his easiest chair with a luxurious sigh of
relief, after a hard day.

The little girl's face grew suddenly grave.  In the pleasure of
the last hour she had forgotten the trouble that had been looming
ahead of her ever since Mrs. Jocelyn's proposition.  She laid
Mabel's doll back on the pile, and came slowly over to the Doctor.



Chapter XVI

A Secret


"You went shopping, I observe," began Dr. Dudley, tentatively.

"Yes," responded Polly, balancing herself on the arm of his
chair. "Mrs. Jocelyn bought lots of things for me to give to
people.  We bade out a list--or she did.  She let me choose."

"That was kind."

"Yes," Polly assented, and then studied the rug for a moment.

The Doctor waited.

"We went to a musicale, this forenoon, at Mrs. Trowbridge's,"
she resumed. "The little boy was there who plays the violin so
beautifully.  Mrs. Jocelyn got me a new hair ribbon and sash to
wear."

"Did you enjoy those better than the music?" twinkled the
doctor.

"Oh, no!" The tone was almost reproachful. "One piece the boy
played was lovely.  I hated to have him stop.  I wish I could play
as well as he--no, I don't either!  I don't want to!" she
burst out fiercely.

Dr. Dudley glanced at her quizzically.  "You seem to be a young
lady of changeable opinions," he smiled.

Her lip quivered; but she struggled hard against tears.

"Suppose you tell me all about it, Thistledown," the Doctor said
gently.

"Oh, don't let me go and be her little girl!" she broke out.
"Don't!  don't!  I'll do anything, if you'll only let me stay
with you!"

He drew her down into his lap, and soothed her with tender words.

"Nobody shall ever take you from me against your will, Thistledown!"
His voice was tensely unnatural. "Does Mrs. Jocelyn wish to adopt
you?  Did she say so?"

"I don't know about adopting.  She wants me to go and live with
her.  She said I could have everything, if I only would,--a new
piano, and lessons, and two rooms all furnished beautiful, and a
doll house, and go to Europe, and a pony--two of 'em--and,
oh, I don't remember half!"

And you are sure you wish to give up all that grandeur for this
old codgery doctor who has n't any money?"

"You are n't old, and you are n't cod--the other thing--and
I love you!  Do you--do you want me to go?"  she sobbed.

"Thistledown,"--and his voice was very tender,--"I think
such an arrangement as Mrs. Jocelyn proposes would break my heart.
Still, if you really would be happy in going to her, I trust I
should be unselfish and brave enough to give you up.  But I am
gladder than you can guess that you have chosen the life with
me."

"I could n't choose any other way; but I love her, I lover her
ever so much!"  Polly sighed. "I'm afraid she will feel bad not
to have me go.  Oh, I wish there did n't so many folks want me--
first Aunt Jane, and now her!"

"It must be rather troublesome to be in such demand," the Doctor
smiled.

"It is," responded Polly between a laugh and a sob.

The sat for a while in silence, Polly's head nestled on the broad
shoulder.

Finally Dr. Dudley spoke. "Can you keep a secret?"

"I think I could--I know I could," she answered slowly; "but
I never have any to keep."

"I am going to let you into one," he smiled; "but you must n't
breathe a word of it to anybody."

"Oh, I won't!  I won't tell it as long as I live!" she declared
solemnly.

He laughed. "This will not be so great a tax on your patience as
all that.  I hope the secret will be out in a month.  The
thistledown, what should you say if I should tell you that Miss
Lucy and I are going to be married?"

Polly sat up straight, her eyes round with astonishment.

"Truly?" she cried.

"Truly!" he nodded.

"Why-ee!  I never thought as you like Miss Lucy very much!  You
acted just as if you like High Price better!"

The Doctor's shoulders shook with soft laughter.

"And won't Miss Lucy be nurse up in the ward any more?" Poly
queried.

"Not after we are married.  We are going to housekeeping.  You
know the little brown cottage just beyond Colonel Gresham's?"

"The one with vines all over the piazzas?"

"Yes.  That is to be our home."

Polly had dropped back on the Doctor's shoulder, and he, absorbed
in his happy dreams, did not look down to note the shadow that
suddenly swept all joy from the little face.  When she spoke
again, it was the tone rather than the words that brought him to
himself with a pang of compunction.

"That--won't be so very far away," she faltered.

"Oh, Polly!" with a quick tightening clasp, "you did n't suppose
we would leave you behind?"

