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Title: An Old-Fashioned Girl
Author: Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888
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 "An Old-Fashioned Girl" ***

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AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL

By Louisa M. Alcott



Preface

AS a preface is the only place where an author can with propriety
explain a purpose or apologize for shortcomings, I venture to avail
myself of the privilege to make a statement for the benefit of my
readers.

As the first part of "An Old-Fashioned Girl" was written in 1869, the
demand for a sequel, in beseeching little letters that made refusal
impossible, rendered it necessary to carry my heroine boldly forward
some six or seven years into the future. The domestic nature of the
story makes this audacious proceeding possible; while the lively fancies
of my young readers will supply all deficiencies, and overlook all
discrepancies.

This explanation will, I trust, relieve those well-regulated minds,
who cannot conceive of such literary lawlessness, from the bewilderment
which they suffered when the same experiment was tried in a former book.

The "Old-Fashioned Girl" is not intended as a perfect model, but as
a possible improvement upon [Page] the Girl of the Period, who seems
sorrowfully ignorant or ashamed of the good old fashions which make
woman truly beautiful and honored, and, through her, render home what
it should be,-a happy place, where parents and children, brothers and
sisters, learn to love and know and help one another.

If the history of Polly's girlish experiences suggests a hint or
insinuates a lesson, I shall feel that, in spite of many obstacles, I
have not entirely neglected my duty toward the little men and women, for
whom it is an honor and a pleasure to write, since in them I have always
found my kindest patrons, gentlest critics, warmest friends.

L. M. A.



Contents

     Chapter 1. Polly Arrives
     Chapter 2. New Fashions
     Chapter 3. Polly's Troubles
     Chapter 4. Little Things
     Chapter 5. Scrapes
     Chapter 6. Grandma
     Chapter 7. Good-by
     Chapter 8. Six Years Afterward
     Chapter 9. Lessons
     Chapter 10. Brothers and Sisters
     Chapter 11. Needles and Tongues
     Chapter 12. Forbidden Fruit
     Chapter 13. The Sunny Side
     Chapter 14. Nipped in the Bud
     Chapter 15. Breakers Ahead
     Chapter 16. A Dress Parade
     Chapter 17. Playing Grandmother
     Chapter 18. The Woman Who Did Not Dare
     Chapter 19. Tom's Success



An Old-fashioned Girl



CHAPTER I. POLLY ARRIVES


"IT 'S time to go to the station, Tom."

"Come on, then."

"Oh, I 'm not going; it 's too wet. Should n't have a crimp left if I
went out such a day as this; and I want to look nice when Polly comes."

"You don't expect me to go and bring home a strange girl alone, do you?"
And Tom looked as much alarmed as if his sister had proposed to him to
escort the wild woman of Australia.

"Of course I do. It 's your place to go and get her; and if you was n't
a bear, you 'd like it."

"Well, I call that mean! I supposed I 'd got to go; but you said you 'd
go, too. Catch me bothering about your friends another time! No, sir!"
And Tom rose from the sofa with an air of indignant resolution, the
impressive effect of which was somewhat damaged by a tousled head, and
the hunched appearance of his garments generally.

"Now, don't be cross; and I 'll get mamma to let you have that horrid
Ned Miller, that you are so fond of, come and make you a visit after
Polly 's gone," said Fanny, hoping to soothe his ruffled feelings.

"How long is she going to stay?" demanded Tom, making his toilet by a
promiscuous shake.

"A month or two, maybe. She 's ever so nice; and I shall keep her as
long as she 's happy."

"She won't stay long then, if I can help it," muttered Tom, who regarded
girls as a very unnecessary portion of creation. Boys of fourteen are
apt to think so, and perhaps it is a wise arrangement; for, being fond
of turning somersaults, they have an opportunity of indulging in a good
one, metaphorically speaking, when, three or four years later, they
become the abject slaves of "those bothering girls."

"Look here! how am I going to know the creature? I never saw her, and
she never saw me. You 'll have to come too, Fan," he added, pausing on
his way to the door, arrested by the awful idea that he might have to
address several strange girls before he got the right one.

"You 'll find her easy enough; she 'll probably be standing round
looking for us. I dare say she 'll know you, though I 'm not there,
because I 've described you to her."

"Guess she won't, then;" and Tom gave a hasty smooth to his curly pate
and a glance at the mirror, feeling sure that his sister had n't done
him justice. Sisters never do, as "we fellows" know too well.

"Do go along, or you 'll be too late; and then, what will Polly think
of me?" cried Fanny, with the impatient poke which is peculiarly
aggravating to masculine dignity.

"She 'll think you cared more about your frizzles than your friends, and
she 'll be about right, too."

Feeling that he said rather a neat and cutting thing, Tom sauntered
leisurely away, perfectly conscious that it was late, but bent on not
being hurried while in sight, though he ran himself off his legs to make
up for it afterward.

"If I was the President, I 'd make a law to shut up all boys till they
were grown; for they certainly are the most provoking toads in the
world," said Fanny, as she watched the slouchy figure of her brother
strolling down the street. She might have changed her mind, however,
if she had followed him, for as soon as he turned the corner, his whole
aspect altered; his hands came out of his pockets, he stopped whistling,
buttoned his jacket, gave his cap a pull, and went off at a great pace.

The train was just in when he reached the station, panting like a
race-horse, and as red as a lobster with the wind and the run.

"Suppose she 'll wear a top-knot and a thingumbob, like every one else;
and however shall I know her? Too bad of Fan to make me come alone!"
thought Tom, as he stood watching the crowd stream through the depot,
and feeling rather daunted at the array of young ladies who passed. As
none of them seemed looking for any one, he did not accost them, but
eyed each new batch with the air of a martyr. "That 's her," he said
to himself, as he presently caught sight of a girl in gorgeous array,
standing with her hands folded, and a very small hat perched on the top
of a very large "chig-non," as Tom pronounced it. "I suppose I 've got
to speak to her, so here goes;" and, nerving himself to the task, Tom
slowly approached the damsel, who looked as if the wind had blown her
clothes into rags, such a flapping of sashes, scallops, ruffles, curls,
and feathers was there.

"I say, if you please, is your name Polly Milton?" meekly asked Tom,
pausing before the breezy stranger.

"No, it is n't," answered the young lady, with a cool stare that utterly
quenched him.

"Where in thunder is she?" growled Tom, walking off in high dudgeon. The
quick tap of feet behind him made him turn in time to see a fresh-faced
little girl running down the long station, and looking as if she rather
liked it. As she smiled, and waved her bag at him, he stopped and waited
for her, saying to himself, "Hullo! I wonder if that 's Polly?"

Up came the little girl, with her hand out, and a half-shy, half-merry
look in her blue eyes, as she said, inquiringly, "This is Tom, is n't
it?"

"Yes. How did you know?" and Tom got over the ordeal of hand-shaking
without thinking of it, he was so surprised.

"Oh, Fan told me you 'd got curly hair, and a funny nose, and kept
whistling, and wore a gray cap pulled over your eyes; so I knew you
directly." And Polly nodded at him in the most friendly manner, having
politely refrained from calling the hair "red," the nose "a pug," and
the cap "old," all of which facts Fanny had carefully impressed upon her
memory.

"Where are your trunks?" asked Tom, as he was reminded of his duty by
her handing him the bag, which he had not offered to take.

"Father told me not to wait for any one, else I 'd lose my chance of a
hack; so I gave my check to a man, and there he is with my trunk;" and
Polly walked off after her one modest piece of baggage, followed by Tom,
who felt a trifle depressed by his own remissness in polite attentions.
"She is n't a bit of a young lady, thank goodness! Fan did n't tell me
she was pretty. Don't look like city girls, nor act like 'em, neither,"
he thought, trudging in the rear, and eyeing with favor the brown curls
bobbing along in front.

As the carriage drove off, Polly gave a little bounce on the springy
seat, and laughed like a delighted child. "I do like to ride in these
nice hacks, and see all the fine things, and have a good time, don't
you?" she said, composing herself the next minute, as if it suddenly
occurred to her that she was going a-visiting.

"Not much," said Tom, not minding what he said, for the fact that he was
shut up with the strange girl suddenly oppressed his soul.

"How 's Fan? Why did n't she come, too?" asked Polly, trying to look
demure, while her eyes danced in spite of her.

"Afraid of spoiling her crinkles;" and Tom smiled, for this base
betrayal of confidence made him feel his own man again.

"You and I don't mind dampness. I 'm much obliged to you for coming to
take care of me."

It was kind of Polly to say that, and Tom felt it; for his red crop was
a tender point, and to be associated with Polly's pretty brown curls
seemed to lessen its coppery glow. Then he had n't done anything for her
but carry the bag a few steps; yet, she thanked him. He felt grateful,
and in a burst of confidence, offered a handful of peanuts, for his
pockets were always supplied with this agreeable delicacy, and he might
be traced anywhere by the trail of shells he left behind him.

As soon as he had done it, he remembered that Fanny considered them
vulgar, and felt that he had disgraced his family. So he stuck his
head out of the window, and kept it there so long, that Polly asked if
anything was the matter. "Pooh! who cares for a countrified little thing
like her," said Tom manfully to himself; and then the spirit of mischief
entered in and took possession of him.

"He 's pretty drunk; but I guess he can hold his horses," replied this
evil-minded boy, with an air of calm resignation.

"Is the man tipsy? Oh, dear! let 's get out! Are the horses bad? It 's
very steep here; do you think it 's safe?" cried poor Polly, making a
cocked hat of her little beaver, by thrusting it out of the half-open
window on her side.

"There 's plenty of folks to pick us up if anything happens; but perhaps
it would be safer if I got out and sat with the man;" and Tom quite
beamed with the brilliancy of this sudden mode of relief.

"Oh, do, if you ain't afraid! Mother would be so anxious if anything
should happen to me, so far away!" cried Polly, much distressed.

"Don't you be worried. I 'll manage the old chap, and the horses too;"
and opening the door, Tom vanished aloft, leaving poor victimized Polly
to quake inside, while he placidly revelled in freedom and peanuts
outside, with the staid old driver.

Fanny came flying down to meet her "darling Polly," as Tom presented
her, with the graceful remark, "I 've got her!" and the air of a
dauntless hunter, producing the trophies of his skill. Polly was
instantly whisked up stairs; and having danced a double-shuffle on the
door-mat, Tom retired to the dining-room, to restore exhausted nature
with half a dozen cookies.

"Ain't you tired to death? Don't you want to lie down?" said Fanny,
sitting on the side of the bed in Polly's room, and chattering hard,
while she examined everything her friend had on.

"Not a bit. I had a nice time coming, and no trouble, except the tipsy
coachman; but Tom got out and kept him in order, so I was n't much
frightened," answered innocent Polly, taking off her rough-and-ready
coat, and the plain hat without a bit of a feather.

"Fiddlestick! he was n't tipsy; and Tom only did it to get out of the
way. He can't bear girls," said Fanny, with a superior air.

"Can't he? Why, I thought he was very pleasant and kind!" and Polly
opened her eyes with a surprised expression.

"He 's an awful boy, my dear; and if you have anything to do with
him, he 'll torment you to death. Boys are all horrid; but he 's the
horridest one I ever saw."

Fanny went to a fashionable school, where the young ladies were so busy
with their French, German, and Italian, that there was no time for
good English. Feeling her confidence much shaken in the youth, Polly
privately resolved to let him alone, and changed the conversation, by
saying, as she looked admiringly about the large, handsome room, "How
splendid it is! I never slept in a bed with curtains before, or had such
a fine toilet-table as this."

"I 'm glad you like it; but don't, for mercy sake, say such things
before the other girls!" replied Fanny, wishing Polly would wear
ear-rings, as every one else did.

"Why not?" asked the country mouse of the city mouse, wondering what
harm there was in liking other people's pretty things, and saying
so. "Oh, they laugh at everything the least bit odd, and that is n't
pleasant." Fanny did n't say "countrified," but she meant it, and Polly
felt uncomfortable. So she shook out her little black silk apron with
a thoughtful face, and resolved not to allude to her own home, if she
could help it.

"I 'm so poorly, mamma says I need n't go to school regularly, while you
are here, only two or three times a week, just to keep up my music and
French. You can go too, if you like; papa said so. Do, it 's such fun!"
cried Fanny, quite surprising her friend by this unexpected fondness for
school.

"I should be afraid, if all the girls dress as finely as you do, and
know as much," said Polly, beginning to feel shy at the thought.

"La, child! you need n't mind that. I 'll take care of you, and fix you
up, so you won't look odd."

"Am I odd?" asked Polly, struck by the word and hoping it did n't mean
anything very bad.

"You are a dear, and ever so much prettier than you were last summer,
only you 've been brought up differently from us; so your ways ain't
like ours, you see," began Fanny, finding it rather hard to explain.

"How different?" asked Polly again, for she liked to understand things.

"Well, you dress like a little girl, for one thing."

"I am a little girl; so why should n't I?" and Polly looked at her
simple blue merino frock, stout boots, and short hair, with a puzzled
air.

"You are fourteen; and we consider ourselves young ladies at that age,"
continued Fanny, surveying, with complacency, the pile of hair on the
top of her head, with a fringe of fuzz round her forehead, and a wavy
lock streaming down her back; likewise, her scarlet-and-black suit, with
its big sash, little pannier, bright buttons, points, rosettes, and,
heaven knows what. There was a locket on her neck, ear-rings tinkling
in her ears, watch and chain at her belt, and several rings on a pair of
hands that would have been improved by soap and water.

Polly's eye went from one little figure to the other, and she thought
that Fanny looked the oddest of the two; for Polly lived in a quiet
country town, and knew very little of city fashions. She was rather
impressed by the elegance about her, never having seen Fanny's home
before, as they got acquainted while Fanny paid a visit to a friend who
lived near Polly. But she did n't let the contrast between herself and
Fan trouble her; for in a minute she laughed and said, contentedly, "My
mother likes me to dress simply, and I don't mind. I should n't know
what to do rigged up as you are. Don't you ever forget to lift your sash
and fix those puffy things when you sit down?"

Before Fanny could answer, a scream from below made both listen. "It
's only Maud; she fusses all day long," began Fanny; and the words were
hardly out of her mouth, when the door was thrown open, and a little
girl, of six or seven, came roaring in. She stopped at sight of Polly,
stared a minute, then took up her roar just where she left it, and cast
herself into Fanny's lap, exclaiming wrathfully, "Tom 's laughing at me!
Make him stop!"

"What did you do to set him going? Don't scream so, you 'll frighten
Polly!" and Fan gave the cherub a shake, which produced an explanation.

"I only said we had cold cweam at the party, last night, and he
laughed!"

"Ice-cream, child!" and Fanny followed Tom's reprehensible example.

"I don't care! it was cold; and I warmed mine at the wegister, and then
it was nice; only, Willy Bliss spilt it on my new Gabwielle!" and Maud
wailed again over her accumulated woes.

"Do go to Katy! You 're as cross as a little bear to-day!" said Fanny,
pushing her away.

"Katy don't amoose me; and I must be amoosed, 'cause I 'm fwactious;
mamma said I was!" sobbed Maud, evidently laboring under the delusion
that fractiousness was some interesting malady.

"Come down and have dinner; that will amuse you;" and Fanny got up,
pluming herself as a bird does before its flight.

Polly hoped the "dreadful boy" would not be present; but he was, and
stared at her all dinner-time, in a most trying manner. Mr. Shaw, a
busy-looking gentleman, said, "How do you do, my dear? Hope you 'll
enjoy yourself;" and then appeared to forget her entirely. Mrs. Shaw, a
pale, nervous woman, greeted her little guest kindly, and took care that
she wanted for nothing. Madam Shaw, a quiet old lady, with an imposing
cap, exclaimed on seeing Polly, "Bless my heart! the image of her mother
a sweet woman how is she, dear?" and kept peering at the new-comer over
her glasses, till, between Madam and Tom, poor Polly lost her appetite.

Fanny chatted like a magpie, and Maud fidgeted, till Tom proposed to put
her under the big dish-cover, which produced such an explosion, that the
young lady was borne screaming away, by the much-enduring Katy. It was
altogether an uncomfortable dinner, and Polly was very glad when it was
over. They all went about their own affairs; and after doing the honors
of the house, Fan was called to the dressmaker, leaving Polly to amuse
herself in the great drawing-room.

Polly was glad to be alone for a few minutes; and, having examined all
the pretty things about her, began to walk up and down over the soft,
flowery carpet, humming to herself, as the daylight faded, and only the
ruddy glow of the fire filled the room. Presently Madam came slowly in,
and sat down in her arm-chair, saying, "That 's a fine old tune; sing it
to me, my dear. I have n't heard it this many a day." Polly did n't like
to sing before strangers, for she had had no teaching but such as her
busy mother could give her; but she had been taught the utmost respect
for old people, and having no reason for refusing, she directly went to
the piano, and did as she was bid.

"That 's the sort of music it 's a pleasure to hear. Sing some more,
dear," said Madam, in her gentle way, when she had done.

Pleased with this praise, Polly sang away in a fresh little voice, that
went straight to the listener's heart and nestled there. The sweet
old tunes that one is never tired of were all Polly's store; and her
favorites were Scotch airs, such as, "Yellow-Haired Laddie," "Jock o'
Hazeldean," "Down among the Heather," and "Birks of Aberfeldie." The
more she sung, the better she did it; and when she wound up with "A
Health to King Charlie," the room quite rung with the stirring music
made by the big piano and the little maid.

"By George, that 's a jolly tune! Sing it again, please," cried Tom's
voice; and there was Tom's red head bobbing up over the high back of the
chair where he had hidden himself.

It gave Polly quite a turn, for she thought no one was hearing her but
the old lady dozing by the fire. "I can't sing any more; I 'm tired,"
she said, and walked away to Madam in the other room. The red head
vanished like a meteor, for Polly's tone had been decidedly cool.

The old lady put out her hand, and drawing Polly to her knee, looked
into her face with such kind eyes, that Polly forgot the impressive cap,
and smiled at her confidingly; for she saw that her simple music had
pleased her listener, and she felt glad to know it.

"You must n't mind my staring, dear," said Madam, softly pinching her
rosy cheek. "I have n't seen a little girl for so long, it does my old
eyes good to look at you."

Polly thought that a very odd speech, and could n't help saying, "Are
n't Fan and Maud little girls, too?"

"Oh, dear, no! not what I call little girls. Fan has been a young
lady this two years, and Maud is a spoiled baby. Your mother 's a very
sensible woman, my child."

"What a very queer old lady!" thought Polly; but she said "Yes 'm"
respectfully, and looked at the fire.

"You don't understand what I mean, do you?" asked Madam, still holding
her by the chin.

"No 'm; not quite."

"Well, dear, I 'll tell you. In my day, children of fourteen and fifteen
did n't dress in the height of the fashion; go to parties, as nearly
like those of grown people as it 's possible to make them; lead idle,
giddy, unhealthy lives, and get blasé at twenty. We were little folks
till eighteen or so; worked and studied, dressed and played, like
children; honored our parents; and our days were much longer in the land
than now, it seems to, me."

The old lady appeared to forget Polly at the end of her speech; for she
sat patting the plump little hand that lay in her own, and looking up at
a faded picture of an old gentleman with a ruffled shirt and a queue.

"Was he your father, Madam?

"Yes, dear; my honored father. I did up his frills to the day of his
death; and the first money I ever earned was five dollars which
he offered as a prize to whichever of his six girls would lay the
handsomest darn in his silk stockings."

"How proud you must have been!" cried Polly, leaning on the old lady's
knee with an interested face.

"Yes, and we all learned to make bread, and cook, and wore little
chintz gowns, and were as gay and hearty as kittens. All lived to be
grandmothers and fathers; and I 'm the last, seventy, next birthday,
my dear, and not worn out yet; though daughter Shaw is an invalid at
forty."

"That 's the way I was brought up, and that 's why Fan calls me
old-fashioned, I suppose. Tell more about your papa, please; I like it,"
said Polly.

"Say 'father.' We never called him papa; and if one of my brothers had
addressed him as 'governor,' as boys do now, I really think he 'd have
him cut off with a shilling."

Madam raised her voice in saying this, and nodded significantly; but a
mild snore from the other room seemed to assure her that it was a waste
of shot to fire in that direction.

Before she could continue, in came Fanny with the joyful news that
Clara Bird had invited them both to go to the theatre with her that very
evening, and would call for them at seven o'clock. Polly was so excited
by this sudden plunge into the dissipations of city life, that she flew
about like a distracted butterfly, and hardly knew what happened, till
she found herself seated before the great green curtain in the brilliant
theatre. Old Mr. Bird sat on one side, Fanny on the other, and both let
her alone, for which she was very grateful, as her whole attention was
so absorbed in the scene around her, that she could n't talk.

Polly had never been much to the theatre; and the few plays she had
seen were the good old fairy tales, dramatized to suit young beholders,
lively, bright, and full of the harmless nonsense which brings the laugh
without the blush. That night she saw one of the new spectacles which
have lately become the rage, and run for hundreds of nights, dazzling,
exciting, and demoralizing the spectator by every allurement French
ingenuity can invent, and American prodigality execute. Never mind what
its name was, it was very gorgeous, very vulgar, and very fashionable;
so, of course, it was much admired, and every one went to see it. At
first, Polly thought she had got into fairy-land, and saw only the
sparkling creatures who danced and sung in a world of light and beauty;
but, presently, she began to listen to the songs and conversation, and
then the illusion vanished; for the lovely phantoms sang negro melodies,
talked slang, and were a disgrace to the good old-fashioned elves whom
she knew and loved so well.

Our little girl was too innocent to understand half the jokes, and often
wondered what people were laughing at; but, as the first enchantment
subsided, Polly began to feel uncomfortable, to be sure her mother
would n't like to have her there, and to wish she had n't come. Somehow,
things seemed to get worse and worse, as the play went on; for our small
spectator was being rapidly enlightened by the gossip going on all
about her, as well as by her own quick eyes and girlish instincts.
When four-and-twenty girls, dressed as jockeys, came prancing on to the
stage, cracking their whips, stamping the heels of their topboots, and
winking at the audience, Polly did not think it at all funny, but
looked disgusted, and was glad when they were gone; but when another
set appeared in a costume consisting of gauze wings, and a bit of gold
fringe round the waist, poor unfashionable Polly did n't know what to
do; for she felt both frightened and indignant, and sat with her eyes on
her play-bill, and her cheeks getting hotter and hotter every minute.

"What are you blushing so for?" asked Fanny, as the painted sylphs
vanished.

"I 'm so ashamed of those girls," whispered Polly, taking a long breath
of relief.

"You little goose, it 's just the way it was done in Paris, and the
dancing is splendid. It seems queer at first; but you 'll get used to
it, as I did."

"I 'll never come again," said Polly, decidedly; for her innocent nature
rebelled against the spectacle, which, as yet, gave her more pain than
pleasure. She did not know how easy it was to "get used to it," as Fanny
did; and it was well for her that the temptation was not often offered.
She could not explain the feeling; but she was glad when the play was
done, and they were safe at home, where kind grandma was waiting to see
them comfortably into bed.

"Did you have a good time, dear?" she asked, looking at Polly's feverish
cheeks and excited eyes.

"I don't wish to be rude, but I did n't," answered Polly. "Some of it
was splendid; but a good deal of it made me want to go under the seat.
People seemed to like it, but I don't think it was proper."

As Polly freed her mind, and emphasized her opinion with a decided rap
of the boot she had just taken off, Fanny laughed, and said, while
she pirouetted about the room, like Mademoiselle Therese, "Polly was
shocked, grandma. Her eyes were as big as saucers, her face as red as
my sash, and once I thought she was going to cry. Some of it was rather
queer; but, of course, it was proper, or all our set would n't go. I
heard Mrs. Smythe Perkins say, 'It was charming; so like dear Paris;'
and she has lived abroad; so, of course, she knows what is what."

"I don't care if she has. I know it was n't proper for little girls
to see, or I should n't have been so ashamed!" cried sturdy Polly,
perplexed, but not convinced, even by Mrs. Smythe Perkins.

"I think you are right, my dear; but you have lived in the country, and
have n't yet learned that modesty has gone out of fashion." And with a
good-night kiss, grandma left Polly to dream dreadfully of dancing in
jockey costume, on a great stage; while Tom played a big drum in the
orchestra; and the audience all wore the faces of her father and mother,
looking sorrowfully at her, with eyes like saucers, and faces as red as
Fanny's sash.



CHAPTER II. NEW FASHIONS


"I 'M going to school this morning; so come up and get ready," said
Fanny, a day or two after, as she left the late breakfast-table.

"You look very nice; what have you got to do?" asked Polly, following
her into the hall.

"Prink half an hour, and put on her wad," answered the irreverent Tom,
whose preparations for school consisted in flinging his cap on to his
head, and strapping up several big books, that looked as if they were
sometimes used as weapons of defence.

"What is a wad?" asked Polly, while Fanny marched up without deigning
any reply.

"Somebody's hair on the top of her head in the place where it ought not
to be;" and Tom went whistling away with an air of sublime indifference
as to the state of his own "curly pow."

"Why must you be so fine to go to school?" asked Polly, watching Fan
arrange the little frizzles on her forehead, and settle the various
streamers and festoons belonging to her dress.

"All the girls do; and it 's proper, for you never know who you may
meet. I 'm going to walk, after my lessons, so I wish you 'd wear your
best hat and sack," answered Fanny, trying to stick her own hat on at an
angle which defied all the laws of gravitation.

"I will, if you don't think this is nice enough. I like the other best,
because it has a feather; but this is warmer, so I wear it every day."
And Polly ran into her own room, to prink also, fearing that her friend
might be ashamed of her plain costume. "Won't your hands be cold in kid
gloves?" she said, as they went down the snowy street, with a north wind
blowing in their faces.

"Yes, horrid cold; but my muff is so big, I won't carry it. Mamma won't
have it cut up, and my ermine one must be kept for best;" and Fanny
smoothed her Bismark kids with an injured air.

"I suppose my gray squirrel is ever so much too big; but it 's nice and
cosy, and you may warm your hands in it if you want to," said Polly,
surveying her new woollen gloves with a dissatisfied look, though she
had thought them quite elegant before.

"Perhaps I will, by and by. Now, Polly, don't you be shy. I 'll only
introduce two or three of the girls; and you need n't mind old Monsieur
a bit, or read if you don't want to. We shall be in the anteroom; so you
'll only see about a dozen, and they will be so busy, they won't mind
you much."

"I guess I won't read, but sit and look on. I like to watch people,
everything is so new and queer here."

But Polly did feel and look very shy, when she was ushered into a room
full of young ladies, as they seemed to her, all very much dressed, all
talking together, and all turning to examine the new-comer with a cool
stare which seemed to be as much the fashion as eye-glasses. They nodded
affably when Fanny introduced her, said something civil, and made room
for her at the table round which they sat waiting for Monsieur. Several
of the more frolicsome were imitating the Grecian Bend, some were
putting their heads together over little notes, nearly all were eating
confectionery, and the entire twelve chattered like magpies. Being
politely supplied with caramels, Polly sat looking and listening,
feeling very young and countrified among these elegant young ladies.

"Girls, do you know that Carrie has gone abroad? There has been so much
talk, her father could n't bear it, and took the whole family off. Is
n't that gay?" said one lively damsel, who had just come in.

"I should think they 'd better go. My mamma says, if I 'd been going to
that school, she 'd have taken me straight away," answered another girl,
with an important air.

"Carrie ran away with an Italian music-teacher, and it got into the
papers, and made a great stir," explained the first speaker to Polly,
who looked mystified.

"How dreadful!" cried Polly.

"I think it was fun. She was only sixteen, and he was perfectly
splendid; and she has plenty of money, and every one talked about it;
and when she went anywhere, people looked, you know, and she liked it;
but her papa is an old poke, so he 's sent them all away. It 's too bad,
for she was the jolliest thing I ever knew."

Polly had nothing to say to lively Miss Belle; but Fanny observed, "I
like to read about such things; but it 's so inconvenient to have it
happen right here, because it makes it harder for us. I wish you could
have heard my papa go on. He threatened to send a maid to school with me
every day, as they do in New York, to be sure I come all right. Did you
ever?" "That 's because it came out that Carrie used to forge excuses in
her mamma's name, and go promenading with her Oreste, when they thought
her safe at school. Oh, was n't she a sly minx?" cried Belle, as if she
rather admired the trick.

"I think a little fun is all right; and there 's no need of making a
talk, if, now and then, some one does run off like Carrie. Boys do
as they like; and I don't see why girls need to be kept so dreadfully
close. I 'd like to see anybody watching and guarding me!" added another
dashing young lady.

"It would take a policeman to do that, Trix, or a little man in a tall
hat," said Fanny, slyly, which caused a general laugh, and made Beatrice
toss her head coquettishly.

"Oh, have you read 'The Phantom Bride'? It 's perfectly thrilling! There
's a regular rush for it at the library; but some prefer 'Breaking a
Butterfly.' Which do you like best?" asked a pale girl of Polly, in one
of the momentary lulls which occurred.

"I have n't read either."

"You must, then. I adore Guy Livingston's books, and Yates's. 'Ouida's'
are my delight, only they are so long, I get worn out before I 'm
through."

"I have n't read anything but one of the Muhlbach novels since I came. I
like those, because there is history in them," said Polly, glad to have
a word to say for herself.

"Those are well enough for improving reading; but I like real exciting
novels; don't you?"

Polly was spared the mortification of owning that she had never read
any, by the appearance of Monsieur, a gray-headed old Frenchman, who
went through his task with the resigned air of one who was used to being
the victim of giggling school-girls. The young ladies gabbled over the
lesson, wrote an exercise, and read a little French history. But it did
not seem to make much impression upon them, though Monsieur was very
ready to explain; and Polly quite blushed for her friend, when, on
being asked what famous Frenchman fought in our Revolution, she answered
Lamartine, instead of Lafayette.

The hour was soon over; and when Fan had taken a music lesson in another
room, while Polly looked on, it was time for recess. The younger girls
walked up and down the court, arm in arm, eating bread an butter; others
stayed in the school-room to read and gossip; but Belle, Trix, and
Fanny went to lunch at a fashionable ice-cream saloon near by, and Polly
meekly followed, not daring to hint at the ginger-bread grandma had put
in her pocket for luncheon. So the honest, brown cookies crumbled away
in obscurity, while Polly tried to satisfy her hearty appetite on one
ice and three macaroons.

The girls seemed in great spirits, particularly after they were joined
by a short gentleman with such a young face that Polly would have called
him a boy, if he had not worn a tall beaver. Escorted by this impressive
youth, Fanny left her unfortunate friends to return to school, and went
to walk, as she called a slow promenade down the most crowded
streets. Polly discreetly fell behind, and amused herself looking
into shop-windows, till Fanny, mindful of her manners, even at such an
interesting time, took her into a picture gallery, and bade her enjoy
the works of art while they rested. Obedient Polly went through the room
several times, apparently examining the pictures with the interest of a
connoisseur, and trying not to hear the mild prattle of the pair on the
round seat. But she could n't help wondering what Fan found so absorbing
in an account of a recent German, and why she need promise so solemnly
not to forget the concert that afternoon.

When Fanny rose at last, Polly's tired face reproached her; and taking
a hasty leave of the small gentleman, she turned homeward, saying,
confidentially, as she put one hand in Polly's muff, "Now, my dear, you
must n't say a word about Frank Moore, or papa will take my head off. I
don't care a bit for him, and he likes Trix; only they have quarrelled,
and he wants to make her mad by flirting a little with me. I scolded him
well, and he promised to make up with her. We all go to the afternoon
concerts, and have a gay time, and Belle and Trix are to be there
to-day; so just keep quiet, and everything will be all right."

"I 'm afraid it won't," began Polly, who, not being used to secrets,
found it very hard to keep even a small one.

"Don't worry, child. It 's none of our business; so we can go and enjoy
the music, and if other people flirt, it won't be our fault," said
Fanny, impatiently.

"Of course not; but, then, if your father don't like you to do so, ought
you to go?"

"I tell mamma, and she don't care. Papa is fussy, and grandma makes a
stir about every blessed thing I do. You will hold your tongue, won't
you?"

"Yes; I truly will; I never tell tales." And Polly kept her word,
feeling sure Fan did n't mean to deceive her father, since she told her
mother everything.

"Who are you going with?" asked Mrs. Shaw, when Fanny mentioned that it
was concert-day, just before three o'clock.

"Only Polly; she likes music, and it was so stormy I could n't go last
week, you know," answered Fan; adding, as they left the house again, "If
any one meets us on the way, I can't help it, can I?"

"You can tell them not to, can't you?"

"That 's rude. Dear me! here 's Belle's brother Gus he always goes. Is
my hair all right, and my hat?"

Before Polly could answer, Mr. Gus joined them as a matter of course,
and Polly soon found herself trotting on behind, feeling that things
were not "all right," though she did n't know how to mend them. Being
fond of music, she ignorantly supposed that every one else went for that
alone, and was much disturbed by the whispering that went on among the
young people round her. Belle and Trix were there in full dress; and, in
the pauses between different pieces, Messrs. Frank and Gus, with several
other "splendid fellows," regaled the young ladies with college gossip,
and bits of news full of interest, to judge from the close attention
paid to their eloquent remarks. Polly regarded these noble beings with
awe, and they recognized her existence with the condescension of their
sex; but they evidently considered her only "a quiet little thing," and
finding her not up to society talk, blandly ignored the pretty child,
and devoted themselves to the young ladies. Fortunately for Polly, she
forgot all about them in her enjoyment of the fine music, which she felt
rather than understood, and sat listening with such a happy face, that
several true music-lovers watched her smilingly, for her heart gave a
blithe welcome to the melody which put the little instrument in tune.
It was dusk when they went out, and Polly was much relieved to find the
carriage waiting for them, because playing third fiddle was not to her
taste, and she had had enough of it for one day.

"I 'm glad those men are gone; they did worry me so talking, when I
wanted to hear," said Polly, as they rolled away.

"Which did you like best?" asked Fanny, with a languid air of
superiority.

"The plain one, who did n't say much; he picked up my muff when it
tumbled down, and took care of me in the crowd; the others did n't mind
anything about me."

"They thought you were a little girl, I suppose."

"My mother says a real gentleman is as polite to a little girl as to a
woman; so I like Mr. Sydney best, because he was kind to me."

"What a sharp child you are, Polly. I should n't have thought you 'd
mind things like that," said Fanny, beginning to understand that there
may be a good deal of womanliness even in a little girl.

"I 'm used to good manners, though I do live in the country," replied
Polly, rather warmly, for she did n't like to be patronized even by her
friends.

"Grandma says your mother is a perfect lady, and you are just like her;
so don't get in a passion with those poor fellows, and I 'll see that
they behave better next time. Tom has no manners at all, and you don't
complain of him," added Fan, with a laugh.

"I don't care if he has n't; he 's a boy, and acts like one, and I can
get on with him a great deal better than I can with those men."

Fanny was just going to take Polly to task for saying "those men"
in such a disrespectful tone, when both were startled by a smothered
"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" from under the opposite seat.

"It 's Tom!" cried Fanny; and with the words out tumbled that
incorrigible boy, red in the face, and breathless with suppressed
laughter. Seating himself, he surveyed the girls as if well satisfied
with the success of his prank, and waiting to be congratulated upon it.
"Did you hear what we were saying?" demanded Fanny, uneasily.

"Oh, did n't I, every word?" And Tom exulted over them visibly.

"Did you ever see such a provoking toad, Polly? Now, I suppose you 'll
go and tell papa a great story."

"P'r'aps I shall, and p'r'aps I shan't. How Polly did hop when I crowed!
I heard her squeal, and saw her cuddle up her feet."

"And you heard us praise your manners, did n't you?" asked Polly, slyly.

"Yes, and you liked 'em; so I won't tell on you," said Tom, with a
re-assuring nod.

"There 's nothing to tell."

"Ain't there, though? What do you suppose the governor will say to you
girls going on so with those dandies? I saw you."

"What has the Governor of Massachusetts to do with us?" asked Polly,
trying to look as if she meant what she said.

"Pooh! you know who I mean; so you need n't try to catch me up, as
grandma does."

"Tom, I 'll make a bargain with you," cried Fanny, eagerly. "It was
n't my fault that Gus and Frank were there, and I could n't help their
speaking to me. I do as well as I can, and papa need n't be angry; for I
behave ever so much better than some of the girls. Don't I, Polly?"

"Bargain?" observed Tom, with an eye to business.

"If you won't go and make a fuss, telling what you 'd no right to hear
it was so mean to hide and listen; I should think you 'd be ashamed
of it! I 'll help you tease for your velocipede, and won't say a word
against it, when mamma and granny beg papa not to let you have it."

"Will you?" and Tom paused to consider the offer in all its bearings.

"Yes, and Polly will help; won't you?"

"I 'd rather not have anything to do with it; but I 'll be quiet, and
not do any harm."

"Why won't you?" asked Tom, curiously.

"Because it seems like deceiving."

"Well, papa need n't be so fussy," said Fan, petulantly.

"After hearing about that Carrie, and the rest, I don't wonder he is
fussy. Why don't you tell right out, and not do it any more, if he don't
want you to?" said Polly, persuasively.

"Do you go and tell your father and mother everything right out?"

"Yes, I do; and it saves ever so much trouble."

"Ain't you afraid of them?"

"Of course I 'm not. It 's hard to tell sometimes; but it 's so
comfortable when it 's over."

"Let 's!" was Tom's brief advice.

"Mercy me! what a fuss about nothing!" said Fanny, ready to cry with
vexation.

"T is n't nothing. You know you are forbidden to go gallivanting round
with those chaps, and that 's the reason you 're in a pucker now. I
won't make any bargain, and I will tell," returned Tom, seized with a
sudden fit of moral firmness.

"Will you if I promise never, never to do so any more?" asked Fanny,
meekly; for when Thomas took matters into his own hands, his sister
usually submitted in spite of herself.

"I 'll think about it; and if you behave, maybe I won't do it at all. I
can watch you better than papa can; so, if you try it again, it 's
all up with you, miss," said Tom, finding it impossible to resist the
pleasure of tyrannizing a little when he got the chance.

"She won't; don't plague her any more, and she will be good to you when
you get into scrapes," answered Polly, with her arm round Fan.

"I never do; and if I did, I should n't ask a girl to help me out."

"Why not? I 'd ask you in a minute, if I was in trouble," said Polly, in
her confiding way.

"Would you? Well, I 'd put you through, as sure as my name 's Tom Shaw.
Now, then, don't slip, Polly," and Mr. Thomas helped them out with
unusual politeness, for that friendly little speech gratified him. He
felt that one person appreciated him; and it had a good effect upon
manners and temper made rough and belligerent by constant snubbing and
opposition.

After tea that evening, Fanny proposed that Polly should show her how
to make molasses candy, as it was cook's holiday, and the coast would
be clear. Hoping to propitiate her tormentor, Fan invited Tom to join in
the revel, and Polly begged that Maud might sit up and see the fun;
so all four descended to the big kitchen, armed with aprons, hammers,
spoons, and pans, and Polly assumed command of the forces. Tom was set
to cracking nuts, and Maud to picking out the meats, for the candy was
to be "tip-top." Fan waited on Polly cook, who hovered over the kettle
of boiling molasses till her face was the color of a peony. "Now, put
in the nuts," she said at last; and Tom emptied his plate into the
foamy syrup, while the others watched with deep interest the mysterious
concoction of this well-beloved sweetmeat. "I pour it into the buttered
pan, you see, and it cools, and then we can eat it," explained Polly,
suiting the action to the word.

"Why, it 's all full of shells!" exclaimed Maud, peering into the pan.

"Oh, thunder! I must have put 'em in by mistake, and ate up the meats
without thinking," said Tom, trying to conceal his naughty satisfaction,
as the girls hung over the pan with faces full of disappointment and
despair.

"You did it on purpose, you horrid boy! I 'll never let you have
anything to do with my fun again!" cried Fan, in a passion, trying to
catch and shake him, while he dodged and chuckled in high glee.

Maud began to wail over her lost delight, and Polly gravely poked at the
mess, which was quite spoilt. But her attention was speedily diverted
by the squabble going on in the corner; for Fanny, forgetful of her
young-ladyism and her sixteen years, had boxed Tom's ears, and Tom,
resenting the insult, had forcibly seated her in the coal-hod, where he
held her with one hand while he returned the compliment with the
other. Both were very angry, and kept twitting one another with every
aggravation they could invent, as they scolded and scuffled, presenting
a most unlovely spectacle.

Polly was not a model girl by any means, and had her little pets and
tempers like the rest of us; but she did n't fight, scream, and squabble
with her brothers and sisters in this disgraceful way, and was much
surprised to see her elegant friend in such a passion. "Oh, don't!
Please, don't! You 'll hurt her, Tom! Let him go, Fanny! It 's no matter
about the candy; we can make some more!" cried Polly, trying to part
them, and looking so distressed, that they stopped ashamed, and in a
minute sorry that she should see such a display of temper.

"I ain't going to be hustled round; so you 'd better let me alone, Fan,"
said Tom, drawing off with a threatening wag of the head, adding, in
a different tone, "I only put the shells in for fun, Polly. You cook
another kettleful, and I 'll pick you some meats all fair. Will you?"

"It 's pretty hot work, and it 's a pity to waste things; but I 'll try
again, if you want me to," said Polly, with a patient sigh, for her arms
were tired and her face uncomfortably hot.

"We don't want you; get away!" said Maud, shaking a sticky spoon at him.

"Keep quiet, cry-baby. I 'm going to stay and help; may n't I, Polly?"

"Bears like sweet things, so you want some candy, I guess. Where is
the molasses? We 've used up all there was in the jug," said Polly,
good-naturedly, beginning again.

"Down cellar; I 'll get it;" and taking the lamp and jug, Tom departed,
bent on doing his duty now like a saint.

The moment his light vanished, Fanny bolted the door, saying,
spitefully, "Now, we are safe from any more tricks. Let him thump and
call, it only serves him right; and when the candy is done, we 'll let
the rascal out."

"How can we make it without molasses?" asked Polly, thinking that would
settle the matter.

"There 's plenty in the store-room. No; you shan't let him up till I 'm
ready. He 's got to learn that I 'm not to be shaken by a little chit
like him. Make your candy, and let him alone, or I 'll go and tell papa,
and then Tom will get a lecture."

Polly thought it was n't fair; but Maud clamored for her candy, and
finding she could do nothing to appease Fan, Polly devoted her mind to
her cookery till the nuts were safely in, and a nice panful set in the
yard to cool. A few bangs at the locked door, a few threats of vengeance
from the prisoner, such as setting the house on fire, drinking up the
wine, and mashing the jelly-pots, and then all was so quiet that the
girls forgot him in the exciting crisis of their work.

"He can't possibly get out anywhere, and as soon we 've cut up the
candy, we 'll unbolt the door and run. Come and get a nice dish to put
it in," said Fan, when Polly proposed to go halves with Tom, lest he
should come bursting in somehow, and seize the whole.

When they came down with the dish in which to set forth their treat,
and opened the back-door to find it, imagine their dismay on discovering
that it was gone, pan, candy, and all, utterly and mysteriously gone!

A general lament arose, when a careful rummage left no hopes; for
the fates had evidently decreed at candy was not to prosper on this
unpropitious night.

"The hot pan has melted and sunk in the snow perhaps," said Fanny,
digging into the drift where it was left.

"Those old cats have got it, I guess," suggested Maud, too much
overwhelmed by this second blow to howl as usual.

"The gate is n't locked, and some beggar has stolen it. I hope it will
do him good," added Polly, turning from her exploring expedition.

"If Tom could get out, I should think he 'd carried it off; but not
being a rat, he can't go through the bits of windows; so it was n't
him," said Fanny, disconsolately, for she began to think this double
loss a punishment for letting angry passions rise, "Let 's open the door
and tell him about it," proposed Polly.

"He 'll crow over us. No; we 'll open it and go to bed, and he can come
out when he likes. Provoking boy! if he had n't plagued us so, we should
have had a nice time."