She glanced up in sudden wonder and hope.

"Our home would n't be home without you.  You are going with us,
to be our own little daughter!  We have it all planned; it has
only awaited your sanction."

Polly lay very still, big teardrops trickling down her cheeks.

"You want to go, Thistledown?" the Doctor asked softly.

"Oh," she breathed, "I don't--dare--speak, for fear--it
is n't real!  It is so beautiful!" She stroked his big hand with
her slender little fingers.

"It is very real," he smiled. "You need n't be afraid.  We
cannot give you the splendid things that you would have with Mrs.
Jocelyn; but I can promise you all the love that any little girl
could wish for.  We want to make your life so happy that you will
lose sight of troublesome times that have gone before."

"I could n't help being happy with you and Miss Lucy." And Polly
suddenly sprang up, flinging her arms around the Doctor's neck,
and resting her cheek against his with almost a sob. "Oh, I wish
mamma knew!" she whispered. "Do you s'pose she does?"

"We will surely hope so," he answered. "It seems to me that
Haven is nearer than some people believe."

"It would make her so happy," Polly went on. "I do wish you
could have known mamma.  She was such a dear!"

"I am glad to have so close a friendship with her little
daughter," smiled the Doctor.

Light raps at the door made Polly slip to her feet, and sent Dr.
Dudley across the room.  Polly hurriedly brushed away the only
remaining tear, and looked up to greet Miss Hortensia Price.

The nurse had come to talk with Dr. Dudley about a patient, and
Polly went over to the couch, and searched among the parcels for a
certain package.  Her fingers trembled with joyous excitement.
The world had suddenly turned rose color.  Every sorrow had flown
away.  Even the grief which had been ever present with her for
nearly three years was for the moment swallowed up in the joy of
believing that mamma knew!  She came upon the package she sought,
examined it carefully to make sure that it was the right one, and
then went, a little shyly, to Miss Price.  She waited for Dr.
Dudley stopped talking.

The lady received the holiday-attired parcel with a surprised
look.

"Mrs. Jocelyn bought some presents," explained Polly, "for me to
give to my friends, a I chose Robert Browning's 'Poems' for you.
I hope you'll like it."

"Like it!  Why, you dear child!" Miss Price dropped the book in
her lap, and caught Polly's hands in hers. "How did you ever
guess that Browning is my favorite poet?"

"You said so, one day, when we were playing Authors, up in the
ward."

"And you remembered!" She began untying the ribbon. "I was
thinking only yesterday that I must have a copy."

The volume was richly bound, and beautiful with illustrations.
Miss Price fingered it with the caressing tough of a booklover.
If her thanks were a bit conventional, Polly knew that back of
them lay real gratitude and appreciation.

The little girl went back to her parcels with an added gladness.
She began piling them on her arm.

"Don't carry too many," warned Dr. Dudley. "I'll take them up
for you."

"I will bring some along when I come." Promised Miss Price.

So Polly put back all but two dolls and a few small packages, and
started upstairs humming softly a gay little air.

Presently the song was hushed by happy thoughts.  To think of
living in a dear little cottage, all alone with Miss Lucy and Dr.
Dudley!  To sit down at the table, three times a day, with them
both!  And at bedtime!  There was never room for jealousy in
Polly's heart; but sometimes when Miss Lucy cuddled the little
ones in her arms, her mother-hungry should felt starved out of its
rightful food.  And now!--she could almost feel the dear arms
around her!  She stopped halfway up the second flight, and bent
her head reverently.

"O Lord Jesus, I think thee!" she whispered. "Please let mamma
know how beautiful it is going to be!  For Thy Name's sake.
Amen."

The door of the ward was open; but so light were her footfalls
that she stood on the threshold a moment before being noticed.
Then came a shout and a rush and such frantic huggings that Polly
and her parcels seemed in danger of coming to sorrow.

"That is for Stella," Polly finally managed to say, freeing a
hand long enough to pass the box over one or two heads to the
little girl beyond.

This turned the attention in Stella Pope's direction, and Polly
hastened down the room to a cot where a little girl lay, her big
blue eyes staring out in line with her pillow, taking no note of
the commotion going on behind her.

"Trotty, see what I've brought you!" was Polly's cheery
greeting.

The little four-year-old turned slightly, with a wavering smile.
She was a strange wisp of a girl, and Polly was not in the least
disappointed when she made no answer, only watched the fingers
that were untying the bright ribbon.