Unbolting the cellar door, the girls announced to the invisible captive
that they were through, and then departed much depressed. Half-way up
the second flight, they all stopped as suddenly as if they had seen
a ghost; for looking over the banisters was Tom's face, crocky but
triumphant, and in either hand a junk of candy, which he waved above
them as he vanished, with the tantalizing remark, "Don't you wish you
had some?"

"How in the world did he get out?" cried Fanny, steadying herself after
a start that nearly sent all three tumbling down stairs.

"Coal-hole!" answered a spectral voice from the gloom above.

"Good gracious! He must have poked up the cover, climbed into the
street, stole the candy, and sneaked in at the shed-window while we were
looking for it."

"Cats got it, did n't they?" jeered the voice in a tone that made Polly
sit down and laugh till she could n't laugh any longer.

"Just give Maud a bit, she 's so disappointed. Fan and I are sick of it,
and so will you be, if you eat it all," called Polly, when she got her
breath.

"Go to bed, Maudie, and look under your pillow when you get there," was
the oracular reply that came down to them, as Tom's door closed after a
jubilant solo on the tin pan.

The girls went to bed tired out; and Maud slumbered placidly, hugging
the sticky bundle, found where molasses candy is not often discovered.
Polly was very tired, and soon fell asleep; but Fanny, who slept with
her, lay awake longer than usual, thinking about her troubles, for her
head ached, and the dissatisfaction that follows anger would not let her
rest with the tranquillity that made the rosy face in the little round
nightcap such a pleasant sight to see as it lay beside her. The gas was
turned down, but Fanny saw a figure in a gray wrapper creep by her door,
and presently return, pausing to look in. "Who is it?" she cried, so
loud that Polly woke.

"Only me, dear," answered grandma's mild voice. "Poor Tom has got a
dreadful toothache, and I came down to find some creosote for him. He
told me not to tell you; but I can't find the bottle, and don't want to
disturb mamma."

"It 's in my closet. Old Tom will pay for his trick this time," said
Fanny, in a satisfied tone.

"I thought he 'd get enough of our candy," laughed Polly; and then they
fell asleep, leaving Tom to the delights of toothache and the tender
mercies of kind old grandma.



CHAPTER III. POLLY'S TROUBLES


POLLY soon found that she was in a new world, a world where the manners
and customs were so different from the simple ways at home, that she
felt like a stranger in a strange land, and often wished that she had
not come. In the first place, she had nothing to do but lounge and
gossip, read novels, parade the streets, and dress; and before a week
was gone, she was as heartily sick of all this, as a healthy person
would be who attempted to live on confectionery. Fanny liked it, because
she was used to it, and had never known anything better; but Polly
had, and often felt like a little wood-bird shut up in a gilded cage.
Nevertheless, she was much impressed by the luxuries all about her,
enjoyed them, wished she owned them, and wondered why the Shaws were not
a happier family. She was not wise enough to know where the trouble lay;
she did not attempt to say which of the two lives was the right one; she
only knew which she liked best, and supposed it was merely another of
her "old-fashioned" ways.

Fanny's friends did not interest her much; she was rather afraid of
them, they seemed so much older and wiser than herself, even those
younger in years. They talked about things of which she knew nothing and
when Fanny tried to explain, she did n't find them interesting; indeed,
some of them rather shocked and puzzled her; so the girls let her alone,
being civil when they met, but evidently feeling that she was too "odd"
to belong to their set. Then she turned to Maud for companionship, for
her own little sister was excellent company, and Polly loved her dearly.
But Miss Maud was much absorbed in her own affairs, for she belonged
to a "set" also; and these mites of five and six had their "musicals,"
their parties, receptions, and promenades, as well as their elders; and,
the chief idea of their little lives seemed to be to ape the fashionable
follies they should have been too innocent to understand. Maud had her
tiny card-case, and paid calls, "like mamma and Fan"; her box of dainty
gloves, her jewel-drawer, her crimping-pins, as fine and fanciful a
wardrobe as a Paris doll, and a French maid to dress her. Polly could
n't get on with her at first, for Maud did n't seem like a child, and
often corrected Polly in her conversation and manners, though little
mademoiselle's own were anything but perfect. Now and then, when Maud
felt poorly, or had a "fwactious" turn, for she had "nerves" as well as
mamma, she would go to Polly to "be amoosed," for her gentle ways and
kind forbearance soothed the little fine lady better than anything else.
Polly enjoyed these times, and told stories, played games, or went
out walking, just as Maud liked, slowly and surely winning the child's
heart, and relieving the whole house of the young tyrant who ruled it.

Tom soon got over staring at Polly, and at first did not take much
notice of her, for, in his opinion, "girls did n't amount to much,
anyway"; and, considering, the style of girl he knew most about, Polly
quite agreed with him. He occasionally refreshed himself by teasing her,
to see how she 'd stand it, and caused Polly much anguish of spirit, for
she never knew where he would take her next. He bounced out at her from
behind doors, booed at her in dark entries, clutched her feet as she
went up stairs, startled her by shrill whistles right in her ear, or
sudden tweaks of the hair as he passed her in the street; and as sure as
there was company to dinner, he fixed his round eyes on her, and never
took them off till she was reduced to a piteous state of confusion and
distress. She used to beg him not to plague her; but he said he did
it for her good; she was too shy, and needed toughening like the other
girls. In vain she protested that she did n't want to be like the other
girls in that respect; he only laughed in her face, stuck his red hair
straight up all over his head, and glared at her, till she fled in
dismay.

Yet Polly rather liked Tom, for she soon saw that he was neglected,
hustled out of the way, and left to get on pretty much by himself. She
often wondered why his mother did n't pet him as she did the girls;
why his father ordered him about as if he was a born rebel, and took so
little interest in his only son. Fanny considered him a bear, and was
ashamed of him; but never tried to polish him up a bit; and Maud and
he lived together like a cat and dog who did not belong to a "happy
family." Grandma was the only one who stood by poor old Tom; and Polly
more than once discovered him doing something kind for Madam, and
seeming very much ashamed when it was found out. He was n't respectful
at all; he called her "the old lady," and told her he "would n't be
fussed over"; but when anything was the matter, he always went to "the
old lady," and was very grateful for the "fussing." Polly liked him for
this, and often wanted to speak of it; but she had a feeling that it
would n't do, for in praising their affection, she was reproaching
others with neglect; so she held her tongue, and thought about it all
the more. Grandma was rather neglected, too, and perhaps that is
the reason why Tom and she were such good friends. She was even more
old-fashioned than Polly; but people did n't seem to mind it so much in
her, as her day was supposed to be over, and nothing was expected of her
but to keep out of everybody's way, and to be handsomely dressed when
she appeared "before people." Grandma led a quiet, solitary life in her
own rooms, full of old furniture, pictures, books, and relics of a past
for which no one cared but herself. Her son went up every evening for a
little call, was very kind to her, and saw that she wanted nothing money
could buy; but he was a busy man, so intent on getting rich that he
had no time to enjoy what he already possessed. Madam never complained,
interfered, or suggested; but there was a sad sort of quietude about
her, a wistful look in her faded eyes, as if she wanted something which
money could not buy, and when children were near, she hovered about
them, evidently longing to cuddle and caress them as only grandmothers
can. Polly felt this; and as she missed the home-petting, gladly showed
that she liked to see the quiet old face brighten, as she entered the
solitary room, where few children came, except the phantoms of little
sons and daughters, who, to the motherly heart that loved them, never
faded or grew up. Polly wished the children would be kinder to grandma;
but it was not for her to tell them so, although it troubled her a good
deal, and she could only try to make up for it by being as dutiful and
affectionate as if their grandma was her own.

Another thing that disturbed Polly was the want of exercise. To dress
up and parade certain streets for an hour every day, to stand talking in
doorways, or drive out in a fine carriage, was not the sort of exercise
she liked, and Fan would take no other. Indeed, she was so shocked,
when Polly, one day, proposed a run down the mall, that her friend never
dared suggest such a thing again. At home, Polly ran and rode, coasted
and skated, jumped rope and raked hay, worked in her garden and rowed
her boat; so no wonder she longed for something more lively than a daily
promenade with a flock of giddy girls, who tilted along in high-heeled
boots, and costumes which made Polly ashamed to be seen with some of
them. So she used to slip out alone sometimes, when Fanny was absorbed
in novels, company, or millinery, and get fine brisk walks round the
park, on the unfashionable side, where the babies took their airings; or
she went inside, to watch the boys coasting, and to wish she could coast
too, as she did at home. She never went far, and always came back rosy
and gay.

One afternoon, just before dinner, she felt so tired of doing nothing,
that she slipped out for a run. It had been a dull day; but the sun was
visible now, setting brightly below the clouds. It was cold but still
and Polly trotted down the smooth, snow-covered mall humming to herself,
and trying not to feel homesick. The coasters were at it with all their
might, and she watched them, till her longing to join the fun grew
irresistible. On the hill, some little girls were playing with their
sleds, real little girls, in warm hoods and coats, rubber boots and
mittens, and Polly felt drawn toward them in spite of her fear of Fan.

"I want to go down, but I dars n't, it 's so steep," said one of these
"common children," as Maud called them.

"If you 'll lend me your sled, and sit in my lap, I 'll take you down
all nice," answered Polly, in a confidential tone.

The little girls took a look at her, seemed satisfied, and accepted
her offer. Polly looked carefully round to see that no fashionable eye
beheld the awful deed, and finding all safe, settled her freight, and
spun away down hill, feeling all over the delightsome excitement of
swift motion which makes coasting such a favorite pastime with the more
sensible portion of the child-world. One after another, she took
the little girls down the hill and dragged them up again, while they
regarded her in the light of a gray-coated angel, descended for their
express benefit. Polly was just finishing off with one delicious "go"
all by herself, when she heard a familiar whistle behind her, and before
she could get off, up came Tom, looking as much astonished as if he had
found her mounted, on an elephant.

"Hullo, Polly! What 'll Fan say to you?" was his polished salutation.

"Don't know, and don't care. Coasting is no harm; I like it, and I 'm
going to do it, now I 've got a chance; so clear the lul-la!" And
away went independent Polly, with her hair blowing in the wind, and an
expression of genuine enjoyment, which a very red nose did n't damage in
the least.

"Good for you, Polly!" And casting himself upon his sled, with the most
reckless disregard for his ribs, off whizzed Tom after her, and came
alongside just as she reined up "General Grant" on the broad path below.
"Oh, won't you get it when we go home?" cried the young gentleman, even
before he changed his graceful attitude.

"I shan't, if you don't go and tell; but of course you will," added
Polly, sitting still, while an anxious expression began to steal over
her happy face.

"I just won't, then," returned Tom, with the natural perversity of his
tribe.

"If they ask me, I shall tell, of course; if they don't ask, I think
there 's no harm in keeping still. I should n't have done it, if I had
n't known my mother was willing; but I don't wish to trouble your mother
by telling of it. Do you think it was very dreadful of me?" asked Polly,
looking at him.

"I think it was downright jolly; and I won't tell, if you don't want me
to. Now, come up and have another," said Tom, heartily.

"Just one more; the little girls want to go, this is their sled."

"Let 'em take it, it is n't good for much; and you come on mine.
Mazeppa's a stunner; you see if he is n't."

So Polly tucked herself up in front, Tom hung on behind in some
mysterious manner, and Mazeppa proved that he fully merited his master's
sincere if inelegant praise. They got on capitally now, for Tom was in
his proper sphere, and showed his best side, being civil and gay in the
bluff boy-fashion that was natural to him; while Polly forgot to be shy,
and liked this sort of "toughening" much better than the other. They
laughed and talked, and kept taking "just one more," till the sunshine
was all gone, and the clocks struck dinner-time.

"We shall be late; let 's run," said Polly, as they came into the path
after the last coast.

"You just sit still, and I 'll get you home in a jiffy;" and before she
could unpack herself, Tom trotted off with her at a fine pace.

"Here 's a pair of cheeks! I wish you 'd get a color like this, Fanny,"
said Mr. Shaw, as Polly came into the dining-room after smoothing her
hair.

"Your nose is as red as that cranberry sauce," answered Fan, coming out
of the big chair where she had been curled up for an hour or two, deep
in "Lady Audley's Secret."

"So it is," said Polly, shutting one eye to look at the offending
feature. "Never mind; I 've had a good time, anyway," she added, giving
a little prance in her chair.

"I don't see much fun in these cold runs you are so fond of taking,"
said Fanny, with a yawn and a shiver.

"Perhaps you would if you tried it;" and Polly laughed as she glanced at
Tom.

"Did you go alone, dear?" asked grandma, patting the rosy cheek beside
her.

"Yes 'm; but I met Tom, and we came home together." Polly's eyes
twinkled when she said that, and Tom choked in his soup.

"Thomas, leave the table!" commanded Mr. Shaw, as his incorrigible son
gurgled and gasped behind his napkin.

"Please don't send him away, sir. I made him laugh," said Polly,
penitently.

"What's the joke?" asked Fanny, waking up at last.

"I should n't think you 'd make him laugh, when he 's always making you
cwy," observed Maud, who had just come in.

"What have you been doing now, sir?" demanded Mr. Shaw, as Tom emerged,
red and solemn, from his brief obscurity.

"Nothing but coast," he said, gruffly, for papa was always lecturing
him, and letting the girls do just as they liked.

"So 's Polly; I saw her. Me and Blanche were coming home just now, and
we saw her and Tom widing down the hill on his sled, and then he dwagged
her ever so far!" cried Maud, with her mouth full.

"You did n't?" and Fanny dropped her fork with a scandalized face.

"Yes, I did, and liked it ever so much," answered Polly, looking anxious
but resolute.

"Did any one see you?" cried Fanny.

"Only some little girls, and Tom."

"It was horridly improper; and Tom ought to have told you so, if you did
n't know any better. I should be mortified to death if any of my friends
saw you," added Fan, much disturbed.

"Now, don't you scold. It 's no harm, and Polly shall coast if she wants
to; may n't she, grandma?" cried Tom, gallantly coming to the rescue,
and securing a powerful ally.

"My mother lets me; and if I don't go among the boys, I can't see what
harm there is in it," said Polly, before Madam could speak.

"People do many things in the country that are not proper here," began
Mrs. Shaw, in her reproving tone.

"Let the child do it if she likes, and take Maud with her. I should be
glad to have one hearty girl in my house," interrupted Mr. Shaw, and
that was the end of it.

"Thank you, sir," said Polly, gratefully, and nodded at Tom, who
telegraphed back "All right!" and fell upon his dinner with the appetite
of a young wolf.

"Oh, you sly-boots! you 're getting up a flirtation with Tom, are you?"
whispered Fanny to her friend, as if much amused.

"What!" and Polly looked so surprised and indignant, that Fanny was
ashamed of herself, and changed the subject by telling her mother she
needed some new gloves.

Polly was very quiet after that, and the minute dinner was over, she
left the room to go and have a quiet "think" about the whole matter.
Before she got half-way up stairs, she saw Tom coming after, and
immediately sat down to guard her feet. He laughed, and said, as he
perched himself on the post of the banisters, "I won't grab you, honor
bright. I just wanted to say, if you 'll come out to-morrow some time,
we 'll have a good coast."

"No," said Polly, "I can't come."

"Why not? Are you mad? I did n't tell." And Tom looked amazed at the
change which had come over her.

"No; you kept your word, and stood by me like a good boy. I 'm not mad,
either; but I don't mean to coast any more. Your mother don't like it."

"That is n't the reason, I know. You nodded to me after she 'd freed her
mind, and you meant to go then. Come, now, what is it?"

"I shan't tell you; but I 'm not going," was Polly's determined answer.

"Well, I did think you had more sense than most girls; but you have n't,
and I would n't give a sixpence for you."

"That 's polite," said Polly, getting ruffled.

"Well, I hate cowards."

"I ain't a coward."

"Yes, you are. You 're afraid of what folks will say; ain't you, now?"

Polly knew she was, and held her peace, though she longed to speak; but
how could she?

"Ah, I knew you 'd back out." And Tom walked away with an air of scorn
that cut Polly to the heart.

"It 's too bad! Just as he was growing kind to me, and I was going to
have a good time, it 's all spoilt by Fan's nonsense. Mrs. Shaw don't
like it, nor grandma either, I dare say. There 'll be a fuss if I go,
and Fan will plague me; so I 'll give it up, and let Tom think I 'm
afraid. Oh, dear! I never did see such ridiculous people."

Polly shut her door hard, and felt ready to cry with vexation, that her
pleasure should be spoilt by such a silly idea; for, of all the silly
freaks of this fast age, that of little people playing at love is about
the silliest. Polly had been taught that it was a very serious and
sacred thing; and, according to her notions, it was far more improper to
flirt with one boy than to coast with a dozen. She had been much amazed,
only the day before, to hear Maud say to her mother, "Mamma, must I have
a beau? The girls all do, and say I ought to have Fweddy Lovell; but I
don't like him as well as Hawry Fiske."

"Oh, yes; I 'd have a little sweetheart, dear, it 's so cunning,"
answered Mrs. Shaw. And Maud announced soon after that she was engaged
to "Fweddy, 'cause Hawry slapped her" when she proposed the match.

Polly laughed with the rest at the time; but when she thought of it
afterward, and wondered what her own mother would have said, if little
Kitty had put such a question, she did n't find it cunning or funny, but
ridiculous and unnatural. She felt so now about herself; and when her
first petulance was over, resolved to give up coasting and everything
else, rather than have any nonsense with Tom, who, thanks to his
neglected education, was as ignorant as herself of the charms of this
new amusement for school-children. So Polly tried to console herself
by jumping rope in the back-yard, and playing tag with Maud in the
drying-room, where she likewise gave lessons in "nas-gim-nics," as Maud
called it, which did that little person good. Fanny came up sometimes
to teach them a new dancing step, and more than once was betrayed into
a game of romps, for which she was none the worse. But Tom turned a cold
shoulder to Polly, and made it evident, by his cavalier manner that he
really did n't think her "worth a sixpence."

Another thing that troubled Polly was her clothes, for, though no one
said anything, she knew they were very plain; and now and then she
wished that her blue and mouse colored merinos were rather more trimmed,
her sashes had bigger bows, and her little ruffles more lace on them.
She sighed for a locket, and, for the first time in her life, thought
seriously of turning up her pretty curls and putting on a "wad." She
kept these discontents to herself, however, after she had written to ask
her mother if she might have her best dress altered like Fanny's, and
received this reply: "No, dear; the dress is proper and becoming as it
is, and the old fashion of simplicity the best for all of us. I don't
want my Polly to be loved for her clothes, but for herself; so wear the
plain frocks mother took such pleasure in making for you, and let the
panniers go. The least of us have some influence in this big world;
and perhaps my little girl can do some good by showing others that a
contented heart and a happy face are better ornaments than any Paris can
give her. You want a locket, deary; so I send one that my mother gave me
years ago. You will find father's face on one side, mine on the other;
and when things trouble you, just look at your talisman, and I think the
sunshine will come back again."

Of course it did, for the best of all magic was shut up in the quaint
little case that Polly wore inside her frock, and kissed so tenderly
each night and morning. The thought that, insignificant as she was, she
yet might do some good, made her very careful of her acts and words, and
so anxious to keep head contented and face happy, that she forgot her
clothes, and made others do the same. She did not know it, but that good
old fashion of simplicity made the plain gowns pretty, and the grace of
unconsciousness beautified their little wearer with the charm that
makes girlhood sweetest to those who truly love and reverence it. One
temptation Polly had already yielded to before the letter came, and
repented heartily of afterward.

"Polly, I wish you 'd let me call you Marie," said Fanny one day, as
they were shopping together.

"You may call me Mary, if you like; but I won't have any ie put on to my
name. I 'm Polly at home and I 'm fond of being called so; but Marie is
Frenchified and silly."

"I spell my own name with an ie, and so do all the girls."

"And what a jumble of Netties, Nellies, Hatties, and Sallies there is.
How 'Pollie' would look spelt so!"

"Well, never mind; that was n't what I began to say. There 's one thing
you must have, and that is, bronze boots," said Fan, impressively.

"Why must I, when I 've got enough without?"

"Because it 's the fashion to have them, and you can't be finished off
properly without. I 'm going to get a pair, and so must you."

"Don't they cost a great deal?"

"Eight or nine dollars, I believe. I have mine charged; but it don't
matter if you have n't got the money. I can lend you some."

"I 've got ten dollars to do what I like with; but it 's meant to get
some presents for the children." And Polly took out her purse in an
undecided way.

"You can make presents easy enough. Grandma knows all sorts of nice
contrivances. They 'll do just as well; and then you can get your
boots."

"Well; I 'll look at them," said Polly, following Fanny into the store,
feeling rather rich and important to be shopping in this elegant manner.

"Are n't they lovely? Your foot is perfectly divine in that boot, Polly.
Get them for my party; you 'll dance like a fairy," whispered Fan.

Polly surveyed the dainty, shining boot with the scalloped top, the
jaunty heel, and the delicate toe, thought her foot did look very well
in it, and after a little pause, said she would have them. It was all
very delightful till she got home, and was alone; then, on looking into
her purse, she saw one dollar and the list of things she meant to get
for mother and the children. How mean the dollar looked all alone! and
how long the list grew when there was nothing to buy the articles.

"I can't make skates for Ned, nor a desk for Will; and those are what
they have set their hearts upon. Father's book and mother's collar are
impossible now; and I 'm a selfish thing to go and spend all my
money for myself. How could I do it?" And Polly eyed the new boots
reproachfully, as they stood in the first position as if ready for the
party. "They are lovely; but I don't believe they will feel good, for
I shall be thinking about my lost presents all the time," sighed Polly,
pushing the enticing boots out of sight. "I 'll go and ask grandma what
I can do; for if I 've got to make something for every one, I must begin
right away, or I shan't get done;" and off she bustled, glad to forget
her remorse in hard work.

Grandma proved equal to the emergency, and planned something for every
one, supplying materials, taste, and skill in the most delightful
manner. Polly felt much comforted; but while she began to knit a pretty
pair of white bed-socks, to be tied with rose-colored ribbons, for
her mother, she thought some very sober thoughts upon the subject of
temptation; and if any one had asked her just then what made her sigh,
as if something lay heavy on her conscience, she would have answered,
"Bronze boots."



CHAPTER IV. LITTLE THINGS


"IT 'S so wainy, I can't go out, and evwybody is so cwoss they won't
play with me," said Maud, when Polly found her fretting on the stairs,
and paused to ask the cause of her wails.

"I 'll play with you; only don't scream and wake your mother. What shall
we play?"

"I don't know; I 'm tired of evwything, 'cause my toys are all bwoken,
and my dolls are all sick but Clawa," moaned Maud, giving a jerk to the
Paris doll which she held upside down by one leg in the most unmaternal
manner.

"I 'm going to dress a dolly for my little sister; would n't you like
to see me do it?" asked Polly, persuasively, hoping to beguile the cross
child and finish her own work at the same time.

"No, I should n't, 'cause she 'll look nicer than my Clawa. Her clothes
won't come off; and Tom spoilt 'em playing ball with her in the yard."

"Would n't you like to rip these clothes off, and have me show you how
to make some new ones, so you can dress and undress Clara as much as you
like?"

"Yes; I love to cut." And Maud's, face brightened; for destructiveness
is one of the earliest traits of childhood, and ripping was Maud's
delight.

Establishing themselves in the deserted dining-room, the children fell
to work; and when Fanny discovered them, Maud was laughing with all
her heart at poor Clara, who, denuded of her finery, was cutting up all
sorts of capers in the hands of her merry little mistress.

"I should think you 'd be ashamed to play with dolls, Polly. I have n't
touched one this ever so long," said Fanny, looking down with a superior
air.

"I ain't ashamed, for it keeps Maud happy, and will please my sister
Kitty; and I think sewing is better than prinking or reading silly
novels, so, now." And Polly stitched away with a resolute air, for she
and Fanny had had a little tiff; because Polly would n't let her friend
do up her hair "like other folks," and bore her ears.

"Don't be cross, dear, but come and do something nice, it 's so dull
to-day," said Fanny, anxious to be friends again, for it was doubly dull
without Polly.

"Can't; I 'm busy."

"You always are busy. I never saw such a girl. What in the world do you
find to do all the time?" asked Fanny, watching with interest the set of
the little red merino frock Polly was putting on to her doll.

"Lots of things; but I like to be lazy sometimes as much as you do; just
lie on the sofa, and read fairy stories, or think about nothing. Would
you have a white-muslin apron or a black silk?" added Polly, surveying
her work with satisfaction.

"Muslin, with pockets and tiny blue bows. I 'll show you how." And
forgetting her hate and contempt for dolls, down sat Fanny, soon getting
as much absorbed as either of the others.

The dull day brightened wonderfully after that, and the time flew
pleasantly, as tongues and needles went together. Grandma peeped in, and
smiled at the busy group, saying, "Sew away, my dears; dollies are safe
companions, and needlework an accomplishment that 's sadly neglected
nowadays. Small stitches, Maud; neat button-holes, Fan; cut carefully,
Polly, and don't waste your cloth. Take pains; and the best needlewoman
shall have a pretty bit of white satin for a doll's bonnet."

Fanny exerted herself, and won the prize, for Polly helped Maud, and
neglected her own work; but she did n't care much, for Mr. Shaw said,
looking at the three bright faces at the tea-table, "I guess Polly has
been making sunshine for you to-day." "No, indeed, sir, I have n't done
anything, only dress Maud's doll."

And Polly did n't think she had done much; but it was one of the little
things which are always waiting to be done in this world of ours, where
rainy days come so often, where spirits get out of tune, and duty won't
go hand in hand with pleasure. Little things of this sort are especially
good work for little people; a kind little thought, an unselfish little
act, a cheery little word, are so sweet and comfortable, that no one can
fail to feel their beauty and love the giver, no matter how small they
are. Mothers do a deal of this sort of thing, unseen, unthanked, but
felt and remembered long afterward, and never lost, for this is the
simple magic that binds hearts together, and keeps home happy. Polly had
learned this secret.

She loved to do the "little things" that others did not see, or were too
busy to stop for; and while doing them, without a thought of thanks, she
made sunshine for herself as well as others. There was so much love
in her own home, that she quickly felt the want of it in Fanny's, and
puzzled herself to find out why these people were not kind and patient
to one another. She did not try to settle the question, but did her
best to love and serve and bear with each, and the good will, the gentle
heart, the helpful ways and simple manners of our Polly made her dear
to every one, for these virtues, even in a little child, are lovely and
attractive.

Mr. Shaw was very kind to her, for he liked her modest, respectful
manners; and Polly was so grateful for his many favors, that she soon
forgot her fear, and showed her affection in all sorts of confiding
little ways, which pleased him extremely. She used to walk across the
park with him when he went to his office in the morning, talking busily
all the way, and saying "Good-by" with a nod and a smile when they
parted at the great gate. At first, Mr. Shaw did not care much about
it; but soon he missed her if she did not come, and found that
something fresh and pleasant seemed to brighten all his day, if a small,
gray-coated figure, with an intelligent face, a merry voice, and a
little hand slipped confidingly into his, went with him through the
wintry park. Coming home late, he liked to see a curly, brown head
watching at the window; to find his slippers ready, his paper in its
place, and a pair of willing feet, eager to wait upon him. "I wish my
Fanny was more like her," he often said to himself, as he watched the
girls, while they thought him deep in politics or the state of the money
market. Poor Mr. Shaw had been so busy getting rich, that he had not
found time to teach his children to love him; he was more at leisure
now, and as his boy and girls grew up, he missed something. Polly was
unconsciously showing him what it was, and making child-love so sweet,
that he felt he could not do without it any more, yet did n't quite
know how to win the confidence of the children, who had always found him
busy, indifferent, and absentminded.

As the girls were going to bed one night, Polly kissed grandma, as
usual, and Fanny laughed at her, saying, "What a baby you are! We are
too old for such things now."

"I don't think people ever are too old to kiss their fathers and
mothers," was the quick answer.

"Right, my little Polly;" and Mr. Shaw stretched out his hand to her
with such a kindly look, that Fanny stared surprised, and then said,
shyly, "I thought you did n't care about it, father." "I do, my dear:"
And Mr. Shaw put out the other hand to Fanny, who gave him a daughterly
kiss, quite forgetting everything but the tender feeling that sprung up
in her heart at the renewal of the childish custom which we never need
outgrow.

Mrs. Shaw was a nervous, fussy invalid, who wanted something every five
minutes; so Polly found plenty of small things to do for her and did,
them so cheerfully, that the poor lady loved to have the quiet, helpful
child near, to wait upon her, read to her, run errands, or hand the
seven different shawls which were continually being put on or off.

Grandma, too, was glad to find willing hands and feet to serve her; and
Polly passed many happy hours in the quaint rooms, learning all sorts
of pretty arts, and listening to pleasant chat, never dreaming how much
sunshine she brought to the solitary old lady.

Tom was Polly's rock ahead for a long time, because he was always
breaking out in a new place, and one never knew where to find him. He
tormented yet amused her; was kind one day, and a bear the next; at
times she fancied he was never going to be bad again, and the next thing
she knew he was deep in mischief, and hooted at the idea of repentance
and reformation. Polly gave him up as a hard case; but was so in the
habit of helping any one who seemed in trouble, that she was good to him
simply because she could n't help it.

"What 's the matter? Is your lesson too hard for you?" she asked one
evening, as a groan made her look across the table to where Tom sat
scowling over a pile of dilapidated books, with his hands in his hair,
as if his head was in danger of flying asunder with the tremendous
effort he was making.

"Hard! Guess it is. What in thunder do I care about the old
Carthaginians? Regulus was n't bad; but I 'm sick of him!" And Tom dealt
"Harkness's Latin Reader" a thump, which expressed his feelings better
than words.

"I like Latin, and used to get on well when I studied it with Jimmy.
Perhaps I can help you a little bit," said Polly, as Tom wiped his hot
face and refreshed himself with a peanut.

"You? pooh! girls' Latin don't amount to much anyway," was the grateful
reply.

But Polly was used to him now, and, nothing daunted, took a look at the
grimy page in the middle of which Tom had stuck. She read it so well,
that the young gentleman stopped munching to regard her with respectful
astonishment, and when she stopped, he said, suspiciously, "You are a
sly one, Polly, to study up so you can show off before me. But it won't
do, ma'am; turn over a dozen pages, and try again."

Polly obeyed, and did even better than before, saying, as she looked up,
with a laugh, "I 've been through the whole book; so you won't catch me
that way, Tom."

"I say, how came you to know such a lot?" asked Tom, much impressed.

"I studied with Jimmy, and kept up with him, for father let us be
together in all our lessons. It was so nice, and we learned so fast!"

"Tell me about Jimmy. He 's your brother, is n't he?"

"Yes; but he 's dead, you know. I 'll tell about him some other time;
you ought to study now, and perhaps I can help you," said Polly, with a
little quiver of the lips.

"Should n't wonder if you could." And Tom spread the book between them
with a grave and business-like air, for he felt that Polly had got the
better of him, and it behooved him to do his best for the honor of his
sex. He went at the lesson with a will, and soon floundered out of his
difficulties, for Polly gave him a lift here and there, and they went
on swimmingly, till they came to some rules to be learned. Polly had
forgotten them, so they, both committed them to memory; Tom, with
hands in his pockets, rocked to and fro, muttering rapidly, while Polly
twisted the little curl on her forehead and stared at the wall, gabbling
with all her might.

"Done!" cried Tom, presently.

"Done!" echoed Polly; and then they heard each other recite till both
were perfect "That 's pretty good fun," said Tom, joyfully, tossing poor
Harkness away, and feeling that the pleasant excitement of companionship
could lend a charm even to Latin Grammar.

"Now, ma'am, we 'll take a turn at algibbera. I like that as much as I
hate Latin."

Polly accepted the invitation, and soon owned that Tom could beat her
here. This fact restored his equanimity; but he did n't crow over her,
far from it; for he helped her with a paternal patience that made
her eyes twinkle with suppressed fun, as he soberly explained and
illustrated, unconsciously imitating Dominie Deane, till Polly found it
difficult to keep from laughing in his face.

"You may have another go at it any, time you like," generously remarked
Tom, as he shied the algebra after the Latin Reader.

"I 'll come every evening, then. I 'd like to, for I have n't studied a
bit since I came. You shall try and make me like algebra, and I 'll try
and make you like Latin, will you?"

"Oh, I 'd like it well enough, if there was any one explain it to me.
Old Deane puts us through double-quick, and don't give a fellow time to
ask questions when we read."

"Ask your father; he knows."

"Don't believe he does; should n't dare to bother him, if he did."

"Why not?"

"He 'd pull my ears, and call me a 'stupid,' or tell me not to worry
him."

"I don't think he would. He 's very kind to me, and I ask lots of
questions."

"He likes you better than he does me."

"Now, Tom! it 's wrong of you to say so. Of course he loves you ever so
much more than he does me," cried Polly, reprovingly.

"Why don't he show it then?" muttered Tom, with a half-wistful,
half-defiant glance toward the library door, which stood ajar.

"You act so, how can he?" asked Polly, after a pause, in which she put
Tom's question to herself, and could find no better reply than the one
she gave him.

"Why don't he give me my velocipede? He said, if I did well at school
for a month, I should have it; and I 've been pegging away like fury for
most six weeks, and he don't do a thing about it. The girls get their
duds, because they tease. I won't do that anyway; but you don't catch me
studying myself to death, and no pay for it."

"It is too bad; but you ought to do it because it 's right, and
never mind being paid," began Polly, trying to be moral, but secretly
sympathizing heartily with poor Tom.

"Don't you preach, Polly. If the governor took any notice of me, and
cared how I got on, I would n't mind the presents so much; but he don't
care a hang, and never even asked if I did well last declamation day,
when I 'd gone and learned 'The Battle of Lake Regillus,' because he
said he liked it."

"Oh, Tom! Did you say that? It 's splendid! Jim and I used to say
Horatius together, and it was such fun. Do speak your piece to me, I do
so like 'Macaulay's Lays.'"

"It 's dreadful long," began Tom; but his face brightened, for Polly's
interest soothed his injured feelings, and he was glad to prove his
elocutionary powers. He began without much spirit; but soon the martial
ring of the lines fired him, and before he knew it, he was on his legs
thundering away in grand style, while Polly listened with kindling
face and absorbed attention. Tom did declaim well, for he quite forgot
himself, and delivered the stirring ballad with an energy that
made Polly flush and tingle with admiration and delight, and quite
electrified a second listener, who had heard all that went on, and
watched the little scene from behind his newspaper.

As Tom paused, breathless, and Polly clapped her hands enthusiastically,
the sound was loudly echoed from behind him. Both whirled round, and
there was Mr. Shaw, standing in the doorway, applauding with all his
might.

Tom looked much abashed, and said not a word; Polly ran to Mr. Shaw, and
danced before him, saying, eagerly, "Was n't it splendid? Did n't he do
well? May n't he have his velocipede now?"

"Capital, Tom; you 'll be an orator yet. Learn another piece like that,
and I 'll come and hear you speak it. Are you ready for your velocipede,
hey?"

Polly was right; and Tom owned that "the governor" was kind, did like
him and had n't entirely forgotten his promise. The boy turned red with
pleasure, and picked at the buttons on his jacket, while listening to
this unexpected praise; but when he spoke, he looked straight up in his
father's face, while his own shone with pleasure, as he answered, in one
breath, "Thankee, sir. I 'll do it, sir. Guess I am, sir!"

"Very good; then look out for your new horse tomorrow, sir." And Mr.
Shaw stroked the fuzzy red head with a kind hand, feeling a fatherly
pleasure in the conviction that there was something in his boy after
all.

Tom got his velocipede next day, named it Black Auster, in memory of the
horse in "The Battle of Lake Regillus," and came to grief as soon as he
began to ride his new steed.

"Come out and see me go it," whispered Tom to Polly, after three days'
practice in the street, for he had already learned to ride in the rink.

Polly and Maud willingly went, and watched his struggles, with
deep interest, till he got an upset, which nearly put an end to his
velocipeding forever.

"Hi, there! Auster's coming!" shouted Tom, as came rattling down the
long, steep street outside the park.

They stepped aside, and he whizzed by, arms and legs going like mad,
with the general appearance of a runaway engine. It would have been a
triumphant descent, if a big dog had not bounced suddenly through one of
the openings, and sent the whole concern helter-skelter into the gutter.
Polly laughed as she ran to view the ruin, for Tom lay flat on his back
with the velocipede atop him, while the big dog barked wildly, and his
master scolded him for his awkwardness. But when she saw Tom's face,
Polly was frightened, for the color had all gone out of it, his eyes
looked strange and dizzy, and drops of blood began to trickle from a
great cut on his forehead. The man saw it, too, and had him up in a
minute; but he could n't stand, and stared about him in a dazed sort of
way, as he sat on the curbstone, while Polly held her handkerchief to
his forehead, and pathetically begged to know if he was killed.

"Don't scare mother, I 'm all right. Got upset, did n't I?" he asked,
presently, eyeing the prostrate velocipede with more anxiety about its
damages than his own.

"I knew you 'd hurt yourself with that horrid thing just let it be, and
come home, for your head bleeds dreadfully, and everybody is looking
at us," whispered Polly, trying to tie the little handkerchief over the
ugly cut.

"Come on, then. Jove! how queer my head feels! Give us a boost, please.
Stop howling, Maud, and come home. You bring the machine, and I 'll pay
you, Pat." As he spoke, Tom slowly picked himself and steadying himself
by Polly's shoulder, issued commands, and the procession fell into
line. First, the big dog, barking at intervals; then the good-natured
Irishman, trundling "that divil of a whirligig," as he disrespectfully
called the idolized velocipede; then the wounded hero, supported by the
helpful Polly; and Maud brought up the rear in tears, bearing Tom's cap.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Shaw was out driving with grandma, and Fanny was
making calls; so that there was no one but Polly to stand by Tom, for
the parlor-maid turned faint at the sight of blood, and the chamber-maid
lost her wits in the flurry. It was a bad cut, and must be sewed up
at once, the doctor said, as soon as he came. "Somebody must hold his
head;" he added, as he threaded his queer little needle.

"I 'll keep still, but if anybody must hold me, let Polly. You ain't
afraid, are you?" asked Tom, with imploring look, for he did n't like
the idea of being sewed a bit.

Polly was just going to shrink away, saying, "Oh I can't!" when she
remembered that Tom once called her a coward. Here was a chance to prove
that she was n't; besides, poor Tom had no one else to help him; so she
came up to the sofa where he lay, and nodded reassuringly, as she put a
soft little hand on either side of the damaged head.

"You are a trump, Polly," whispered Tom. Then he set his teeth, clenched
his hands, lay quite still, and bore it like a man. It was all over in
a minute or two, and when he had had a glass of wine, and was nicely
settled on his bed, he felt pretty comfortable, in spite of the pain in
his head; and being ordered to keep quiet, he said, "Thank you ever so
much, Polly," and watched her with a grateful face as she crept away.

He had to keep the house for a week, and laid about looking very
interesting with a great black patch on his forehead. Every one 'petted
him;' for the doctor said, that if the blow had been an inch nearer
the temple, it would have been fatal, and the thought of losing him so
suddenly made bluff old Tom very precious all at once. His father asked
him how he was a dozen times a day; his mother talked continually of
"that dear boy's narrow escape"; and grandma cockered him up with every
delicacy she could invent; and the girls waited on him like devoted
slaves. This new treatment had an excellent effect; for when neglected
Tom got over his first amazement at this change of base, he blossomed
out delightfully, as sick people do sometimes, and surprised his family
by being unexpectedly patient, grateful, and amiable. Nobody ever knew
how much good it did him; for boys seldom have confidences of this sort
except with their mothers, and Mrs. Shaw had never found the key to her
son's heart. But a little seed was sowed then that took root, and though
it grew very slowly, it came to something in the end. Perhaps Polly
helped it a little. Evening was his hardest time, for want of exercise
made him as restless and nervous as it was possible for a hearty lad to
be on such a short notice.

He could n't sleep so the girls amused him; Fanny played and read aloud;
Polly sung, and told stories; and did the latter so well, that it got
to be a regular thing for her to begin as soon as twilight came, and Tom
was settled in his favorite place on grandma's sofa.

"Fire away, Polly," said the young sultan, one evening, as his little
Scheherazade sat down in her low chair, after stirring up the fire till
the room was bright and cosy.

"I don't feel like stories to-night, Tom. I 've told all I know, and
can't make up any more," answered Polly, leaning her head on her hand
with a sorrowful look that Tom had never seen before. He watched her a
minute, and then asked, curiously, "What were you thinking about, just
now, when you sat staring at the fire, and getting soberer and soberer
every minute?

"I was thinking about Jimmy."

"Would you mind telling about him? You know, you said you would some
time; but don't, if you 'd rather not," said Tom, lowering his rough
voice respectfully.

"I like to talk about him; but there is n't much to tell," began Polly,
grateful for his interest. "Sitting here with you reminded me of the
way I used to sit with him when he was sick. We used to have such happy
times, and it 's so pleasant to think about them now."

"He was awfully good, was n't he?"

"No, he was n't; but he tried to be, and mother says that is half the
battle. We used to get tired of trying; but we kept making resolutions,
and working hard to keep 'em. I don't think I got on much; but Jimmy
did, and every one loved him."

"Did n't you ever squabble, as we do?"

"Yes, indeed, sometimes; but we could n't stay mad, and always made it
up again as soon as we could. Jimmy used to come round first, and say,
'All serene, Polly,' so kind and jolly, that I could n't help laughing
and being friends right away."

"Did he not know a lot?"

"Yes, I think he did, for he liked to study, and wanted to get on, so
he could help father. People used to call him a fine boy, and I felt so
proud to hear it; but they did n't know half how wise he was, because
he did n't show off a bit. I suppose sisters always are grand of their
brothers; but I don't believe many girls had as much right to be as I
had."

"Most girls don't care two pins about their brothers; so that shows you
don't know much about it."

"Well, they ought to, if they don't; and they would if the boys were as
kind to them as Jimmy was to me."

"Why, what did he do?"

"Loved me dearly, and was n't ashamed to show it," cried Polly, with a
sob in her voice, that made her answer very eloquent.

"What made him die, Polly?" asked Tom, soberly, after little pause.

"He got hurt coasting, last winter; but he never told which boy did
it, and he only lived a week. I helped take care of him; and he was so
patient, I used to wonder at him, for he was in dreadful pain all time.
He gave me his books, and his dog, and his speckled hens, and his big
knife, and said, 'Good-by, Polly,' and kissed me the last thing and then
O Jimmy! Jimmy! If he only could come back!"

Poor Polly's eyes had been getting fuller and fuller, lips trembling
more and more, as she went on; when she came to that "good-by," she
could n't get any further, but covered up her face, and cried as her
heart would break. Tom was full of sympathy, but did n't know how to
show it; so he sat shaking up the camphor bottle, and trying to think of
something proper and comfortable to say, when Fanny came to the rescue,
and cuddled Polly in her arms, with soothing little pats and whispers
and kisses, till the tears stopped, and Polly said, she "did n't mean
to, and would n't any more. I 've been thinking about my dear boy all
the evening, for Tom reminds me of him," she added, with a sigh.

"Me? How can I, when I ain't a bit like him?" cried Tom, amazed.

"But you are in some ways."

"Wish I was; but I can't be, for he was good, you know."

"So are you, when you choose. Has n't he been good and patient, and
don't we all like to pet him when he 's clever, Fan?"' said Polly, whose
heart was still aching for her brother, and ready for his sake to find
virtues even in tormenting Tom.

"Yes; I don't know the boy lately; but he 'll be as bad as ever when
he 's well," returned Fanny, who had n't much faith in sick-bed
repentances.

"Much you know about it," growled Tom, lying down again, for he had sat
bolt upright when Polly made the astounding declaration that he was
like the well-beloved Jimmy. That simple little history had made a deep
impression on Tom, and the tearful ending touched the tender spot
that most boys hide so carefully. It is very pleasant to be loved and
admired, very sweet to think we shall be missed and mourned when we die;
and Tom was seized with a sudden desire to imitate this boy, who had n't
done anything wonderful, yet was so dear to his sister, that she cried
for him a whole year after he was dead; so studious and clever, the
people called him "a fine fellow"; and so anxious to be good, that he
kept on trying, till he was better even than Polly, whom Tom privately
considered a model of virtue, as girls go.

"I just wish I had a sister like you," he broke out, all of a sudden.

"And I just wish I had a brother like Jim," cried Fanny, for she felt
the reproach in Tom's words, and knew she deserved it.

"I should n't think you 'd envy anybody, for you 've got one another,"
said Polly, with such a wistful look, that it suddenly set Tom and Fanny
to wondering why they did n't have better times together, and enjoy
themselves, as Polly and Jim did.

"Fan don't care for anybody but herself," said Tom.

"Tom is such a bear," retorted Fanny.

"I would n't say such things, for if anything should happen to either of
you, the other one would feel so sorry. Every cross word I ever said to
Jimmy comes back now, and makes me wish I had n't."

Two great tears rolled down Polly's cheeks, and were quietly wiped away;
but I think they watered that sweet sentiment, called fraternal love,
which till now had been neglected in the hearts of this brother and
sister. They did n't say anything then, or make any plans, or confess
any faults; but when they parted for the night, Fanny gave the wounded
head a gentle pat (Tom never would have forgiven her if she had kissed
him), and said, in a whisper, "I hope you 'll have a good sleep, Tommy,
dear."

And Tom nodded back at her, with a hearty "Same to you, Fan."

That was all; but it meant a good deal, for the voices were kind,
and the eyes met full of that affection which makes words of little
consequence. Polly saw it; and though she did n't know that she had
made the sunshine, it shone back upon her so pleasantly, that she fell
happily asleep, though her Jimmy was n't there to say "good-night."



CHAPTER V. SCRAPES


AFTER being unusually good, children are apt to turn short round and
refresh themselves by acting like Sancho. For a week after Tom's mishap,
the young folks were quite angelic, so much so that grandma said she was
afraid "something was going to happen to them." The dear old lady need
n't have felt anxious, for such excessive virtue does n't last long
enough to lead to translation, except with little prigs in the goody
story-books; and no sooner was Tom on his legs again, when the whole
party went astray, and much tribulation was the consequence.

It all began with "Polly's stupidity," as Fan said afterward. Just as
Polly ran down to meet Mr. Shaw one evening, and was helping him off
with his coat, the bell rang, and a fine bouquet of hothouse flowers was
left in Polly's hands, for she never could learn city ways, and opened
the door herself.

"Hey! what's this? My little Polly is beginning early, after all," said
Mr. Shaw, laughing, as he watched the girl's face dimple and flush, as
she smelt the lovely nosegay, and glanced at a note half hidden in the
heliotrope.

Now, if Polly had n't been "stupid," as Fan said, she would have had
her wits about her, and let it pass; but, you see, Polly was an honest
little soul and it never occurred to her that there was any need of
concealment, so she answered in her straightforward way, "Oh, they ain't
for me, sir; they are for Fan; from Mr. Frank, I guess. She 'll be so
pleased."

"That puppy sends her things of this sort, does he?" And Mr. Shaw looked
far from pleased as he pulled out the note, and coolly opened it.

Polly had her doubts about Fan's approval of that "sort of thing," but
dared not say a word, and stood thinking how she used to show her father
the funny valentines the boys sent her, and how they laughed over them
together. But Mr. Shaw did not laugh when he had read the sentimental
verses accompanying the bouquet, and his face quite scared Polly, as he
asked, angrily, "How long has this nonsense been going on?"

"Indeed, sir, I don't know. Fan does n't mean any harm. I wish I had n't
said anything!" stammered Polly, remembering the promise given to Fanny
the day of the concert. She had forgotten all about it and had become
accustomed to see the "big boys," as she called Mr. Frank and his
friends, with the girls on all occasions. Now, it suddenly occurred to
her that Mr. Shaw did n't like such amusements, and had forbidden Fan to
indulge in them. "Oh, dear! how mad she will be. Well, I can't help it.
Girls should n't have secrets from their fathers, then there would n't
be any fuss," thought Polly, as she watched Mr. Shaw twist up the pink
note and poke it back among the flowers which he took from her, saying,
shortly, "Send Fanny to me in the library."

"Now you 've done it, you stupid thing!" cried Fanny, both angry and
dismayed, when Polly delivered the message.

"Why, what else could I do?" asked Polly, much disturbed.

"Let him think the bouquet was for you; then there'd have been no
trouble."

"But that would have been doing a lie, which is most as bad as telling
one."

"Don't be a goose. You 've got me into a scrape, and you ought to help
me out."

"I will if I can; but I won't tell lies for anybody!" cried Polly,
getting excited.

"Nobody wants you to just hold, your tongue, and let me manage."

"Then I 'd better not go down," began Polly, when a stern voice from
below called, like Bluebeard, "Are you coming down?"

"Yes, sir," answered a meek voice; and Fanny clutched Polly, whispering,
"You must come; I 'm frightened out of my wits when he speaks like that.
Stand by me, Polly; there 's a dear."

"I will," whispered "sister Ann"; and down they went with fluttering
hearts.

Mr. Shaw stood on the rug, looking rather grim; the bouquet lay on the
table, and beside it a note, directed to "Frank Moore, Esq.," in a very
decided hand, with a fierce-looking flourish after the "Esq." Pointing
to this impressive epistle, Mr. Shaw said, knitting his black eyebrows
as he looked at Fanny, "I 'm going to put a stop to this nonsense
at once; and if I see any more of it, I 'll send you to school in a
Canadian convent."

This awful threat quite took Polly's breath away; but Fanny had heard it
before, and having a temper of her own, said, pertly, "I 'm sure I have
n't done anything so very dreadful. I can't help it if the boys send me
philopena presents, as they do to the other girls."

"There was nothing about philopenas in the note. But that 's not the
question. I forbid you to have anything to do with this Moore. He 's not
a boy, but a fast fellow, and I won't have him about. You knew this, and
yet disobeyed me."

"I hardly ever see him," began Fanny.

"Is that true?" asked Mr. Shaw, turning suddenly to Polly.

"Oh, please, sir, don't ask me. I promised I would n't that is Fanny
will tell you," cried Polly, quite red with distress at the predicament
she was in.

"No matter about your promise; tell me all you know of this absurd
affair. It will do Fanny more good than harm." And Mr. Shaw sat down
looking more amiable, for Polly's dismay touched him.

"May I?" she whispered to Fanny.

"I don't care," answered Fan, looking both angry and ashamed, as she
stood sullenly tying knots in her handkerchief.

So Polly told, with much reluctance and much questioning, all she knew
of the walks, the lunches, the meetings, and the notes. It was n't much,
and evidently less serious than Mr. Shaw expected; for, as he listened,
his eyebrows smoothed themselves out, and more than once his lips
twitched as if he wanted to laugh, for after all, it was rather comical
to see how the young people aped their elders, playing the new-fashioned
game, quite unconscious of its real beauty, power, and sacredness.

"Oh, please, sir, don't blame Fan much, for she truly is n't half as
silly as Trix and the other, girls. She would n't go sleigh-riding,
though Mr. Frank teased, and she wanted to ever so much. She 's sorry,
I know, and won't forget what you say any more, if you 'll forgive her
this once," cried Polly, very earnestly, when the foolish little story
was told.

"I don't see how I can help it, when you plead so well for her. Come
here, Fan, and mind this one thing; drop all this nonsense, and attend
to your books, or off you go; and Canada is no joke in winter time, let
me tell you."

As he spoke, Mr. Shaw stroked his sulky daughter's cheek, hoping to see
some sign of regret; but Fanny felt injured, and would n't show that
she was sorry, so she only said, pettishly, "I suppose I can have my
flowers, now the fuss is over."

"They are going straight back where they came from, with a line from me,
which will keep that puppy from ever sending you any more." Ringing
the bell, Mr. Shaw despatched the unfortunate posy, and then turned to
Polly, saying, kindly but gravely, "Set this silly child of mine a good
example and do your best for her, won't you?"

"Me? What can I do, sir?" asked Polly, looking ready, but quite ignorant
how to begin.

"Make her as like yourself as possible, my dear; nothing would please me
better. Now go, and let us hear no more of this folly."

They went without a word, and Mr. Shaw heard no more of the affair; but
poor Polly did, for Fan scolded her, till Polly thought seriously of
packing up and going home next day. I really have n't the heart to
relate the dreadful lectures she got, the snubs she suffered, or the
cold shoulders turned upon her for several days after this. Polly's
heart was full, but she told no one, and bore her trouble silently,
feeling her friend's ingratitude and injustice deeply.

Tom found out what the matter was, and sided with Polly, which
proceeding led to scrape number two.

"Where 's Fan?" asked the young gentleman, strolling into his sister's
room, where Polly lay on the sofa, trying to forget her troubles in an
interesting book.

"Down stairs, seeing company."

"Why did n't you go, too?"

"I don't like Trix, and I don't know her fine New York friends."

"Don't want to, neither, why don't you say?"

"Not polite."

"Who cares? I say, Polly, come and have some fun."

"I 'd rather read."

"That is n't polite."

Polly laughed, and turned a page. Tom whistled a minute, then sighed
deeply, and put his hand to his forehead, which the black plaster still
adorned.

"Does your head ache?" asked Polly.

"Awfully."

"Better lie down, then."

"Can't; I 'm fidgety, and want to be 'amoosed' as Pug says."

"Just wait till I finish my chapter, and then I 'll come," said pitiful
Polly.

"All right," returned the perjured boy, who had discovered that a broken
head was sometimes more useful than a whole one, and exulting in his
base stratagem, he roved about the room, till Fan's bureau arrested him.
It was covered with all sorts of finery, for she had dressed in a hurry,
and left everything topsy-turvy. A well-conducted boy would have let
things alone, or a moral brother would have put things to rights; being
neither, Tom rummaged to his hearts content, till Fan's drawers looked
as if some one had been making hay in them. He tried the effect of
ear-rings, ribbons, and collars; wound up the watch, though it was n't
time; burnt his inquisitive nose with smelling-salts; deluged his grimy
handkerchief with Fan's best cologne; anointed his curly crop with her
hair-oil; powdered his face with her violet-powder; and finished off
by pinning on a bunch of false ringlets, which Fanny tried, to keep a
profound secret. The ravages committed by this bad boy are beyond
the power of language to describe, as he revelled in the interesting
drawers, boxes, and cases, which held his sister's treasures.

When the curls had been put on, with much pricking of fingers, and a
blue ribbon added, la Fan, he surveyed himself with satisfaction, and
considered the effect so fine, that he was inspired to try a still
greater metamorphosis. The dress Fan had taken off lay on a chair,
and into it got Tom, chuckling with suppressed laughter, for Polly
was absorbed, and the bed-curtains hid his iniquity. Fan's best velvet
jacket and hat, ermine muff, and a sofa-pillow for pannier, finished off
the costume, and tripping along with elbows out, Tom appeared before
the amazed Polly just as the chapter ended. She enjoyed the joke so
heartily, that Tom forgot consequences, and proposed going down into the
parlor to surprise, the girls.

"Goodness, no! Fanny never would forgive us if you showed her curls and
things to those people. There are gentlemen among them, and it would n't
be proper," said Polly, alarmed at the idea.

"All the more fun. Fan has n't treated you well, and it will serve her
right if you introduce me as your dear friend, Miss Shaw. Come on, it
will be a jolly lark."

"I would n't for the world; it would be so mean. Take 'em off, Tom, and
I 'll play anything else you like."

"I ain't going to dress up for nothing; I look so lovely, someone must
admire me. Take me down, Polly, and see if they don't call me 'a sweet
creature.'"

Tom looked so unutterably ridiculous as he tossed his curls and pranced,
that Polly went off into another gale of merriment; but even while she
laughed, she resolved not to let him mortify his sister.

"Now, then, get out of the way if you won't come; I 'm going down," said
Tom.

"No, you 're not."

"How will you help it, Miss Prim?"

"So." And Polly locked the door, put the key in her pocket, and nodded
at him defiantly.

Tom was a pepper-pot as to temper, and anything like opposition always
had a bad effect. Forgetting his costume, he strode up to Polly, saying,
with a threatening wag of the head, "None of that. I won't stand it."

"Promise not to plague Fan, and I 'll let you out."

"Won't promise anything. Give me that key, or I 'll make you."

"Now, Tom, don't be savage. I only want to keep you out of a scrape, for
Fan will be raging if you go. Take off her things, and I 'll give up."

Tom vouchsafed no reply, but marched to the other door, which was fast,
as Polly knew, looked out of the three-story window, and finding no
escape possible, came back with a wrathful face. "Will you give me that
key?"

"No, I won't," said Polly, valiantly.

"I 'm stronger than you are; so you 'd better hand over."

"I know you are; but it 's cowardly for a great boy like you to rob a
girl."

"I don't want to hurt you; but, by George! I won't stand this!"

Tom paused as Polly spoke, evidently ashamed of himself; but his temper
was up, and he would n't give in. If Polly had cried a little just
here, he would have yielded; unfortunately she giggled, for Tom's fierce
attitude was such a funny contrast to his dress that she could n't help
it. That settled the matter. No girl that ever lived should giggle at
him, much less lock him up like a small child. Without a word, he made
a grab at Polly's arm, for the hand holding the key was still in her,
pocket. With her other hand she clutched her frock, and for a minute
held on stoutly. But Tom's strong fingers were irresistible; rip went
the pocket, out came the hand, and with a cry of pain from Polly, the
key fell on the floor.

"It 's your own fault if you 're hurt. I did n't mean to," muttered Tom,
as he hastily departed, leaving Polly to groan over her sprained wrist.
He went down, but not into the parlor, for somehow the joke seemed to
have lost its relish; so he made the girls in the kitchen laugh, and
then crept up the back way, hoping to make it all right with Polly. But
she had gone to grandma's room, for, though the old lady was out, it
seemed a refuge. He had just time to get things in order, when Fanny
came up, crosser than ever; for Trix had been telling her of all sorts
of fun in which she might have had a share, if Polly had held her
tongue.

"Where is she?" asked Fan, wishing to vent her vexation on her friend.

"Moping in her room, I suppose," replied Tom, who was discovered reading
studiously.

Now, while this had been happening, Maud had been getting into hot
water also; for when her maid left her, to see a friend below, Miss Maud
paraded into Polly's room, and solaced herself with mischief. In an evil
hour Polly had let her play boat in her big trunk, which stood empty.
Since then Polly had stored some of her most private treasures in the
upper tray, so that she might feel sure they were safe from all eyes.
She had forgotten to lock the trunk, and when Maud raised the lid to
begin her voyage, several objects of interest met her eyes. She was deep
in her researches when Fan came in and looked over her shoulder, feeling
too cross with Polly to chide Maud.

As Polly had no money for presents, she had exerted her ingenuity
to devise all sorts of gifts, hoping by quantity to atone for any
shortcomings in quality. Some of her attempts were successful, others
were failures; but she kept them all, fine or funny, knowing the
children at home would enjoy anything new. Some of Maud's cast-off toys
had been neatly mended for Kitty; some of Fan's old ribbons and laces
were converted into dolls' finery; and Tom's little figures, whittled
out of wood in idle minutes, were laid away to show Will what could be
done with a knife.

"What rubbish!" said Fanny.

"Queer girl, is n't she?" added Tom, who had followed to see what was
going on.

"Don't you laugh at Polly's things. She makes nicer dolls than you, Fan;
and she can wite and dwar ever so much better than Tom," cried Maud.
"How do you know? I never saw her draw," said Tom.

"Here 's a book with lots of pictures in it. I can't wead the witing;
but the pictures are so funny."

Eager to display her friend's accomplishments, Maud pulled out a fat
little book, marked "Polly's Journal," and spread it in her lap.

"Only the pictures; no harm in taking a look at 'em," said Tom.

"Just one peep," answered Fanny; and the next minute both were laughing
at a droll sketch of Tom in the gutter, with the big dog howling over
him, and the velocipede running away. Very rough and faulty, but so
funny, that it was evident Polly's sense of humor was strong. A few
pages farther back came Fanny and Mr. Frank, caricatured; then grandma,
carefully done; Tom reciting his battle-piece; Mr. Shaw and Polly in
the park; Maud being borne away by Katy; and all the school-girls turned
into ridicule with an unsparing hand.

"Sly little puss, to make fun of us behind our backs," said Fan, rather
nettled by Polly's quiet retaliation for many slights from herself and
friends.

"She does draw well," said Tom, looking critically at the sketch of a
boy with a pleasant face, round whom Polly had drawn rays like the sun,
and under which was written, "My dear Jimmy."

"You would n't admire her, if you knew what she wrote here about you,"
said Fanny, whose eyes had strayed to the written page opposite, and
lingered there long enough to read something that excited her curiosity.

"What is it?" asked Tom, forgetting his honorable resolves for a minute.

"She says, 'I try to like Tom, and when he is pleasant we do very well;
but he don't stay so long. He gets cross and rough, and disrespectful to
his father and mother, and plagues us girls, and is so horrid I almost
hate him. It 's very wrong, but I can't help it.' How do you like that?"
asked Fanny.

"Go ahead, and see how she comes down on you, ma'am," retorted Tom, who
had read on a bit.

"Does she?" And Fanny continued, rapidly: "As for Fan, I don't think
we can be friends any more; for she told her father a lie, and won't
forgive me for not doing so too. I used to think her a very fine girl;
but I don't now. If she would be as she was when I first knew her, I
should love her just the same; but she is n't kind to me; and though she
is always talking about politeness, I don't think it is polite to treat
company as she does me. She thinks I am odd and countrified, and I dare
say I am; but I should n't laugh at a girl's clothes because she was
poor, or keep her out of the way because she did n't do just as other
girls do here. I see her make fun of me, and I can't feel as I did; and
I 'd go home, only it would seem ungrateful to Mr. Shaw and grandma, and
I do love them dearly."

"I say, Fan, you 've got it now. Shut the book and come away," cried
Tom, enjoying this broadside immensely, but feeling guilty, as well he
might.

"Just one bit more," whispered Fanny, turning on a page or two, and
stopping at a leaf that was blurred here and there as if tears had
dropped on it.

"Sunday morning, early. Nobody is up to spoil my quiet time, and I must
write my journal, for I 've been so bad lately, I could n't bear to do
it. I 'm glad my visit is most done, for things worry me here, and there
is n't any one to help me get right when I get wrong. I used to envy
Fanny; but I don't now, for her father and mother don't take care of her
as mine do of me. She is afraid of her father, and makes her mother do
as she likes. I 'm glad I came though, for I see money don't give
people everything; but I 'd like a little all the same, for it is so
comfortable to buy nice things. I read over my journal just now, and
I 'm afraid it 's not a good one; for I have said all sorts of things
about the people here, and it is n't kind. I should tear it out, only I
promised to keep my diary, and I want to talk over things that puzzle me
with mother. I see now that it is my fault a good deal; for I have n't
been half as patient, and pleasant as I ought to be. I will truly try
for the rest of the time, and be as good and grateful as I can; for I
want them to like me, though I 'm only 'an old-fashioned country girl.'"

That last sentence made Fanny shut the book, with a face full of
self-reproach; for she had said those words herself, in a fit of
petulance, and Polly had made no answer, though her eyes filled and her
cheeks burned. Fan opened her lips to say something, but not a sound
followed, for there stood Polly looking at them with an expression they
had never seen before.

"What are you doing with my things?" she demanded, in a low tone, while
her eyes kindled and her color changed.

"Maud showed us a book she found, and we were just looking at the
pictures," began Fanny, dropping it as if it burnt her fingers.

"And reading my journal, and laughing at my presents, and then putting
the blame on Maud. It 's the meanest thing I ever saw; and I 'll never
forgive you as long as I live!"

Polly said, this all in one indignant breath, and then as if afraid
of saying too much, ran out of the room with such a look of mingled
contempt, grief, and anger, that the three culprits stood dumb with
shame. Tom had n't even a whistle at his command; Maud was so scared at
gentle Polly's outbreak, that she sat as still as a mouse; while
Fanny, conscience stricken, laid back the poor little presents with a
respectful hand, for somehow the thought of Polly's poverty came over
her as it never had done before; and these odds and ends, so carefully
treasured up for those at home, touched Fanny, and grew beautiful in her
eyes. As she laid by the little book, the confessions in it reproached
her more sharply that any words Polly could have spoken; for she had
laughed at her friend, had slighted her sometimes, and been unforgiving
for an innocent offence. That last page, where Polly took the blame on
herself, and promised to "truly try" to be more kind and patient, went
to Fanny's heart, melting all the coldness away, and she could only lay
her head on the trunk, sobbing, "It was n't Polly's fault; it was all
mine."

Tom, still red with shame at being caught in such a scrape, left Fanny
to her tears, and went manfully away to find the injured Polly, and
confess his manifold transgressions. But Polly could n't be found. He
searched high and low in every room, yet no sign of the girt appeared,
and Tom began to get anxious. "She can't have run away home, can she?"
he said to himself, as he paused before the hat-tree. There was the
little round hat, and Tom gave it a remorseful smooth, remembering how
many times he had tweaked it half off, or poked it over poor Polly's
eyes. "Maybe she 's gone down to the office, to tell pa. 'T is n't a bit
like her, though. Anyway, I 'll take a look round the corner."

Eager to get his boots, Tom pulled open the door of a dark closet under
the stairs, and nearly tumbled over backward with surprise; for there,
on the floor, with her head pillowed on a pair of rubbers, lay Polly
in an attitude of despair. This mournful spectacle sent Tom's penitent
speech straight out of his head, and with an astonished "Hullo!" he
stood and stared in impressive silence. Polly was n't crying, and lay
so still, that Tom began to think she might be in a fit or a faint,
and bent anxiously down to inspect the pathetic bunch. A glimpse of wet
eyelashes, a round cheek redder than usual, and lips parted by quick,
breathing, relieved his mind upon that point; so, taking courage, he sat
down on the boot-jack, and begged pardon like a man.

Now, Polly was very angry, and I think she had a right to be; but she
was not resentful, and after the first flash was over, she soon began to
feel better about it. It was n't easy to forgive; but, as she listened
to Tom's honest voice, getting gruff with remorse now and then, she
could n't harden her heart against him, or refuse to make up when he so
frankly owned that it "was confounded mean to read her book that way."
She liked his coming and begging pardon at once; it was a handsome thing
to do; she appreciated it, and forgave him in her heart some time before
she did with her lips; for, to tell the truth, Polly had a spice of
girlish malice, and rather liked to see domineering Tom eat humble-pie,
just enough to do him good, you know. She felt that atonement was
proper, and considered it no more than just that Fan should drench a
handkerchief or two with repentant tears, and that Tom should sit on
a very uncomfortable seat and call himself hard names for five or ten
minutes before she relented.

"Come, now, do say a word to a fellow. I 'm getting the worst of it,
anyway; for there 's Fan, crying her eyes out upstairs, and here are
you stowed away in a dark closet as dumb as a fish, and nobody but me to
bring you both round. I 'd have cut over to the Smythes and got ma home
to fix things, only it looked like backing out of the scrape; so I did
n't," said Tom, as a last appeal.

Polly was glad to hear that Fan was crying. It would do her good; but
she could n't help softening to Tom, who did seem in a predicament
between two weeping damsels. A little smile began to dimple the cheek
that was n't hidden, and then a hand came slowly out from under the
curly head, and was stretched toward him silently. Tom was just going
to give it a hearty shake, when he saw a red mark on the wrist, and knew
what made it. His face changed, and he took the chubby hand so gently,
that Polly peeped to see what it meant.

"Will you forgive that, too?" he asked, in a whisper, stroking the red
wrist.

"Yes, it don't hurt much now." And Polly drew her hand away, sorry he
had seen it.

"I was a beast, that 's what I was!" said Tom, in a tone of great
disgust. And just at that awkward minute down tumbled his father's
old beaver over his head and face, putting a comical quencher on his
self-reproaches. Of course, neither could help laughing at that; and
when he emerged, Polly was sitting up, looking as much better for her
shower as he did for his momentary eclipse.

"Fan feels dreadfully. Will you kiss and be friends, if I trot her
down?" asked Tom, remembering his fellow-sinner.

"I 'll go to her." And Polly whisked out of the closet as suddenly as
she had whisked in, leaving Tom sitting on the boot-jack, with a radiant
countenance.

How the girls made it up no one ever knew. But after much talking and
crying, kissing and laughing, the breach was healed, and peace declared.
A slight haze still lingered in the air after the storm, for Fanny
was very humble and tender that evening; Tom a trifle pensive, but
distressingly polite, and Polly magnanimously friendly to every one; for
generous natures like to forgive, and Polly enjoyed the petting after
the insult, like a very human girl.

As she was brushing her hair at bedtime there came a tap on her door
and, opening it, she beheld nothing but a tall black bottle, with a
strip of red flannel tied round it like a cravat, and a cocked-hat note
on the cork. Inside were these lines, written in a sprawling hand with
very black ink:

DEAR POLLY, Opydilldock is first-rate for sprains. You put a lot on the
flannel and do up your wrist, and I guess it will be all right in the
morning. Will you come a sleigh-ride tomorrow? I 'm awful sorry I hurt
you.

TOM



CHAPTER VI. GRANDMA


"WHERE 'S Polly?" asked Fan one snowy afternoon, as she came into the
dining-room where Tom was reposing on the sofa with his boots in the
air, absorbed in one of those delightful books in which boys are cast
away on desert islands, where every known fruit, vegetable and flower
is in its prime all the year round; or, lost in boundless forests, where
the young heroes have thrilling adventures, kill impossible beasts, and,
when the author's invention gives out, suddenly find their way home,
laden with tiger skins, tame buffaloes and other pleasing trophies of
their prowess.

"Dun no," was Tom's brief reply, for he was just escaping from an
alligator of the largest size.

"Do put down that stupid book, and let 's do something," said Fanny,
after a listless stroll round the room.

"Hi, they 've got him!" was the only answer vouchsafed by the absorbed
reader.

"Where 's Polly?" asked Maud, joining the party with her hands full of
paper dolls all suffering for ball-dresses.

"Do get along, and don't bother me," cried Tom exasperated at the
interruption.

"Then tell us where she is. I 'm sure you know, for she was down here a
little while ago," said Fanny.

"Up in grandma's room, maybe."

"Provoking thing! you knew it all the time, and did n't tell, just to
plague us," scolded Maud.

But Tom was now under water stabbing his alligator, and took no notice
of the indignant departure of the young ladies.

"Polly 's always poking up in grandma's room. I don't see what fun there
is in it," said Fanny as they went up stairs.

"Polly 's a verwy queer girl, and gwandma pets her a gweat deal more
than she does me," observed Maud, with an injured air.

"Let 's peek and see what they are doing," whispered Fan, pausing at the
half-open door.

Grandma was sitting before a quaint old cabinet, the doors of which
stood wide open, showing glimpses of the faded relics treasured there.
On a stool, at the old lady's feet, sat Polly, looking up with intent
face and eager eyes, quite absorbed in the history of a high-heeled
brocade shoe which lay in her lap.

"Well, my dear," grandma was saying, "she had it on the very day that
Uncle Joe came in as she sat at work, and said, 'Dolly, we must be
married at once.' 'Very well, Joe,' says Aunt Dolly, and down she went
to the parlor, where the minister was waiting, never stopping to change
the dimity dress she wore, and was actually married with her scissors
and pin-ball at her side, and her thimble on. That was in war times,
1812, my dear, and Uncle Joe was in the army, so he had to go, and he
took that very little pin-ball with him. Here it is with the mark of
a bullet through it, for he always said his Dolly's cushion saved his
life."

"How interesting that is!" cried Polly, as she examined the faded
cushion with the hole in it.

"Why, grandma, you never told me that story," said Fanny, hurrying in,
finding the prospect was a pleasant one for a stormy afternoon.

"You never asked me to tell you anything, my dear, so I kept my old
stories to myself," answered grandma, quietly.

"Tell some now, please. May we stay and see the funny things?" said Fan
and Maud, eyeing the open cabinet with interest.

"If Polly likes; she is my company, and I am trying to entertain
her, for I love to have her come," said grandma, with her old-time
politeness.

"Oh, yes! do let them stay and hear the stories. I 've often told them
what good times we have up here, and teased them to come, but they think
it 's too quiet. Now, sit down, girls, and let grandma go on. You see I
pick out something in the cabinet that looks interesting, and then
she tells me about it," said Polly, eager to include the girls in her
pleasures, and glad to get them interested in grandma's reminiscences,
for Polly knew how happy it made the lonely old lady to live over her
past, and to have the children round her.

"Here are three drawers that have not been opened yet; each take one,
and choose something from it for me to tell about," said Madam, quite
excited at the unusual interest in her treasures.

So the girls each opened a drawer and turned over the contents till they
found something they wanted to know about. Maud was ready first, and
holding up an oddly shaped linen bag, with a big blue F embroidered on
it, demanded her story. Grandma smiled as she smoothed the old thing
tenderly, and began her story with evident pleasure.

"My sister Nelly and I went to visit an aunt of ours, when we were
little girls, but we did n't have a very good time, for she was
extremely strict. One afternoon, when she had gone out to tea, and old
Debby, the maid, was asleep in her room, we sat on the doorstep, feeling
homesick, and ready for any thing to amuse us.

"'What shall we do?' said Nelly.

"Just as she spoke, a ripe plum dropped bounce on the grass before us,
as if answering her question. It was all the plum's fault, for if it
had n't fallen at that minute, I never should have had the thought which
popped into my mischievous mind.

"'Let 's have as many as we want, and plague Aunt Betsey, to pay her for
being so cross,' I said, giving Nelly half the great purple plum.

"'It would be dreadful naughty,' began Nelly, 'but I guess we will,' she
added, as the sweet mouthful slipped down her throat.

"'Debby 's asleep. Come on, then, and help me shake,' I said, getting
up, eager for the fun.

"We shook and shook till we got red in the face, but not one dropped,
for the tree was large, and our little arms were not strong enough
to stir the boughs. Then we threw stones, but only one green and one
half-ripe one came down, and my last stone broke the shed window, so
there was an end of that.

"'It 's as provoking as Aunt Betsey herself,' said Nelly, as we sat
down, out of breath.

"'I wish the wind would come and blow 'em down for us,' panted I,
staring up at the plums with longing eyes.

"'If wishing would do any good, I should wish 'em in my lap at once,'
added Nelly.

"'You might as well wish 'em in your mouth and done with it, if you are
too lazy to pick 'em up. If the ladder was n't too heavy we could try
that,' said I, determined to have them.

"'You know we can't stir it, so what is the use of talking about it? You
proposed getting the plums, now let 's see you do it,' answered Nelly,
rather crossly, for she had bitten the green plum, and it puckered her
mouth.

"'Wait a minute, and you will see me do it,' cried I, as a new thought
came into my naughty head.

"'What are you taking your shoes and socks off for? You can't climb the
tree, Fan.'" 'Don't ask questions, but be ready to pick 'em up when they
fall, Miss Lazybones.' "With this mysterious speech I pattered into
the house bare-footed and full of my plan. Up stairs I went to a window
opening on the shed roof. Out I got, and creeping carefully along till
I came near the tree, I stood up, and suddenly crowed like the little
rooster. Nelly looked up, and stared, and laughed, and clapped her hands
when she saw what I was going to do.

"'I 'm afraid you 'll slip and get hurt.'" 'Don't care if I do; I 'll
have those plums if I break my neck doing it,' and half sliding, half
walking I went down the sloping roof, till the boughs of the tree were
within my reach.

"Hurrah!" cried Nelly, dancing down below, as my first shake sent a
dozen plums rattling round her.

"'Hurrah!" cried I, letting go one branch and trying to reach another.
But as I did so my foot slipped, I tried to catch something to hold by,
but found nothing, and with a cry, down I fell, like a very big plum on
the grass below.

"Fortunately the shed was low, the grass was thick and the tree broke my
fall, but I got a bad bump and a terrible shaking. Nelly thought I was
killed, and began to cry with her mouth full. But I picked myself up in
a minute, for I was used to such tumbles; and did n't mind the pain half
as much as the loss of the plums.

"'Hush! Debby will hear and spoil all the fun. I said I 'd get 'em and I
have. See what lots have come down with me.'" So there had, for my fall
shook the tree almost as much as it did me, and the green and purple
fruit lay all about us.

"By the time the bump on my forehead had swelled as big as a nut, our
aprons were half full, and we sat down to enjoy ourselves. But we did
n't. O dear, no! for many of the plums were not ripe, some were hurt by
the birds, some crushed in falling, and many as hard as stones. Nelly
got stung by a wasp, my head began to ache, and we sat looking at one
another rather dismally, when Nelly had a bright idea.

"'Let 's cook 'em, then they 'll be good, and we can put some away in
our little pails for to-morrow.'" 'That will be splendid! There 's a
fire in the kitchen, Debby always leaves the kettle on, and we can use
her saucepan, and I know where the sugar is, and we 'll have a grand
time.' "In we went, and fell to work very quietly. It was a large,
open fire-place, with the coals nicely covered up, and the big kettle
simmering on the hook. We raked open the fire, put on the saucepan, and
in it the best of our plums, with water enough to spoil them. But we did
n't know that, and felt very important as we sat waiting for it to boil,
each armed with a big spoon, while the sugar box stood between us ready
to be used.

"How slow they were, to be sure! I never knew such obstinate things, for
they would n't soften, though they danced about in the boiling water,
and bobbed against the cover as if they were doing their best.

"The sun began to get low, we were afraid Debby would come down, and
still those dreadful plums would n't look like sauce. At last they began
to burst, the water got a lovely purple, we put lots of sugar in, and
kept tasting till our aprons and faces were red, and our lips burnt with
the hot spoons.

"'There 's too much juice,' said Nelly, shaking her head wisely. 'It
ought to be thick and nice like mamma's.' "'I 'll pour off some of the
juice, and we can drink it,' said I, feeling that I 'd made a mistake in
my cooking.

"So Nelly got a bowl, and I got a towel and lifted the big saucepan
carefully off. It was heavy and hot, and I was a little afraid of it,
but did n't like to say so. Just as I began to pour, Debby suddenly
called from the top of the stairs, 'Children, what under the sun are you
doing?' It startled us both. Nelly dropped the bowl and ran. I dropped
the saucepan and did n't run, for a part of the hot juice splashed upon
my bare feet, and ankles, and made me scream with dreadful pain.

"Down rushed Debby to find me dancing about the kitchen with a great
bump on my forehead, a big spoon in my hand, and a pair of bright purple
feet. The plums were lying all over the hearth, the saucepan in the
middle of the room, the basin was broken, and the sugar swimming about
as if the bowl had turned itself over trying to sweeten our mess for us.

"Debby was very good to me, for she never stopped to scold, but laid
me down on the old sofa, and bound up my poor little feet with oil and
cotton wool. Nelly, seeing me lie white and weak, thought I was dying,
and went over to the neighbor's for Aunt Betsey, and burst in upon the
old ladies sitting primly at, their tea, crying, distractedly, 'Oh, Aunt
Betsey, come quick! for the saucepan fell off the shed, and Fan's feet
are all boiled purple!' Nobody laughed at this funny message, and Aunt
Betsey ran all the way home with a muffin in her hand and her ball in
her pocket, though the knitting was left behind.

"I suffered a great deal, but I was n't sorry afterward, for I learned
to love Aunt Betsey, who nursed me tenderly, and seemed to forget her
strict ways in her anxiety for me.

"This bag was made for my special comfort, and hung on the sofa where I
lay all those weary days. Aunt kept it full of pretty patchwork or, what
I liked better, ginger-nuts, and peppermint drops, to amuse me, though
she did n't approve of cosseting children up, any more than I do now."

"I like that vewy well, and I wish I could have been there," was Maud's
condescending remark, as she put back the little bag, after a careful
peep inside, as if she hoped to find an ancient ginger-nut, or a
well-preserved peppermint drop still lingering in some corner.

"We had plums enough that autumn, but did n't seem to care much about
them, after all, for our prank became a household joke, and, for years,
we never saw the fruit, but Nelly would look at me with a funny face,
and whisper, 'Purple stockings, Fan!'"

"Thank you, ma'am," said Polly. "Now, Fan, your turn next."

"Well, I 've a bundle of old letters, and I 'd like to know if there
is any story about them," answered Fanny, hoping some romance might be
forthcoming.

Grandma turned over the little packet tied up with a faded pink ribbon;
a dozen yellow notes written on rough, thick paper, with red wafers
still adhering to the folds, showing plainly that they were written
before the day of initial note-paper and self-sealing envelopes.

"They are not love-letters, deary, but notes from my mates after I left
Miss Cotton's boarding-school. I don't think there is any story about
them," and grandma turned them over with spectacles before the dim eyes,
so young and bright when they first read the very same notes.

Fanny was about to say, "I 'll choose again," when grandma began to
laugh so heartily that the girls felt sure she had caught some merry old
memory which would amuse them.

"Bless my heart, I have n't thought of that frolic this forty years.
Poor, dear, giddy Sally Pomroy, and she 's a great-grandmother now!"
cried the old lady, after reading one of the notes, and clearing the
mist off her glasses.

"Now, please tell about her; I know it 's something funny to make you
laugh so," said Polly and Fan together.

"Well, it was droll, and I 'm glad I remembered it for it 's just the
story to tell you young things.

"It was years ago," began grandma, briskly, "and teachers were very much
stricter than they are now. The girls at Miss Cotton's were not allowed
lights in their rooms after nine o'clock, never went out alone, and were
expected to behave like models of propriety from morning till night.

"As you may imagine, ten young girls, full of spirits and fun, found
these rules hard to keep, and made up for good behavior in public by all
sorts of frolics in private.

"Miss Cotton and her brother sat in the back parlor after school was
over, and the young ladies were sent to bed. Mr. John was very deaf,
and Miss Priscilla very near-sighted, two convenient afflictions for the
girls on some occasions, but once they proved quite the reverse, as you
shall hear.

"We had been very prim for a week, and our bottled up spirits could no
longer be contained; so we planed a revel after our own hearts, and set
our wits to work to execute it.

"The first obstacle was surmounted in this way. As none of us could get
out alone, we resolved to lower Sally from the window, for she was light
and small, and very smart.

"With our combined pocket-money she was to buy nuts and candy, cake and
fruit, pie, and a candle, so that we might have a light, after Betsey
took ours away as usual. We were to darken the window of the inner
chamber, set a watch in the little entry, light up, and then for a good
time.

"At eight o'clock on the appointed evening, several of us professed
great weariness, and went to our room, leaving the rest sewing
virtuously with Miss Cotton, who read Hannah More's Sacred Dramas aloud,
in a way that fitted the listeners for bed as well as a dose of opium
would have done.

"I am sorry to say I was one of the ringleaders; and as soon as we got
up stairs, produced the rope provided for the purpose, and invited Sally
to be lowered. It was an old-fashioned house, sloping down behind, and
the closet window chosen by us was not many feet from the ground.

"It was a summer evening, so that at eight o'clock it was still light;
but we were not afraid of being seen, for the street was a lonely one,
and our only neighbors two old ladies, who put down their curtains at
sunset, and never looked out till morning.

"Sally had been bribed by promises of as many 'goodies' as she could
eat, and being a regular madcap, she was ready for anything.

"Tying the rope round her waist she crept out, and we let her safely
down, sent a big basket after her, and saw her slip round the corner in
my big sun bonnet and another girl's shawl, so that she should not be
recognized.

"Then we put our night-gowns over our dresses, and were laid peacefully
in bed when Betsey came up, earlier than usual; for it was evident that
Miss Cotton felt a little suspicious at our sudden weariness.

"For half an hour we lay laughing and whispering, as we waited for the
signal from Sally. At last we heard a cricket chirp shrilly under the
window, and flying up, saw a little figure below in the twilight.

"'O, quick! quick!' cried Sally, panting with haste. 'Draw up the basket
and then get me in, for I saw Mr. Cotton in the market, and ran all
the way home, so that I might get in before he came.' Up came the heavy
basket, bumping and scraping on the way, and smelling, O, so nice!
Down went the rope, and with a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all
together, we hoisted poor Sally half-way up to the window, when, sad to
tell, the rope slipped and down she fell, only being saved from broken
bones by the hay-cock under the window.

"'He 's coming! he 's coming! O pull me up, for mercy sake!' cried
Sally, scrambling to her feet unhurt, but a good deal shaken.

"We saw a dark figure approaching, and dragged her in with more bumping
and scraping, and embraced her with rapture, for we had just escaped
being detected by Mr. John, whose eyes were as sharp as his ears were
dull.

"We heard the front-door shut, then a murmur of voices, and then
Betsey's heavy step coming up stairs.

"Under the bed went the basket, and into the beds went the conspirators,
and nothing could have been more decorous than the appearance of the
room when Betsey popped her head in.

"'Master's an old fidget to send me travelling up again, just because
he fancied he saw something amiss at the window. Nothing but a curtain
flapping, or a shadder, for the poor dears is sleeping like lambs.' We
heard her say this to herself, and a general titter agitated the white
coverlets as she departed.

"Sally was in high feather at the success of her exploit, and danced
about like an elf, as she put her night-gown on over her frock, braided
her hair in funny little tails all over her head, and fastened the great
red pin-cushion on her bosom for a breast-pin in honor of the feast.

"The other girls went to their rooms as agreed upon, and all was soon
dark and still up stairs, while Miss Cotton began to enjoy herself
below, as she always did when 'her young charges' were safely disposed
of.

"Then ghosts began to walk, and the mice scuttled back to their holes
in alarm, for white figures glided from room to room, till all were
assembled in the little chamber.

"The watch was set at the entry door, the signal agreed upon, the candle
lighted, and the feast spread forth upon a newspaper on the bed, with
the coverlet arranged so that it could be whisked over the refreshments
at a moment's notice.

"How good everything was, to be sure! I don't think I 've eaten any
pies since that had such a delicious flavor as those broken ones, eaten
hastily, in that little oven of a room, with Sally making jokes and the
others enjoying stolen sweets with true girlish relish. Of course it was
very wicked, but I must tell the truth.

"We were just beginning on the cake when the loud scratching of a rat
disturbed us.

"'The signal! fly! run! hide! Hush, don't laugh!' cried several voices,
and we scuttled into bed as rapidly and noiselessly as possible, with
our mouths and hands full.

"A long pause, broken by more scratching; but as no one came, we decided
on sending to inquire what it meant. I went and found Mary, the picket
guard half asleep, and longing for her share of the feast.

"'It was a real rat; I 've not made a sound. Do go and finish; I 'm
tired of this,' said Mary, slapping away at the mosquitoes.

"Back I hurried with the good news. Every one flew up, briskly. We
lighted the candle again, and returned to our revel. The refreshments
were somewhat injured by Sally's bouncing in among them, bit we did n't
care, and soon finished the cake.

"'Now let 's have the nuts,' I said, groping for the paper bag.

"'They are almonds and peanuts, so we can crack them with our teeth. Be
sure you get the bag by the right end,' said Sally.

"'I know what I 'm about,' and to show her that it was all right, I
gave the bag a little shake, when out flew the nuts, rattling like a
hail-storm all over the uncarpeted floor.

"'Now you 've done it,' cried Sally, as Mary scratched like a mad rat,
and a door creaked below, for Miss Cotton was not deaf.

"Such a flurry as we were in! Out went the candle, and each one rushed
away with as much of the feast as she could seize in her haste. Sally
dived into her bed, recklessly demolishing the last pie, and scattering
the candy far and wide.

"Poor Mary was nearly caught for Miss Cotton was quicker than Betsey,
and our guard had to run for her life.

"Our room was the first, and was in good order, though the two flushed
faces on the pillows were rather suspicious. Miss Cotton stood staring
about her, looking so funny, without her cap, that my bedfellow would
have gone off in a fit of laughter, if I had not pinched her warningly.

"'Young ladies, what is this unseemly noise?' No answer from us but
a faint snore. Miss Cotton marched into the next room, put the same
question and received the same reply.

"In the third chamber lay Sally, and we trembled as the old lady went
in. Sitting up, we peeped and listened breathlessly.

"'Sarah, I command you to tell me what this all means?' But Sally only
sighed in her sleep, and muttered, wickedly, 'Ma, take me home. I 'm
starved at Cotton's.' 'Mercy on me! is the child going to have a fever?'
cried the old lady, who did not observe the tell tale nuts at her feet.