"Now--what do you s'pose?" smiled Polly, staying the cover a
moment to make the gift of more effect.

There was look of expectancy on the midget's face.  A word of joy
broke from her lips.

Polly laid the beautiful doll in her arms, smiling to see the
rapture in the big blue eyes.

Then a wee shadow crept over. "Mine?  All mine?" questioned the
tiny one.

"Yes, all yours," was the sure answer. "Is n't it a darling?"

Trotty did not speak, but hugged the new baby to her heart in a
way that left no doubt.  Polly wished that Mrs. Jocelyn were there
to see.

After the other smaller packages had been left with the several
patients for whom they were marked, Polly said, in a voice that
carried to all the cots:--

"This is n't all.  There is something for everybody; but I could
n't bring so many.  Dr. Dudley and miss Price are coming up with
the rest."

They started a babel of joyous questioning; but Polly was
responsive and patient, and altogether so satisfactory, that the
little sick people settled back on their pillows in supreme
content, to await the coming of their presents.

The others had heard, too, and pressed about Polly with eager
talk.

"I chose a doll for every girl that has n't any," she told them
gaily, "and I got just as pretty ones as there were in the
store."

"Say, what colored hair has mine?" questioned Mabel.

"Light, like Stella's, I think."

"Oh, goody!" squealed the little maid. "And is it curly?"

Polly nodded.

"Wha' d' yer buy for Leonora?" queried a curious one.

Polly threw a bright smile across to her friend, while she
answered merrily:--

"You wait!  It's something pretty."

"I guess Polly's had an awful good time," observed thoughtful
Mary Pender; "she's so full of fun."

Miss Lucy, entering the ward at the moment, overheard the remark,
as her eyes met Polly's.

The little girl waived a reply, and ran over to greet the nurse.

"Is Mary right?" Miss Lucy smiled.

Polly hesitated, growing grave.  Then her eyes danced
mischievously. "Just about right," she answered softly. "It was
'good' and 'awful' both.  But I had a lovely time with Dr. Dudley
after I came home--lovely!"

Miss Lucy sent a quick searching glance into the happy eyes, and
they fell before it.  Polly feared she had told too much.  But no,
she reasoned, because the secret was also Miss Lucy's.  She looked
up again half shyly.  The nurse's cheeks were very pink, and her
lips were smiling.

"Precious child!" she murmured; and then she kissed her, a bit
of favoritism which she seldom allowed herself.  But there was now
an excuse.  Polly had been away.

Shortly afterwards Miss Hortensia Price and the Doctor appeared,
laden with happiness for the ward.  The dignified nurse seemed in
a holiday mood, to match her ribboned armful, and she remained to
see the delight of the children, as they unwrapped their presents.

Leonora lingered over the untying of her box, as if reluctant to
risk the pretty flowered bit of pasteboard for what lay within.
Polly went across to where she sat.

"I'm waiting to know how you like it," she smiled.

Leonora finally lifted the cover, and her long-drawn, "O-h!" of
surprise and joy was enough for the donor.

"It is just like mine," Polly explained, "only mine is
forget-me-nots on pale blue."

"That must be lovely," said Leonora; "but I like this best for
me--it don't seem as if it could be for me!"

She carefully raised an end of the broad white sash ribbon, and
sighed rapturously over the beautiful pink rosebuds scattered
along its length.

"That is exquisite," agreed Miss Price, coming to her side.
"Pink is exactly the color for you.  Polly has shown excellent
taste in its selection."

"Oh, Polly always knows just what's right!" praised Leonora.

Miss Price did not reply, only smiled across to Polly in the
friendliest way.

"Is n't High Price lovely this afternoon!" whispered the lame
girl, as the tall nurse turned to admire a doll which was help up
for her inspection.

Polly nodded happily.  Everything was "lovely" now.  What a
glad, beautiful world it was!

"My dear!" A pair of soft arms clasped her from behind, and
Polly found herself looking up into Miss Lucy's radiant face. "I
believe you are a little witch!" she laughed "You have given me
just such a bag as I have coveted for a good many years, but which
I never expected to won."

"I'm so glad!" responded Poly. "But Mrs. Jocelyn chose it--
the kind, I mean."

She might have added that she should never have dared select on at
that price; but she only smiled joyously.

"Then I will thank you and Mrs. Jocelyn both," smiled Miss Lucy,
moving away with the other nurse.

"Was n't it nice of her to buy all these things for you to give
us!" said Leonora happily.

Polly's response was sober.  She could not quite forget how sorry
the dear little lady would be when she heard what had been
decided.  But her seriousness soon gave place to laughter.  The
ward was in too merry a mood to allow aught but mirth within its
walls.



Chapter XVII

The Wedding


The next morning David called for Polly on his way to school, and
the two went off together, the children waving good-byes from the
windows.  They returned, at noon, in love with their teachers, in
love with the scholars, in love with their new books and all
pertaining to the school.  Such funny, interesting things had
happened, and Polly told about them all dinner time.

Leonora watched her two friends go back in the afternoon, feeling
a little sad.  If only she could go, too!  But she was growing
well and strong; Dr. Dudley had assured her that she would soon be
able to run about like other girls.  The sadness, after all, ended
in a long breath of joy.

The weeks before the secret came out where very happy weeks for
Polly.  Only a ew days after her visit to Mrs. Jocelyn came a
package, a large, flat, nearly square package.  It arrived while
she was at school, and she found the children eyeing it curiously
as it lay on Miss Lucy's desk.

"It's for you," announced Stella, "and she said there must n't
anybody touch it.  She would n't open it herself."

Polly looked at the white parcel, and wondered, too.  She had been
expecting photographs; but this was too big for those, she
decided.  Hastily she untied the string.  Miss Lucy came in just
as she turned back the wrapper.

"O-h!"

"Why, Polly May, you've gone and had your picture taken!"

"My! Ain't it splendid?"

"Whew!  Bet that cost somethin'!"

Miss Lucy caught a glimpse of the photograph, which brought her
quickly across the room.

"Polly dear, what a surprise this is!"

"I don't think it looks much like me," murmured the little girl,
staring wonderingly and the beautiful picture.

It was of large size, exquisitely finished in carbon, and mounted
in a handsome folder.

"Why, it looks exactly like her!  Don't it, Miss Lucy?" queried
Mabel.

"I think I never saw a better likeness," smiled the nurse.

"There!" exulted Mabel. "Say, what made you think it did n't?"

But Polly only laughed a little uncertainly. "Never mind, if you
like it!" she told them.

"Oh, here's another kind!" piped Stella, whose curious fingers
had discovered a photograph showing Polly in a different pose.

This was full-length; the other was only head and shoulders.

"There's one more, I think," said Polly, "where I had some
flowers in my hand."

A hunt soon revealed it,--"the very sweetest of all!" Leonora
declared.

The girls hung over it rapturously.

"Will you give me one?" begged Mabel.

"And me"--"And me?"--"And me?" chorused the others.

"Polly cannot tell right off just what she will be able to do,"
interposed Miss Lucy.  "Dr. Dudley has n't seen them yet.  Suppose
you run down and show them to him, Polly."

Down the stairs skipped Polly, glad to get away from the too eager
children.

The Doctor received them delightedly.  Polly watched him with
thoughtful eyes.

"Do you think they look like me?" she ventured at last.

"Very much," he answered, smiling at the anxious pucker between
Polly's eyebrows. "What is the trouble?"

The pink in her cheeks deepened to crimson. "I am not--so
pretty as that," she faltered. "You know I'm not.  And I hate to
give away such pictures.  It seems as if folks would think I
wanted to make out I looked better than I really do."

Dr. Dudley's eyes were bent to the photograph in hand.  He thought
hard and fast.  Should he tell her the truth,--that the
beautiful black-and-white print, with all its exquisite softness,
scarcely did justice to the delicate mobile face?

"I wanted you and Miss Lucy to have one," she went on, "and
Colonel Gresham, and David, and High Price, and Leonora, and
Cornelius--for he was so good to get my locket back.  Then
the rest of them--there are a dozen--I thought I'd give to
anybody that wanted one; but now--" she halted appealingly.

"Well, if I were you, Thistledown," and the Doctor threw his arm
in a comradely way across the slim shoulders, "I should go
straight along and give my pictures to those for whom I had
intended them, with no thought about any lack of resemblance.  You
sat for the photographs, and you are not to blame for any possible
mistake the camera may have made; so don't let it bother you."

She gave a little gleeful chuckle. "It is the camera's fault, is
n't it?  I never thought of that.  Well, if you think it's all
right to give them away, it must be; but it did n't seem quite--
hones, you know." She looked up still a bit anxious.