"'So dull, so strict! O take me home!' moaned Sally, tossing her arms
and gurgling, like a naughty little gypsy.

"That last bit of acting upset the whole concern, for as she tossed her
arms she showed the big red cushion on her breast. Near-sighted as she
was, that ridiculous object could not escape Miss Cotton, neither did
the orange that rolled out from the pillow, nor the boots appearing at
the foot of the bed.

"With sudden energy the old lady plucked off the cover, and there lay
Sally with her hair dressed, la Topsy, her absurd breast-pin and her
dusty boots, among papers of candy, bits of pie and cake, oranges and
apples, and a candle upside down burning a hole in the sheet.

"At the sound of Miss Cotton's horrified exclamation Sally woke up, and
began laughing so merrily that none of us could resist following her
example, and the rooms rang with merriment far many minutes. I really
don't know when we should have stopped if Sally had not got choked with
the nut she had in her mouth, and so frightened us nearly out of our
wits."

"What became of the things, and how were you punished?" asked Fan, in
the middle of her laughter.

"The remains of the feast went to the pig, and we were kept on bread and
water for three days."

"Did that cure you?"

"Oh, dear, no! we had half a dozen other frolics that very summer; and
although I cannot help laughing at the remembrance of this, you must not
think, child, that I approve of such conduct, or excuse it. No, no, my
dear, far from it."

"I call that a tip-top story! Drive on, grandma, and tell one about
boys," broke in a new voice, and there was Tom astride of a chair
listening and laughing with all his might, for his book had come to an
end, and he had joined the party unobserved.

"Wait for your turn, Tommy. Now, Polly, dear, what will you have?"
said grandma, looking, so lively and happy, that it was very evident
"reminiscing" did her good.

"Let mine come last, and tell one for Tom next," said Polly, looking
round, and beckoning him nearer.

He came and sat himself cross-legged on the floor, before the lower
drawer of the cabinet, which grandma opened for him, saying, with a
benign stroke of the curly head, "There, dear, that 's where I keep the
little memorials of my brother Jack. Poor lad, he was lost at sea, you
know. Well, choose anything you like, and I 'll try to remember a story
about it."

Tom made a rapid rummage, and fished up a little broken pistol.

"There, that 's the chap for me! Wish it was n't spoilt, then we 'd have
fun popping away at the cats in the yard. Now, then, grandma."

"I remember one of Jack's pranks, when that was used with great effect,"
said grandma, after a thoughtful pause, during which Tom teased the
girls by snapping the lock of the pistol in their faces.

"Once upon a time," continued Madam, much flattered by the row of
interested faces before her, "my father went away on business, leaving
mother, aunt, and us girls to Jack's care. Very proud he was, to be
sure, of the responsibility, and the first thing he did was to load that
pistol and keep it by his bed, in our great worriment, for we feared he
'd kill himself with it. For a week all went well; then we were startled
by the news that robbers were about. All sorts of stories flew through
the town (we were living in the country then); some said that certain
houses were marked with a black cross, and those were always robbed;
others, that there was a boy in the gang, for windows, so small that
they were considered safe, were entered by some little rogue. At one
place the thieves had a supper, and left ham and cake in the front yard.
Mrs. Jones found Mrs. Smith's shawl in her orchard, with a hammer and
an unknown teapot near it. One man reported that some one tapped at
his window, in the night, saying, softly, 'Is anyone here?' and when he
looked out, two men were seen to run down the road.

"We lived just out of town, in a lonely place; the house was old, with
convenient little back windows, and five outside doors. Jack was the
only man about the place, and he was barely thirteen. Mother and aunt
were very timid, and the children weren't old enough to be of any
use, so Jack and I were the home-guard, and vowed to defend the family
manfully."

"Good for you! Hope the fellows came!" cried Tom, charmed with this
opening.

"One day, an ill-looking man came in and asked for food," continued
grandma, with a mysterious nod; "and while he ate, I saw him glance
sharply about from the wooden buttons on the back-doors, to the silver
urn and tankards on the dining-room sideboard. A strong suspicion took
possession of me, and I watched him as a cat does a mouse.

"'He came to examine the premises, I 'm sure of it, but we will be ready
for him,' I said, fiercely, as I told the family about him.

"This fancy haunted us all, and our preparations were very funny. Mother
borrowed a rattle, and kept it under her pillow. Aunt took a big bell
to bed with her; the children had little Tip, the terrier, to sleep in
their room; while Jack and I mounted guard, he with the pistol, and I
with a hatchet, for I did n't like fire-arms. Biddy, who slept in the
attic, practised getting out on the shed roof, so that she might run
away at the first alarm. Every night we arranged pit-falls for the
robbers, and all filed up to bed, bearing plate, money, weapons, and
things to barricade with, as if we lived in war times.

"We waited a week and no one came, so we began to feel rather slighted,
for other people got 'a scare,' as Tom says, and after all our
preparations we really felt a trifle disappointed that we had had no
chance to show our courage. At last a black mark was found upon our
door, and a great panic ensued, for we felt that now our time had come.

"That night we put a tub of water at the bottom of the back-stairs, and
a pile of tin pans at the top of the front stairs, so that any attempt
to come up would produce a splash or a rattle. Bells were hung on door
handles, sticks of wood piled up in dark corners for robbers to fall
over, and the family retired, all armed and all provided with lamps and
matches.

"Jack and I left our doors open, and kept asking one another if we did
n't hear something, till he fell asleep. I was wakeful and lay listening
to the crickets till the clock struck twelve; then I got drowsy, and
was just dropping off when the sound of steps outside woke me up staring
wide awake. Creeping to the window I was in time to see by the dim
moonlight a shadow glide round the corner and disappear. A queer little
thrill went over me, but I resolved to keep quiet till I was sure
something was wrong, for I had given so many false alarms, I did n't
want Jack to laugh at me again. Popping my head out of the door, I
listened, and presently heard a scraping sound near the shed.

"'There they are; but I won't rouse the house till the bell rings or the
pans fall. The rogues can't go far without a clatter of some sort, and
if we could only catch one of them we should get the reward and a deal
of glory,' I said to myself, grasping my hatchet firmly.

"A door closed softly below, and a step came creeping towards the
back-stairs. Sure now of my prey, I was just about to scream 'Jack!'
when something went splash into the tub at the foot of the back-stairs.

"In a minute every one was awake and up, for Jack fired his pistol
before he was half out of bed, and roared 'Fire!' so loud it roused the
house. Mother sprung her rattle, aunt rang her bell, Jip barked like
mad, and we all screamed, while from below came up a regular Irish howl.

"Some one brought a lamp, and we peeped anxiously down, to see our own
stupid Biddy sitting in the tub wringing her hands and wailing dismally.

"'Och, murther, and it 's kilt I am! The saints be about us! how iver
did I come forninst this say iv wather, just crapin in quiet afther
a bit iv sthroll wid Mike Mahoney, me own b'y, that 's to marry me
intirely, come Saint Patrick's day nixt.' We laughed so we could hardly
fish the poor thing up, or listen while she explained that she had
slipped out of her window for a word with Mike, and found it fastened
when she wanted to come back, so she had sat on the roof, trying to
discover the cause of this mysterious barring out, till she was
tired, when she prowled round the house till she found a cellar window
unfastened, after all our care, and got in quite cleverly, she thought;
but the tub was a new arrangement which she knew nothing about; and when
she fell into the 'say,' she was bewildered and could only howl.

"This was not all the damage either, for aunt fainted with the fright,
mother cut her hand with a broken lamp, the children took cold hopping
about on the wet stairs, Jip barked himself sick, I sprained my ankle,
and Jack not only smashed a looking-glass with his bullets, but spoilt
his pistol by the heavy charge put in it. After the damages were
repaired and the flurry was well over, Jack confessed that he had marked
the door for fun, and shut Biddy out as a punishment for 'gallivanting,'
of which he did n't approve. Such a rogue as that boy was!'"

"But did n't the robbers ever come?" cried Tom, enjoying the joke, but
feeling defrauded of the fight.

"Never, my dear; but we had our 'scare,' and tested our courage, and
that was a great satisfaction, of course," answered grandma, placidly.

"Well, I think you were the bravest of the lot. I 'd like to have seen
you flourishing round there with your hatchet," added Tom, admiringly,
and the old lady looked as much pleased with the compliment as if she
had been a girl.

"I choose this," said Polly, holding up a long white kid glove, shrunken
and yellow with time, but looking as if it had a history.

"Ah, that now has a story worth telling!" cried grandma; adding,
proudly, "Treat that old glove respectfully, my children, for
Lafayette's honored hand has touched it."

"Oh, grandma, did you wear it? Did you see him? Do tell us all about it,
and that will be the best of the whole," cried Polly, who loved history,
and knew a good deal about the gallant Frenchman and his brave life.

Grandma loved to tell this story, and always assumed her most imposing
air to do honor to her theme. Drawing herself up, therefore, she folded
her hands, and after two or three little "hems," began with an absent
look, as if her eyes beheld a far-away time, which brightened as she
gazed.

"The first visit of Lafayette was before my time, of course, but I heard
so much about it from my grandfather that I really felt as if I 'd seen
it all. Our Aunt Hancock lived in the Governor's house, on Beacon Hill,
at that time." Here the old lady bridled up still more, for she was very
proud of "our aunt." "Ah, my dears, those were the good old times!" she
continued, with a sigh. "Such dinners and tea parties, such damask
table cloths and fine plate, such solid, handsome furniture and elegant
carriages; aunt's was lined with red silk velvet, and when the coach
was taken away from her at the Governor's death, she just ripped out
the lining, and we girls had spencers made of it. Dear heart, how well
I remember playing in aunt's great garden, and chasing Jack up and down
those winding stairs; and my blessed father, in his plum-colored coat
and knee buckles, and the queue I used to tie up for him every day,
handing aunt in to dinner, looking so dignified and splendid."

Grandma seemed to forget her story for a minute, and become a little
girl again, among the playmates dead and gone so many years. Polly
motioned the others to be quiet, and no one spoke till the old lady,
with a long sigh, came back to the present, and went on.

"Well, as I was saying, the Governor wanted to give a breakfast to the
French officers, and Madam, who was a hospitable soul, got up a splendid
one for them. But by some mistake, or accident, it was discovered at the
last minute that there was no milk.

"A great deal was needed, and very little could be bought or borrowed,
so despair fell upon the cooks and maids, and the great breakfast would
have been a failure, if Madam, with the presence of mind of her sex, had
not suddenly bethought herself of the cows feeding on the Common.

"To be sure, they belonged to her neighbors, and there was no time to
ask leave, but it was a national affair; our allies must be fed; and
feeling sure that her patriotic friends would gladly lay their cows on
the altar of their country, Madam Hancock covered herself with glory,
by calmly issuing the command, 'Milk 'em!' It was done, to the great
astonishment of the cows, and the entire satisfaction of the guests,
among whom was Lafayette.

"This milking feat was such a good joke, that no one seems to have
remembered much about the great man, though one of his officers, a
count, signalized himself by getting very tipsy, and going to bed with
his boots and spurs on, which caused the destruction of aunt's best
yellow damask coverlet, for the restless sleeper kicked it into rags by
morning.

"Aunt valued it very much, even in its tattered condition, and kept it a
long while, as a memorial of her distinguished guests.

"The time when I saw Lafayette was in 1825, and there were no tipsy
counts then. Uncle Hancock (a sweet man, my dears, though some call him
mean now-a-days) was dead, and aunt had married Captain Scott.

"It was not at all the thing for her to do; however, that 's neither
here nor there. She was living in Federal Street at the time, a most
aristocratic street then, children, and we lived close by.

"Old Josiah Quincy was mayor of the city, and he sent aunt word that the
Marquis Lafayette wished to pay his respects to her.

"Of course she was delighted, and we all flew about to make ready for
him. Aunt was an old lady, but she made a grand toilet, and was as
anxious to look well as any girl."

"What did she wear?" asked Fan, with interest.

"She wore a steel-colored satin, trimmed with black lace, and on her cap
was pinned a Lafayette badge of white satin.

"I never shall forget how b-e-a-utifully she looked as she sat in state
on the front parlor sophy, right under a great portrait of her first
husband; and on either side of her sat Madam Storer and Madam Williams,
elegant to behold, in their stiff silks, rich lace, and stately turbans.
We don't see such splendid old ladies now-a-days."

"I think we do sometimes," said Polly, slyly.

Grandma shook her head, but it pleased her very much to be admired, for
she had been a beauty in her day.

"We girls had dressed the house with flowers; old Mr. Coolidge sent in a
clothes-basket full. Joe Joy provided the badges, and aunt got out some
of the Revolutionary wine from the old Beacon Street cellar.

"I wore my green and white palmyrine, my hair bowed high, the beautiful
leg-o'-mutton sleeves that were so becoming, and these very gloves.

"Well, by-and-by the General, escorted by the Mayor, drove up. Dear me,
I see him now! a little old man in nankeen trousers and vest, a long
blue coat and ruffled shirt, leaning on his cane, for he was lame, and
smiling and bowing like a true Frenchman.

"As he approached, the three old ladies rose, and courtesied with the
utmost dignity. Lafayette bowed first to the Governor's picture, then to
the Governor's widow, and kissed her hand.

"That was droll; for on the back of her glove was stamped Lafayette's
likeness, and the gallant old gentleman kissed his own face.

"Then some of the young ladies were presented, and, as if to escape any
further self-salutations, the marquis kissed the pretty girls on the
cheek.

"Yes, my dears, here is just the spot where the dear old man saluted me.
I 'm quite as proud of it now as I was then, for he was a brave, good
man, and helped us in our trouble.

"He did not stay long, but we were very merry, drinking his health,
receiving his compliments, and enjoying the honor he did us.

"Down in the street there was a crowd, of course, and when he left they
wanted to take out the horses and drag him home in triumph. But he did
n't wish it; and while that affair was being arranged, we girls had been
pelting him with the flowers which we tore from the vases, the walls,
and our own topknots, to scatter over him.

"He liked that, and laughed, and waved his hand to us, while we ran, and
pelted, and begged him to come again.

"We young folks quite lost our heads that night, and I have n't a very
clear idea of how I got home. The last thing I remember was hanging out
of the window with a flock of girls, watching the carriage roll away,
while the crowd cheered as if they were mad.

"Bless my heart, it seems as if I heard 'em now! 'Hurrah for Lafayette
and Mayor Quincy! Hurrah for Madam Hancock and the pretty girls! Hurrah
for Col. May!' 'Three cheers for Boston! Now, then! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah!'"

And here the old lady stopped, out of breath, with her cap askew, her
spectacles on the end of her nose, and her knitting much the worse for
being waved enthusiastically in the air, while she hung over the arm of
her chair, shrilly cheering an imaginary Lafayette. The girls clapped
their hands, and Tom hurrahed with all his might, saying, when he got
his breath, "Lafayette was a regular old trump; I always liked him."

"My dear! what a disrespectful way to speak of that great man," said
grandma, shocked at Young America's irreverence.

"Well, he was a trump, anyway, so why not call him one?" asked Tom,
feeling that the objectionable word was all that could be desired.

"What queer gloves you wore then," interrupted Fanny, who had been
trying on the much-honored glove, and finding it a tight fit.

"Much better and cheaper than we have now," returned grandma, ready
to defend "the good old times" against every insinuation. "You are an
extravagant set now-a-days, and I really don't know what you are coming
to. By the way, I 've got somewhere two letters written by two young
ladies, one in 1517, and the other in 1868. The contrast between the two
will amuse you, I think."

After a little search, grandma produced an old portfolio, and selecting
the papers, read the following letter, written by Anne Boleyn before
her marriage to Henry VIII, and now in the possession of a celebrated
antiquarian:

DEAR MARY, I have been in town almost a month, yet I cannot say I have
found anything in London extremely agreeable. We rise so late in the
morning, seldom before six o'clock, and sit up so late at night, being
scarcely in bed before ten, that I am quite sick of it; and was it not
for the abundance of fine things I am every day getting I should be
impatient of returning into the country.

My indulgent mother bought me, yesterday, at a merchant's in Cheapside,
three new shifts, that cost fourteen pence an ell, and I am to have a
pair of new stuff shoes, for my Lord of Norfolk's ball, which will be
three shillings.

The irregular life I have led since my coming to this place has quite
destroyed my appetite. You know I could manage a pound of bacon and a
tankard of good ale for my breakfast, in the country, but in London I
find it difficult to get through half the quantity, though I must own
I am generally eager enough for the dinner hour, which is here delayed
till twelve, in your polite society.

I played at hot cockles, last night, at my Lord of Leicester's. The Lord
of Surrey was there, a very elegant young man, who sung a song of
his own composition, on the "Lord of Kildare's Daughter." It was much
approved, and my brother whispered me that the fair Geraldine, for so my
Lord of Surrey calls his sweetheart, is the finest woman of the age. I
should be glad to see her, for I hear she is good as she is beautiful.

Pray take care of the poultry during my absence. Poor things! I always
fed them myself; and if Margery has knitted me the crimson worsted
mittens, I should be glad if they were sent up the first opportunity.

Adieu, dear Mary. I am just going to mass, and you shall speedily have
the prayers, as you have now the kindest love of your own ANNE BOLEYN.

"Up before six, and think it late to go to bed at ten! What a
countrified thing Anne must have been. Bacon and ale for breakfast, and
dinner at twelve; how very queer to live so!" cried Fanny. "Lord Surrey
and Lord Leicester sound fine, but hot cockles, and red mittens, and
shoes for three shillings, are horrid."

"I like it," said Polly, thoughtfully, "and I 'm glad poor Anne had a
little fun before her troubles began. May I copy that letter some time,
grandma?"

"Yes, dear, and welcome. Now, here 's the other, by a modern girl on her
first visit to London. This will suit you better, Fan," and grandma
read what a friend had sent her as a pendant to Anne's little picture of
London life long ago:

MY DEAREST CONSTANCE, After three months of intense excitement I snatch
a leisure moment to tell you how much I enjoy my first visit to London.
Having been educated abroad, it really seems like coming to a strange
city. At first the smoke, dirt and noise were very disagreeable, but
I soon got used to these things, and now find all I see perfectly
charming.

We plunged at once into a whirl of gayety and I have had no time to
think of anything but pleasure. It is the height of the season, and
every hour is engaged either in going to balls, concerts, theatres,
fetes and church, or in preparing for them. We often go to two or three
parties in an evening, and seldom get home till morning, so of course
we don't rise till noon next day. This leaves very little time for our
drives, shopping, and calls before dinner at eight, and then the evening
gayeties begin again.

At a ball at Lady Russell's last night, I saw the Prince of Wales, and
danced in the set with him. He is growing stout, and looks dissipated. I
was disappointed in him, for neither in appearance nor conversation was
he at all princely. I was introduced to a very brilliant and delightful
young gentleman from America. I was charmed with him, and rather
surprised to learn that he wrote the poems which were so much admired
last season, also that he is the son of a rich tailor. How odd these
Americans are, with their money, and talent, and independence!

O my dear, I must not forget to tell you the great event of my first
season. I am to be presented at the next Drawing Room! Think how
absorbed I must be in preparation for this grand affair. Mamma is
resolved that I shall do her credit, and we have spent the last two
weeks driving about from milliners to mantua-makers, from merchants to
jewellers. I am to wear white satin and plumes, pearls and roses. My
dress will cost a hundred pounds or more, and is very elegant.

My cousins and friends lavish lovely things upon me, and you will open
your unsophisticated eyes when I display my silks and laces, trinkets
and French hats, not to mention billet deux, photographs, and other
relics of a young belle's first season.

You ask if I ever think of home. I really have n't time, but I do
sometimes long a little for the quiet, the pure air and the girlish
amusements I used to enjoy so much. One gets pale, and old, and sadly
fagged out, with all this dissipation, pleasant as it is. I feel quite
blasé already.

If you could send me the rosy cheeks, bright eyes, and gay spirits I
always had at home, I 'd thank you. As you cannot do that, please send
me a bottle of June rain water, for my maid tells me it is better than
any cosmetic for the complexion, and mine is getting ruined by late
hours.

I fancy some fruit off our own trees would suit me, for I have no
appetite, and mamma is quite desolate about me. One cannot live on
French cookery without dyspepsia, and one can get nothing simple here,
for food, like everything else, is regulated by the fashion.

Adieu, ma chere, I must dress for church. I only wish you could see my
new hat and go with me, for Lord Rockingham promised to be there.

Adieu, yours eternally, FLORENCE.

"Yes, I do like that better, and I wish I had been in this girl's place,
don't you, Polly?" said Fan, as grandma took off her glasses.

"I should love to go to London, and have a good time, but I don't think
I should care about spending ever so much money, or going to Court.
Maybe I might when I got there, for I do like fun and splendor," added
honest Polly, feeling that pleasure was a very tempting thing.

"Grandma looks tired; let 's go and play in the dwying-woom," said Maud,
who found the conversation getting beyond her depth.

"Let us all kiss and thank grandma, for amusing us so nicely, before
we go," whispered Polly. Maud and Fanny agreed, and grandma looked so
gratified by their thanks, that Tom followed suit, merely waiting till
"those girls" were out of sight, to give the old lady a hearty hug, and
a kiss on the very cheek Lafayette had saluted.

When he reached the play-room Polly was sitting in the swing, saying,
very earnestly, "I always told you it was nice up in grandma's room, and
now you see it is. I wish you 'd go oftener; she admires to have you,
and likes to tell stories and do pleasant things, only she thinks you
don't care for her quiet sort of fun. I do, anyway, and I think she 's
the kindest, best old lady that ever lived, and I love her dearly!"

"I did n't say she was n't, only old people are sort of tedious and
fussy, so I keep out of their way," said Fanny.

"Well, you ought not to, and you miss lots of pleasant times. My mother
says we ought to be kind and patient and respectful to all old folks
just because they are old, and I always mean to be."

"Your mother 's everlastingly preaching," muttered Fan, nettled by the
consciousness of her own shortcomings with regard to grandma.

"She don't preach!" cried Polly, firing up like a flash; "she only
explains things to us, and helps us be good, and never scolds, and I
'd rather have her than any other mother in the world, though she don't
wear velvet cloaks and splendid bonnets, so now!"

"Go it, Polly!" called Tom, who was gracefully hanging head downward
from the bar put up for his special benefit.

"Polly 's mad! Polly 's mad!" sung Maud, skipping rope round the room.

"If Mr. Sydney could see you now he would n't think you such an angel
any more," added Fanny, tossing a bean-bag and her head at the same
time.

Polly was mad, her face was very red, her eyes very bright and her lips
twitched, but she held her tongue and began to swing as hard as she
could, fearing to say something she would be sorry for afterward. For a
few minutes no one spoke, Tom whistled and Maud hummed but Fan and Polly
were each soberly thinking of something, for they had reached an
age when children, girls especially, begin to observe, contrast, and
speculate upon the words, acts, manners, and looks of those about them.
A good deal of thinking goes on in the heads of these shrewd little
folks, and the elders should mind their ways, for they get criticised
pretty sharply and imitated very closely.

Two little things had happened that day, and the influence of a few
words, a careless action, was still working in the active minds of the
girls.

Mr. Sydney had called, and while Fanny was talking with him she saw his
eye rest on Polly, who sat apart watching the faces round her with the
modest, intelligent look which many found so attractive. At that minute
Madam Shaw came in, and stopped to speak to the little girl. Polly rose
at once, and remained standing till the old lady passed on.

"Are you laughing at Polly's prim ways?" Fanny had asked, as she saw Mr.
Sydney smile.

"No, I am admiring Miss Polly's fine manners," he answered in a grave,
respectful tone, which had impressed Fanny very much, for Mr. Sydney
was considered by all the girls as a model of good breeding, and that
indescribable something which they called "elegance."

Fanny wished she had done that little thing, and won that approving
look, for she valued the young man's good opinion, because it was
so hard to win, by her set at least. So, when Polly talked about old
people, it recalled this scene and made Fan cross.

Polly was remembering how, when Mrs. Shaw came home that day in her fine
visiting costume, and Maud ran to welcome her with unusual affection,
she gathered up her lustrous silk and pushed the little girl away
saying, impatiently, "Don't touch me, child, your hands are dirty."
Then the thought had come to Polly that the velvet cloak did n't cover
a right motherly heart, that the fretful face under the nodding purple
plumes was not a tender motherly face, and that the hands in the
delicate primrose gloves had put away something very sweet and precious.
She thought of another woman, whose dress never was too fine for little
wet cheeks to lie against, or loving little arms to press; whose face,
in spite of many lines and the gray hairs above it, was never sour or
unsympathetic when children's eyes turned towards it; and whose hands
never were too busy, too full or too nice to welcome and serve the
little sons and daughters who freely brought their small hopes and
fears, sins and sorrows, to her, who dealt out justice and mercy with
such wise love. "Ah, that 's a mother!" thought Polly, as the memory
came warm into her heart, making her feel very rich, and pity Maud for
being so poor.

This it was that caused such sudden indignation at Fanny's dreadful
speech, and this it was that made quick-tempered Polly try to calm her
wrath before she used toward Fanny's mother the disrespectful tone she
so resented toward her own. As the swing came down after some dozen
quick journeys to and fro, Polly seemed to have found a smile somewhere
up aloft, for she looked toward Fan, saying pleasantly, as she paused
a little in her airy exercise, "I 'm not mad now, shall I come and toss
with you?"

"No, I 'll come and swing with you," answered Fanny, quick to feel the
generous spirit of her friend.

"You are an angel, and I 'll never be so rude again," she added, as
Polly's arm came round her, and half the seat was gladly offered.

"No, I ain't; but if I ever get at all like one, it will be 'mother's
preaching' that did it," said Polly, with a happy laugh.

"Good for you, Polly Peacemaker," cried Tom, quoting his father, and
giving them a grand push as the most appropriate way of expressing his
approbation of the sentiment.

Nothing more was said; but from that day there slowly crept into the
family more respect for grandma, more forbearance with her infirmities,
more interest in her little stories, and many a pleasant gossip did the
dear old lady enjoy with the children as they gathered round her fire,
solitary so long.



CHAPTER VII. GOOD-BY


"OH, dear! Must you really go home Saturday?" said Fan, some days after
what Tom called the "grand scrimmage."

"I really must; for I only came to stay a month and here I 've been
nearly six weeks," answered Polly, feeling as if she had been absent a
year.

"Make it two months and stay over Christmas. Come, do, now," urged Tom,
heartily.

"You are very kind; but I would n't miss Christmas at home for anything.
Besides, mother says they can't possibly do without me."

"Neither can we. Can't you tease your mother, and make up your mind to
stay?" began Fan.

"Polly never teases. She says it 's selfish; and I don't do it now
much," put in Maud, with a virtuous air.

"Don't you bother Polly. She 'd rather go, and I don't wonder. Let 's be
just as jolly as we can while she stays, and finish up with your party,
Fan," said Tom, in a tone that settled the matter.

Polly had expected to be very happy in getting ready for the party; but
when the time came, she was disappointed; for somehow that naughty thing
called envy took possession of her, and spoiled her pleasure. Before she
left home, she thought her new white muslin dress, with its fresh blue
ribbons, the most elegant and proper costume she could have; but
now, when she saw Fanny's pink silk, with a white tarlatan tunic, and
innumerable puffings, bows, and streamers, her own simple little
toilet lost all its charms in her eyes, and looked very babyish and
old-fashioned.

Even Maud was much better dressed than herself, and looked very splendid
in her cherry-colored and white suit, with a sash so big she could
hardly carry it, and little white boots with red buttons. They both
had necklaces and bracelets, ear-rings and brooches; but Polly had no
ornament, except the plain locket on a bit of blue velvet. Her sash was
only a wide ribbon, tied in a simple bow, and nothing but a blue snood
in the pretty curls. Her only comfort was the knowledge that the modest
tucker drawn up round the plump shoulders was real lace, and that her
bronze boots cost nine dollars.

Poor Polly, with all her efforts to be contented, and not to mind
looking unlike other people, found it hard work to keep her face bright
and her voice happy that night. No one dreamed what was going an under
the muslin frock, till grandma's wise old eyes spied out the little
shadow on Polly's spirits, and guessed the cause of it. When dressed,
the three girls went up to show themselves to the elders, who were in
grandma's room, where Tom was being helped into an agonizingly stiff
collar.

Maud pranced like a small peacock, and Fan made a splendid courtesy as
every one turned to survey them; but Polly stood still, and her eyes
went from face to face, with an anxious, wistful air, which seemed to
say, "I know I 'm not right; but I hope I don't look very bad."

Grandma read the look in a minute; and when Fanny said, with a satisfied
smile, "How do we look?" she answered, drawing Polly toward her so
kindly.

"Very like the fashion-plates you got the patterns of your dresses from.
But this little costume suits me best."

"Do you really think I look nice?" and Polly's face brightened, for she
valued the old lady's opinion very much.

"Yes, my dear; you look just as I like to see a child of your age look.
What particularly pleases me is that you have kept your promise to your
mother, and have n't let anyone persuade you to wear borrowed finery.
Young things like you don't need any ornaments but those you wear
to-night, youth, health, intelligence, and modesty."

As she spoke, grandma gave a tender kiss that made Polly glow like a
rose, and for a minute she forgot that there were such things as pink
silk and coral ear-rings in the world. She only said, "Thank you,
ma'am," and heartily returned the kiss; but the words did her good, and
her plain dress looked charming all of a sudden.

"Polly 's so pretty, it don't matter what she wears," observed Tom,
surveying her over his collar with an air of calm approval.

"She has n't got any bwetelles to her dwess, and I have," said Maud,
settling her ruffled bands over her shoulders, which looked like
cherry-colored wings on a stout little cherub.

"I did wish she 'd just wear my blue set, ribbon is so very plain; but,
as Tom says, it don't much matter;" and Fanny gave an effective touch to
the blue bow above Polly's left temple.

"She might wear flowers; they always suit young girls," said Mrs. Shaw,
privately thinking that her own daughters looked much the best, yet
conscious that blooming Polly had the most attractive face. "Bless me!
I forgot my posies in admiring the belles. Hand them out, Tom;" and Mr.
Shaw nodded toward an interesting looking box that stood on the table.

Seizing them wrong side-up, Tom produced three little bouquets, all
different in color, size, and construction.

"Why, papa! how very kind of you," cried Fanny, who had not dared to
receive even a geranium leaf since the late scrape.

"Your father used to be a very gallant young gentleman, once upon a
time," said Mrs. Shaw, with a simper.

"Ah, Tom, it 's a good sign when you find time to think of giving
pleasure to your little girls!" And grandma patted her son's bald head
as if he was n't more than eighteen.

Thomas Jr. had given a somewhat scornful sniff at first; but when
grandma praised his father, the young man thought better of the matter,
and regarded the flowers with more respect, as he asked, "Which is for
which?"

"Guess," said Mr. Shaw, pleased that his unusual demonstration had
produced such an effect.

The largest was a regular hothouse bouquet, of tea-rosebuds, scentless
heath, and smilax; the second was just a handful of sweet-peas and
mignonette, with a few cheerful pansies, and one fragrant little rose in
the middle; the third, a small posy of scarlet verbenas, white feverfew,
and green leaves.

"Not hard to guess. The smart one for Fan, the sweet one for Polly, and
the gay one for Pug. Now, then, catch hold, girls." And Tom proceeded
to deliver the nosegays, with as much grace as could be expected from a
youth in a new suit of clothes and very tight boots.

"That finishes you off just right, and is a very pretty attention of
papa's. Now run down, for the bell has rung; and remember, not to dance
too often, Fan; be as quiet as you can, Tom; and Maud, don't eat too
much supper. Grandma will attend to things, for my poor nerves won't
allow me to come down."

With that, Mrs. Shaw dismissed them, and the four descended to receive
the first batch of visitors, several little girls who had been asked
for the express purpose of keeping Maud out of her sister's way. Tom
had likewise been propitiated, by being allowed to bring his three bosom
friends, who went by the school-boy names of Rumple, Sherry, and Spider.

"They will do to make up sets, as gentlemen are scarce; and the party is
for Polly, so I must have some young folks on her account," said Fanny,
when sending out her invitations.

Of course, the boys came early, and stood about in corners, looking as
if they had more arms and legs than they knew what to do with. Tom did
his best to be a good host; but ceremony oppressed his spirits, and he
was forced to struggle manfully with the wild desire to propose a game
of leap-frog, for the long drawing-rooms, cleared for dancing, tempted
him sorely.

Polly sat where she was told, and suffered bashful agonies as Fan
introduced very fine young ladies and very stiff young gentlemen, who
all said about the same civil things, and then appeared to forget all
about her. When the first dance was called, Fanny cornered Tom, who had
been dodging her, for he knew what she wanted, and said, in an earnest
whisper: "Now, Tom, you must dance this with Polly. You are the young
gentleman of the house, and it 's only proper that you should ask your
company first."

"Polly don't care for manners. I hate dancing; don't know how. Let go
my jacket, and don't bother, or I 'll cut away altogether," growled Tom,
daunted by the awful prospect of opening the ball with Polly.

"I 'll never forgive you if you do. Come, be clever, and help me, there
's a dear. You know we both were dreadfully rude to Polly, and agreed
that we 'd be as kind and civil to her as ever we could. I shall keep
my word, and see that she is n't slighted at my party, for I want her to
love me, and go home feeling all right."

This artful speech made an impression on the rebellious Thomas, who
glanced at Polly's happy face, remembered his promise, and, with a
groan, resolved to do his duty.

"Well, I 'll take her; but I shall come to grief, for I don't know
anything about your old dances."

"Yes, you do. I 've taught you the steps a dozen times. I 'm going to
begin with a redowa, because the girls like it, and it 's better fun
than square dances. Now, put on your gloves, and go and ask Polly like a
gentleman."

"Oh, thunder!" muttered Tom. And having split the detested gloves in
dragging them on, he nerved himself for the effort, walked up to Polly,
made a stiff bow, stuck out his elbow, and said, solemnly, "May I have
the pleasure, Miss Milton?"

He did it as much like the big fellows as he could, and expected that
Polly would be impressed. But she was n't a bit; for after a surprised
look she laughed in his face, and took him by the hand, saying,
heartily, "Of course you may; but don't be a goose, Tommy."

"Well, Fan told me to be elegant, so I tried to," whispered Tom, adding,
as he clutched his partner with a somewhat desperate air, "Hold on
tight, and we 'll get through somehow."

The music struck up, and away they went; Tom hopping one way and Polly
the other, in a most ungraceful manner.

"Keep time to the music," gasped Polly.

"Can't; never could," returned Tom.

"Keep step with me, then, and don't tread on my toes," pleaded Polly.

"Never mind; keep bobbing, and we 'll come right by and by," muttered
Tom, giving his unfortunate partner a sudden whisk, which nearly landed
both on the floor.

But they did not "get right by and by"; for Tom, In his frantic efforts
to do his duty, nearly annihilated poor Polly. He tramped, he bobbed, he
skated, he twirled her to the right, dragged her to the left, backed her
up against people and furniture, trod on her feet, rumpled her dress,
and made a spectacle of himself generally. Polly was much disturbed;
but as everyone else was flying about also, she bore it as long as
she could, knowing that Tom had made a martyr of himself, and feeling
grateful to him for the sacrifice.

"Oh, do stop now; this is dreadful!" cried Polly, breathlessly, after a
few wild turns.

"Is n't it?" said Tom, wiping his red face with such an air of intense
relief, that Polly had not the heart to scold him, but said, "Thank
you," and dropped into a chair exhausted.

"I know I 've made a guy of myself; but Fan insisted on it, for fear
you 'd be offended if I did n't go the first dance with you," said Tom,
remorsefully, watching Polly as she settled the bow of her crushed sash,
which Tom had used as a sort of handle by which to turn and twist her;
"I can do the Lancers tip-top; but you won't ever want to dance with me
any more," he added, as he began to fan her so violently, that her hair
flew about as if in a gale of wind.

"Yes, I will. I 'd like to; and you shall put your name down here on
the sticks of my fan. That 's the way, Trix says, when you don't have a
ball-book."

Looking much gratified, Tom produced the stump of a lead-pencil, and
wrote his name with a flourish, saying, as he gave it back, "Now I 'm
going to get Sherry, or some of the fellows that do the redowa well, so
you can have a real good go before the music stops."

Off went Tom; but before he could catch any eligible partner, Polly was
provided with the best dancer in the room. Mr. Sydney had seen and heard
the whole thing; and though he had laughed quietly, he liked honest Tom
and good-natured Polly all the better for their simplicity. Polly's foot
was keeping time to the lively music, and her eyes were fixed wistfully
on the smoothly-gliding couples before her, when Mr. Sydney came to
her, saying, in the pleasant yet respectful way she liked so much, "Miss
Polly, can you give me a turn?"

"Oh, yes; I 'm dying for another." And Polly jumped up, with both hands
out, and such a grateful face, that Mr. Sydney resolved she should have
as many turns as she liked.

This time all went well; and Tom, returning from an unsuccessful search,
was amazed to behold Polly circling gracefully about the room, guided by
a most accomplished partner.

"Ah, that 's something like," he thought, as he watched the bronze boots
retreating and advancing in perfect time to the music. "Don't see how
Sydney does the steering so well; but it must be fun; and, by Jupiter! I
'll learn it!" added Shaw, Jr., with an emphatic gesture which burst the
last button off his gloves.

Polly enjoyed herself till the music stopped; and before she had time to
thank Mr. Sydney as warmly as she wished, Tom came up to say, with his
most lordly air, "You dance splendidly, Polly. Now, you just show me any
one you like the looks of, and I 'll get him for you, no matter who he
is."

"I don't want any of the gentlemen; they are so stiff, and don't care
to dance with me; but I like those boys over there, and I 'll dance with
any of them if they are willing," said Polly, after a survey.

"I 'll trot out the whole lot." And Tom gladly brought up his friends,
who all admired Polly immensely, and were proud to be chosen instead of
the "big fellows."

There was no sitting still for Polly after that, for the lads kept her
going at a great pace; and she was so happy, she never saw or suspected
how many little manoeuvres, heart-burnings, displays of vanity,
affectation, and nonsense were going on all round her. She loved
dancing, and entered into the gayety of the scene with a heartiness that
was pleasant to see. Her eyes shone, her face glowed, her lips smiled,
and the brown curls waved in the air, as she danced, with a heart as
light as her feet.

"Are you enjoying yourself, Polly?" asked Mr. Shaw, who looked in, now
and then, to report to grandma that all was going well.

"Oh, such a splendid time!" cried Polly, with an enthusiastic little
gesture, as she chassed into the corner where he stood.

"She is a regular belle among the boys," said Fanny, as she promenaded
by.

"They are so kind in asking me and I 'm not afraid of them," explained
Polly, prancing, simply because she could n't keep still.

"So you are afraid of the young gentlemen, hey?" and Mr. Shaw held her
by one curl.

"All but Mr. Sydney. He don't put on airs and talk nonsense; and, oh! he
does 'dance like an angel,' as Trix says."

"Papa, I wish you 'd come and waltz with me. Fan told me not to go near
her, 'cause my wed dwess makes her pink one look ugly; and Tom won't;
and I want to dwedfully."

"I 've forgotten how, Maudie. Ask Polly; she 'll spin you round like a
teetotum." "Mr. Sydney's name is down for that," answered Polly, looking
at her fan with a pretty little air of importance. "But I guess he would
n't mind my taking poor Maud instead. She has n't danced hardly any,
and I 've had more than my share. Would it be very improper to change
my mind?" And Polly looked up at her tall partner with eye which plainly
showed that the change was a sacrifice.

"Not a bit. Give the little dear a good waltz, and we will look on,"
answered Mr. Sydney, with a nod and smile.

"That is a refreshing little piece of nature," said Mr. Shaw, as Polly
and Maud whirled away.

"She will make a charming little woman, if she is n't spoilt."

"No danger of that. She has got a sensible mother."

"I thought so." And Sydney sighed, for he had lately lost his own good
mother.

When supper was announced, Polly happened to be talking, or trying to
talk, to one of the "poky" gentlemen whom Fan had introduced. He took
Miss Milton down, of course, put her in a corner, and having served her
to a dab of ice and one macaroon, he devoted himself to his own supper
with such interest, that Polly would have fared badly, if Tom had not
come and rescued her.

"I 've been looking everywhere for you. Come with me, and don't sit
starving here," said Tom, with a scornful look from her empty plate to
that of her recreant escort, which was piled with good things.

Following her guide, Polly was taken to the big china closet, opening
from the dining-room to the kitchen, and here she found a jovial little
party feasting at ease. Maud and her bosom friend, "Gwace," were seated
on tin cake-boxes; Sherry and Spider adorned the refrigerator; while Tom
and Rumple foraged for the party.

"Here 's fun," said Polly, as she was received with a clash of spoons
and a waving of napkins.

"You just perch on that cracker-keg, and I 'll see that you get enough,"
said Tom, putting a dumbwaiter before her, and issuing his orders with a
fine air of authority.

"We are a band of robbers in our cave, and I 'm the captain; and we
pitch into the folks passing by, and go out and bring home plunder. Now,
Rumple, you go and carry off a basket of cake, and I 'll watch here till
Katy comes by with a fresh lot of oysters; Polly must have some. Sherry,
cut into the kitchen, and bring a cup of coffee. Spider, scrape up the
salad, and poke the dish through the slide for more. Eat away, Polly,
and my men will be back with supplies in a jiffy."

Such fun as they had in that closet; such daring robberies of jelly-pots
and cake-boxes; such successful raids into the dining-room and kitchen;
such base assaults upon poor Katy and the colored waiter, who did his
best, but was helpless in the hands of the robber horde. A very harmless
little revel; for no wine was allowed, and the gallant band were so
busy skirmishing to supply the ladies, that they had not time to eat
too much. No one missed them; and when they emerged, the feast was over,
except for a few voracious young gentlemen, who still lingered among the
ruins.

"That 's the way they always do; poke the girls in corners, give 'em
just one taste of something, and then go and stuff like pigs," whispered
Tom, with a superior air, forgetting certain private banquets of his
own, after company had departed.

The rest of the evening was to be devoted to the German; and, as Polly
knew nothing about it, she established herself in a window recess to
watch the mysteries. For a time she enjoyed it, for it was all new to
her, and the various pretty devices were very charming; but, by and by,
that bitter weed, envy, cropped up again, and she could not feel happy
to be left out in the cold, while the other girls were getting gay
tissue-paper suits, droll bonbons, flowers, ribbons, and all manner of
tasteful trifles in which girlish souls delight. Everyone was absorbed;
Mr. Sydney was dancing; Tom and his friends were discussing base-ball on
the stairs; and Maud's set had returned to the library to play.

Polly tried to conquer the bad feeling; but it worried her, till she
remembered something her mother once said to her, "When you feel out
of sorts, try to make some one else happy, and you will soon be so
yourself."

"I will try it," thought Polly, and looked round to see what she could
do. Sounds of strife in the library led her to enter. Maud and the young
ladies were sitting on the sofa, talking about each other's clothes, as
they had seen their mammas do.

"Was your dress imported?" asked Grace.

"No; was yours?" returned Blanche.

"Yes; and it cost oh, ever so much."

"I don't think it is as pretty as Maud's."

"Mine was made in New York," said Miss Shaw, smoothing her skirts
complacently.

"I can't dress much now, you know, 'cause mamma's in black for
somebody," observed Miss Alice Lovett, feeling the importance which
affliction conferred upon her when it took the form of a jet necklace.

"Well, I don't care if my dress is n't imported; my cousin had three
kinds of wine at her party; so, now," said Blanche.

"Did she?" And all the little girls looked deeply impressed, till Maud
observed, with a funny imitation of her father's manner, "My papa said
it was scan-dill-us; for some of the little boys got tipsy, and had to
be tooked home. He would n't let us have any wine; and gwandma said it
was vewy impwoper for childwen to do so."

"My mother says your mother's coup, is n't half so stylish as ours," put
in Alice.

"Yes, it is, too. It 's all lined with gween silk, and that 's nicer
than old wed cloth," cried Maud, ruffling up like an insulted chicken.

"Well, my brother don't wear a horrid old cap, and he 's got nice hair.
I would n't have a brother like Tom. He 's horrid rude, my sister says,"
retorted Alice.

"He is n't. Your brother is a pig."

"You 're a fib!"

"So are you!"

Here, I regret to say, Miss Shaw slapped Miss Lovett, who promptly
returned the compliment, and both began to cry.

Polly, who had paused to listen to the edifying chat, parted the
belligerents, and finding the poor things tired, cross, and sleepy,
yet unable to go home till sent for, proposed to play games. The
young ladies consented, and "Puss in the corner" proved a peacemaker.
Presently, in came the boys; and being exiles from the German,
gladly joined in the games, which soon were lively enough to wake the
sleepiest. "Blind-man's-buff" was in full swing when Mr. Shaw peeped in,
and seeing Polly flying about with band-aged eyes, joined in the fun to
puzzle her. He got caught directly; and great merriment was caused by
Polly's bewilderment, for she could n't guess who he was, till she felt
the bald spot on his head.

This frolic put every one in such spirits, that Polly forgot her
trouble, and the little girls kissed each other good-night as
affectionately as if such things as imported frocks, coups, and rival
brothers did n't exist "Well, Polly, do you like parties?" asked Fan
when the last guest was gone.

"Very much; but I don't think it would be good for me to go to many,"
answered Polly, slowly.

"Why not?"

"I should n't enjoy them if I did n't have a fine dress, and dance all
the time, and be admired, and all the rest of it."

"I did n't know you cared for such things," cried Fanny, surprised.

"Neither did I till to-night; but I do; and as I can't have 'em, it 's
lucky I 'm going home tomorrow."

"Oh, dear! So you are! What shall I do without my 'sweet P.,' as Sydney
calls you?" sighed Fanny, bearing Polly away to be cuddled.

Every one echoed the exclamation next day; and many loving eyes followed
the little figure in the drab frock as it went quietly about, doing for
the last time the small services which would help to make its absence
keenly felt. Polly was to go directly after an early dinner, and having
packed her trunk, all but one tray, she was told to go and take a run
while grandma finished. Polly suspected that some pleasant surprise
was going to be put in; for Fan did n't offer to go with her, Maud kept
dodging about with something under her apron, and Tom had just whisked
into his mother's room in a mysterious manner. So Polly took the hint
and went away, rejoicing in the thought of the unknown treasures she was
to carry home.

Mr. Shaw had not said he should come home so early, but Polly thought he
might, and went to meet him. Mr. Shaw did n't expect to see Polly, for
he had left her very busy, and now a light snow was falling; but, as he
turned into the mall there was the round hat, and under it the bright
face, looking all the rosier for being powdered with snow-flakes, as
Polly came running to meet him.

"There won't be any one to help the old gentleman safely home
to-morrow," he said, as Polly took his hand in both hers with an
affectionate squeeze.

"Yes, there will; see if there is n't," cried Polly, nodding and
smiling, for Fan had confided to her that she meant to try it after her
friend had gone.

"I 'm glad of it. But, my dear, I want you to promise that you will
come and make us a visit every winter, a good long one," said Mr. Shaw,
patting the blue mittens folded round his hand.

"If they can spare me from home, I 'd love to come dearly."

"They must lend you for a little while, because you do us all good, and
we need you."

"Do I? I don't see how; but I 'm glad to hear you say so," cried Polly,
much touched.

"I can't tell you how, exactly; but you brought something into my house
that makes it warmer and pleasanter, and won't quite vanish, I hope,
when you go away, my child."

Polly had never heard Mr. Shaw speak like that before, and did n't know
what to say, she felt so proud and happy at this proof of the truth of
her mother's words, when she said that "even a little girl could exert
an influence, and do some good in this big, busy world." She only gave
her friend a grateful look sweeter than any words, and they went on
together, hand in hand, through the "soft-falling snow."

If Polly could have seen what went into that top tray, she would have
been entirely overcome; for Fanny had told grandma about the poor little
presents she had once laughed at, and they had all laid their heads
together to provide something really fine and appropriate for every
member of the Milton family. Such a mine of riches! and so much
good-will, affection, and kindly forethought was packed away in the
tempting bundles, that no one could feel offended, but would find an
unusual charm about the pretty gifts that made them doubly welcome. I
only know that if Polly had suspected that a little watch was ticking
away in a little case, with her name on it, inside that trunk, she never
could have left it locked as grandma advised, or have eaten her dinner
so quietly. As it was, her heart was very full, and the tears rose to
her eyes more than once, everyone was so kind, and so sorry to have her
go.

Tom did n't need any urging to play escort now; and both Fan and Maud
insisted on going too. Mrs. Shaw forgot her nerves, and put up some
ginger-bread with her own hands; Mr. Shaw kissed Polly as if she had
been his dearest daughter; and grandma held her close, whispering in a
tremulous tone, "My little comfort, come again soon"; while Katy waved
her apron from the nursery window, crying, as they drove, away, "The
saints bless ye, Miss Polly, dear, and sind ye the best of lucks!"

But the crowning joke of all was Tom's good-by, for, when Polly was
fairly settled in the car, the last "All aboard!" uttered, and the train
in motion, Tom suddenly produced a knobby little bundle, and thrusting
it in at the window, while he hung on in some breakneck fashion, said,
with a droll mixture of fun and feeling in his face, "It 's horrid;
but you wanted it, so I put it in to make you laugh. Good-by, Polly;
good-by, good-by!"

The last adieu was a trifle husky, and Tom vanished as it was uttered,
leaving Polly to laugh over his parting souvenir till the tears ran down
her cheeks. It was a paper bag of peanuts, and poked down at the very
bottom a photograph of Tom. It was "horrid," for he looked as if taken
by a flash of lightning, so black, wild, and staring was it; but Polly
liked it, and whenever she felt a little pensive at parting with her
friends, she took a peanut, or a peep at Tom's funny picture, which made
her merry again.

So the short journey came blithely to an end, and in the twilight she
saw a group of loving faces at the door of a humble little house, which
was more beautiful than any palace in her eyes, for it was home.



CHAPTER VIII. SIX YEARS AFTERWARD


"WHAT do you think Polly is going to do this winter?" exclaimed Fanny,
looking up from the letter she had been eagerly reading.

"Going to deliver lectures on Woman's Rights," said the young gentleman
who was carefully examining his luxuriant crop of decidedly auburn hair,
as he lounged with both elbows on the chimney-piece.

"Going to set her cap for some young minister and marry him in the
spring," added Mrs. Shaw, whose mind ran a good deal upon match-making
just now.

"I think she is going to stay at home, and do all the work, 'cause
servants cost so much; it would be just like her," observed Maud, who
could pronounce the letter R now.

"It 's my opinion she is going to open a school, or something of that
sort, to help those brothers of hers along," said Mr. Shaw, who had put
down his paper at the sound of Polly's name.

"Every one of you wrong, though papa comes nearest the truth," cried
Fanny; "she is going to give music lessons, and support herself, so that
Will may go to college. He is the studious one, and Polly is very proud
of him. Ned, the other brother, has a business talent, and don't care
for books, so he has gone out West, and will make his own way anywhere.
Polly says she is n't needed at home now, the family is so small, and
Kitty can take her place nicely; so she is actually going to earn her
own living, and hand over her share of the family income to Will. What a
martyr that girl does make of herself," and Fanny looked as solemn as if
Polly had proposed some awful self-sacrifice.

"She is a sensible, brave-hearted girl, and I respect her for doing it,"
said Mr. Shaw, emphatically. "One never knows what may happen, and it
does no harm for young people to learn to be independent."

"If she is as pretty as she was last time I saw her, she 'll get pupils
fast enough. I would n't mind taking lessons myself," was the gracious
observation of Shaw, Jr., as he turned from the mirror, with the
soothing certainty that his objectionable hair actually was growing
darker.

"She would n't take you at any price," said Fanny, remembering Polly's
look of disappointment and disapproval when she came on her last visit
and found him an unmistakable dandy.

"You just wait and see," was the placid reply.

"If Polly does carry out her plan, I wish Maud to take lessons of her;
Fanny can do as she likes, but it would please me very much to have one
of my girls sing as Polly sings. It suits old people better than your
opera things, and mother used to enjoy it so much."

As he spoke, Mr. Shaw's eye turned toward the corner of the fire where
grandma used to sit. The easy-chair was empty now, the kind old face was
gone, and nothing but a very tender memory remained.

"I 'd like to learn, papa, and Polly is a splendid teacher, I know; she
's always so patient, and makes everything so pleasant. I do hope she
will get scholars enough to begin right away," said Maud.

"When is she coming?" asked Mrs. Shaw, quite willing to help Polly,
but privately resolving that Maud should be finished off by the most
fashionable master in the city.

"She does n't say. She thanks me for asking her here, as usual, but says
she shall go right to work and had better begin with her own little room
at once. Won't it seem strange to have Polly in town, and yet not with
us?"

"We 'll get her somehow. The little room will cost something, and she
can stay with us just as well as not, even if she does teach. Tell her I
say so," said Mr. Shaw.

"She won't come, I know; for if she undertakes to be independent, she
'll do it in the most thorough manner," answered Fanny, and Mrs. Shaw
sincerely hoped she would. It was all very well to patronize the little
music-teacher, but it was not so pleasant to have her settled in the
family.

"I shall do what I can for her among my friends, and I dare say she will
get on very well with young pupils to begin with. If she starts right,
puts her terms high enough, and gets a few good names to give her the
entre into our first families, I don't doubt she will do nicely, for I
must say Polly has the manners of a lady," observed Mrs. Shaw.

"She 's a mighty taking little body, and I 'm glad she 's to be in town,
though I 'd like it better if she did n't bother about teaching, but
just stayed here and enjoyed herself," said Tom, lazily.

"I 've no doubt she would feel highly honored to be allowed to devote
her time to your amusement; but she can't afford expensive luxuries, and
she don't approve of flirting, so you will have to let her go her own
way, and refresh herself with such glimpses of you as her engagements
permit," answered Fanny, in the sarcastic tone which was becoming
habitual to her.

"You are getting to be a regular old maid, Fan; as sharp as a lemon, and
twice as sour," returned Tom, looking down at her with an air of calm
superiority.

"Do be quiet, children; you know I can't bear anything like contention.
Maud, give me my Shetland shawl, and put a cushion at my back."

As Maud obeyed her mother, with a reproving look at her erring brother
and sister, a pause followed, for which every one seemed grateful. They
were sitting about the fire after dinner, and all looked as if a little
sunshine would do them good. It had been a dull November day, but all of
a sudden the clouds lifted, and a bright ray shot into the room. Every
one turned involuntarily to welcome it, and every one cried out, "Why,
Polly!" for there on the threshold stood a bright-faced girl, smiling as
if there was no such thing as November weather in the world.

"You dear thing, when did you come?" cried Fanny, kissing both the
blooming checks with real affection, while the rest hovered near,
waiting for a chance.

"I came yesterday, and have been getting my nest in order; but I could
n't keep away any longer, so I ran up to say 'How do you do?'" answered
Polly, in the cheery voice that did one's heart good to hear.

"My Polly always brings the sunshine with her," and Mr. Shaw held out
his hands to his little friend, for she was his favorite still.

It was good to see her put both arms about his neck, and give him a
tender kiss, that said a great deal, for grandma had died since Polly
met him last and she longed to comfort him, seeing how gray and old he
had grown.

If Tom had had any thoughts of following his father's example, something
in Polly's manner made him change his mind, and shake hands with a
hearty "I 'm very glad to see you, Polly," adding to himself, as he
looked at the face in the modest little bonnet: "Prettier than ever, by
Jove!"

There was something more than mere prettiness in Polly's face, though
Tom had not learned to see it yet. The blue eyes were clear and steady,
the fresh mouth frank and sweet, the white chin was a very firm one in
spite of the dimple, and the smooth forehead under the little curls
had a broad, benevolent arch; while all about the face were those
unmistakable lines and curves which can make even a plain countenance
comely, by breathing into it the beauty of a lovely character. Polly had
grown up, but she had no more style now than in the days of the round
hat and rough coat, for she was all in gray, like a young Quakeress,
with no ornament but a blue bow at the throat and another in the hair.
Yet the plain suit became her excellently, and one never thought of the
dress, looking at the active figure that wore it, for the freedom of her
childhood gave to Polly that good gift, health, and every movement was
full of the vigor, grace, and ease, which nothing else can so surely
bestow. A happy soul in a healthy body is a rare sight in these days,
when doctors flourish and every one is ill, and this pleasant union was
the charm which Polly possessed without knowing it.

"It does seem so good to have you here again," said Maud, cuddling
Polly's cold hand, as she sat at her feet, when she was fairly
established between Fanny and Mr. Shaw, while Tom leaned on the back of
his mother's chair, and enjoyed the prospect.

"How do you get on? When do you begin? Where is your nest? Now tell all
about it," began Fanny, who was full of curiosity about the new plan.

"I shall get on very well, I think, for I 've got twelve scholars to
begin with, all able to pay a good price, and I shall give my first
lesson on Monday."

"Don't you dread it?" asked Fanny.

"Not much; why should I?" answered Polly, stoutly.

"Well, I don't know; it 's a new thing, and must be a little bit hard at
first," stammered Fanny, not liking to say that working for one's living
seemed a dreadful hardship to her.

"It will be tiresome, of course, but I shall get used to it; I shall
like the exercise, and the new people and places I must see will amuse
me. Then the independence will be delightful, and if I can save a little
to help Kitty along with, that will be best of all."

Polly's face shone as if the prospect was full of pleasure instead of
work, and the hearty good will with which she undertook the new task,
seemed to dignify her humble hopes and plans, and make them interesting
in the sight of others.

"Who have you got for pupils?" asked Mrs. Shaw, forgetting her nerves
for a minute.

Polly named her list, and took a secret satisfaction in seeing the
impression which certain names made upon her hearers.

"How in the world did you get the Davenports and the Greys, my dear?"
said Mrs. Shaw, sitting erect in her surprise.

"Mrs. Davenport and mother are relations, you know."

"You never told us that before!" "The Davenports have been away some
years, and I forgot all about them. But when I was making my plan, I
knew I must have a good name or two to set me going, so I just wrote
and asked Mrs. D. if she would help me. She came and saw us and was very
kind, and has got these pupils for me, like a dear, good woman as she
is."

"Where did you learn so much worldly wisdom, Polly?" asked Mr. Shaw,
as his wife fell back in her chair, and took out her salts, as if this
discovery had been too much for her.

"I learnt it here, sir," answered Polly, laughing. "I used to think
patronage and things of that sort very disagreeable and not worth
having, but I 've got wiser, and to a certain extent I 'm glad to use
whatever advantages I have in my power, if they can be honestly got."

"Why did n't you let us help you in the beginning? We should have been
very glad to, I 'm sure," put in Mrs. Shaw, who quite burned to be known
as a joint patroness with Mrs. Davenport.

"I know you would, but you have all been so kind to me I did n't want
to trouble you with my little plans till the first steps were taken.
Besides, I did n't know as you would like to recommend me as a teacher,
though you like me well enough as plain Polly."

"My dear, of course I would, and we want you to take Maud at once,
and teach her your sweet songs. She has a fine voice, and is really
suffering for a teacher."

A slight smile passed over Polly's face as she returned her thanks for
the new pupil, for she remembered a time when Mrs. Shaw considered her
"sweet songs" quite unfit for a fashionable young lady's repertoire.
"Where is your room?" asked Maud.

"My old friend Miss Mills has taken me in, and I am nicely settled.
Mother did n't like the idea of my going to a strange boarding-house,
so Miss Mills kindly made a place for me. You know she lets her rooms
without board, but she is going to give me my dinners, and I 'm to get
my own breakfast and tea, quite independently. I like that way, and it
's very little trouble, my habits are so simple; a bowl of bread and
milk night and morning, with baked apples or something of that sort, is
all I want, and I can have it when I like."

"Is your room comfortably furnished? Can't we lend you anything, my
dear? An easy-chair now, or a little couch, so necessary when one comes
in tired," said Mrs. Shaw, taking unusual interest in the affair.

"Thank you, but I don't need anything, for I brought all sorts of home
comforts with me. Oh, Fan, you ought to have seen my triumphal entry
into the city, sitting among my goods and chattels, in a farmer's cart."
Polly's laugh was so infectious that every one smiled and forgot to be
shocked at her performance. "Yes," she added, "I kept wishing I could
meet you, just to see your horrified face when you saw me sitting on
my little sofa, with boxes and bundles all round me, a bird-cage on one
side, a fishing basket, with a kitten's head popping in and out of the
hole, on the other side, and jolly old Mr. Brown, in his blue frock,
perched on a keg of apples in front. It was a lovely bright day, and I
enjoyed the ride immensely, for we had all sorts of adventures."

"Oh, tell about it," begged Maud, when the general laugh at Polly's
picture had subsided.

"Well, in the first place, we forgot my ivy, and Kitty came running
after me, with it. Then we started again, but were soon stopped by a
great shouting, and there was Will racing down the hill, waving a pillow
in one hand and a squash pie in the other. How we did laugh when he
came up and explained that our neighbor, old Mrs. Dodd, had sent in a
hop-pillow for me, in case of headache, and a pie to begin housekeeping
with. She seemed so disappointed at being too late that Will promised
to get them to me, if he ran all the way to town. The pillow was easily
disposed of, but that pie! I do believe it was stowed in every part of
the wagon, and never staid anywhere. I found it in my lap, then on the
floor, next, upside down among the books, then just on the point
of coasting off a trunk into the road, and at last it landed in my
rocking-chair. Such a remarkable pie as it was, too, for in spite of all
its wanderings, it never got spilt or broken, and we finally ate it for
lunch, in order to be left in peace. Next, my kitty got away, and I
had a chase over walls and brooks before I got her, while Mr. Brown
sat shaking with fun, to see me run. We finished off by having the
book-shelves tumble on our heads as we went down a hill, and losing
my chair off behind, as we went up a hill. A shout made us pause, and,
looking back, there was the poor little chair rocking all by itself in
the middle of the road, while a small boy sat on the fence and whooped.
It was great fun, I do assure you."

Polly had run on in her lively way, not because she thought her
adventures amounted to much, but from a wish to cheer up her friends,
who had struck her as looking rather dull and out of sorts, especially
Mr. Shaw; and when she saw him lean back in his chair with the old
hearty laugh, she was satisfied, and blessed the unlucky pie for amusing
him.

"Oh, Polly, you do tell such interesting things!" sighed Maud, wiping
her eyes.

"I wish I 'd met you, I 'd have given you three cheers and a tiger, for
it must have been an imposing spectacle," said Tom.

"No, you would n't; you 'd have whisked round the corner when you saw me
coming or have stared straight before you, utterly unconscious of the
young woman in the baggage wagon."

Polly laughed in his face just as she used to do, when she said that,
and, in spite of the doubt cast upon his courtesy, Tom rather liked it,
though he had nothing to say for himself but a reproachful, "Now, Polly,
that 's too bad."

"True, nevertheless. You must come and see my pets, Maud, for my cat
and bird live together as happily as brother and sister," said Polly,
turning to Maud, who devoured every word she said.

"That 's not saying much for them," muttered Tom, feeling that Polly
ought to address more of her conversation to him.

"Polly knows what she 's talking about; her brothers appreciate their
sisters," observed Fanny, in her sharp tone.

"And Polly appreciates her brothers, don't forget to add that, ma'am,"
answered Tom.

"Did I tell you that Will was going to college?" broke in Polly, to
avert the rising storm.

"Hope he 'll enjoy himself," observed Tom, with the air of a man who
had passed through all the mysteries, and reached that state of sublime
indifference which juniors seem to pride themselves upon.

"I think he will, he is so fond of study, and is so anxious to improve
every opportunity. I only hope he won't overwork and get sick, as so
many boys do," said simple Polly, with such a respectful belief in the
eager thirst for knowledge of collegians as a class, that Tom regarded
the deluded girl with a smile of lofty pity, from the heights of his
vast and varied experience.

"Guess he won't hurt himself. I 'll see that he don't study too hard."
And Tom's eyes twinkled as they used to do, when he planned his boyish
pranks.

"I 'm afraid you can't be trusted as a guide, if various rumors I
've heard are true," said Polly, looking up at him with a wistful
expression, that caused his face to assume the sobriety of an owl's.

"Base slanders; I 'm as steady as a clock, an ornament to my class, and
a model young man, ain't I, mother?" And Tom patted her thin cheek with
a caressing hand, sure of one firm friend in her; for when he ceased to
be a harum-scarum boy, Mrs. Shaw began to take great pride in her son,
and he, missing grandma, tried to fill her place with his feeble mother.

"Yes, dear, you are all I could ask," and Mrs. Shaw looked up at him
with such affection and confidence in her eyes, that Polly gave Tom the
first approving look she had vouchsafed him since she came.

Why Tom should look troubled and turn grave all at once, she could
n't understand, but she liked to see him stroke his mother's cheek so
softly, as he stood with his head resting on the high back of her chair,
for Polly fancied that he felt a man's pity for her weakness, and was
learning a son's patient love for a mother who had had much to bear with
him.

"I 'm so glad you are going to be here all winter, for we are to be
very gay, and I shall enjoy taking you round with me," began Fanny,
forgetting Polly's plan for a moment.

Polly shook her head decidedly. "It sounds very nice, but it can't be
done, Fan, for I 've come to work, not play; to save, not spend; and
parties will be quite out of the question for me."

"You don't intend to work all the time, without a bit of fun, I hope,"
cried Fanny, dismayed at the idea.

"I mean to do what I 've undertaken, and not to be tempted away from
my purpose by anything. I should n't be fit to give lessons if I was
up late, should I? And how far would my earnings go towards dress,
carriages, and all the little expenses which would come if I set up for
a young lady in society? I can't do both, and I 'm not going to try,
but I can pick up bits of fun as I go along, and be contented with free
concerts and lectures, seeing you pretty often, and every Sunday Will is
to spend with me, so I shall have quite as much dissipation as is good
for me."

"If you don't come to my parties, I 'll never forgive you," said Fanny,
as Polly paused, while Tom chuckled inwardly at the idea of calling
visits from a brother "dissipation."

"Any small party, where it will do to wear a plain black silk, I can
come to; but the big ones must n't be thought of, thank you."

It was charming to see the resolution of Polly's face when she said
that; for she knew her weakness, and beyond that black silk she had
determined not to go. Fanny said no more, for she felt quite sure that
Polly would relent when the time came, and she planned to give her
a pretty dress for a Christmas present, so that one excuse should be
removed.

"I say, Polly, won't you give some of us fellows music lessons?
Somebody wants me to play, and I 'd rather learn of you than any Senor
Twankydillo," said Tom, who did n't find the conversation interesting.

"Oh, yes; if any of you boys honestly want to learn, and will behave
yourselves, I 'll take you; but I shall charge extra," answered Polly,
with a wicked sparkle of the eye, though her face was quite sober, and
her tone delightfully business-like.

"Why, Polly, Tom is n't a boy; he 's twenty, and he says I must treat
him with respect. Besides, he 's engaged, and does put on such airs,"
broke in Maud who regarded her brother as a venerable being.

"Who is the little girl?" asked Polly taking the news as a joke.

"Trix; why, did n't you know it?" answered Maud, as if it had been an
event of national importance.

"No! is it true, Fan?" and Polly turned to her friend with a face full
of surprise, while Tom struck an imposing attitude, and affected absence
of mind.

"I forgot to tell you in my last letter; it 's just out, and we don't
like it very well," observed Fanny, who would have preferred to be
engaged first herself.

"It 's a very nice thing, and I am perfectly satisfied," announced Mrs.
Shaw, rousing from a slight doze.

"Polly looks as if she did n't believe it. Have n't I the appearance
of 'the happiest man alive'?" asked Tom, wondering if it could be pity
which he saw in the steady eyes fixed on him.

"No, I don't think you have," she said, slowly.

"How the deuce should a man look, then?" cried Tom, rather nettled at
her sober reception of the grand news.

"As if he had learned to care for some one a great deal more than for
himself," answered Polly, with sudden color in her cheeks, and a sudden
softening of the voice, as her eyes turned away from Tom, who was the
picture of a complacent dandy, from the topmost curl of his auburn head
to the tips of his aristocratic boots.

"Tommy 's quenched; I agree with you, Polly; I never liked Trix, and
I hope it 's only a boy-and-girl fancy, that will soon die a natural
death," said Mr. Shaw, who seemed to find it difficult to help falling
into a brown study, in spite of the lively chatter going on about him.

Shaw, Jr., being highly incensed at the disrespectful manner in
which his engagement was treated, tried to assume a superb air of
indifference, and finding that a decided failure, was about to stroll
out of the room with a comprehensive nod, when his mother called after
him: "Where are you going, dear?"

"To see Trix, of course. Good-by, Polly," and Mr. Thomas departed,
hoping that by the skillful change of tone, from ardent impatience to
condescending coolness, he had impressed one hearer at least with the
fact that he regarded Trix as the star of his existence, and Polly as a
presuming little chit.

If he could have heard her laugh, and Fanny's remarks, his wrath would
have boiled over; fortunately he was spared the trial, and went away
hoping that the coquetries of his Trix would make him forget Polly's
look when she answered his question.

"My dear, that boy is the most deluded creature you ever saw," began
Fanny, as soon as the front door banged. "Belle and Trix both tried to
catch him, and the slyest got him; for, in spite of his airs, he is
as soft-hearted as a baby. You see Trix has broken off two engagements
already, and the third time she got jilted herself. Such a fuss as she
made! I declare, it really was absurd. But I do think she felt it very
much, for she would n't go out at all, and got thin, and pale, and blue,
and was really quite touching. I pitied her, and had her here a good
deal, and Tom took her part; he always does stand up for the crushed
ones, and that 's good of him, I allow. Well, she did the forsaken very
prettily; let Tom amuse her, and led him on till the poor fellow lost
his wits, and finding her crying one day (about her hat, which was n't
becoming), he thought she was mourning for Mr. Banks, and so, to comfort
her, the goose proposed. That was all she wanted; she snapped him up at
once, and there he is in a nice scrape; for since her engagement she is
as gay as ever, flirts awfully with any one who comes along, and keeps
Tom in a fume all the time. I really don't think he cares for her half
as much as he makes believe, but he 'll stand by her through thick and
thin, rather than do as Banks did."

"Poor Tom!" was all Polly said, when Fan had poured the story into her
ear, as they sat whispering in the sofa corner.

"My only consolation is that Trix will break off the affair before
spring; she always does, so that she may be free for the summer
campaign. It won't hurt Tom, but I hate to have him make a fool of
himself out of pity, for he is more of a man than he seems, and I don't
want any one to plague him."

"No one but yourself," said Polly, smiling.

"Well, that 's all fair; he is a torment sometimes, but I 'm rather fond
of him in spite of it. I get so tired of the other fellows, they are
such absurd things and when Tom is in his good mood he is very nice and
quite refreshing."

"I 'm glad to hear it," said Polly, making a mental note of the fact.

"Yes, and when grandma was ill he was perfectly devoted. I did n't know
the boy had so much gentleness in him. He took her death sadly to heart,
for, though he did n't say much, he was very grave and steady for a long
time. I tried to comfort him, and we had two or three real sweet little
talks together, and seemed to get acquainted for the first time. It was
very nice, but it did n't last; good times never do with us. We soon got
back into the old way, and now we hector one another just as before."

Fanny sighed, then yawned, and fell into her usual listless attitude, as
if the brief excitement of Polly's coming had begun to subside.

"Walk home with me and see my funny little room. It 's bright now, and
the air will do you good. Come, both of you, and have a frolic as we
used to," said Polly, for the red sunset now burning in the west seemed
to invite them out.

They agreed, and soon the three were walking briskly away to Polly's new
home, in a quiet street, where a few old trees rustled in the summer,
and the morning sun shone pleasantly in winter time.

     "The way into my parlor
     Is up a winding stair,"

sang Polly, running up two flights of broad, old-fashioned steps, and
opening the door of a back room, out of which streamed the welcome glow
of firelight.

"These are my pets, Maud," she added, pausing on the threshold, and
beckoning the girls to look in quietly.

On the rug, luxuriously basking in the warmth, lay a gray kitten, and
close by, meditatively roosting on one leg, stood a plump canary, who
cocked his bright eye at the new-comers, gave a loud chirp as if to wake
his comrade, and then flew straight to Polly's shoulder, where he broke
into a joyful song to welcome his mistress home.

"Allow me to introduce my family," said Polly; "this noisy little chap
the boys named Nicodemus; and this dozy cat is called Ashputtel, because
the joy of her life is to get among the cinders. Now, take off your
things, and let me do the honors, for you are to stop to tea, and the
carriage is to come for you at eight. I arranged it with your mother
while you were upstairs."

"I want to see everything," said Maud, when the hats were off, and the
hands warmed.

"So you shall; for I think my housekeeping arrangements will amuse you."

Then Polly showed her kingdom, and the three had a merry time over it.
The big piano took up so much room there was no place for a bed; but
Polly proudly displayed the resources of her chintz-covered couch, for
the back let down, the seat lifted up, and inside were all the pillows
and blankets. "So convenient, you see, and yet out of the way in the
daytime, for two or three of my pupils come to me," explained Polly.

Then there was a bright drugget over the faded carpet, the little
rocking-chair and sewing-table stood at one window, the ivy ran all over
the other, and hid the banqueting performances which went on in that
corner. Book-shelves hung over the sofa, a picture or two on the
walls, and a great vase of autumn leaves and grasses beautified the low
chimney-piece. It was a very humble little room, but Polly had done her
best to make it pleasant, and it already had a home-like look, with the
cheery fire, and the household pets chirping and purring confidingly on
the rug.

"How nice it is!" exclaimed Maud, as she emerged from the big closet
where Polly kept her stores. "Such a cunning teakettle and saucepan,
and a tete-a-tete set, and lots of good things to eat. Do have toast for
tea, Polly, and let me make it with the new toasting fork; it 's such
fun to play cook."

Fanny was not so enthusiastic as her sister, for her eyes saw many
traces of what seemed like poverty to her; but Polly was so gay, so
satisfied with her small establishment, so full of happy hopes and
plans, that her friend had not the heart to find a fault or suggest an
improvement, and sat where she was told, laughing and talking while the
others got tea.

"This will be a country supper, girls," said Polly, bustling about.
"Here is real cream, brown bread, home-made cake, and honey from my own
beehives. Mother fitted me out with such a supply, I 'm glad to have a
party, for I can't eat it all quick enough. Butter the toast, Maudie,
and put that little cover over it. Tell me when the kettle boils, and
don't step on Nicodemus, whatever you do."

"What a capital house-keeper you will make some day," said Fanny, as she
watched Polly spread her table with a neatness and despatch which was
pleasant to behold.

"Yes, it 's good practice," laughed Polly, filling her tiny teapot, and
taking her place behind the tray, with a matronly air, which was the
best joke of the whole.

"This is the most delicious party I ever went to," observed Maud, with
her mouth full of honey, when the feast was well under way. "I do wish
I could have a nice room like this, and a cat and a bird that would n't
eat each other up, and a dear little teakettle, and make just as much
toast as I like."

Such a peal of laughter greeted Maud's pensive aspiration, that Miss
Mills smiled over her solitary cup of tea, and little Nick burst into a
perfect ecstasy of song, as he sat on the sugar-bowl helping himself.

"I don't care for the toast and the kettle, but I do envy you your good
spirits, Polly," said Fanny, as the merriment subsided. "I 'm so tired
of everybody and everything, it seems sometimes as if I should die of
ennui. Don't you ever feel so?"

"Things worry me sometimes, but I just catch up a broom and sweep, or
wash hard, or walk, or go at something with all my might, and I usually
find that by the time I get through the worry is gone, or I 've got
courage enough to bear it without grumbling," answered Polly, cutting
the brown loaf energetically.

"I can't do those things, you know; there 's no need of it, and I
don't think they 'd cure my worrying," said Fanny, languidly feeding
Ashputtel, who sat decorously beside her, at the table, winking at the
cream pot.

"A little poverty would do you good, Fan; just enough necessity to keep
you busy till you find how good work is; and when you once learn that,
you won't complain of ennui any more," returned Polly, who had taken
kindly the hard lesson which twenty years of cheerful poverty had taught
her.

"Mercy, no, I should hate that; but I wish some one would invent a new
amusement for rich people. I 'm dead sick of parties, and flirtations,
trying to out-dress my neighbors, and going the same round year after
year, like a squirrel in a cage."

Fanny's tone was bitter as well as discontented, her face sad as well as
listless, and Polly had an instinctive feeling that some trouble, more
real than any she had ever known before, was lying heavy at her friend's
heart. That was not the time to speak of it, but Polly resolved to stand
ready to offer sympathy, if nothing more, whenever the confidential
minute came; and her manner was so kind, so comfortable, that Fanny felt
its silent magic, grew more cheerful in the quiet atmosphere of that
little room, and when they said good-night, after an old-time gossip by
the fire, she kissed her hostess warmly, saying, with a grateful look,
"Polly, dear, I shall come often, you do me so much good."



CHAPTER IX. LESSONS


THE first few weeks were hard ones, for Polly had not yet outgrown her
natural shyness and going among so many strangers caused her frequent
panics. But her purpose gave her courage, and when the ice was once
broken, her little pupils quickly learned to love her. The novelty soon
wore off, and though she thought she was prepared for drudgery, she
found it very tedious to go on doing the same thing day after day. Then
she was lonely, for Will could only come once a week, her leisure hours
were Fanny's busiest, and the "bits of pleasure" were so few and far
between that they only tantalized her. Even her small housekeeping lost
its charms, for Polly was a social creature, and the solitary meals were
often sad ones. Ashputtel and Nick did their best to cheer her, but
they too, seemed to pine for country freedom and home atmosphere. Poor
Puttel, after gazing wistfully out of the window at the gaunt city cats
skulking about the yard, would retire to the rug, and curl herself up as
if all hope of finding congenial society had failed; while little Nick
would sing till he vibrated on his perch, without receiving any response
except an inquisitive chirp from the pert sparrows, who seemed to twit
him with his captivity. Yes, by the time the little teakettle had lost
its brightness, Polly had decided that getting one's living was no
joke, and many of her brilliant hopes had shared the fate of the little
kettle.

If one could only make the sacrifice all at once, and done with it, then
it would seem easier; but to keep up a daily sacrifice of one's wishes,
tastes, and pleasures, is rather a hard task, especially when one is
pretty, young, and gay. Lessons all day, a highly instructive lecture,
books over a solitary fire, or music with no audience but a sleepy
cat and a bird with his head tucked under his wing, for evening
entertainment, was not exactly what might be called festive; so,
in spite of her brave resolutions, Polly did long for a little fun
sometimes, and after saying virtuously to herself at nine: "Yes, it is
much wiser and better for me to go to bed early, and be ready for work
tomorrow," she would lie awake hearing the carriages roll to and fro,
and imagining the gay girls inside, going to party, opera, or play, till
Mrs. Dodd's hop pillow might as well have been stuffed with nettles, for
any sleep it brought, or any use it was, except to catch and hide the
tears that dropped on it when Polly's heart was very full.

Another thorn that wounded our Polly in her first attempt to make her
way through the thicket that always bars a woman's progress, was the
discovery that working for a living shuts a good many doors in one's
face even in democratic America. As Fanny's guest she had been, in spite
of poverty, kindly received wherever her friend took her, both as child
and woman. Now, things were changed; the kindly people patronized, the
careless forgot all about her, and even Fanny, with all her affection,
felt that Polly the music teacher would not be welcome in many places
where Polly the young lady had been accepted as "Miss Shaw's friend."

Some of the girls still nodded amiably, but never invited her to visit
them; others merely dropped their eyelids, and went by without speaking,
while a good many ignored her as entirely as if she had been invisible.
These things hurt Polly more than she would confess, for at home every
one worked, and every one was respected for it. She tried not to care,
but girls feel little slights keenly, and more than once Polly was
severely tempted to give up her plan, and run away to the safe shelter
at home.

Fanny never failed to ask her to every sort of festivity in the Shaw
mansion; but after a few trials, Polly firmly declined everything but
informal visits when the family were alone. She soon found that even
the new black silk was n't fine enough for Fanny's smallest party, and,
after receiving a few of the expressive glances by which women convey
their opinion of their neighbor's toilet, and overhearing a joke or two
"about that inevitable dress," and "the little blackbird," Polly folded
away the once treasured frock, saying, with a choke in her voice: "I
'll wear it for Will, he likes it, and clothes can't change his love for
me."

I am afraid the wholesome sweetness of Polly's nature was getting a
little soured by these troubles; but before lasting harm was done, she
received, from an unexpected source, some of the real help which teaches
young people how to bear these small crosses, by showing them the
heavier ones they have escaped, and by giving them an idea of the higher
pleasures one may earn in the good, old-fashioned ways that keep hearts
sweet, heads sane, hands busy.

Everybody has their days of misfortune like little Rosamond, and Polly
was beginning to think she had more than her share. One of these ended
in a way which influenced her whole life, and so we will record it. It
began early; for the hard-hearted little grate would n't behave itself
till she had used up a ruinous quantity of kindlings. Then she scalded
poor Puttel by upsetting her coffee-pot; and instead of a leisurely,
cosy meal, had to hurry away uncomfortably, for everything went wrong
even to the coming off of both bonnet strings in the last dreadful
scramble. Being late, she of course forgot her music, and hurrying back
for it, fell into a puddle, which capped the climax of her despair.

Such a trying morning as that was! Polly felt out of tune herself, and
all the pianos seemed to need a tuner as much as she did. The pupils
were unusually stupid, and two of them announced that their mamma was
going to take them to the South, whither she was suddenly called. This
was a blow, for they had just begun, and Polly had n't the face to send
in a bill for a whole quarter, though her plans and calculations were
sadly disturbed by the failure of that sum.

Trudging home to dinner, tired and disappointed, poor Polly received
another blow, which hurt her more than the loss of all her pupils. As
she went hurrying along with a big music book in one hand and a paper
bag of rolls for tea in the other, she saw Tom and Trix coming. As she
watched them while they slowly approached, looking so gay and handsome
and happy, it seemed to Polly as if all the sunshine and good walking
was on their side of the street, all the wintry wind and mud on hers.
Longing to see a friendly face and receive a kind word, she crossed
over, meaning to nod and smile at least. Trix saw her first, and
suddenly became absorbed in the distant horizon. Tom apparently did not
see her, for his eyes were fixed on a fine horse just prancing by.
Polly thought that he had seen her, and approached with a curious little
flutter at her heart, for if Tom cut her she felt that her cup would be
full.

On they came, Trix intent on the view, Tom staring at the handsome
horse, and Polly, with red checks, expectant eyes, and the brown bundle,
in full sight. One dreadful minute as they came parallel, and no one
spoke or bowed, then it was all over, and Polly went on, feeling as if
some one had slapped her in the face. "She would n't have believed it
of Tom; it was all the doings of that horrid Trix; well, she would n't
trouble him any more, if he was such a snob as to be ashamed of her just
because she carried bundles and worked for her bread." She clutched the
paper bag fiercely as she said this to herself, then her eyes filled,
and her lips trembled, as she added, "How could he do it, before her,
too?"

Now Tom was quite guiltless of this offence, and had always nodded to
Polly when they met; but it so happened he had always been alone till
now, and that was why it cut so deeply, especially as Polly never had
approved of Trix. Before she could clear her eyes or steady her face,
a gentleman met her, lifted his hat, smiled, and said pleasantly, "Good
morning, Miss Polly, I 'm glad to meet you." Then, with a sudden change
of voice and manner, he added, "I beg pardon is anything the matter can
I be of service?"

It was very awkward, but it could n't be helped, and all Polly could do
was to tell the truth and make the best of it.

"It 's very silly, but it hurts me to be cut by my old friends. I shall
get used to it presently, I dare say."

Mr. Sydney glanced back, recognized the couple behind them, and
turned round with a disgusted expression. Polly was fumbling for her
handkerchief, and without a word he took both book and bundle from her,
a little bit of kindness that meant a good deal just then. Polly felt
it, and it did her good; hastily wiping the traitorous eyes, she laughed
and said cheerfully, "There, I 'm all right again; thank you, don't
trouble yourself with my parcels."

"No trouble, I assure you, and this book reminds me of what I was about
to say. Have you an hour to spare for my little niece? Her mother wants
her to begin, and desired me to make the inquiry."

"Did she, really?" and Polly looked up at him, as if she suspected him
of inventing the whole thing, out of kindness.

Mr. Sydney smiled, and taking a note from his pocket, presented it,
saying, with a reproachful look, "Behold the proof of my truth, and
never doubt again."

Polly begged pardon, read the note from the little girl's mother, which
was to have been left at her room if she was absent, and gave the
bearer a very grateful look as she accepted this welcome addition to her
pupils. Well pleased at the success of his mission, Sydney artfully led
the conversation to music, and for a time Polly forgot her woes, talking
enthusiastically on her favorite theme. As she reclaimed her book and
bag, at her own door, she said, in her honest way, "Thank you very much
for trying to make me forget my foolish little troubles."

"Then let me say one thing more; though appearances are against him,
I don't believe Tom Shaw saw you. Miss Trix is equal to that sort of
thing, but it is n't like Tom, for with all his foppery he is a good
fellow at heart."

As Mr. Sydney said this, Polly held out her hand with a hearty "Thank
you for that." The young man shook the little hand in the gray woollen
glove, gave her exactly the same bow which he did the Honorable Mrs.
Davenport, and went away, leaving Polly to walk up stairs and address
Puttel with the peculiar remark, "You are a true gentleman! so kind
to say that about Tom. I 'll think it 's so, anyway; and won't I teach
Minnie in my very best style!"

Puttel purred, Nick chirped approvingly, and Polly ate her dinner with
a better appetite than she had expected. But at the bottom of her heart
there was a sore spot still, and the afternoon lessons dragged dismally.
It was dusk when she got home, and as she sat in the firelight eating
her bread and milk, several tears bedewed the little rolls, and even the
home honey had a bitter taste.

"Now this won't do," she broke out all at once; "this is silly and
wicked, and can't be allowed. I 'll try the old plan and put myself
right by doing some little kindness to somebody. Now what shall it be?
O, I know! Fan is going to a party to-night; I 'll run up and help her
dress; she likes to have me, and I enjoy seeing the pretty things. Yes,
and I 'll take her two or three clusters of my daphne, it 's so sweet."

Up got Polly, and taking her little posy, trotted away to the Shaws',
determined to be happy and contented in spite of Trix and hard work.

She found Fanny enduring torment under the hands of the hair-dresser,
who was doing his best to spoil her hair, and distort her head with
a mass of curls, braids, frizzles, and puffs; for though I discreetly
refrain from any particular description, still, judging from the present
fashions, I think one may venture to predict that six years hence they
would be something frightful.

"How kind of you, Polly; I was just wishing you were here to arrange my
flowers. These lovely daphnes will give odor to my camellias, and you
were a dear to bring them. There 's my dress; how do you like it?" said
Fanny, hardly daring to lift her eyes from under the yellow tower on her
head.

"It 's regularly splendid; but how do you ever get into it?" answered
Polly, surveying with girlish interest the cloud of pink and white lace
that lay upon the bed.

"It 's fearfully and wonderfully made, but distractingly becoming, as
you shall see. Trix thinks I 'm going to wear blue, so she has got a
green one, and told Belle it would spoil the effect of mine, as we are
much together, of course. Was n't that sweet of her? Belle came and told
me in, time, and I just got pink, so my amiable sister, that is to be,
won't succeed in her pretty little plot."

"I guess she has been reading the life of Josephine. You know she made
a pretty lady, of whom she was jealous, sit beside her on a green sofa,
which set off her own white dress and spoilt the blue one of her guest,"
answered Polly, busy with the flowers.

"Trix never reads anything; you are the one to pick up clever little
stories. I 'll remember and use this one. Am I done? Yes, that is
charming, is n't it, Polly?" and Fan rose to inspect the success of
Monsieur's long labor.

"You know I don't appreciate a stylish coiffure as I ought, so I like
your hair in the old way best. But this is 'the thing,' I suppose, and
not a word must be said."

"Of course it is. Why, child, I have frizzed and burnt my hair so that I
look like an old maniac with it in its natural state, and have to repair
damages as well as I can. Now put the flowers just here," and Fanny laid
a pink camellia in a nest of fuzz, and stuck a spray of daphne straight
up at the back of her head.