The Doctor smoothed away the tiny wrinkle on her forehead, and
smiled down into the clear brown eyes.

"It is perfectly right, Polly; in fact, it would be wrong to
spoil so much pleasure for such a little reason.  The pictures are
far more lifelike than most people's are, and nobody will stop to
compare them with the original, feature by feature."

"No, I guess they won't," she laughed. "You pick out the one you
want to keep, and next I'll let Miss Lucy choose."

Dr. Dudley watched her, as she danced away happily up the stairs.
The he studied the photograph before him, doing exactly what he
had assured her that no one would think of doing; but his final
judgment, like his first intuition, was not in favor of the print.

The simplest of church weddings had been planned by the two most
closely concerned, for neither had other home than the hospital;
but Mrs. Jocelyn overthrew plans and arguments together.

"What is my big house good for," she demanded, "if it cannot be
useful at a time like this?  You shall come and make it merry once
more in its old life!"

She ended by carrying off Miss Lucy for a whole week before the
appointed day, and the hospital had to hustle another nurse into
the ward which was both sorrowful and glad.

That was a week of happy upsetting for the stately old mansion.
Carpenters, electricians, florists, and tradespeople of various
classes, all joined in the joyous whirl.  Dr. Dudley and Polly
whizzed back and forth in the automobile, and the dignified grays
were kept trotting to and from the house at all hours of the day
and evening.

It had been early arranged for Polly and Leonora to remain with
Mrs. Jocelyn for the two weeks that the Doctor and his wife were
to be away on their wedding journey, and the little lame girl, who
now had only the tiniest limp, was in alternate rapture and
dismay.

"To think" she would exclaim, squeezing Polly ecstatically, "of
_me_ being in that splendid house, with you and that beautiful
Mrs. Jocelyn for fourteen whole days!  But, oh, mercy!" she would
cry, "I'm dreadfully afraid she'll not want me so long!  I shall
be sure to say or do something wrong!  I'm not used to grand folks
like her;" and joy would end with a sigh.

Thin it was Polly's part to reassure her with laughing words,
until the delight would come back to crowd out all fears.

One large room in the house on Edgewood Avenue had been reserved
for the wedding presents, and, although Miss Lucy had jestingly
remarked that a little hall chamber was more than would be needed,
the apartment was packed with love tokens long in advance of the
day.  Both the nurse and the physician had won many friends in
their years of hospital service, and now all seemed anxious to
show honor to these two who had helped to add length and comfort
to their lives.

One morning, just before starting for Mrs. Jocelyn's, Dr. Dudley
read this note to Polly:--

   My Dear Doctor,--

     I have been wondering, ever since I heard
   Your good news, how Polly was going to ride,
   Inasmuch as two fill your runabout.  I have
   Too much consideration for the lady who will
   Sit by your side to wish her always to bear
   The burden of Polly's weight; so I have ordered
   for you a car that will seat five without
   crowding.  There is a place ready for it in my
   carriage house.  That won't be far for you to
   come, and it will be handier for me whenever
   Lone Star goes lame.

                  Your sincere friend,

                              GRESHAM.

     Lucky for me I happened to think of this,
   For it would get on my nerves to see Polly
   Hanging on behind every time you and Mrs.
   Dudley went to ride.
                              D. G.

"What a funny man!": laughed Polly. "You'd think Lone Star went
lame about once a week!  But is n't that a lovelicious present--
a big auto!--my!"

"It is too much." Dr. Dudley shook his head gravely.

"Why, he loves to do it for you," argued Polly. "Besides, it is
not just for you," she chuckled; "it is so he won't have to see
me sitting is Miss Lucy's lap or 'hanging on behind'!  Would n't
that look funny?"

The Doctor laughed, and put the note in his pocket.

At Mrs. Jocelyn's, Miss Lucy met them at the entrance.

"I'm so glad you've come," she cried. "I was wishing you would,
to see what Colonel Gresham has sent me."

"Why--" began Polly, and then stopped, blushing at having
almost told about the new motor car.  That was not hers to speak
of first.

Dr. Dudley sent a swift glance of appreciation in her direction,
and followed Miss Lucy's leading.

"That came for you, Polly, at the same time," she said, handing
the girl a small square package. "A man just brought them."

"For me?" Polly's eyes opened wide. "I'm not going to be
married!"

They laughed, while the young lady displayed her gift, a necklace
of pearls.