"O, Fan, don't, it looks horridly so!" cried Polly, longing to add a
little beauty to her friend's sallow face by a graceful adjustment of
the flowers.

"Can't help it, that 's the way, and so it must be," answered Fan,
planting another sprig half-way up the tower.

Polly groaned and offered no more suggestions as the work went on; but
when Fan was finished from top to toe, she admired all she honestly
could, and tried to keep her thoughts to herself. But her frank face
betrayed her, for Fanny turned on her suddenly, saying, "You may as
well free your mind, Polly, for I see by your eyes that something don't
suit."

"I was only thinking of what grandma once said, that modesty had gone
out of fashion," answered Polly, glancing at the waist of her friend's
dress, which consisted of a belt, a bit of lace, and a pair of shoulder
straps.

Fanny laughed good-naturedly, saying, as she clasped her necklace, "If I
had such shoulders as yours, I should n't care what the fashion was. Now
don't preach, but put my cloak on nicely, and come along, for I 'm to
meet Tom and Trix, and promised to be there early."

Polly was to be left at home after depositing Fan at Belle's.

"I feel as if I was going myself," she said, as they rolled along.

"I wish you were, and you would be, Polly, if you weren't such a
resolute thing. I 've teased, and begged, and offered anything I have if
you 'll only break your absurd vow, and come and enjoy yourself."

"Thank you; but I won't, so don't trouble your kind heart about me; I 'm
all right," said Polly, stoutly.

But when they drew up before the lighted house, and she found herself
in the midst of the pleasant stir of festivity, the coming and going of
carriages, the glimpses of bright colors, forms, and faces, the bursts
of music, and a general atmosphere of gayety, Polly felt that she was
n't all right, and as she drove away for a dull evening in her lonely
little room, she just cried as heartily as any child denied a stick of
candy.

"It 's dreadful wicked of me, but I can't help it," she sobbed to
herself, in the corner of the carriage. "That music sets me all in a
twitter, and I should have looked nice in Fan's blue tarlatan, and
I know I could behave as well as any one, and have lots of partners,
though I 'm not in that set. Oh, just one good gallop with Mr. Sydney or
Tom! No, Tom would n't ask me there, and I would n't accept if he did.
Oh, me! oh, me! I wish I was as old and homely, and good and happy, as
Miss Mills!"

So Polly made her moan, and by the time she got home, was just in the
mood to go to bed and cry herself to sleep, as girls have a way of doing
when their small affliction becomes unbearable.

But Polly did n't get a chance to be miserable very long, for as she
went up stairs feeling like the most injured girl in the world, she
caught a glimpse of Miss Mills, sewing away with such a bright face that
she could n't resist stopping for a word or two.

"Sit down, my dear, I 'm glad to see you, but excuse me if I go on with
my work, as I 'm in a driving hurry to get these things done to-night,"
said the brisk little lady, with a smile and a nod, as she took a new
needleful of thread, and ran up a seam as if for a wager.

"Let me help you, then; I 'm lazy and cross, and it will do me good,"
said Polly, sitting down with the resigned feeling. "Well, if I can't be
happy, I can be useful, perhaps."

"Thank you, my dear; yes, you can just hem the skirt while I put in the
sleeves, and that will be a great lift."

Polly put on her thimble in silence, but as Miss Mills spread the white
flannel over her lap, she exclaimed, "Why, it looks like a shroud! Is it
one?"

"No, dear, thank God, it is n't, but it might have been, if we had n't
saved the poor little soul," cried Miss Mills, with a sudden brightening
of the face, which made it beautiful in spite of the stiff gray curl
that bobbed on each temple, the want of teeth, and a crooked nose.

"Will you tell me about it? I like to hear your adventures and good
works so much," said Polly, ready to be amused by anything that made her
forget herself.

"Ah, my dear, it 's a very common story, and that 's the saddest part of
it. I 'll tell you all about it, for I think you may be able to help me.
Last night I watched with poor Mary Floyd. She 's dying of consumption,
you know," began Miss Mills, as her nimble fingers flew, and her kind
old face beamed over the work, as if she put a blessing in with every
stitch. "Mary was very low, but about midnight fell asleep, and I was
trying to keep things quiet, when Mrs. Finn she 's the woman of the
house came and beckoned me out, with a scared face. 'Little Jane has
killed herself, and I don't know what to do,' she said, leading me up to
the attic."

"Who was little Jane?" broke in Polly, dropping her work.

"I only knew her as a pale, shy young girl who went in and out, and
seldom spoke to any one. Mrs. Finn told me she was poor, but a busy,
honest, little thing, who did n't mix with the other folks, but lived
and worked alone. 'She has looked so down-hearted and pale for a week,
that I thought she was sick, and asked her about it,' said Mrs. Finn,
'but she thanked me in her bashful way, and said she was pretty well, so
I let her alone. But to-night, as I went up late to bed, I was kind of
impressed to look in and see how the poor thing did, for she had n't
left her room all day. I did look in, and here 's what I found.' As Mrs.
Finn ended she opened the door of the back attic, and I saw about as sad
a sight as these old eyes ever looked at."

"O, what?" cried Polly, pale now with interest.

"A bare room, cold as a barn, and on the bed a little dead, white face
that almost broke my heart, it was so thin, so patient, and so young. On
the table was a bottle half full of laudanum, an old pocket-book, and a
letter. Read that, my dear and don't think hard of little Jane."

Polly took the bit of paper Miss Mills gave her, and read these words:

DEAR MRS. FINN, Please forgive me for the trouble I make you, but I
don't see any other way. I can't get work that pays enough to keep me;
the Dr. says I can't be well unless I rest. I hate to be a burden, so
I 'm going away not to trouble anybody anymore. I 've sold my things to
pay what I owe you. Please let me be as I am, and don't let people come
and look at me. I hope it is n't very wicked, but there don't seem
any room for me in the world, and I 'm not afraid to die now, though
I should be if I stayed and got bad because I had n't strength to keep
right. Give my love to the baby, and so good-by, good-by.

JANE BRYANT.

"O, Miss Mills, how dreadful!" cried Polly, with her eyes so full she
could hardly read the little letter.

"Not so dreadful as it might have been, but a bitter, sad thing to
see that child, only seventeen, lying there in her little clean, old
night-gown, waiting for death to come and take her, because 'there did
n't seem to be any room for her in the world.' Ah, well, we saved her,
for it was n't too late, thank heaven, and the first thing she said was,
'Oh, why did you bring me back?' I 've been nursing her all day, hearing
her story, and trying to show her that there is room and a welcome for
her. Her mother died a year ago, and since then she has been struggling
along alone. She is one of the timid, innocent, humble creatures who
can't push their way, and so get put aside and forgotten. She has
tried all sorts of poorly paid work, could n't live on it decently, got
discouraged, sick, frightened, and could see no refuge from the big, bad
world but to get out of it while she was n't afraid to die. A very old
story, my dear, new and dreadful as it seems to you, and I think it
won't do you any harm to see and help this little girl, who has gone
through dark places that you are never like to know."

"I will; indeed, I will do all I can! Where is she now?" asked Polly,
touched to the heart by the story, so simple yet so sad.

"There," and Miss Mills pointed to the door of her own little bedroom.
"She was well enough to be moved to-night, so I brought her home and
laid her safely in my bed. Poor little soul! she looked about her for
a minute, then the lost look went away, and she gave a great sigh, and
took my hand in both her thin bits of ones, and said, 'O, ma'am, I feel
as if I 'd been born into a new world. Help me to begin again, and I
'll do better.' So I told her she was my child now, and might rest here,
sure of a home as long as I had one."

As Miss Mills spoke in her motherly tone, and cast a proud and happy
look toward the warm and quiet nest in which she had sheltered this
friendless little sparrow, feeling sure that God meant her to keep it
from falling to the ground, Polly put both arms about her neck, and
kissed her withered cheek with as much loving reverence as if she had
been a splendid saint, for in the likeness of this plain old maid she
saw the lovely charity that blesses and saves the world.

"How good you are! Dear Miss Mills, tell me what to do, let me help you,
I 'm ready for anything," said Polly, very humbly, for her own troubles
looked so small and foolish beside the stern hardships which had nearly
had so tragical an end, that she felt heartily ashamed of herself, and
quite burned to atone for them.

Miss, Mills stopped to stroke the fresh cheek opposite, to smile, and
say, "Then, Polly, I think I 'll ask you to go in and say a friendly
word to my little girl. The sight of you will do her good; and you have
just the right way of comforting people, without making a fuss."

"Have I?" said Polly, looking much gratified by the words.

"Yes, dear, you 've the gift of sympathy, and the rare art of showing it
without offending. I would n't let many girls in to see my poor Jenny,
because they 'd only flutter and worry her; but you 'll know what to do;
so go, and take this wrapper with you; it 's done now, thanks to your
nimble fingers."

Polly threw the warm garment over her arm, feeling a thrill of gratitude
that it was to wrap a living girl in, and not to hide away a young heart
that had grown cold too soon. Pushing open the door, she went quietly
into the dimly lighted room, and on the pillow saw a face that drew her
to it with an irresistible power, for it was touched by a solemn shadow
that made its youth pathetic. As she paused at the bedside, thinking the
girl asleep, a pair of hollow, dark eyes opened wide, and looked up at
her; startled at first, then softening with pleasure, at sight of the
bonny face before them, and then a humble, beseeching expression filled
them, as if asking pardon for the rash act nearly committed, and pity
for the hard fate that prompted it. Polly read the language of these
eyes, and answered their mute prayer with a simple eloquence that said
more than any words for she just stooped down and kissed the poor child,
with her own eyes full, and lips that trembled with the sympathy she
could not tell. Jenny put both arms about her neck, and began to shed
the quiet tears that so refresh and comfort heavy hearts when a tender
touch unseals the fountain where they lie.

"Everybody is so kind," she sobbed, "and I was so wicked, I don't
deserve it."

"Oh, yes, you do; don't think of that, but rest and let us pet you. The
old life was too hard for such a little thing as you, and we are going
to try and make the new one ever so much easier and happier," said
Polly, forgetting everything except that this was a girl like herself,
who needed heartening up.

"Do you live here?" asked Jenny, when her tears were wiped away, still
clinging to the new-found friend.

"Yes, Miss Mills lets me have a little room up stairs, and there I have
my cat and bird, my piano and my posy pots, and live like a queen. You
must come up and see me to-morrow if you are able. I 'm often lonely,
for there are no young people in the house to play with me," answered
Polly, smiling hospitably.

"Do you sew?" asked Jenny.

"No, I 'm a music teacher, and trot round giving lessons all day."

"How beautiful it sounds, and how happy you must be, so strong and
pretty, and able to go round making music all the time," sighed Jenny,
looking with respectful admiration at the plump, firm hand held in both
her thin and feeble ones.

It did sound pleasant even to Polly's ears, and she felt suddenly so
rich, and so contented, that she seemed a different creature from the
silly girl who cried because she could n't go to the party. It passed
through her mind like a flash, the contrast between her life, and that
of the wan creature lying before her, and she felt as if she could not
give enough out of her abundance to this needy little sister, who had
nothing in the wide world but the life just saved to her. That minute
did more for Polly than many sermons, or the wisest books, for it
brought her face to face with bitter truths, showed her the dark side
of life, and seemed to blow away her little vanities, her frivolous
desires, like a wintry wind, that left a wholesome atmosphere behind.
Sitting on the bedside, Polly listened while Jane told the story, which
was so new to her listener, that every word sank deep into her heart,
and never was forgotten.

"Now you must go to sleep. Don't cry nor think, nor do anything but
rest. That will please Miss Mills best. I 'll leave the doors open, and
play you a lullaby that you can't resist. Good night, dear." And with
another kiss, Polly went away to sit in the darkness of her own room,
playing her softest airs till the tired eyes below were shut, and little
Jane seemed to float away on a sea of pleasant sounds, into the happier
life which had just dawned for her.

Polly had fully intended to be very miserable, and cry herself to sleep;
but when she lay down at last, her pillow seemed very soft, her little
room very lovely, with the firelight flickering on all the home-like
objects, and her new-blown roses breathing her a sweet good-night. She
no longer felt an injured, hard-working, unhappy Polly, but as if quite
burdened with blessings, for which she was n't half grateful enough. She
had heard of poverty and suffering, in the vague, far-off way, which is
all that many girls, safe in happy homes, ever know of it; but now she
had seen it, in a shape which she could feel and understand, and life
grew more earnest to her from that minute. So much to do in the great,
busy world, and she had done so little. Where should she begin?
Then, like an answer came little Jenny's words, now taking a 'new
significance' to Polly's mind, "To be strong, and beautiful, and go
round making music all the time." Yes, she could do that; and with a
very earnest prayer, Polly asked for the strength of an upright soul,
the beauty of a tender heart, the power to make her life a sweet and
stirring song, helpful while it lasted, remembered when it died.

Little Jane's last thought had been to wish with all her might, that
"God would bless the dear, kind girl up there, and give her all she
asked." I think both prayers, although too humble to be put in words,
went up together, for in the fulness of time they were beautifully
answered.



CHAPTER X. BROTHERS AND SISTERS


POLLY'S happiest day was Sunday, for Will never failed to spend it with
her. Instead of sleeping later than usual that morning, she was always
up bright and early, flying round to get ready for her guest, for Will
came to breakfast, and they made a long day of it. Will considered his
sister the best and prettiest girl going, and Polly, knowing well that a
time would come when he would find a better and a prettier, was grateful
for his good opinion, and tried to deserve it. So she made her room and
herself as neat and inviting as possible, and always ran to meet him
with a bright face and a motherly greeting, when he came tramping in,
ruddy, brisk, and beaming, with the brown loaf and the little pot of
beans from the bake-house near by.

They liked a good country breakfast, and nothing gave Polly more
satisfaction than to see her big boy clear the dishes, empty the little
coffee-pot, and then sit and laugh at her across the ravaged table.
Another pleasure was to let him help clear away, as they used to do
at home, while the peals of laughter that always accompanied this
performance did Miss Mills' heart good to hear, for the room was so
small and Will so big that he seemed to be everywhere at once, and Polly
and Puttel were continually dodging his long arms and legs. Then they
used to inspect the flower pots, pay Nick a visit, and have a little
music as a good beginning for the day, after which they went to church
and dined with Miss Mills, who considered Will "an excellent young
man." If the afternoon was fair, they took a long walk together over
the bridges into the country, or about the city streets full of Sabbath
quietude. Most people meeting them would have seen only an awkward young
man, with a boy's face atop of his tall body, and a quietly dressed,
fresh faced little woman hanging on his arm; but a few people, with eyes
to read romances and pleasant histories everywhere, found something very
attractive in this couple, and smiled as they passed, wondering if they
were young, lovers, or country cousins "looking round."

If the day was stormy, they stayed at home, reading, writing letters,
talking over their affairs, and giving each other good advice; for,
though Will was nearly three years younger than Polly, he could n't for
the life of him help assuming amusingly venerable airs, when he became
a Freshman. In the twilight he had a good lounge on the sofa, and Polly
sung to him, which arrangement he particularly enjoyed, it was so "cosy
and homey." At nine o'clock, Polly packed his bag with clean clothes,
nicely mended, such remnants of the festive tea as were transportable,
and kissed him "good-night," with many injunctions to muffle up his
throat going over the bridge, and be sure that his feet were dry
and warm when he went to bed. All of which Will laughed at, accepted
graciously, and did n't obey; but he liked it, and trudged away for
another week's work, rested, cheered, and strengthened by that quiet,
happy day with Polly, for he had been brought up to believe in home
influences, and this brother and sister loved one another dearly, and
were not ashamed to own it.

One other person enjoyed the humble pleasures of these Sundays quite as
much as Polly and Will. Maud used to beg to come to tea, and Polly, glad
to do anything for those who had done a good deal for her, made a point
of calling for the little girl as they came home from their walk, or
sending Will to escort her in the carriage, which Maud always managed
to secure if bad weather threatened to quench her hopes. Tom and Fanny
laughed at her fancy, but she did not tire of it, for the child was
lonely, and found something in that little room which the great house
could not give her.

Maud was twelve now; a pale, plain child, with sharp, intelligent eyes,
and a busy little mind, that did a good deal more thinking than anybody
imagined. She was just at the unattractive, fidgety age when no one
knew what to do with her, and so let her fumble her way up as she could,
finding pleasure in odd things, and living much alone, for she did not
go to school, because her shoulders were growing round, and Mrs.
Shaw would not "allow her figure to be spoiled." That suited Maud
excellently; and whenever her father spoke of sending her again, or
getting a governess, she was seized with bad headaches, a pain in her
back, or weakness of the eyes, at which Mr. Shaw laughed, but let her
holiday go on. Nobody seemed to care much for plain, pug-nosed little
Maudie; her father was busy, her mother nervous and sick, Fanny absorbed
in her own affairs, and Tom regarded her as most young men do their
younger sisters, as a person born for his amusement and convenience,
nothing more. Maud admired Tom with all her heart, and made a little
slave of herself to him, feeling well repaid if he merely said, "Thank
you, chicken," or did n't pinch her nose, or nip her ear, as he had a
way of doing, "just as if I was a doll, or a dog, and had n't got any
feelings," she sometimes said to Fanny, when some service or sacrifice
had been accepted without gratitude or respect. It never occurred to
Tom, when Maud sat watching him with her face full of wistfulness, that
she wanted to be petted as much as ever he did in his neglected boyhood,
or that when he called her "Pug" before people, her little feelings were
as deeply wounded as his used to be, when the boys called him "Carrots."
He was fond of her in his fashion, but he did n't take the trouble to
show it, so Maud worshipped him afar off, afraid to betray the affection
that no rebuff could kill or cool.

One snowy Sunday afternoon Tom lay on the sofa in his favorite attitude,
reading "Pendennis" for the fourth time, and smoking like a chimney as
he did so. Maud stood at the window watching the falling flakes with an
anxious countenance, and presently a great sigh broke from her.

"Don't do that again, chicken, or you 'll blow me away. What's the
matter?" asked Tom, throwing down his book with a yawn that threatened
dislocation.

"I 'm afraid I can't go to Polly's," answered Maud, disconsolately.

"Of course you can't; it 's snowing hard, and father won't be home
with the carriage till this evening. What are you always cutting off to
Polly's for?"

"I like it; we have such nice times, and Will is there, and we bake
little johnny-cakes in the baker before the fire, and they sing, and it
is so pleasant."

"Warbling johnny-cakes must be interesting. Come and tell me all about
it."

"No, you 'll only laugh at me."

"I give you my word I won't, if I can help it; but I really am dying of
curiosity to know what you do down there. You like to hear secrets, so
tell me yours, and I 'll be as dumb as an oyster."

"It is n't a secret, and you would n't care for it. Do you want another
pillow?" she added, as Tom gave his a thump.

"This will do; but why you women always stick tassels and fringe all
over a sofa-cushion, to tease and tickle a fellow, is what I don't
understand."

"One thing that Polly does Sunday nights, is to take Will's head in her
lap, and smooth his forehead. It rests him after studying so hard, she
says. If you don't like the pillow, I could do that for you, 'cause you
look as if you were more tired of studying than Will," said Maud, with
some hesitation, but an evident desire to be useful and agreeable.

"Well, I don't care if you do try it, for I am confoundedly tired." And
Tom laughed, as he recalled the frolic he had been on the night before.

Maud established herself with great satisfaction, and Tom owned that a
silk apron was nicer than a fuzzy cushion.

"Do you like it?" she asked, after a few strokes over the hot forehead,
which she thought was fevered by intense application to Greek and Latin.

"Not bad; play away," was the gracious reply, as Tom shut his eyes,
and lay so still that Maud was charmed at the success of her attempt.
Presently, she said, softly, "Tom, are you asleep?"

"Just turning the corner."

"Before you get quite round would you please tell me what a Public
Admonition is?"

"What do you want to know for?" demanded Tom, opening his eyes very
wide.

"I heard Will talking about Publics and Privates, and I meant to ask
him, but I forgot."

"What did he say?"

"I don't remember; it was about somebody who cut prayers, and got
a Private, and had done all sorts of bad things, and had one or two
Publics. I did n't hear the name and did n't care; I only wanted to know
what the words meant."

"So Will tells tales, does he?" and Tom's forehead wrinkled with a
frown.

"No, he did n't; Polly knew about it and asked him."

"Will's a 'dig,'" growled Tom, shutting his eyes again, as if nothing
more could be said of the delinquent William.

"I don't care if he is; I like him very much, and so does Polly."

"Happy Fresh!" said Tom, with a comical groan.

"You need n't sniff at him, for he is nice, and treats me with respect,"
cried Maud, with an energy that made Tom laugh in her face.

"He 's good to Polly always, and puts on her cloak for her, and says 'my
dear,' and kisses her 'good-night,' and don't think it 's silly, and I
wish I had a brother just like him, yes, I do!" And Maud showed signs of
woe, for her disappointment about going was very great.

"Bless my boots! what's the chicken ruffling up her little feathers and
pecking at me for? Is that the way Polly soothes the best of brothers?"
said Tom, still laughing.

"Oh, I forgot! there, I won't cry; but I do want to go," and Maud
swallowed her tears, and began to stroke again.

Now Tom's horse and sleigh were in the stable, for he meant to drive out
to College that evening, but he did n't take Maud's hint. It was less
trouble to lie still, and say in a conciliatory tone, "Tell me some more
about this good boy, it 's very interesting."

"No, I shan't, but I 'll tell about Puttel's playing on the piano," said
Maud, anxious to efface the memory of her momentary weakness. "Polly
points to the right key with a little stick, and Puttel sits on the
stool and pats each key as it 's touched, and it makes a tune. It 's
so funny to see her, and Nick perches on the rack and sings as if he 'd
kill himself."

"Very thrilling," said Tom, in a sleepy tone.

Maud felt that her conversation was not as interesting as she hoped, and
tried again.

"Polly thinks you are handsomer than Mr. Sydney."

"Much obliged."

"I asked which she thought had the nicest face, and she said yours was
the handsomest, and his the best."

"Does he ever go there?" asked a sharp voice behind them; and looking
round Maud saw Fanny in the big chair, cooking her feet over the
register.

"I never saw him there; he sent up some books one day, and Will teased
her about it."

"What did she do?" demanded Fanny. "Oh, she shook him."

"What a spectacle!" and Tom looked as if he would have enjoyed seeing
it, but Fanny's face grew so forbidding, that Tom's little dog, who was
approaching to welcome her, put his tail between his legs and fled under
the table.

"Then there is n't any 'Sparking Sunday night'?" sung Tom, who appeared
to have waked up again.

"Of course not. Polly is n't going to marry anybody; she 's going to
keep house for Will when he 's a minister, I heard her say so," cried
Maud, with importance.

"What a fate for pretty Polly!" ejaculated Tom.

"She likes it, and I 'm sure I should think she would; it 's beautiful
to hear 'em plan it all out."

"Any more gossip to retail, Pug?" asked Tom a minute after, as Maud
seemed absorbed in visions of the future.

"He told a funny story about blowing up one of the professors. You
never told us, so I suppose you did n't know it. Some bad fellow put a
torpedo, or some sort of powder thing, under the chair, and it went off
in the midst of the lesson, and the poor man flew up, frightened most
to pieces, and the boys ran with pails of water to put the fire out. But
the thing that made Will laugh most was, that the very fellow who did it
got his trousers burnt trying to put out the fire, and he asked the is
it Faculty or President?"

"Either will do," murmured Tom, who was shaking with suppressed
laughter.

"Well, he asked 'em to give him some new ones, and they did give him
money enough, for a nice pair; but he got some cheap ones, with horrid
great stripes on 'em, and always wore 'em to that particular class,
'which was one too many for the fellows,' Will said, and with the rest
of the money he had a punch party. Was n't it dreadful?"

"Awful!" And Tom exploded into a great laugh, that made Fanny cover her
ears, and the little dog bark wildly.

"Did you know that bad boy?" asked innocent Maud.

"Slightly," gasped Tom, in whose wardrobe at college those identical
trousers were hanging at that moment.

"Don't make such a noise, my head aches dreadfully," said Fanny,
fretfully.

"Girls' heads always do ache," answered Tom, subsiding from a roar into
a chuckle.

"What pleasure you boys can find in such ungentlemanly things, I don't
see," said Fanny, who was evidently out of sorts.

"As much a mystery to you as it is to us, how you girls can like to
gabble and prink from one week's end to the other," retorted Tom.

There was a pause after this little passage-at-arms, but Fan wanted to
be amused, for time hung heavily on her hands, so she asked, in a more
amiable tone, "How 's Trix?"

"As sweet as ever," answered Tom, gruffly.

"Did she scold you, as usual?"

"She just did."

"What was the matter?"

"Well, I 'll leave it to you if this is n't unreasonable: she won't
dance with me herself, yet don't like me to go it with anybody else. I
said, I thought, if a fellow took a girl to a party, she ought to dance
with him once, at least, especially if they were engaged. She said that
was the very reason why she should n't do it; so, at the last hop, I let
her alone, and had a gay time with Belle, and to-day Trix gave it to me
hot and heavy, coming home from church."

"If you go and engage yourself to a girl like that, I don't know what
you can expect. Did she wear her Paris hat to-day?" added Fan, with
sudden interest in her voice.

"She wore some sort of a blue thing, with a confounded bird of Paradise
in it, that kept whisking into my face every time she turned her head."

"Men never know a pretty thing when they see it. That hat is perfectly
lovely."

"They know a lady when they see her, and Trix don't look like one; I
can't say where the trouble is, but there 's too much fuss and feathers
for my taste. You are twice as stylish, yet you never look loud or
fast."

Touched by this unusual compliment, Fanny drew her chair nearer as she
replied with complacency, "Yes, I flatter myself I do know how to dress
well. Trix never did; she 's fond of gay colors, and generally looks
like a walking rainbow."

"Can't you give her a hint? Tell her not to wear blue gloves anyway, she
knows I hate 'em."

"I 've done my best for your sake, Tom, but she is a perverse creature,
and don't mind a word I say, even about things much more objectionable
than blue gloves."

"Maudie, run and bring me my other cigar case, it 's lying round
somewhere."

Maud went; and as soon as the door was shut, Tom rose on his elbow,
saying in a cautiously lowered voice, "Fan, does Trix paint?"

"Yes, and draws too," answered Fanny, with a sly laugh.

"Come, you know what I mean; I 've a right to ask and you ought to
tell," said Tom, soberly, for he was beginning to find that being
engaged was not unmitigated bliss.

"What makes you think she does?"

"Well, between ourselves," said Tom, looking a little sheepish, but
anxious to set his mind at rest, "she never will let me kiss her on her
cheek, nothing but an unsatisfactory peck at her lips. Then the
other day, as I took a bit of heliotrope out of a vase to put in my
button-hole, I whisked a drop of water into her face; I was going to
wipe it off, but she pushed my hand away, and ran to the glass, where
she carefully dabbed it dry, and came back with one cheek redder than
the other. I did n't say anything, but I had my suspicions. Come now,
does she?"

"Yes, she does; but don't say a word to her, for she 'll never forgive
my telling if she knew it."

"I don't care for that; I don't like it, and I won't have it," said Tom,
decidedly.

"You can't help yourself. Half the girls do it, either paint or powder,
darken their lashes with burnt hair-pins, or take cologne on lumps of
sugar or belladonna to make their eyes bright. Clara tried arsenic for
her complexion, but her mother stopped it," said Fanny, betraying the
secrets of the prison-house in the basest manner.

"I knew you girls were a set of humbugs, and very pretty ones, too,
some of you, but I can't say I like to see you painted up like a lot of
actresses," said Tom, with an air of disgust.

"I don't do anything of the sort, or need it, but Trix does; and having
chosen her, you must abide your choice, for better or worse."

"It has n't come to that yet," muttered Tom, as he lay down again with a
rebellious air.

Maud's return put an end to these confidences, though Tom excited her
curiosity by asking the mysterious question, "I say, Fan, is Polly up to
that sort of thing?"

"No, she thinks it 's awful. When she gets pale and dragged out she will
probably change her mind."

"I doubt it," said Tom.

"Polly says it is n't proper to talk secrets before people who ain't in
'em," observed Maud, with dignity.

"Do, for mercy sake, stop talking about Polly, I 'm sick to death of
it," cried Fanny, snappishly.

"Hullo!" and Tom sat up to take a survey. "I thought you were bosom
friends, and as spoony as ever."

"Well, I am fond of Polly, but I get tired of hearing Maud sing her
praises everlastingly. Now don't go and repeat that, chatterbox."

"My goodness, is n't she cross?" whispered Maud to Tom.

"As two sticks; let her be. There 's the bell; see who it is, Pug,"
answered Tom, as a tingle broke the silence of the house.

Maud went to peep over the banisters, and came flying back in a rapture.

"It 's Will come for me! Can't I go? It don't snow hard, and I 'll
bundle up, and you can send for me when papa comes."

"I don't care what you do," answered Fan, who was in a very bad temper.

Without waiting for any other permission, Maud rushed away to get ready.
Will would n't come up, he was so snowy, and Fanny was glad, because
with her he was bashful, awkward, and silent, so Tom went down and
entertained him with Maud's report. They were very good friends, but led
entirely different lives, Will being a "dig," and Tom a "bird," or,
in plain English, one was a hard student, and the other a jolly young
gentleman. Tom had rather patronized Will, who did n't like it, and
showed that he did n't by refusing to borrow money of him, or accept
any of his invitations to join the clubs and societies to which Tom
belonged. So Shaw let Milton alone, and he got on very well in his own
way, doggedly sticking to his books, and resisting all temptations
but those of certain libraries, athletic games, and such inexpensive
pleasures as were within his means; for this benighted youth had not yet
discovered that college nowadays is a place in which to "sky-lark," not
to study.

When Maud came down and trotted contentedly away, holding Will's
hand, Tom watched them out of sight, and then strolled about the house
whistling and thinking, till he went to sleep in his father's arm-chair,
for want of something better to do. He awoke to the joys of a solitary
tea, for his mother never came down, and Fanny shut herself and her
headache up in her own room.

"Well, this is cheerful," he said, as the clock struck eight, and his
fourth cigar came to an end. "Trix is mad, and Fan in the dumps, so I
'll take myself off. Guess I 'll go round to Polly's, and ask Will to
drive out with me, and save him the walk, poor chap. Might bring Midget
home, it will please her, and there 's no knowing when the governor will
be back."

With these thoughts in his head, Tom leisurely got under way, and left
his horse at a neighboring stable, for he meant to make a little call,
and see what it was Maud enjoyed so much.

"Polly is holding forth," he said to himself, as he went quietly up
stairs, and the steady murmur of a pleasant voice came down to him. Tom
laughed at Polly's earnest way of talking when she was interested
in anything. But he liked it because it was so different from the
coquettish clatter of most of the girls with whom he talked. Young men
often laugh at the sensible girls whom they secretly respect, and
affect to admire the silly ones whom they secretly despise, because
earnestness, intelligence, and womanly dignity are not the fashion.

The door was ajar, and pausing in the dark entry Tom took a survey
before he went in. The prospect was not dazzling, but home-like and
pleasant. The light of a bright fire filled the little room, and down
on a stool before it was Maud tending Puttel, and watching with deep
interest the roasting of an apple intended for her special benefit. On
the couch lounged Will, his thoughtful eyes fixed on Polly, who, while
she talked, smoothed the broad forehead of her "yellow-haired laddie"
in a way that Tom thought an immense improvement on Maud's performance.
They had evidently been building castles in the air, for Polly was
saying in her most impressive manner, "Well, whatever you do, Will,
don't have a great, costly church that takes so much money to build
and support it that you have nothing to give away. I like the plain,
old-fashioned churches, built for use, not show, where people met for
hearty praying and preaching, and where everybody made their own music
instead of listening to opera singers, as we do now. I don't care if
the old churches were bare and cold, and the seats hard, there was real
piety in them, and the sincerity of it was felt in the lives of the
people. I don't want a religion that I put away with my Sunday clothes,
and don't take out till the day comes round again; I want something to
see and feel and live by day-by-day, and I hope you 'll be one of the
true ministers, who can teach by precept and example, how to get and
keep it."

"I hope I shall be, Polly, but you know they say that in families, if
there is a boy who can't do anything else, they make a minister of him.
I sometimes think I ain't good for much, and that seems to me the reason
why I should n't even try to be a minister," said Will, smiling, yet
looking as if with all his humility he did have faith in the aspirations
that came to him in his best moments.

"Some one said that very thing to father once, and I remember he
answered, 'I am glad to give my best and brightest son to the service of
God.'"

"Did he say that?" and Will's color rose, for the big, book-loving
fellow was as sensitive as a girl to the praise of those dearest to him.

"Yes," said Polly, unconsciously giving the strongest stimulus to her
brother's hope and courage. "Yes, and he added, 'I shall let my boys
follow the guide that is in them, and only ask of them to use their
gifts conscientiously, and be honest, useful men.'"

"So we will! Ned is doing well out West, and I 'm hard at it here. If
father does his best to give us the chance we each want, the least we
can do is to work with a will."

"Whatever you do, you can't help working with a Will," cried Tom, who
had been so interested, that he forgot he was playing eavesdropper.

Polly flew up, looking so pleased and surprised, that Tom reproached
himself for not having called oftener.

"I 've come for Maud," he announced, in a paternal tone, which made that
young lady open her eyes.

"I can't go till my apple is done; besides, it is n't nine yet, and Will
is going to take me along, when he goes. I 'd rather have him."

"I 'm going to take you both in the cutter. The storm is over, but it is
heavy walking, so you 'll drive out with me, old man?" said Tom, with a
nod at Will.

"Of course he will; and thank you very much. I 've been trying to keep
him all night; Miss Mills always manages to find a corner for stray
people, but he insists on going, so as to get to work early to-morrow,"
said Polly, delighted to see that Tom was taking off his coat, as if he
meant to wait for Maud's apple, which Polly blessed for being so slow to
cook.

Putting her guest into the best chair, Polly sat down and beamed at him
with such hospitable satisfaction, that Tom went up several pegs in his
own estimation.

"You don't come very often, so we are rather over-powered when you do
honor us," she said, demurely.

"Well, you, know we fellows are so busy, we have n't much time to enjoy
ourselves," answered Tom.

"Ahem!" said Will, loudly.

"Take a troche," said Tom.

Then they both burst out laughing, and Polly, fully understanding
the joke, joined them, saying, "Here are some peanuts, Tom; do enjoy
yourself while you can."

"Now I call that a delicate compliment!" And Tom, who had not lost his
early relish for this sort of refreshment, though he seldom indulged
his passion nowadays, because peanuts are considered vulgar, fell to
cracking and munching with great satisfaction.

"Do you remember the first visit I made at your house, how you gave
me peanuts, coming from the depot, and frightened me out of my wits,
pretending the coachman was tipsy?" asked Polly.

"Of course I do, and how we coasted one day," answered Tom, laughing.

"Yes, and the velocipede; you 've got the scar of that yet, I see."

"I remember how you stood by me while it was sewed up; that was very
plucky, Polly."

"I was dreadfully afraid, but I remember I wanted to seem very brave,
because you 'd called me a coward."

"Did I? Ought to have been ashamed of myself. I used to rough you
shamefully, Polly, and you were so good-natured, you let me do it."

"Could n't help myself," laughed Polly. "I did use to think you were an
awful boy, but seems to me I rather liked it."

"She had so much of it at home, she got used to it," put in Will,
pulling the little curl behind Polly's ear.

"You boys never teased me as Tom did, that 's the reason it amused me, I
suppose; novelty hath charms, you know."

"Grandma used to lecture Tom for plaguing you, Polly, and he used to say
he 'd be a tip-top boy, but he was n't," observed Maud, with a venerable
air.

"Dear old grandma; she did her best, but I 'm a bad lot," said Tom, with
a shake of the head and a sober face.

"It always seems as if she must be up in her rooms, and I can't get used
to finding them empty," added Polly, softly.

"Father would n't have anything moved, and Tom sits up there sometimes;
it makes him feel good, he says," said Maud, who had a talent for
betraying trifles which people preferred should not be mentioned in
public.

"You 'd better hurry up your apple, for if it is n't done pretty soon,
you 'll have to leave it, Pug," said Tom, looking annoyed.

"How is Fan?" asked Polly, with tact.

"Well, Fan is rather under the weather; says she 's dyspeptic, which
means cross."

"She is cross, but she 's sick too, for I found her crying one day, and
she said nobody cared about her, and she might as well be dead," added
Maud, having turned her apple with tender care.

"We must try to cheer her up, among us. If I was n't so busy I 'd like
to devote myself to her, she has done so much for me," said Polly,
gratefully.

"I wish you could. I can't understand her, for she acts like a
weathercock, and I never know how I 'm going to find her. I hate to have
her mope so, but, upon my life, I don't know what to do," said Tom; but
as he uttered the words, something was suggested by the sight before
him. Chairs were few, and Polly had taken half of Will's when they drew
round the fire. Now she was leaning against him, in a cosy, confiding
way, delightful to behold, while Will's strong arm went round her with
a protecting air, which said, as plainly as any words, that this big
brother and small sister knew how to love and help one another. It was a
pleasant little picture, all the pleasanter for its unconsciousness, and
Tom found it both suggestive and agreeable.

"Poor old Fan, she don't get much petting; maybe that 's what she wants.
I 'll try it and see, for she stands by me like a trump. If she was
a rosy, cosy little woman, like Polly, it would come easier, though,"
thought Tom, as he meditatively ate his last nut, feeling that fraternal
affection could not be very difficult of demonstration, to brothers
blessed with pretty, good-tempered sisters.

"I told Tom about the bad fellow who blew up the professor, and he said
he knew him, slightly; and I was so relieved, because I had a kind of a
feeling that it was Tom himself, you and Will laughed so about it."

Maud had a queer way of going on with her own thoughts, and suddenly
coming out with whatever lay uppermost, regardless of time, place, or
company. As this remark fell from her, there was a general smile, and
Polly said, with mock solemnity, "It was a sad thing, and I 've no doubt
that misguided young man is very sorry for it now."

"He looked perfectly bowed down with remorse last time I saw him," said
Will, regarding Tom with eyes full of fun, for Will was a boy as well as
a bookworm, and relished a joke as well as scatter-brained Tom.

"He always is remorseful after a scrape, I 've understood, for he is n't
a very bad fellow, only his spirits are one too many for him, and he is
n't as fond of his book as another fellow I know."

"I 'm afraid he 'll he expelled if he don't mind," said Polly,
warningly.

"Should n't wonder if he was, he 's such an unlucky dog," answered Tom,
rather soberly.

"I hope he 'll remember that his friends will be very much disappointed
if he is. He might make them so proud and happy; that I guess he will,
for he is n't half as thoughtless as he makes himself out," said Polly,
looking across at Tom with such friendly eyes that he was quite touched,
though of course he did n't show it.

"Thank you, Polly; he may pull through, but I have my doubts. Now old
man, let us 'pud' along; it 's getting late for the chicken," he added,
relapsing into the graceful diction with which a classical education
gifts its fortunate possessor.

Taking advantage of the moment while Will was wrestling with his boots
in the closet, and Maud was absorbed in packing her apple into a large
basket, Polly said to Tom in a low tone, "Thank you very much, for being
so kind to Will."

"Bless your heart, I have n't done anything; he 's such a proud fellow
he won't let me," answered Tom.

"But you do in many little ways; to-night, for example. Do you think
I don't know that the suit of clothes he 's just got would have cost a
good deal more, if your tailor had n't made them? He 's only a boy,
and don't understand things yet; but I know your way of helping proud
people; so that they don't find it out, and I do thank you, Tom, so
much."

"Oh, come, Polly, that won't do. What do you know about tailors and
college matters?" said Tom, looking as much confused as if she had found
him out in something reprehensible.

"I don't know much, and that 's the reason why I 'm grateful for your
kindness to Will. I don't care what stories they tell about you, I 'm
sure, you won't lead him into trouble, but keep him straight, for my
sake. You know I 've lost one brother, and Will takes Jimmy's place to
me now."

The tears in Polly's eyes as she said that made Tom vow a tremendous vow
within himself to stand by Will through thick and thin, and "keep him
straight for Polly's sake"; feeling all the time how ill-fitted he was
for such a task.

"I 'll do my best," he said, heartily, as he pressed the hand Polly gave
him, with a look which assured her that he felt the appeal to his honor,
and that henceforth the country lad was safe from all the temptations
Tom could have offered him.

"There! now I shall give that to mamma to take her pills in; it 's
just what she likes, and it pleases her to be thought of," said Maud,
surveying her gift with complacency, as she put on her things.

"You 're a good little soul, to remember poor mum, said Tom, with an
approving nod.

"Well, she was so pleased with the grapes you brought her, I thought I
'd try something, and maybe she 'd say 'Thank you, darling,' to me too.
Do you think she will?" whispered Maud, with the wistful look so often
seen on her little plain face.

"See if she don't;" and to Maud's great surprise Tom did n't laugh at
her project.

"Good night, dear; take care of yourself, and keep your muffler round
your mouth going over the bridge, or you 'll be as hoarse as a crow
to-morrow," said Polly, as she kissed her brother, who returned it
without looking as if he thought it "girl's nonsense" Then the three
piled into the sleigh and drove off, leave Polly nodding on the
doorstep.

Maud found the drive altogether too short, but was consoled by the
promise of a longer one if the sleighing lasted till next Saturday: and
when Tom ran up to bid his mother good-by, and give her a hint about
Maud's gift, she stayed below to say, at the last minute, in unconscious
imitation of Polly.

"Good night; take care of yourself, my dear."

Tom laughed, and was about to pinch the much enduring little nose; but,
as if the words reminded him of something, he gave her a kiss instead, a
piece of forbearance which almost took Maud's breath away with surprise
and gratification.

It was rather a silent drive, for Will obediently kept his muffler up,
and Tom fell into a brown study.

He was not much given to reflection, but occasionally indulged when
something gave him a turn in that direction, and at such times he was as
sober and sincere as could be desired. Any one might have lectured him
for an hour without doing as much good as that little call and the chat
that grew out of it, for, though nothing very wise or witty was
said, many things were suggested, and every one knows that persuasive
influences are better than any amount of moralizing. Neither Polly nor
Will tried to do anything of the sort, and that was the charm of it.
Nobody likes to be talked to, but nobody can resist the eloquence of
unconscious preaching. With all his thoughtlessness, Tom was quick to
see and feel these things, and was not spoilt enough yet to laugh at
them. The sight of Will and Polly's simple affection for one another
reminded him of a neglected duty so pleasantly, that he could not forget
it. Talking of early days made him wish he could go back and start
again, doing better. Grandma's name recalled the tender memory that
always did him good, and the thought that Polly trusted her dearest
brother to his care stirred up a manful desire to deserve the
confidence. Tortures would n't have drawn a word of all this from him,
but it had its effect, for boys don't leave their hearts and consciences
behind them when they enter college, and little things of this sort do
much to keep both from being damaged by the four years' scrimmage which
begins the battle of life for most of them.



CHAPTER XI. NEEDLES AND TONGUES


DEAR POLLY, The Sewing Circle meets at our house this P. M. This is in
your line, so do come and help me through. I shall depend on you.

Yours ever, FAN.

"Bad news, my dear?" asked Miss Mills, who had just handed the note to
Polly as she came in one noon, a few weeks after Jenny's arrival.

Polly told her what it was, adding, "I suppose I ought to go and help
Fanny, but I can't say I want to. The girls talk about things I have
nothing to do with, and I don't find their gossip very amusing. I 'm an
outsider, and they only accept me on Fan's account; so I sit in a corner
and sew, while they chatter and laugh."

"Would n't it be a good chance to say a word for Jenny? She wants work,
and these young ladies probably have quantities done somewhere. Jenny
does fine work exquisitely, and begins to feel anxious to be earning
something. I don't want her to feel dependent and unhappy, and a little
well-paid sewing would be all she needs to do nicely. I can get it for
her by running round to my friends, but I really have n't the time, till
I get the Mullers off. They are paupers here, but out West they can take
care of themselves, so I 've begged the money to send them, and as soon
as I can get them some clothes, off they go. That 's the way to help
people help themselves," and Miss Mills clashed her big scissors
energetically, as she cut out a little red flannel shirt.

"I know it is, and I want to help, but I don't know where to begin,"
said Polly, feeling quite oppressed with the immensity of the work.

"We can't any of us do all we would like, but we can do our best for
every case that comes to us, and that helps amazingly. Begin with Jenny,
my dear; tell those girls about her, and if I 'm not much mistaken, you
will find them ready to help, for half the time it is n't hardness of
heart, but ignorance or thoughtlessness on the part of the rich, that
makes them seem so careless of the poor."

"To tell the truth, I 'm afraid of being laughed at, if I try to talk
seriously about such things to the girls," said Polly, frankly.

"You believe that 'such things' are true? You are sincere in your wish
to help better them, and you respect those who work for that end?"

"Yes, I do."

"Then, my dear, can't you bear a little ridicule for the sake of a good
cause? You said yesterday that you were going to make it a principle of
your life, to help up your sex as far and as fast as you could. It did
my heart good to hear you say it, for I was sure that in time you would
keep your word. But, Polly, a principle that can't bear being laughed
at, frowned on, and cold-shouldered, is n't worthy of the name."

"I want to be strong-minded in the real sense of the word, but I don't
like to be called so by people who don't understand my meaning; and
I shall be if I try to make the girls think soberly about anything
sensible or philanthropic. They call me old-fashioned now, and I 'd
rather be thought that, though it is n't pleasant, than be set down as
a rampant woman's rights reformer," said Polly, in whose memory many
laughs, and snubs, and sarcasms still lingered, forgiven but not
forgotten.

"This love and thought and care for those weaker, poorer, or worse than
ourselves, which we call Christian charity, is a very old fashion, my
dear. It began eighteen hundred years ago, and only those who honestly
follow the beautiful example set us then, learn how to get genuine
happiness out of life. I 'm not a 'rampant woman's rights reformer,'"
added Miss Mills, with a smile at Polly's sober face; "but I think that
women can do a great deal for each other, if they will only stop fearing
what 'people will think,' and take a hearty interest in whatever is
going to fit their sisters and themselves to deserve and enjoy the
rights God gave them. There are so many ways in which this can be done,
that I wonder they don't see and improve them. I don't ask you to go and
make speeches, only a few have the gift for that, but I do want every
girl and woman to feel this duty, and make any little sacrifice of time
or feeling that may be asked of them, because there is so much to do,
and no one can do it as well as ourselves, if we only think so."

"I 'll try!" said Polly, influenced more by her desire to keep Miss
Mills' good opinion than any love of self-sacrifice for her sex. It was
rather a hard thing to ask of a shy, sensitive girl, and the kind old
lady knew it, for in spite of the gray hair and withered face, her heart
was very young, and her own girlish trials not forgotten. But she
knew also that Polly had more influence over others than she herself
suspected, simply because of her candid, upright nature; and that while
she tried to help others, she was serving herself in a way that would
improve heart and soul more than any mere social success she might gain
by following the rules of fashionable life, which drill the character
out of girls till they are as much alike as pins in a paper, and have
about as much true sense and sentiment in their little heads. There was
good stuff in Polly, unspoiled as yet, and Miss Mills was only acting
out her principle of women helping each other. The wise old lady saw
that Polly had reached that point where the girl suddenly blooms into
a woman, asking something more substantial than pleasure to satisfy the
new aspirations that are born; a time as precious and important to the
after-life, as the hour when the apple blossoms fall, and the young
fruit waits for the elements to ripen or destroy the harvest.

Polly did not know this, and was fortunate in possessing a friend who
knew what influences would serve her best, and who could give her what
all women should desire to give each other, the example of a sweet, good
life, more eloquent and powerful than any words; for this is a right no
one can deny us.

Polly turned the matter over in her mind as she dressed, while Jenny
played waiting maid, little dreaming what this new friend was meaning to
do for her, if she dared.

"Is it going to be a tea-party, Miss?" asked Jenny, as the black silk
went rustling on, to her great admiration, for she considered Polly a
beauty.

"Well, no, I think it will probably be a lecture," answered Polly,
laughing, for Jenny's grateful service and affectionate eyes confirmed
the purpose which Miss Mills' little homily had suggested.

As she entered the Shaws' parlor an hour or two later, an appalling
array of well-dressed girls appeared, each provided with a dainty
reticule, basket, or bag, and each tongue going a good deal faster than
the needle, while the white fingers stitched sleeves in upside down, put
flannel jackets together hind part before, or gobbled button-holes with
the best intentions in life.

"You are a dear to come so early. Here 's a nice place for you between
Belle and Miss Perkins, and here 's a sweet little dress to make, unless
you like something else better," said Fanny, receiving her friend with
warmth and placing her where she thought she would enjoy herself.

"Thank you, I 'll take an unbleached cotton shirt if you have such a
thing, for it is likely to be needed before a cambric frock," replied
Polly, subsiding into her corner as quickly as possible, for at least six
eye-glasses were up, and she did n't enjoy being stared at.

Miss Perkins, a grave, cold-looking young lady, with an aristocratic
nose, bowed politely, and then went on with her work, which displayed
two diamond rings to great advantage. Belle, being of the demonstrative
sort, smiled and nodded, drew up her chair, and began a whispered
account of Trix's last quarrel with Tom. Polly listened with interest
while she sewed diligently, occasionally permitting her eyes to study
the elegant intricacies of Miss Perkins' dress, for that young lady sat
like a statue, quirking her delicate fingers, and accomplishing about
two stitches a minute.

In the midst of Belle's story, a more exciting bit of gossip caught her
ear, and she plunged into the conversation going on across the table,
leaving Polly free to listen and admire the wit, wisdom, and charitable
spirit of the accomplished young ladies about her. There was a perfect
Babel of tongues, but out of the confusion Polly gathered scraps of
fashionable intelligence which somewhat lessened her respect for the
dwellers in high places. One fair creature asserted that Joe Somebody
took so much champagne at the last German, that he had to be got away,
and sent home with two servants. Another divulged the awful fact that
Carrie P.'s wedding presents were half of them hired for the occasion.
A third circulated a whisper to the effect that though Mrs. Buckminster
wore a thousand-dollar cloak, her boys were not allowed but one sheet to
their beds. And a fourth young gossip assured the company that a certain
person never had offered himself to a certain other person, though
the report was industriously spread by interested parties. This latter
remark caused such a clamor that Fanny called the meeting to order in a
most unparliamentary fashion.

"Girls! girls! you really must talk less and sew more, or our society
will be disgraced. Do you know our branch sent in less work than any of
the others last month, and Mrs. Fitz George said, she did n't see how
fifteen young ladies could manage to do so little?"

"We don't talk a bit more than the old ladies do. I just wish you could
have heard them go on, last time. The way they get so much done, is,
they take work home, and make their seamstresses do it, and then they
take credit for vast industry," said Belle, who always spoke her mind
with charming candor.

"That reminds me that mamma says they want as many things as we can
make, for it 's a hard winter, and the poor are suffering very much. Do
any of you wish to take articles home, to do at odd times?" said Fan,
who was president of this energetic Dorcas Society.

"Mercy, no! It takes all my leisure time to mend my gloves and refresh
my dresses," answered Belle.

"I think if we meet once a week, it is all that should be expected of
us, with our other engagements. Poor people always complain that the
winter is a hard one, and never are satisfied," remarked Miss Perkins,
making her diamonds sparkle as she sewed buttons on the wrong side of a
pink calico apron, which would hardly survive one washing.

"Nobody can ask me to do any more, if they remember all I 've got to
attend to before summer," said Trix, with an important air. "I 've got
three women hard at work, and want another, but everyone is so busy, and
ask such abominable prices, that I 'm in despair, and shall have to take
hold myself, I 'm afraid."

"There 's a chance for Jane," thought Polly, but had n't courage "to
speak out loud in meeting," just then, and resolved to ask Trix for
work, in private.

"Prices are high, but you forget how much more it costs to live now than
it used to do. Mamma never allows us to beat down workwomen, but wishes
us to pay them well, and economize in some other way, if we must," said
Emma Davenport, a quiet, bright-eyed girl, who was called "odd" among
the young ladies, because she dressed simply, when her father was a
millionaire.

"Just hear that girl talk about economy! I beg your pardon, she 's some
relation of yours, I believe!" said Belle, in a low tone.

"Very distant; but I 'm proud of it; for with her, economy does n't mean
scrimping in one place to make a show in another. If every one would
follow the Davenports' example, workwomen would n't starve, or servants
be such a trouble. Emma is the plainest dressed girl in the room, next
to me, yet any one can see she is a true gentlewoman," said Polly,
warmly.

"And you are another," answered Belle, who had always loved Polly, in
her scatter-brained way.

"Hush! Trix has the floor."

"If they spent their wages properly, I should n't mind so much, but they
think they must be as fine as anybody, and dress so well that it is hard
to tell mistress from maid. Why our cook got a bonnet just like mine
(the materials were cheaper, but the effect was the same), and had the
impertinence to wear it before my face. I forbid it, and she left, of
course, which made papa so cross he would n't give me the camel's hair
shawl he promised this year."

"It 's perfectly shameful!" said Miss Perkins, as Trix paused out of
breath. "Servants ought to be made to dress like servants, as they do
abroad; then we should have no more trouble," observed Miss Perkins, who
had just made the grand tour, and had brought home a French maid.

"Perky don't practise as she preaches," whispered Belle to Polly, as
Miss P. became absorbed in the chat of her other neighbors. "She pays
her chamber girl with old finery; and the other day, when Betsey was out
parading in her missis's cast-off purple plush suit, Mr. Curtis thought
she was mademoiselle, and bowed to her. He is as blind as a bat, but
recognized the dress, and pulled off his hat to it in the most elegant
style. Perky adores him, and was mad enough to beat Betsey when she told
the story and giggled over it. Betsey is quite as stylish and ever so
much prettier than Perky, and she knows it, which is an aggravation."

Polly could n't help laughing, but grew sober a minute after, as Trix
said, pettishly, "Well, I 'm sick of hearing about beggars; I believe
half of them are humbugs, and if we let them alone they 'd go to work
and take care of themselves. There 's altogether too much fuss made
about charity. I do wish we could be left in peace."

"There can't be too much charity!" burst out Polly, forgetting her
shyness all at once.

"Oh, indeed! Well, I take the liberty to differ from you," returned
Trix, putting up her glass, and bestowing upon Polly her most
"toploftical stare," as the girls called it.

I regret to say that Polly never could talk with or be near Trix without
feeling irritated and combative. She tried to conquer this feeling, but
she could n't, and when Trix put on airs, Polly felt an intense desire
to box her ears. That eye-glass was her especial aversion, for Trix was
no more near-sighted than herself, but pretended to be because it was
the fashion, and at times used the innocent glass as a weapon with which
to put down any one who presumed to set themselves up. The supercilious
glance which accompanied her ironically polite speech roused Polly,
who answered with sudden color and the kindling of the eyes that always
betrayed a perturbed spirit, "I don't think many of us would enjoy that
selfish sort of peace, while little children starve, and girls no older
than us kill themselves because their dreadful poverty leaves them no
choice but sin or death."

A sudden lull took place, for, though Polly, did not raise her voice, it
was full of indignant emotion, and the most frivolous girl there felt
a little thrill of sympathy; for the most utterly fashionable life does
not kill the heart out of women, till years of selfish pleasure have
passed over their heads. Trix was ashamed of herself; but she felt the
same antagonism toward Polly, that Polly did toward her; and, being less
generous, took satisfaction in plaguing her. Polly did not know that the
secret of this was the fact that Tom often held her up as a model for
his fiance to follow, which caused that young lady to dislike her more
than ever.

"Half the awful stories in the papers are made up for a sensation, and
it 's absurd to believe them, unless one likes to be harrowed up. I
don't; and as for peace, I 'm not likely to get much, while I have Tom
to look after," said Trix, with an aggravating laugh.

Polly's needle snapped in two, but she did not mind it, as she said,
with a look that silenced even sharp-tongued Trix, "I can't help
believing what my own eyes and ears have seen and heard. You lead such
safe and happy lives, you can't imagine the misery that is all round
you; but if you could get a glimpse of it, it would make your hearts
ache, as it has mine."

"Do you suffer from heartache? Some one hinted as much to me, but you
looked so well, I could n't believe it."

Now that was cruel in Trix, more cruel than any one guessed; but girls'
tongues can deal wounds as sharp and sudden as the slender stiletto
Spanish women wear in their hair, and Polly turned pale, as those words
stabbed her. Belle saw it, and rushed to the rescue with more good-will
than wisdom.

"Nobody ever accused you of having any heart to ache with. Polly and
I are not old enough yet to get tough and cool, and we are still silly
enough to pity unhappy people, Tom Shaw especially," added Belle, under
her breath.

That was a two-edged thrust, for Trix was decidedly an old girl, and Tom
was generally regarded as a hapless victim. Trix turned red; but before
she could load and fire again, Emma Davenport, who labored under the
delusion that this sort of skirmishing was ill-natured, and therefore
ill-bred, spoke up in her pleasant way, "Speaking of pitying the poor,
I always wonder why it is that we all like to read and cry over their
troubles in books, but when we have the real thing before us, we think
it is uninteresting and disagreeable."

"It 's the genius that gets into the books, which makes us like the
poverty, I fancy. But I don't quite agree that the real thing is n't
interesting. I think it would be, if we knew how to look at and feel
it," said Polly, very quietly, as she pushed her chair out of the arctic
circle of Miss Perkins, into the temperate one of friendly Emma.

"But how shall we learn that? I don't see what we girls can do, more
than we do now. We have n't much money for such things, should n't know
how to use it if we had; and it is n't proper for us to go poking into
dirty places, to hunt up the needy. 'Going about doing good, in pony
phaetons,' as somebody says, may succeed in England, but it won't work
here," said Fanny, who had begun, lately, to think a good deal of some
one beside herself, and so found her interest in her fellow-beings
increasing daily.

"We can't do much, perhaps, just yet; but still there are things left
undone that naturally fall to us. I know a house," said Polly, sewing
busily as she talked, "where every servant who enters it becomes an
object of interest to the mistress and her daughters. These women are
taught good habits, books are put where they can get them, sensible
amusements are planned for them sometimes, and they soon feel that they
are not considered mere scrubs, to do as much work as possible, for as
little money as possible, but helpers in the family, who are loved and
respected in proportion to their faithfulness. This lady feels her duty
to them, owns it, and does it, as conscientiously as she wants them to
do theirs by her; and that is the way it ought to be, I think."

As Polly paused, several keen eyes discovered that Emma's cheeks were
very red, and saw a smile lurking in the corners of the mouth that tried
to look demure, which told them who Polly meant.

"Do the Biddies all turn out saints in that well regulated family?"
asked the irrepressible Trix.

"No; few of us do that, even in the parlor; but every one of the Biddies
is better for being there, whether they are grateful or not. I ought not
to have mentioned this, perhaps, but I wanted to show you one thing that
we girls can do. We all complain about bad servants, most as much as if
we were house-keepers ourselves; but it never occurs to us to try and
mend the matter, by getting up a better spirit between mistress and
maid. Then there 's another thing we can do," added Polly, warming up.
"Most of us find money enough for our little vanities and pleasures, but
feel dreadfully poor when we come to pay for work, sewing especially.
Could n't we give up a few of the vanities, and pay the seamstresses
better?"

"I declare I will!" cried Belle, whose conscience suddenly woke, and
smote her for beating down the woman who did her plain sewing, in order
that she might have an extra flounce on a new dress. "Belle has got a
virtuous fit; pity it won't last a week," said Trix.

"Wait and see," retorted Belle, resolving that it should last, just
to disappoint "that spiteful minx;" as she sweetly called her old
school-mate.

"Now we shall behold Belle galloping away at a great pace, on her new
hobby. I should n't be surprised to hear of her preaching in the jail,
adopting a nice dirty little orphan, or passing round tracts at a
Woman's Rights meeting," said Trix, who never could forgive Belle for
having a lovely complexion, and so much hair of her own that she never
patronized either rats, mice, waterfalls, switches, or puff-combs.

"Well, I might do worse; and I think, of the two, I 'd rather amuse
myself so, than as some young ladies do, who get into the papers for
their pranks," returned Belle, with a moral air.

"Suppose we have a little recess, and rest while Polly plays to us. Will
you, Polly? It will do us good; they all want to hear you, and begged I
'd ask."

"Then I will, with pleasure"; and Polly went to the piano with such
obliging readiness, that several reproachful glances fell upon Trix, who
did n't need her glass to see them.

Polly was never too sad, perturbed, or lazy to sing, for it was almost
as easy to her as breathing, and seemed the most natural outlet for her
emotions. For a minute her hands wandered over the keys, as if uncertain
what to play; then, falling into a sad, sweet strain, she sang "The
Bridge of Sighs." Polly did n't know why she chose it, but the instinct
seemed to have been a true one, for, old as the song was, it went
straight to the hearts of the hearers, and Polly sung it better than
she ever had before, for now the memory of little Jane lent it a tender
pathos which no art could give. It did them all good, for music is a
beautiful magician, and few can resist its power. The girls were touched
by the appeal; Polly was lifted out of herself, and when she turned
round, the softened look on all the faces told her that for the moment
foolish differences and frivolous beliefs were forgotten in the
one womanly sentiment of pity for the wrongs and woes of which the
listeners' happy lives were ignorant.

"That song always makes me cry, and feel as if I had no right to be so
comfortable," said Belle, openly wiping her eyes on a crash towel.

"Fortunately such cases are very rare," said another young lady, who
seldom read the newspapers.

"I wish they were, but I 'm afraid they are not; for only three weeks
ago, I saw a girl younger than any of us, and no worse, who tried to
destroy herself simply because she was so discouraged, sick, and poor,"
said Polly.

"Do tell about her," cried Belle, eagerly.

Feeling that the song had paved the way for the story, and given her
courage to tell it, Polly did tell it, and must have done it well, for
the girls stopped work to listen, and when she ended, other eyes beside
warm-hearted Belle's were wet. Trix looked quite subdued; Miss Perkins
thawed to such a degree, that something glittered on her hand as she
bent over the pink pinafore again, better and brighter than her biggest
diamond; Emma got up and went to Polly with a face full of affectionate
respect, while Fanny, moved by a sudden impulse, caught up a costly
Sevres plate that stood on the etagere, and laying a five-dollar bill in
it, passed it round, quoting Polly's words, "Girls, I know you 'll like
to help poor little Jenny 'begin again, and do better this time.'"

It was good to see how quickly the pretty purses were out, how
generously each gave of its abundance, and what hearty applause broke
from the girls, as Belle laid down her gold thimble, saying with an
April face, "There, take that; I never have any money, somehow it won't
stay with me, but I can't let the plate pass me this time."

When Fanny brought the contributions to Polly, she just gathered it up
in her two hands with such a glad, grateful face, the girls wished they
had had more to give.

"I can't thank you enough," she said, with an eloquent little choke in
her voice. "This will help Jenny very much; but the way in which it was
done will do her more good than double the money, because it will prove
to her that she is n't without friends, and make her feel that there is
a place in the world for her. Let her work for you in return for this;
she don't ask alms, she only wants employment and a little kindness, and
the best charity we can bestow is to see that she has both."

"I 'll give her as much sewing as she wants, and she can stay at our
house while she does it, if she needs a home," said Trix, in a spasm of
benevolence.

"She does n't need a home, thank you; Miss Mills has given half of hers,
and considers Jane her child," answered Polly, with proud satisfaction
in the fact.

"What an old dear!" cried Belle.

"I want to know her. May I?" whispered Emma.

"Oh, yes; I 'm glad to make her known to any one. She is a quiet little
old lady, but she does one heaps of good, and shows you how to be
charitable in the wisest way."

"Do tell us about it. I 'm sure I want to do my duty, but it 's such a
muddle, I don't know how," said Belle.

Then, quite naturally, the conversation fell upon the great work that
none should be too busy to think of, and which few are too young or
too poor to help on with their mite. The faces grew more earnest, the
fingers flew faster, as the quick young hearts and brains took in the
new facts, ideas, and plans that grew out of the true stories, the
sensible hints, the successful efforts which Polly told them, fresh from
the lips of Miss Mills; for, of late, Polly had talked much with the
good lady, and learned quickly the lessons her unselfish life conveyed.
The girls found this more interesting than gossip, partly owing to its
novelty, doubtless; but the enthusiasm was sincere while it lasted, and
did them good. Many of them forgot all about it in a week, but Polly's
effort was not lost, for Emma, Belle, and Fanny remained firm friends
to Jane, so kindly helping her that the poor child felt as if she had
indeed been born again, into a new and happy world.

Not till long afterward did Polly see how much good this little effort
had done her, for the first small sacrifice of this sort leads the way
to others, and a single hand's turn given heartily to the world's great
work helps one amazingly with one's own small tasks. Polly found this
out as her life slowly grew easier and brighter, and the beautiful law
of compensation gave her better purposes and pleasures than any she had
lost. The parents of some of her pupils were persons of real refinement,
and such are always quick to perceive the marks of culture in others, no
matter where they find them. These, attracted first by Polly's cheerful
face, modest manners, and faithful work, soon found in her something
more than a good teacher; they found a real talent for music, an eager
desire for helpful opportunities, and a heart grateful for the kindly
sympathy that makes rough places smooth. Fortunately those who have the
skill to detect these traits also possess the spirit to appreciate and
often the power to serve and develop them. In ways so delicate that the
most sensitive pride could not resent the favor, these true gentlefolk
showed Polly their respect and regard, put many pleasures in her way,
and when they paid her for her work, gave her also the hearty thanks
that takes away all sense of degradation even from the humblest service,
for money so earned and paid sweetens the daily bread it buys, and makes
the mutual obligation a mutual benefit and pleasure.

A few such patrons did much for Polly, and the music she gave them had
an undertone of gratitude that left blithe echoes in those great houses,
which money could not buy.

Then, as her butterfly acquaintances deserted her, she found her way
into a hive of friendly bees, who welcomed her, and showed her how to
find the honey that keeps life sweet and wholesome. Through Miss Mills,
who was the counsellor and comforter of several, Polly came to know
a little sisterhood of busy, happy, independent girls, who each had a
purpose to execute, a talent to develop, an ambition to achieve, and
brought to the work patience and perseverance, hope and courage. Here
Polly found her place at once, for in this little world love and liberty
prevailed; talent, energy, and character took the first rank; money,
fashion, and position were literally nowhere; for here, as in the big
world outside, genius seemed to blossom best when poverty was head
gardener. Young teachers, doing much work for little pay; young artists,
trying to pencil, paint, or carve their way to Rome; young writers,
burning to distinguish themselves; young singers, dreaming of
triumphs, great as those of Jenny Lind; and some who tried to conquer
independence, armed only with a needle, like poor Jane. All these helped
Polly as unconsciously as she helped them, for purpose and principle are
the best teachers we can have, and the want of them makes half the women
of America what they are, restless, aimless, frivolous, and sick.

To outsiders that was a very hard-working and uneventful winter to
Polly. She thought so herself; but as spring came on, the seed of new
virtues, planted in the winter time, and ripened by the sunshine of
endeavor, began to bud in Polly's nature, betraying their presence to
others by the added strength and sweetness of her character, long before
she herself discovered these May flowers that had blossomed for her
underneath the snow.



CHAPTER XII. FORBIDDEN FRUIT


"I 'M perfectly aching for some fun," said Polly to herself as she
opened her window one morning and the sunshine and frosty air set her
blood dancing and her eyes sparkling with youth, health, and overflowing
spirits. "I really must break out somewhere and have a good time. It 's
quite impossible to keep steady any longer. Now what will I do?" Polly
sprinkled crumbs to the doves, who came daily to be fed, and while she
watched the gleaming necks and rosy feet, she racked her brain to devise
some unusually delightful way of enjoying herself, for she really had
bottled up her spirits so long, they were in a state of uncontrollable
effervescence.

"I 'll go to the opera," she suddenly announced to the doves. "It 's
expensive, I know, but it 's remarkably good, and music is such a treat
to me. Yes, I 'll get two tickets as cheap as I can, send a note to
Will, poor lad, he needs fun as much as I do, and we 'll go and have a
nice time in some corner, as Charles Lamb and his sister used to."

With that Polly slammed down the window, to the dismay of her gentle
little pensioners, and began to fly about with great energy, singing and
talking to herself as if it was impossible to keep quiet. She started
early to her first lesson that she might have time to buy the tickets,
hoping, as she put a five-dollar bill into her purse, that they would
n't be very high, for she felt that she was not in a mood to resist
temptation. But she was spared any struggle, for when she reached the
place, the ticket office was blocked up by eager purchasers and the
disappointed faces that turned away told Polly there was no hope for
her.

"Well, I don't care, I 'll go somewhere, for I will have my fun," she
said with great determination, for disappointment only seemed to whet
her appetite. But the playbills showed her nothing inviting and she was
forced to go away to her work with the money burning her pocket and all
manner of wild schemes floating in her head. At noon, instead of going
home to dinner, she went and took an ice, trying to feet very gay and
festive all by herself. It was rather a failure, however, and after a
tour of the picture shops she went to give Maud a lesson, feeling that
it was very hard to quench her longings, and subside into a prim little
music teacher.

Fortunately she did not have to do violence to her feelings very long,
for the first thing Fanny said to her was: "Can you go?"

"Where?"

"Did n't you get my note?"

"I did n't go home to dinner."

"Tom wants us to go to the opera to-night and" Fan got no further, for
Polly uttered a cry of rapture and clasped her hands.

"Go? Of course I will. I 've been dying to go all day, tried to get
tickets this morning and could n't, been fuming about it ever since, and
now oh, how splendid!" And Polly could not restrain an ecstatic skip,
for this burst of joy rather upset her.

"Well, you come to tea, and we 'll dress together, and go all
comfortable with Tom, who is in a heavenly frame of mind to-day."

"I must run home and get my things," said Polly, resolving on the spot
to buy the nicest pair of gloves the city afforded.

"You shall have my white cloak and any other little rigging you want.
Tommy likes to have his ladies a credit to him, you know," said Fanny,
departing to take a beauty sleep.

Polly instantly decided that she would n't borrow Becky's best bonnet,
as she at first intended, but get a new one, for in her present excited
state, no extravagance seemed too prodigal in honor of this grand
occasion. I am afraid that Maud's lesson was not as thorough as it
should have been, for Polly's head was such a chaos of bonnets, gloves,
opera-cloaks and fans, that Maud blundered through, murdering time and
tune at her own sweet will. The instant it was over Polly rushed away
and bought not only the kids but a bonnet frame, a bit of illusion, and
a pink crape rose, which had tempted her for weeks in a certain
shop window, then home and to work with all the skill and speed of a
distracted milliner.

"I 'm rushing madly into expense, I 'm afraid, but the fit is on me
and I 'll eat bread and water for a week to make up for it. I must look
nice, for Tom seldom takes me and ought to be gratified when he does.
I want to do like other girls, just for once, and enjoy myself without
thinking about right and wrong. Now a bit of pink ribbon to tie it with,
and I shall be done in time to do up my best collar," she said, turning
her boxes topsy-turvy for the necessary ribbon in that delightful flurry
which young ladies feel on such occasions.

It is my private opinion that the little shifts and struggles we poor
girls have to undergo beforehand give a peculiar relish to our fun when
we get it. This fact will account for the rapturous mood in which Polly
found herself when, after making her bonnet, washing and ironing her
best set, blacking her boots and mending her fan, she at last, like
Consuelo, "put on a little dress of black silk" and, with the smaller
adornments pinned up in a paper, started for the Shaws', finding it
difficult to walk decorously when her heart was dancing in her bosom.

Maud happened to be playing a redowa up in the parlor, and Polly came
prancing into the room so evidently spoiling for a dance that Tom, who
was there, found it impossible to resist catching her about the waist,
and putting her through the most intricate evolutions till Maud's
fingers gave out.

"That was splendid! Oh, Tom, thank you so much for asking me to-night.
I feel just like having a regular good time," cried Polly, when she
stopped, with her hat hanging round her neck and her hair looking as if
she had been out in a high wind.

"Glad of it. I felt so myself and thought we 'd have a jolly little
party all in the family," said Tom, looking much gratified at her
delight.

"Is Trix sick?" asked Polly.

"Gone to New York for a week."

"Ah, when the cat's away the mice will play."

"Exactly. Come and have another turn."

Before they could start, however, the awful spectacle of a little dog
trotting out of the room with a paper parcel in his mouth, made Polly
clasp her hands with the despairing cry: "My bonnet! Oh, my bonnet!"

"Where? what? which?" And Tom looked about him, bewildered.

"Snip's got it. Save it! save it!"

"I will!" And Tom gave chase with more vigor than discretion.

Snip, evidently regarding it as a game got up for his special benefit,
enjoyed the race immensely and scampered all over the house, shaking the
precious parcel like a rat while his master ran and whistled, commanded
and coaxed, in vain. Polly followed, consumed with anxiety, and Maud
laughed till Mrs. Shaw sent down to know who was in hysterics. A
piteous yelp from the lower regions at last announced that the thief was
captured, and Tom appeared bearing Snip by the nape of the neck in one
hand and Polly's cherished bonnet in the other.

"The little scamp was just going to worry it when I grabbed him. I 'm
afraid he has eaten one of your gloves. I can't find it, and this one
is pretty well chewed up," said Tom, bereaving Snip of the torn kid, to
which he still pertinaciously clung.

"Serves me right," said Polly with a groan. "I 'd no business to get
a new pair, but I wanted to be extra gorgeous to-night, and this is my
punishment for such mad extravagance."

"Was there anything else?" asked Tom.

"Only my best cuffs and collar. You 'll probably find them in the
coal-bin," said Polly, with the calmness of despair.

"I saw some little white things on the dining-room floor as I raced
through. Go get them, Maud, and we 'll repair damages," said Tom,
shutting the culprit into the boot closet, where he placidly rolled
himself up and went to sleep.

"They ain't hurt a bit," proclaimed Maud, restoring the lost treasures.

"Neither is my bonnet, for which I 'm deeply grateful," said Polly, who
had been examining it with a solicitude which made Tom's eyes twinkle.

"So am I, for it strikes me that is an uncommonly 'nobby' little
affair," he said approvingly. Tom had a weakness for pale pink roses,
and perhaps Polly knew it.

"I 'm afraid it 's too gay," said Polly, with a dubious look.

"Not a bit. Sort of bridal, you know. Must be becoming. Put it on and
let 's see."

"I would n't for the world, with my hair all tumbling down. Don't look
at me till I 'm respectable, and don't tell any one how I 've been
acting. I think I must be a little crazy to-night," said Polly,
gathering up her rescued finery and preparing to go and find Fan.

"Lunacy is mighty becoming, Polly. Try it again," answered Tom,
watching her as she went laughing away, looking all the prettier for
her dishevelment. "Dress that girl up, and she 'd be a raving, tearing
beauty," added Tom to Maud in a lower tone as he look her into the
parlor under his arm.

Polly heard it and instantly resolved to be as "raving and as tearing"
as her means would allow, "just for one night," she said as she peeped
over the banisters, glad to see that the dance and the race had taken
the "band-boxy" air out of Tom's elegant array.

I deeply regret being obliged to shock the eyes and ears of such of my
readers as have a prejudice in favor of pure English by expressions like
the above, but, having rashly undertaken to write a little story about
Young America, for Young America, I feel bound to depict my honored
patrons as faithfully as my limited powers permit. Otherwise, I must
expect the crushing criticism, "Well, I dare say it 's all very prim and
proper, but it is n't a bit like us," and never hope to arrive at
the distinction of finding the covers of "An Old-Fashioned Girl" the
dirtiest in the library.

The friends had a social "cup o' tea" upstairs, which Polly considered
the height of luxury, and then each took a mirror and proceeded to prink
to her heart's content. The earnestness with which Polly made her toilet
that night was delightful to behold. Feeling in a daring mood, she
released her pretty hair from the braids in which she usually wore
it and permitted the curls to display themselves in all their brown
abundance, especially several dangerous little ones about the temples
and forehead. The putting on of the rescued collar and cuffs was a task
which absorbed her whole mind. So was the settling of a minute bit of
court-plaster just to the left of the dimple in her chin, an unusual
piece of coquetry in which Polly would not have indulged, if an almost
invisible scratch had not given her an excuse for doing it. The white,
down-trimmed cloak, with certain imposing ornaments on the hood,
was assumed with becoming gravity and draped with much advancing and
retreating before the glass, as its wearer practised the true Boston
gait, elbows back, shoulders forward, a bend and a slide, occasionally
varied by a slight skip. But when that bonnet went on, Polly actually
held her breath till it was safely landed and the pink rose bloomed
above the smooth waves of hair with what Fanny called "a ravishing
effect." At this successful stage of affairs Polly found it impossible
to resist the loan of a pair of gold bands for the wrists and Fanny's
white fan with the little mirror in the middle.

"I can put them in my pocket if I feel too much dressed," said Polly
as she snapped on the bracelets, but after a wave or two of the fan she
felt that it would be impossible to take them off till the evening was
over, so enticing was their glitter.

Fanny also lent her a pair of three-button gloves, which completed her
content, and when Tom greeted her with an approving, "Here 's a sight
for gods and men! Why, Polly, you 're gorgeous!" she felt that her "fun"
had decidedly begun.

"Would n't Polly make a lovely bride?" said Maud, who was revolving
about the two girls, trying to decide whether she would have a blue or a
white cloak when she grew up and went to operas.

"Faith, and she would! Allow me to congratulate you, Mrs. Sydney,"
added Tom, advancing with his wedding-reception bow and a wicked look at
Fanny.

"Go away! How dare you?" cried Polly, growing much redder than her rose.

"If we are going to the opera to-night, perhaps we 'd better start,
as the carriage has been waiting some time," observed Fan coolly, and
sailed out of the room in an unusually lofty manner.

"Don't you like it, Polly?" whispered Tom, as they went down stairs
together.

"Very much."

"The deuce you do!"

"I 'm so fond of music, how can I help it?

"I 'm talking about Syd."

"Well, I 'm not."

"You 'd better try for him."

"I 'll think of it."

"Oh, Polly, Polly, what are you coming to?"

"A tumble into the street, apparently," answered Polly as she slipped a
little on the step, and Tom stopped in the middle of his laugh to pilot
her safely into the carriage, where Fanny was already seated.

"Here 's richness!" said Polly to herself as she rolled away, feeling
as Cinderella probably did when the pumpkin-coach bore her to the first
ball, only Polly had two princes to think about, and poor Cinderella,
on that occasion, had not even one. Fanny did n't seem inclined to talk
much, and Tom would go on in such a ridiculous manner that Polly told
him she would n't listen and began to hum bits of the opera. But
she heard every word, nevertheless, and resolved to pay him for his
impertinence as soon as possible by showing him what he had lost.

Their seats were in the balcony, and hardly were they settled, when, by
one of those remarkable coincidences which are continually occurring
in our youth, Mr. Sydney and Fanny's old friend Frank Moore took their
places just behind them.

"Oh, you villain! You did it on purpose," whispered Polly as she turned
from greeting their neighbors and saw a droll look on Tom's face.

"I give you my word I did n't. It 's the law of attraction, don't you
see?"

"If Fan likes it, I don't care."

"She looks resigned, I think."

She certainly did, for she was talking and laughing in the gayest manner
with Frank while Sydney was covertly surveying Polly as if he did n't
quite understand how the gray grub got so suddenly transformed into
a white butterfly. It is a well-known fact that dress plays a very
important part in the lives of most women and even the most sensible
cannot help owning sometimes how much happiness they owe to a becoming
gown, gracefully arranged hair, or a bonnet which brings out the best
points in their faces and puts them in a good humor. A great man was
once heard to say that what first attracted him to his well-beloved wife
was seeing her in a white muslin dress with a blue shawl on the chair
behind her. The dress caught his eye, and, stopping to admire that, the
wearer's intelligent conversation interested his mind, and in time, the
woman's sweetness won his heart. It is not the finest dress which does
the most execution, I fancy, but that which best interprets individual
taste and character. Wise people understand this, and everybody is more
influenced by it than they know, perhaps. Polly was not very wise, but
she felt that every one about her found something more attractive than
usual in her and modestly attributed Tom's devotion, Sydney's interest,
and Frank's undisguised admiration, to the new bonnet or, more likely,
to that delightful combination of cashmere, silk, and swan's-down,
which, like Charity's mantle, seemed to cover a multitude of sins in
other people's eyes and exalt the little music teacher to the rank of a
young lady.

Polly scoffed at this sort of thing sometimes, but to-night she accepted
it without a murmur rather enjoyed it in fact, let her bracelets shine
before the eyes of all men, and felt that it was good to seem comely in
their sight. She forgot one thing, however: that her own happy spirits
gave the crowning charm to a picture which every one liked to see a
blithe young girl enjoying herself with all her heart. The music and the
light, costume and company, excited Polly and made many things possible
which at most times she would never have thought of saying or doing. She
did not mean to flirt, but somehow "it flirted itself" and she could n't
help it, for, once started, it was hard to stop, with Tom goading
her on, and Sydney looking at her with that new interest in his eyes.
Polly's flirting was such a very mild imitation of the fashionable thing
that Trix & Co. would not have recognized it, but it did very well for a
beginner, and Polly understood that night wherein the fascination of it
lay, for she felt as if she had found a new gift all of a sudden, and
was learning how to use it, knowing that it was dangerous, yet finding
its chief charm in that very fact.

Tom did n't know what to make of her at first, though he thought the
change uncommonly becoming and finally decided that Polly had taken his
advice and was "setting her cap for Syd," as he gracefully expressed
it. Sydney, being a modest man, thought nothing of the kind, but simply
fancied that little Polly was growing up to be a very charming woman. He
had known her since her first visit and had always liked the child; this
winter he had been interested in the success of her plans and had done
what he could to help them, but he never thought of failing in love
with Polly till that night. Then he began to feel that he had not fully
appreciated his young friend; that she was such a bright and lovable
girl, it was a pity she should not always be gay and pretty, and enjoy
herself; that she would make a capital wife for somebody, and perhaps it
was about time to think of "settling," as his sister often said. These
thoughts came and went as he watched the white figure in front, felt
the enchantment of the music, and found everybody unusually blithe and
beautiful. He had heard the opera many times, but it had never seemed
so fine before, perhaps because he had never happened to have had an
ingenuous young face so near him in which the varying emotions born of
the music, and the romance it portrayed, came and went so eloquently
that it was impossible to help reading them. Polly did not know that
this was why he leaned down so often to speak to her, with an expression
which she did not understand but liked very much nevertheless.

"Don't shut your eyes, Polly. They are so full of mischief to-night, I
like to see them," said Tom, after idly wondering for a minute if she
knew how long and curly her lashes were.

"I don't wish to look affected, but the music tells the story so much
better than the acting that I don't care to look on half the time,"
answered Polly, hoping Tom would n't see the tears she had so cleverly
suppressed.

"Now I like the acting best. The music is all very fine, I know, but it
does seem so absurd for people to go round telling tremendous secrets at
the top of their voices. I can't get used to it."

"That 's because you 've more common-sense than romance. I don't mind
the absurdity, and quite long to go and comfort that poor girl with
the broken heart," said Polly with a sigh as the curtain fell on a most
affecting tableau.

"What's-his-name is a great jack not to see that she adores him. In
real life we fellows ain't such bats as all that," observed Tom, who had
decided opinions on many subjects that he knew very little about, and
expressed them with great candor.

A curious smile passed over Polly's face and she put up her glass to
hide her eyes, as she said: "I think you are bats sometimes, but women
are taught to wear masks, and that accounts for it, I suppose."

"I don't agree. There 's precious little masking nowadays; wish there
was a little more sometimes," added Tom, thinking of several blooming
damsels whose beseeching eyes had begged him not to leave them to wither
on the parent stem.

"I hope not, but I guess there 's a good deal more than any one would
suspect."

"What can you know about broken hearts and blighted beings?" asked
Sydney, smiling at the girl's pensive tone.

Polly glanced up at him and her face dimpled and shone again, as she
answered, laughing: "Not much; my time is to come."

"I can't imagine you walking about the world with your back hair down,
bewailing a hard-hearted lover," said Tom.

"Neither can I. That would n't be my way."

"No; Miss Polly would let concealment prey on her damask cheeks and
still smile on in the novel fashion, or turn sister of charity and nurse
the heartless lover through small-pox, or some other contagious disease,
and die seraphically, leaving him to the agonies of remorse and tardy
love."

Polly gave Sydney an indignant look as he said that in a slow satirical
way that nettled her very much, for she hated to be thought sentimental.

"That 's not my way either," she said decidedly. "I 'd try to outlive
it, and if I could n't, I 'd try to be the better for it. Disappointment
need n't make a woman a fool."

"Nor an old maid, if she 's pretty and good. Remember that, and don't
visit the sins of one blockhead on all the rest of mankind," said Tom,
laughing at her earnestness.

"I don't think there is the slightest possibility of Miss Polly's being
either," added Sydney with a look which made it evident that concealment
had not seriously damaged Polly's damask cheek as yet.

"There 's Clara Bird. I have n't seen her but once since she was
married. How pretty she looks!" and Polly retired behind the big glass
again, thinking the chat was becoming rather personal.

"Now, there 's a girl who tried a different cure for unrequited
affection from any you mention. People say she was fond of Belle's
brother. He did n't reciprocate but went off to India to spoil his
constitution, so Clara married a man twenty years older than she is and
consoles herself by being the best-dressed woman in the city."

"That accounts for it," said Polly, when Tom's long whisper ended.

"For what?"

"The tired look in her eyes."

"I don't see it," said Tom, after a survey through the glass.

"Did n't expect you would."

"I see what you mean. A good many women have it nowadays," said Sydney
over Polly's shoulder.

"What's she tired of? The old gentleman?" asked Tom.

"And herself," added Polly.

"You 've been reading French novels, I know you have. That 's just the
way the heroines go on," cried Tom.

"I have n't read one, but it 's evident you have, young man, and you 'd
better stop."

"I don't care for 'em; only do it to keep up my French. But how came you
to be so wise, ma'am?"

"Observation, sir. I like to watch faces, and I seldom see a grown-up
one that looks perfectly happy."

"True for you, Polly; no more you do, now I think of it. I don't know
but one that always looks so, and there it is."

"Where?" asked Polly, with interest.

"Look straight before you and you 'll see it."

Polly did look, but all she saw was her own face in the little mirror of
the fan which Tom held up and peeped over with a laugh in his eyes.

"Do I look happy? I 'm glad of that," And Polly surveyed herself with
care.

Both young men thought it was girlish vanity and smiled at its naive
display, but Polly was looking for something deeper than beauty and was
glad not to find it.

"Rather a pleasant little prospect, hey, Polly?"

"My bonnet is straight, and that 's all I care about. Did you ever see a
picture of Beau Brummel?" asked Polly quickly.

"No."

"Well, there he is, modernized." And turning the fan, she showed him
himself.

"Any more portraits in your gallery?" asked Sydney, as if he liked to
share all the nonsense going.

"One more."

"What do you call it?"

"The portrait of a gentleman." And the little glass reflected a
gratified face for the space of two seconds.

"Thank you. I 'm glad I don't disgrace my name," said Sydney, looking
down into the merry blue eyes that thanked him silently for many of the
small kindnesses that women never can forget.

"Very good, Polly, you are getting on fast," whispered Tom, patting his
yellow kids approvingly.

"Be quiet! Dear me, how warm it is!" And Polly gave him a frown that
delighted his soul.

"Come out and have an ice, we shall have time."

"Fan is so absorbed, I could n't think of disturbing her," said Polly,
fancying that her friend was enjoying the evening as much as she was a
great mistake, by the way, for Fan was acting for effect, and though she
longed to turn and join them, would n't do it, unless a certain person
showed signs of missing her. He did n't, and Fanny chatted on, raging
inwardly over her disappointment, and wondering how Polly could be so
gay and selfish.

It was delicious to see the little airs Polly put on, for she felt as if
she were somebody else, and acting a part. She leaned back, as if quite
oppressed by the heat, permitted Sydney to fan her, and paid him for
the service by giving him a flower from her bouquet, proceedings which
amused Tom immensely, even while it piqued him a little to be treated
like an old friend who did n't count.