"Oh, is n't that lovely!" exclaimed Polly.

"How sweet you will look I nit!  Do put it on!"

But Miss Lucy declared that pearls and gingham dresses were not
companionable, and the necklace was returned to its satin case.

"Why don't you undo your package?" inquired Mrs. Jocelyn.

"Oh, I forgot!" cried Polly, in sudden compunction. "Those
beautiful pearls put everything out of my head."

She soon had the wrappings off, disclosing a small leather case.

"What can it be?" she breathed. "Oh, you darling!" gazing
delightedly at an exquisite little watch.  She caressed it with
excited fingers. "Why, there's something engraved in here!" as
the case flew open, and turning to the light, she read aloud:--

     To Polly of the Hospital Staff, in remembrance
   Of a stormy midnight and a sunshiny morning, from
   her devoted lover,
     DAVID GRESHAM.

"And here's something more," she went on, scowling in a puzzled
way over the quotation. "It says, 'Blessed are the peacemakers.'
I don't see what that's for, do you?"

The others smiled comprehendingly.

"Why, dearest," explained Mrs. Jocelyn, "you know you brought
the Colonel and his niece together."

"Oh, no, I did n't do it!" protested Polly.

"I wonder who did," the little lady laughed.

Miss Lucy was reading the Colonel's note, which Dr. Dudley had
given her.  She ended it with a silent chuckle, and the Doctor
passed it over to Mrs. Jocelyn.

"Just like David!" the little lady declared. "He enjoys a bit of
quiet fun as well as any man I ever knew."

Polly had gone back to her present, hanging over it in delight.

"It is just the right kind of watch for a little girl like you,"
admired the Doctor; "neither too large nor too ornamental."

"It is beautiful!" sighed Polly rapturously. "Is n't Colonel
Gresham nice to give it to me?"

The Doctor smiled an emphatic "Yes," which rejoiced Polly's
heart.  She had been afraid he would shake his head, as he had
shaken it over the touring-car.  In that case, she reasoned
conscientiously, she should have felt as if she ought to give back
her watch.

It was a six-o'clock wedding.  The bridal procession formed at the
foot of the stairs in the spacious hallway, marching its length,
and then proceeding through the east drawing-room to the library,
where the ceremony took place under a canopy of roses.  A troop of
children attended the ride, children to whom, as nurse of the
convalescent ward, she had at some time ministered.  The girls,
two and two, gowned in silken chiffon of harmonious colors, had
each a basket heaped with blossoms.  Polly and Leonora came last
of all, both in delicate pink, from the ribbons that bound their
hair to the tops of their kid slippers, Leonora's black braids in
happy contrast with Polly's fair curls.  The boys, clad as pages,
ranged, at regular intervals, on either side of the long line,
carried light arches of vines and flowers, making a fragrant arbor
for the others to walk under.

The brief service over, the flower girls strewed roses in the path
of the bridal pair all the way to the great west drawing-room.

It was like a queen's pageant in a vision of fairyland.  The
myriad lights, the gaily dressed children, the lavish profusion of
flowers, the soft music floating from a bank of ferns,--all
united to make the scene unusually dreamlike and beautiful.

As the bride stood to receive her guests, in her simple white silk
gown, the necklace of pearly her only ornament, Polly gazed into
her sweet, thoughtful face, and longed to throw her arms around
her neck and give her a loving hug.  But she had to be content
with only one little decorous kiss, and she consoled herself with
the words that had been singing in her heart all the day, "She is
going to be my mother!  She is going to be my mother!"

There were many guests, and it was long before the bride and groom
were free from hand-shaking.  Polly only caught glimpses now and
then of the two she loved best.  She was with a group of merry
children, when she heard her name softly called.  Turning, she saw
Dr. Dudley in the doorway.  She ran to him, and he led her into
the library, where his bride was talking with Mr. Brewster, the
lawyer.

Mrs. Dudley drew her down beside her on the divan, and Mr.
Brewster soon took leave of them. The Doctor seated himself on her
right.

"This document," he smiled, tapping lightly the paper in his
hand, "makes you legally our own daughter.  We have just signed
it, for we wanted everything settled before going away."

With a quick, graceful gesture, Polly wound an arm around each
neck.

"My dear new father and mother," she whispered solemnly, as if
it were a prayer, "I will be just as good, always, as I know how
to be, so you won't ever be sorry you made me your own little
girl!"





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