"Go in and win, Polly; I 'll give you my blessing," he whispered, as the
curtain rose again.

"It 's only part of the fun, so don't you laugh, you disrespectful boy,"
she whispered back in a tone never used toward Sydney.

Tom did n't quite like the different way in which she treated them, and
the word "boy" disturbed his dignity, for he was almost twenty-one and
Polly ought to treat him with more respect. Sydney at the same moment
was wishing he was in Tom's place young, comely, and such a familiar
friend that Polly would scold and lecture him in the delightful way she
did Tom; while Polly forgot them both when the music began and left them
ample time to look at her and think about themselves.

While they waited to get out when all was over Polly heard Fan whisper
to Tom: "What do you think Trix will say to this?"

"What do you mean?"

"Why, the way you 've been going on to-night."

"Don't know, and don't care; it 's only Polly."

"That 's the very thing. She can't bear P."

"Well, I can; and I don't see why I should n't enjoy myself as well as
Trix."

"You 'll get to enjoying yourself too much if you are n't careful. Polly
's waked up."

"I 'm glad of it, and so 's Syd."

"I only spoke for your good."

"Don't trouble yourself about me; I get lecturing enough in another
quarter and can't stand any more. Come, Polly."

She took the arm he offered her, but her heart was sore and angry,
for that phrase, "It 's only Polly," hurt her sadly. "As if I was n't
anybody, had n't any feelings, and was only made to amuse or work for
people! Fan and Tom are both mistaken and I 'll show them that Polly is
awake," she thought, indignantly. "Why should n't I enjoy myself as well
as the rest? Besides, it 's only Tom," she added with a bitter smile as
she thought of Trix.

"Are you tired, Polly?" asked Tom, bending down to look into her face.

"Yes, of being nobody."

"Ah, but you ain't nobody, you 're Polly, and you could n't better that
if you tried ever so hard," said Tom, warmly, for he really was fond of
Polly, and felt uncommonly so just then.

"I 'm glad you think so, anyway. It 's so pleasant to be liked." And she
looked up with her face quite bright again.

"I always did like you, don't you know, ever since that first visit."

"But you teased me shamefully, for all that."

"So I did, but I don't now."

Polly did not answer, and Tom asked, with more anxiety than the occasion
required: "Do I, Polly?"

"Not in the same way, Tom," she answered in a tone that did n't sound
quite natural.

"Well, I never will again."

"Yes, you will, you can't help it." And Polly's eye glanced at Sydney,
who was in front with Fan.

Tom laughed, and drew Polly closer as the crowd pressed, saying, with
mock tenderness: "Did n't she like to be chaffed about her sweethearts?
Well, she shan't be if I can help it. Poor dear, did she get her little
bonnet knocked into a cocked hat and her little temper riled at the same
time?"

Polly could n't help laughing, and, in spite of the crush, enjoyed the
slow journey from seat to carriage, for Tom took such excellent care of
her, she was rather sorry when it was over.

They had a merry little supper after they got home, and Polly gave them
a burlesque opera that convulsed her hearers, for her spirits rose again
and she was determined to get the last drop of fun before she went back
to her humdrum life again.

"I 've had a regularly splendid time, and thank you ever so much," she
said when the "good-nights" were being exchanged.

"So have I. Let 's go and do it again to-morrow," said Tom, holding the
hand from which he had helped to pull a refractory glove.

"Not for a long while, please. Too much pleasure would soon spoil me,"
answered Polly, shaking her head.

"I don't believe it. Good-night, 'sweet Mistress Milton,' as Syd called
you. Sleep like an angel, and don't dream of I forgot, no teasing
allowed." And Tom took himself off with a theatrical farewell.

"Now it 's all over and done with," thought Polly as she fell asleep
after a long vigil. But it was not, and Polly's fun cost more than the
price of gloves and bonnet, for, having nibbled at forbidden fruit, she
had to pay the penalty. She only meant to have a good time, and there
was no harm in that, but unfortunately she yielded to the various small
temptations that beset pretty young girls and did more mischief to
others than to herself. Fanny's friendship grew cooler after that night.
Tom kept wishing Trix was half as satisfactory as Polly, and Mr. Sydney
began to build castles that had no foundation.



CHAPTER XIII. THE SUNNY SIDE


"I 'VE won the wager, Tom."

"Did n't know there was one."

"Don't you remember you said Polly would be tired of her teaching and
give it up in three months, and I said she would n't?"

"Well, is n't she?"

"Not a bit of it. I thought she was at one time, and expected every day
to have her come in with a long face, and say she could n't stand it.
But somehow, lately, she is always bright and happy, seems to like her
work, and don't have the tired, worried look she used to at first. The
three months are out, so pay up, Tommy."

"All right, what will you have?"

"You may make it gloves. I always need them, and papa looks sober when I
want money."

There was a minute's pause as Fan returned to her practising, and Tom
relapsed into the reverie he was enjoying seated astride of a chair,
with his chin on his folded arms.

"Seems to me Polly don't come here as often as she used to," he said,
presently.

"No, she seems to be very busy; got some new friends, I believe, old
ladies, sewing-girls, and things of that sort. I miss her, but know she
'll get tired of being goody, and will come back to me before long."

"Don't be too sure of that, ma'am." Something in Tom's tone made Fan
turn round, and ask, "What do you mean?"

"Well, it strikes me that Sydney is one of Polly's new friends. Have n't
you observed that she is uncommonly jolly, and don't that sort of thing
account for it?"

"Nonsense!" said Fanny, sharply.

"Hope it is," coolly returned Tom.

"What put it into your head?" demanded Fanny, twirling round again so
that her face was hidden.

"Oh, well, I keep meeting Syd and Polly circulating in the same
directions; she looks as if she had found something uncommonly nice, and
he looks as if all creation was getting Pollyfied pretty rapidly. Wonder
you have n't observed it."

"I have."

It was Tom's turn to look surprised now, for Fanny's voice sounded
strange to him. He looked at her steadily for a minute, but saw only a
rosy ear and a bent head. A cloud passed over his face, and he leaned
his chin on his arm again with a despondent whistle, as he said to
himself, "Poor Fan! Both of us in a scrape at once."

"Don't you think it would be a good thing?" asked Fanny, after playing a
bar or two, very badly.

"Yes, for Syd."

"Not for Polly? Why, he 's rich, and clever, and better than most of you
good-for-nothing fellows. What can the girl expect?"

"Can't say, but I don't fancy the match myself."

"Don't be a dog in the manger, Tom. Bless your little heart, I only take
a brotherly sort of interest in Polly. She 's a capital girl, and she
ought to marry a missionary, or one of your reformer fellows, and be
a shining light of some sort. I don't think setting up for a fine lady
would suit her."

"I think it would, and I hope she 'll have the chance," said Fanny,
evidently making an effort to speak kindly.

"Good for you, Fan!" and Tom gave an emphatic nod, as if her words meant
more than she suspected "Mind you," he added, "I don't know anything,
and only fancied there might be some little flirtation going on. But I
dare say it 's nothing."

"Time will show." Then Fan began to sing, and Tom's horse came, so he
departed with the very unusual demonstration of a gentle pat on the
head, as he said kindly, "That 's right, my dear, keep jolly." It was
n't an elegant way of expressing sympathy, but it was hearty, and
Fan thanked him for it, though she only said, "Don't break your neck,
Tommy."

When he was gone, Fan's song ended as suddenly as it began, and she sat
thinking, with varying expressions of doubt and trouble passing rapidly
across her face.

"Well, I can't do anything but wait!" she said, at last, slamming the
music-book together with a desperate look. "Yes, I can," she added, a
minute after, "it 's Polly's holiday. I can go and see her, and if there
is anything in it I shall find it out."

Fanny dropped her face into her hands, with a little shiver, as she said
that; then got up, looking as pale and resolute as if going to meet some
dreadful doom, and putting on her things, went away to Polly's as fast
as her dignity would allow.

Saturday morning was Polly's clearing-up day, and Fan found her with a
handkerchief tied over her head, and a big apron on, just putting the
last touches to the tidy little room, which was as fresh and bright as
water, air, and a pair of hands could make it.

"All ready for company. I 'll just whisk off my regimentals, and Polly,
the maid, becomes Polly, the missis. It was lovely of you to come early;
take off your things. Another new bonnet? you extravagant wretch! How is
your mother and Maudie? It 's a nice day, and we 'll have a walk, won't
we?"

By the time Polly's welcome was uttered, she had got Fan on the little
sofa beside her, and was smiling at her in such an infectious manner,
that Fan could n't help smiling back.

"I came to see what you have been doing with yourself lately. You don't
come and report, and I got anxious about you," said Fanny, looking into
the clear eyes before her.

"I 've been so busy; and I knew you would n't care to hear about my
doings, for they are n't the sort you like," answered Polly.

"Your lessons did n't use to take up all your time. It 's my private
opinion that you are taking as well as giving lessons, miss," said Fan,
putting on a playfully stern air, to hide her real anxiety.

"Yes, I am," answered Polly, soberly.

"In what? Love?"

A quick color came to Polly's cheeks, as she laughed, and said, looking
away, "No; friendship and good works."

"Oh, indeed! May I ask who is your teacher?"

"I 've more than one; but Miss Mills is head teacher."

"She instructs in good works; who gives the friendship lessons?"

"Such pleasant girls! I wish you knew them, Fan. So clever, and
energetic, and kind, and happy, it always does me good to see them,"
cried Polly, with a face full of enthusiasm.

"Is that all?" And Fan gave her a curious look of mingled disappointment
and relief.

"There, I told you my doings would not interest you, and they don't;
they sound flat and prosy after your brilliant adventures. Let 's change
the subject," said Polly, looking relieved herself.

"Dear me, which of our sweethearts sends us dainty bouquets of violets
so early in the morning?" asked Fanny, suddenly spying the purple
cluster in a graceful little vase on the piano.

"He sends me one every week; he knows I love them so," and Polly's eyes
turned that way full of pride and pleasure.

"I 'd no idea he was so devoted," said Fanny, stooping to smell the
flowers, and at the same time read a card that lay near them.

"You need n't plague me about it, now you know it. I never speak of
our fondness for one another, because such things seem silly to other
people. Will is n't all that Jimmy was to me; but he tries to be, and I
love him dearly for it."

"Will?" Fanny's voice quite startled Polly, it was so sharp and sudden,
and her face grew red and pale all in a minute, as she upset the little
vase with the start she gave.

"Yes, of course; who did you think I meant?" asked Polly, sopping up the
water before it damaged her piano.

"Never mind; I thought you might be having a quiet little flirtation
with somebody. I feel responsible, you know, because I told your mother
I 'd look after you. The flowers are all right. My head aches so, I
hardly know what I 'm doing this morning."

Fanny spoke fast, and laughed uncomfortably, as she went back to the
sofa, wondering if Polly had told her a lie. Polly seemed to guess at
her thoughts as she saw the card, and turning toward her, she held it
up, saying, with a conscious look in her eyes, "You thought Mr. Sydney
sent them? Well, you are mistaken, and the next time you want to know
anything, please ask straight out. I like it better than talking at
cross purposes."

"Now, my dear, don't be angry; I was only teasing you in fun. Tom took
it into his foolish head that something was going on, and I felt a
natural interest, you know."

"Tom! What does he know or care about my affairs?" demanded Polly.

"He met you two in the street pretty often, and being in a sentimental
mood himself, got up a romance for you and Sydney."

"I 'm much obliged to him for his interest, but it 's quite wasted,
thank you."

Fan's next proceeding gave her friend another surprise, for, being
rather ashamed of herself, very much relieved, and quite at a loss what
to say, she took refuge in an hysterical fit of tears, which changed
Polly's anger into tenderness at once.

"Is that the trouble she has been hiding all winter? Poor dear, I wish
I 'd known it sooner," thought Polly, as she tried to soothe her with
comfortable pats, sniffs of cologne and sympathizing remarks upon the
subject of headache, carefully ignoring that other feminine affliction,
the heartache.

"There, I feel better. I 've been needing a good cry for some time, and
now I shall be all right. Never mind it, Polly, I 'm nervous and tired;
I 've danced too much lately, and dyspepsia makes me blue;" and Fanny
wiped her eyes and laughed.

"Of course it does; you need rest and petting, and here I 've been
scolding you, when I ought to have been extra kind. Now tell me what I
can do for you," said Polly, with a remorseful face.

"Talk to me, and tell me all about yourself. You don't seem to have as
many worries as other people. What's the secret, Polly?" And Fan looked
up with wet eyes, and a wistful face at Polly, who was putting little
dabs of cologne all over her head.

"Well," said Polly, slowly, "I just try to look on the bright side of
things; that helps one amazingly. Why, you 've no idea how much goodness
and sunshine you can get out of the most unpromising things, if you make
the best of them."

"I don't know how," said Fan, despondently.

"You can learn; I did. I used to croak and fret dreadfully, and get so
unhappy, I was n't fit for anything. I do it still more than I ought,
but I try not to, and it gets easier, I find. Get a-top of your
troubles, and then they are half cured, Miss Mills says."

"Everything is so contrary and provoking," said Fanny, petulantly.

"Now what in the world have you to fret about?" asked Polly, rather
anxiously.

"Quantities of things," began Fan, and then stopped, for somehow she
felt ashamed to own that she was afflicted because she could n't have
a new set of furs, go to Paris in the spring, and make Mr. Sydney love
her. She hunted up something more presentable, and said in a despairing
tone, "Well, mother is very poorly, Tom and Trix quarrel all the time,
Maud gets more and more wilful every day, and papa is worried about his
affairs."

"A sad state of things, but nothing very desperate. Can't you lend a
hand anywhere? That might do good all round."

"No; I have n't the talent for managing people, but I see what ought to
be done."

"Well, don't wail about it; keep yourself happy, if you can; it will
help other people to see you cheerful."

"Just what Tom said,'Keep jolly'; but, dear me, how can one, when
everything is so stupid and tiresome?"

"If ever a girl needed work, it 's you!" cried Polly. "You began to be
a young lady so early, that you are tired of everything at twenty-two. I
wish you 'd go at something, then you 'd find how much talent and energy
you really had."

"I know ever so many girls who are just like me, sick to death of
fashionable life but don't know what to take in its place. I 'd like to
travel; but papa says he can't afford it, so I can only drag about and
get on as I may."

"I pity you rich girls so much, you have so many opportunities, and
don't seem to know how to use them! I suppose I should do just the same
in your place, but it seems now as if I could be very happy and useful
with plenty of money."

"You are that without it. There, I won't croak any more. Let us go and
take a good walk, and don't you tell any one how I came and cried like a
baby."

"Never!" said Polly, putting on her bonnet.

"I ought to go and make calls," said Fanny, "but I don't feel now as if
I ever wanted to see any of the girls again. Dreadful state of mind, is
n't it?"

"Suppose you come and see some of my friends instead! They are not fine
or ceremonious, but lively, odd, and pleasant. Come, it will amuse you."

"I will," cried Fanny, whose spirits seemed improved by the shower.
"Nice little old lady, is n't she?" added Fan, as she caught sight of
Miss Mills, on their way out, sitting at a table piled with work, and
sewing away with an energy that made the gray curls vibrate.

"Saint Mehitable, I call her. Now, there is a rich woman who knew how to
get happiness out of her money," said Polly, as they walked away. "She
was poor till she was nearly fifty; then a comfortable fortune was left
her, and she knew just how to use it. That house was given her, but
instead of living in it all alone, she filled it with poor gentlefolks
who needed neat, respectable homes, but could n't get anything
comfortable for their little money. I 'm one of them, and I know the
worth of what she does for me. Two old widow ladies live below me,
several students overhead, poor Mrs. Kean and her lame boy have the back
parlor, and Jenny the little bedroom next Miss Mills. Each pays what
they can; that 's independent, and makes us feel better but that dear
woman does a thousand things that money can't pay for, and we feel her
influence all through the house. I 'd rather be married, and have a home
of my own; but next to that, I should like to be an old maid like Miss
Mills."

Polly's sober face and emphatic tone made Fanny laugh, and at the cheery
sound a young girl pushing a baby-carriage looked round and smiled.

"What lovely eyes!" whispered Fanny.

"Yes, that 's little Jane," returned Polly, adding, when she had passed,
with a nod and a friendly "Don't get tired, Jenny," "we help one another
at our house, and every fine morning Jenny takes Johnny Kean out when
she goes for her own walk. That gives his mother time to rest, does both
the children good, and keeps things neighborly. Miss Mills suggested it,
and Jenny is so glad to do anything for anybody, it 's a pleasure to let
her."

"I 've heard of Miss Mills before. But I should think she would get
tired to death, sitting there making hoods and petticoats day after
day," said Fanny, after thinking over Jenny's story for a few minutes,
for seeing the girl seemed to bring it nearer, and make it more real to
her.

"But she don't sit there all the time. People come to her with their
troubles, and she goes to them with all sorts of help, from soap and
soup, to shrouds for the dead and comfort for the living. I go with her
sometimes, and it is more exciting than any play, to see and hear the
lives and stories of the poor."

"How can you bear the dreadful sights and sounds, the bad air, and the
poverty that can't be cured?"

"But it is n't all dreadful. There are good and lovely things among
them, if one only has eyes to see them. It makes me grateful and
contented, shows me how rich I am, and keeps me ready to do all I can
for these poor souls."

"My good Polly!" and Fanny gave her friends arm an affectionate squeeze,
wondering if it was this alone that had worked the change in Polly.

"You have seen two of my new friends, Miss Mills and Jenny, now I 'll
show you two more," said Polly, presently, as they reached a door, and
she led the way up several flights of public stairs. "Rebecca Jeffrey
is a regularly splendid girl, full of talent; she won't let us call it
genius; she will be famous some day, I know, she is so modest, and yet
so intent on her work. Lizzie Small is an engraver, and designs the most
delightful little pictures. Becky and she live together, and take care
of one another in true Damon and Pythias style. This studio is their
home, they work, eat, sleep, and live here, going halves in everything.
They are all alone in the world, but as happy and independent as birds;
real friends, whom nothing will part."

"Let a lover come between them, and their friendship won't last long,"
said Fanny.

"I think it will. Take a look at them, and you 'll change your mind,"
answered Polly, tapping at a door, on which two modest cards were
tacked.

"Come in!" said a voice, and obeying, Fanny found herself in a large,
queerly furnished room, lighted from above, and occupied by two girls.
One stood before a great clay figure, in a corner. This one was tall,
with a strong face, keen eyes, short, curly hair, and a fine head.
Fanny was struck at once by this face and figure, though the one was
not handsome, and the other half hidden by a great pinafore covered with
clay. At a table where the light was clearest, sat a frail-looking girl,
with a thin face, big eyes, and pale hair, a dreamy, absorbed little
person, who bent over a block, skillfully wielding her tools.

"Becky and Bess, how do you do? This is my friend, Fanny Shaw. We are
out on a rampage; so go on with your work, and let us lazy ones look on
and admire."

As Polly spoke, both girls looked up and nodded, smilingly; Bess gave
Fan the one easy-chair; Becky took an artistic survey of the new-comer,
with eyes that seemed to see everything; then each went on with her
work, and all began to talk.

"You are just what I want, Polly. Pull up your sleeve, and give me an
arm while you sit; the muscles here are n't right, and you 've got just
what I want," said Becky, slapping the round arm of the statue, at which
Fan was gazing with awe.

"How do you get on?" asked Polly, throwing off her cloak, and rolling up
her sleeves, as if going to washing.

"Slowly. The idea is working itself clear, and I follow as fast as my
hands can. Is the face better, do you think?" said Becky, taking off a
wet cloth, and showing the head of the statue.

"How beautiful it is!" cried Fanny, staring at it with increased
respect.

"What does it mean to you?" asked Rebecca, turning to her with a sudden
shine in her keen eyes.

"I don't know whether it is meant for a saint or a muse, a goddess or a
fate; but to me it is only a beautiful woman, bigger, lovelier, and more
imposing than any woman I ever saw," answered Fanny, slowly, trying to
express the impression the statue made upon her.

Rebecca smiled brightly, and Bess looked round to nod approvingly, but
Polly clapped her hands, and said, "Well done, Fan! I did n't think you
'd get the idea so well, but you have, and I 'm proud of your insight.
Now I 'll tell you, for Becky will let me, since you have paid her the
compliment of understanding her work. Some time ago we got into a famous
talk about what women should be, and Becky said she 'd show us her idea
of the coming woman. There she is, as you say, bigger, lovelier, and
more imposing than any we see nowadays; and at the same time, she is
a true woman. See what a fine forehead, yet the mouth is both firm
and tender, as if it could say strong, wise things, as well as teach
children and kiss babies. We could n't decide what to put in the hands
as the most appropriate symbol. What do you say?"

"Give her a sceptre: she would make a fine queen," answered Fanny.

"No, we have had enough of that; women have been called queens a long
time, but the kingdom given them is n't worth ruling," answered Rebecca.

"I don't think it is nowadays," said Fanny, with a tired sort of sigh.

"Put a man's hand in hers to help her along, then," said Polly, whose
happy fortune it had been to find friends and helpers in father and
brothers.

"No; my woman is to stand alone, and help herself," said Rebecca,
decidedly.

"She 's to be strong-minded, is she?" and Fanny's lip curled a little as
she uttered the misused words.

"Yes, strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-souled, and strong-bodied;
that is why I made her larger than the miserable, pinched-up woman of
our day. Strength and beauty must go together. Don't you think these
broad shoulders can bear burdens without breaking down, these hands work
well, these eyes see clearly, and these lips do something besides simper
and gossip?"

Fanny was silent; but a voice from Bess's corner said, "Put a child in
her arms, Becky."

"Not that even, for she is to be something more than a nurse."

"Give her a ballot-box," cried a new voice, and turning round, they saw
an odd-looking woman perched on a sofa behind them.

"Thank you for the suggestion, Kate. I 'll put that with the other
symbols at her feet; for I 'm going to have needle, pen, palette,
and broom somewhere, to suggest the various talents she owns, and the
ballot-box will show that she has earned the right to use them. How
goes it?" and Rebecca offered a clay-daubed hand, which the new-comer
cordially shook.

"Great news, girls! Anna is going to Italy!" cried Kate, tossing up her
bonnet like a school-boy.

"Oh, how splendid! Who takes her? Has she had a fortune left her? Tell
all about it," exclaimed the girls, gathering round the speaker.

"Yes, it is splendid; just one of the beautiful things that does
everybody heaps of good, it is so generous and so deserved. You know
Anna has been longing to go; working and hoping for a chance, and never
getting it, till all of a sudden Miss Burton is inspired to invite the
girl to go with her for several years to Italy. Think of the luck of
that dear soul, the advantages she 'll have, the good it will do her,
and, best of all, the lovely way in which it comes to her. Miss Burton
wants, her as a friend, asks nothing of her but her company, and Anna
will go through fire and water for her, of course. Now, is n't that
fine?"

It was good to see how heartily these girls sympathized in their
comrade's good fortune. Polly danced all over the room, Bess and Becky
hugged one another, and Kate laughed with her eyes full, while even
Fanny felt a glow of, pride and pleasure at the kind act.

"Who is that?" she whispered to Polly, who had subsided into a corner.

"Why, it Is Kate King, the authoress. Bless me, how rude not to
introduce you! Here, my King, is an admirer of yours, Fanny Shaw, and
my well beloved friend," cried Polly, presenting Fan, who regarded the
shabby young woman with as much respect, as if she had been arrayed in
velvet and ermine; for Kate had written a successful book by accident,
and happened to be the fashion, just then.

"It 's time for lunch, girls, and I brought mine along with me, it 's
so much jollier to eat in sisterhood. Let 's club together, and have a
revel," said Kate, producing a bag of oranges, and several big, plummy
buns.

"We 've got sardines, crackers, and cheese," said Bess, clearing off a
table with all speed.

"Wait a bit, and I 'll add my share," cried Polly, and catching up her
cloak, she ran off to the grocery store near by.

"You 'll be shocked at our performances, Miss Shaw, but you can call
it a picnic, and never tell what dreadful things you saw us do," said
Rebecca, polishing a paint knife by rubbing it up and down in a pot of
ivy, while Kate spread forth the feast in several odd plates, and a flat
shell or two.

"Let us have coffee to finish off with; put on the pot, Bess, and skim
the milk," added Becky, as she produced cups, mugs, and a queer little
vase, to supply drinking vessels for the party.

"Here 's nuts, a pot of jam, and some cake. Fan likes sweet things,
and we want to be elegant when we have company," said Polly, flying in
again, and depositing her share on the table.

"Now, then, fall to, ladies, and help yourselves. Never mind if the
china don't hold out; take the sardines by their little tails, and wipe
your fingers on my brown-paper napkins," said Kate, setting the example
with such a relish, that the others followed it in a gale of merriment.

Fanny had been to many elegant lunches, but never enjoyed one more than
that droll picnic in the studio; for there was a freedom about it that
was charming, an artistic flavor to everything, and such a spirit of
good-will and gayety, that she felt at home at once. As they ate, the
others talked and she listened, finding it as interesting as any romance
to hear these young women discuss their plans, ambitions, successes, and
defeats. It was a new world to her, and they seemed a different race
of creatures from the girls whose lives were spent in dress, gossip,
pleasure, or ennui. They were girls still, full of spirits fun, and
youth; but below the light-heartedness each cherished a purpose,
which seemed to ennoble her womanhood, to give her a certain power,
a sustaining satisfaction, a daily stimulus, that led her on to daily
effort, and in time to some success in circumstance or character, which
was worth all the patience, hope, and labor of her life.

Fanny was just then in the mood to feel the beauty of this, for
the sincerest emotion she had ever known was beginning to make her
dissatisfied with herself, and the aimless life she led. "Men must
respect such girls as these," she thought; "yes, and love them too, for
in spite of their independence, they are womanly. I wish I had a talent
to live for, if it would do as much for me as it does for them. It
is this sort of thing that is improving Polly, that makes her society
interesting to Sydney, and herself so dear to every one. Money can't buy
these things for me, and I want them very much."

As these thoughts were passing through her mind, Fanny was hearing all
sorts of topics discussed with feminine enthusiasm and frankness. Art,
morals, politics, society, books, religion, housekeeping, dress, and
economy, for the minds and tongues roved from subject to subject with
youthful rapidity, and seemed to get something from the dryest and the
dullest.

"How does the new book come on?" asked Polly, sucking her orange in
public with a composure which would have scandalized the good ladies of
"Cranford."

"Better than it deserves. My children, beware of popularity; it is a
delusion and a snare; it puffeth up the heart of man, and especially
of woman; it blindeth the eyes to faults; it exalteth unduly the humble
powers of the victim; it is apt to be capricious, and just as one gets
to liking the taste of this intoxicating draught, it suddenly faileth,
and one is left gasping, like a fish out of water," and Kate emphasized
her speech by spearing a sardine with a penknife, and eating it with a
groan.

"It won't hurt you much, I guess; you have worked and waited so long,
a large dose will do you good," said Rebecca, giving her a generous
spoonful of jam, as if eager to add as much sweetness as possible to a
life that had not been an easy one.

"When are you and Becky going to dissolve partnership?" asked Polly,
eager for news of all.

"Never! George knows he can't have one without the other, and has not
suggested such a thing as parting us. There is always room in my house
for Becky, and she lets me do as she would if she was in my place,"
answered Bess, with a look which her friend answered by a smile.

"The lover won't separate this pair of friends, you see," whispered
Polly to Fan. "Bess is to be married in the spring, and Becky is to live
with her."

"By the way, Polly, I 've got some tickets for you. People are always
sending me such things, and as I don't care for them, I 'm glad to
make them over to you young and giddy infants. There are passes for
the statuary exhibition, Becky shall have those, here are the concert
tickets for you, my musical girl; and that is for a course of lectures
on literature, which I 'll keep for myself."

As Kate dealt out the colored cards to the grateful girls, Fanny took a
good look at her, wondering if the time would ever come when women could
earn a little money and success, without paying such a heavy price for
them; for Kate looked sick, tired, and too early old. Then her eye went
to the unfinished statue, and she said, impulsively, "I hope you 'll put
that in marble, and show us what we ought to be."

"I wish I could!" And an intense desire shone in Rebecca's face, as she
saw her faulty work, and felt how fair her model was.

For a minute, the five young women sat silent looking up at the
beautiful, strong figure before them, each longing to see it done, and
each unconscious that she was helping, by her individual effort and
experience, to bring the day when their noblest ideal of womanhood
should be embodied in flesh and blood, not clay.

The city bells rung one, and Polly started up.

"I must go, for I promised a neighbor of mine a lesson at two."

"I thought this was a holiday," said Fanny.

"So it is, but this is a little labor of love, and does n't spoil the
day at all. The child has talent, loves music, and needs help. I can't
give her money, but I can teach her; so I do, and she is the most
promising pupil I have. Help one another, is part of the religion of our
sisterhood, Fan."

"I must put you in a story, Polly. I want a heroine, and you will do,"
said Kate.

"Me! why, there never was such a humdrum, unromantic thing as I am,"
cried Polly, amazed.

"I 've booked you, nevertheless, so in you go; but you may add as much
romance as you like, it 's time you did."

"I 'm ready for it when it comes, but it can't be forced, you know,"
and Polly blushed and smiled as if some little spice of that delightful
thing had stolen into her life, for all its prosaic seeming.

Fanny was amused to see that the girls did not kiss at parting, but
shook hands in a quiet, friendly fashion, looking at one another with
eyes that said more than the most "gushing" words.

"I like your friends very much, Polly. I was afraid I should find them
mannish and rough, or sentimental and conceited. But they are simple,
sensible creatures, full of talent, and all sorts of fine things. I
admire and respect them, and want to go again, if I may."

"Oh, Fan, I am so glad! I hoped you 'd like them, I knew they 'd do you
good, and I 'll take you any time, for you stood the test better than
I expected. Becky asked me to bring you again, and she seldom does that
for fashionable young ladies, let me tell you."

"I want to be ever so much better, and I think you and they might show
me how," said Fanny, with a traitorous tremble in her voice.

"We 'll show you the sunny side of poverty and work, and that is a
useful lesson for any one, Miss Mills says," answered Polly, hoping that
Fan would learn how much the poor can teach the rich, and what helpful
friends girls may be to one another.



CHAPTER XIV. NIPPED IN THE BUD


ON the evening of Fan's visit, Polly sat down before her fire with a
resolute and thoughtful aspect. She pulled her hair down, turned her
skirt back, put her feet on the fender, and took Puttel into her lap,
all of which arrangements signified that something very important had
got to be thought over and settled. Polly did not soliloquize aloud,
as heroines on the stage and in books have a way of doing, but the
conversation she held with herself was very much like this: "I 'm afraid
there is something in it. I 've tried to think it 's nothing but vanity
or imagination, yet I can't help seeing a difference, and feeling as if
I ought not to pretend that I don't. I know it 's considered proper for
girls to shut their eyes and let things come to a crisis no matter how
much mischief is done. But I don't think it 's doing as we 'd be done
by, and it seems a great deal more honest to show a man that you don't
love him before he has entirely lost his heart. The girls laughed at me
when I said so, and they declared that it would be a very improper thing
to do, but I 've observed that they don't hesitate to snub 'ineligible
parties,' as they call poor, very young, or unpopular men. It 's all
right then, but when a nice person comes it 's part of the fun to let
him go on to the very end, whether the girls care for him or not. The
more proposals, the more credit. Fan says Trix always asks when she
comes home after the summer excursions, 'How many birds have you
bagged?' as if men were partridges. What wicked creatures we are! some
of us at least. I wonder why such a love of conquest was put into us?
Mother says a great deal of it is owing to bad education nowadays, but
some girls seem born for the express purpose of making trouble and would
manage to do it if they lived in a howling wilderness. I 'm afraid I 've
got a spice of it, and if I had the chance, should be as bad as any of
them. I 've tried it and liked it, and maybe this is the consequence of
that night's fun."

Here Polly leaned back and looked up at the little mirror over the
chimney-piece, which was hung so that it reflected the faces of those
about the fire. In it Polly saw a pair of telltale eyes looking out from
a tangle of bright brown hair, cheeks that flushed and dimpled suddenly
as the fresh mouth smiled with an expression of conscious power, half
proud, half ashamed, and as pretty to see as the coquettish gesture with
which she smoothed back her curls and flourished a white hand. For
a minute she regarded the pleasant picture while visions of girlish
romances and triumphs danced through her head, then she shook her hair
all over her face and pushed her chair out of range of the mirror,
saying, with a droll mixture of self-reproach and self-approval in her
tone; "Oh, Puttel, Puttel, what a fool I am!"

Puss appeared to endorse the sentiment by a loud purr and a graceful
wave of her tail, and Polly returned to the subject from which these
little vanities had beguiled her.

"Just suppose it is true, that he does ask me, and I say yes! What a
stir it would make, and what fun it would be to see the faces of the
girls when it came out! They all think a great deal of him because he is
so hard to please, and almost any of them would feel immensely flattered
if he liked them, whether they chose to marry him or not. Trix has tried
for years to fascinate him, and he can't bear her, and I 'm so glad!
What a spiteful thing I am. Well, I can't help it, she does aggravate me
so!" And Polly gave the cat such a tweak of the ear that Puttel bounced
out of her lap in high dudgeon.

"It don't do to think of her, and I won't!" said Polly to herself,
setting her lips with a grim look that was not at all becoming. "What
an easy life I should have plenty of money, quantities of friends,
all sorts of pleasures, and no work, no poverty, no cold shoulders or
patched boots. I could do so much for all at home how I should enjoy
that!" And Polly let her thoughts revel in the luxurious future her
fancy painted. It was a very bright picture, but something seemed
amiss with it, for presently she sighed and shook her head, thinking
sorrowfully, "Ah, but I don't love him, and I 'm afraid I never can as
I ought! He 's very good, and generous, and wise, and would be kind,
I know, but somehow I can't imagine spending my life with him; I 'm
so afraid I should get tired of him, and then what should I do? Polly
Sydney don't sound well, and Mrs. Arthur Sydney don't seem to fit me a
bit. Wonder how it would seem to call him 'Arthur'?" And Polly said it
under her breath, with a look over her shoulder to be sure no one heard
it. "It 's a pretty name, but rather too fine, and I should n't dare
to say 'Syd,' as his sister does. I like short, plain, home-like names,
such as Will, Ned, or Tom. No, no, I can never care for him, and it 's
no use to try!" The exclamation broke from Polly as if a sudden
trouble had seized her, and laying her head down on her knees, she sat
motionless for many minutes.

When she looked up, her face wore an expression which no one had ever
seen on it before; a look of mingled pain and patience, as if some loss
had come to her, and left the bitterness of regret behind.

"I won't think of myself, or try to mend one mistake by making another,"
she said with a heavy sigh. "I 'll do what I can for Fan, and not stand
between her and a chance of happiness. Let me see, how can I begin? I
won't walk with him any more; I 'll dodge and go roundabout ways, so
that we can't meet. I never had much faith in the remarkable coincidence
of his always happening home to dinner just as I go to give the Roths
their lesson. The fact is, I like to meet him, I am glad to be seen with
him, and put on airs, I dare say, like a vain goose as I am. Well, I
won't do it any more, and that will spare Fan one affliction. Poor dear,
how I must have worried her all this time, and never guessed it. She has
n't been quite as kind as ever; but when she got sharp, I fancied it was
dyspepsia. Oh, me! I wish the other trouble could be cured as easily as
this."

Here puss showed an amiable desire to forgive and forget, and Polly
took her up, saying aloud: "Puttel, when missis abuses you, play it 's
dyspepsia, and don't bear malice, because it 's a very trying disease,
my dear."

Then, going back to her thoughts, she rambled on again; "If he does
n't take that hint, I will give him a stronger one, for I will not have
matters come to a crisis, though I can't deny that my wicked vanity
strongly tempts me to try and 'bag a bird' just for the excitement and
credit of the thing. Polly, I 'm ashamed of you! What would your blessed
mother say to hear such expressions from you? I 'd write and tell her
all the worry, only it would n't do any good, and would only trouble
her. I 've no right to tell Fan's secrets, and I 'm ashamed to tell
mine. No, I 'll leave mother in peace, and fight it out alone. I do
think Fan would suit him excellently by and by. He has known her all her
life, and has a good influence over her. Love would do so much toward
making her what she might be; it 's a shame to have the chance lost just
because he happens to see me. I should think she 'd hate me; but I 'll
show her that she need n't, and do all I can to help her; for she has
been so good to me nothing shall ever make me forget that. It is a
delicate and dangerous task, but I guess I can manage it; at any rate
I 'll try, and have nothing to reproach myself with if things do go
'contrary.'"

What Polly thought of, as she lay back in her chair, with her eyes shut,
and a hopeless look on her face, is none of our business, though we
might feel a wish to know what caused a tear to gather slowly from time
to time under her lashes, and roll down on Puttel's Quaker-colored coat.
Was it regret for the conquest she relinquished, was it sympathy for her
friend, or was it an uncontrollable overflow of feeling as she read some
sad or tender passage of the little romance which she kept hidden away
in her own heart?

On Monday, Polly began the "delicate and dangerous task." Instead
of going to her pupils by way of the park and the pleasant streets
adjoining, she took a roundabout route through back streets, and thus
escaped Mr. Sydney, who, as usual, came home to dinner very early that
day and looked disappointed because he nowhere saw the bright face
in the modest bonnet. Polly kept this up for a week, and by carefully
avoiding the Shaws' house during calling hours, she saw nothing of
Mr. Sydney, who, of course, did n't visit her at Miss Mills'. Minnie
happened to be poorly that week and took no lesson, so Uncle Syd was
deprived of his last hope, and looked as if his allowance of sunshine
had been suddenly cut off.

Now, as Polly was by no means a perfect creature, I am free to confess
that the old temptation assailed her more than once that week, for, when
the first excitement of the dodging reform had subsided, she missed the
pleasant little interviews that used to put a certain flavor of romance
into her dull, hard-working days. She liked Mr. Sydney very much, for
he had always been kind and friendly since the early times when he had
treated the little girl with a courtesy which the young woman gratefully
remembered. I don't think it was his wealth, accomplishments, or
position that most attracted Polly, though these doubtless possessed
a greater influence than she suspected. It was that indescribable
something which women are quick to see and feel in men who have been
blessed with wise and good mothers. This had an especial charm to Polly,
for she soon found that this side of his character was not shown to
every one. With most girls, he was very like the other young men of his
set, except perhaps in a certain grace of manner which was as natural to
him as his respect for all womankind. But with Fanny and Polly he showed
the domestic traits and virtues which are more engaging to womanly women
than any amount of cool intellect or worldly wisdom.

Polly had seen a good deal of him during her visits at the Shaws', where
he was intimate, owing to the friendship between Madam and his mother;
but she had never thought of him as a possible lover for either Fanny
or herself because he was six or eight years older than they, and still
sometimes assumed the part of a venerable mentor, as in the early days.
Lately this had changed, especially towards Polly, and it flattered her
more than she would confess even to herself. She knew he admired her one
talent, respected her independence, and enjoyed her society; but when
something warmer and more flattering than admiration, respect, or
pleasure crept into his manner, she could not help seeing that one of
the good gifts of this life was daily coming more and more within her
reach, and began to ask herself if she could honestly receive the gift,
and reward the giver.

At first she tried to think she could, but unfortunately hearts are
so "contrary" that they won't be obedient to reason, will, or even
gratitude. Polly felt a very cordial friendship for Mr. Sydney, but not
one particle of the love which is the only coin in which love can be
truly paid. Then she took a fancy into her head that she ought to
accept this piece of good fortune for the sake of the family, and forget
herself. But this false idea of self-sacrifice did not satisfy, for she
was not a fashionable girl trained to believe that her first duty was
to make "a good match" and never mind the consequences, though they
rendered her miserable for life. Polly's creed was very simple: "If
I don't love him, I ought not to marry him, especially when I do love
somebody else, though everything is against me." If she had read as
many French novels as some young ladies, she might have considered it
interesting to marry under the circumstances and suffer a secret anguish
to make her a romantic victim. But Polly's education had been neglected,
and after a good deal of natural indecision she did what most women do
in such cases, thought she would "wait and see."

The discovery of Fanny's secret seemed to show her something to do, for
if the "wait and see" decision was making her friend unhappy, it must be
changed as soon as possible. This finished Polly's indecision, and
after that night she never allowed herself to dwell upon the pleasant
temptation which came in a guise particularly attractive to a young girl
with a spice of the old Eve in her composition. So day after day she
trudged through the dull back streets, longing for the sunny park, the
face that always brightened when it saw her coming, and most of all the
chance of meeting well, it was n't Trix.

When Saturday came, Polly started as usual for a visit to Becky and
Bess, but could n't resist stopping at the Shaws' to leave a little
parcel for Fan, though it was calling time. As she stepped in, meaning
to run up for a word if Fanny should chance to be alone, two hats on the
hall table arrested her.

"Who is here, Katy?"

"Only Mr. Sydney and Master Tom. Won't you stop a bit, Miss Polly?"

"Not this morning, I 'm rather in a hurry." And away went Polly as if a
dozen eager pupils were clamoring for her presence. But as the door shut
behind her she felt so left out in the cold, that her eyes filled,
and when Nep, Tom's great Newfoundland, came blundering after her, she
stopped and hugged his shaggy head, saying softly, as she looked into
the brown, benevolent eyes, full of almost human sympathy: "Now, go
back, old dear, you must n't follow me. Oh, Nep, it 's so hard to put
love away when you want it very much and it is n't right to take it."
A foolish little speech to make to a dog, but you see Polly was only a
tender-hearted girl, trying to do her duty.

"Since he is safe with Fanny, I may venture to walk where I like. It
's such a lovely day, all the babies will be out, and it always does me
good to see them," thought Polly, turning into the wide, sunny street,
where West End-dom promenaded at that hour.

The babies were out in full force, looking as gay and delicate and sweet
as the snow-drops, hyacinths, and daffodils on the banks whence the
snow had melted. But somehow the babies did n't do Polly the good she
expected, though they smiled at her from their carriages, and kissed
their chubby hands as she passed them, for Polly had the sort of face
that babies love. One tiny creature in blue plush was casting despairing
glances after a very small lord of creation who was walking away with
a toddling belle in white, while a second young gentleman in gorgeous
purple gaiters was endeavoring to console the deserted damsel.

"Take hold of Master Charley's hand, Miss Mamie, and walk pretty, like
Willy and Flossy," said the maid.

"No, no, I want to do wid Willy, and he won't let me. Do 'way, Tarley, I
don't lite you," cried little Blue-bonnet, casting down her ermine muff
and sobbing in a microscopic handkerchief, the thread-lace edging on
which could n't mitigate her woe, as it might have done that of an older
sufferer.

"Willy likes Flossy best, so stop crying and come right along, you
naughty child."

As poor little Dido was jerked away by the unsympathetic maid, and
Purple-gaiters essayed in vain to plead his cause, Polly said to
herself, with a smile and a sigh; "How early the old story begins!"

It seemed as if the spring weather had brought out all manner of tender
things beside fresh grass and the first dandelions, for as she went down
the street Polly kept seeing different phases of the sweet old story
which she was trying to forget.

At a street corner, a black-eyed school-boy was parting from
a rosy-faced school-girl, whose music roll he was reluctantly
surrendering.

"Don't you forget, now," said the boy, looking bashfully into the bright
eyes that danced with pleasure as the girl blushed and smiled, and
answered reproachfully; "Why, of course I shan't!"

"That little romance runs smoothly so far; I hope it may to the end,"
said Polly heartily as she watched the lad tramp away, whistling as
blithely as if his pleasurable emotions must find a vent, or endanger
the buttons on the round jacket; while the girl pranced on her own
doorstep, as if practising for the joyful dance which she had promised
not to forget.

A little farther on Polly passed a newly engaged couple whom she knew,
walking arm in arm for the first time, both wearing that proud yet
conscious look which is so delightful to behold upon the countenances of
these temporarily glorified beings.

"How happy they seem; oh, dear!" said Polly, and trudged on, wondering
if her turn would ever come and fearing that it was impossible.

A glimpse of a motherly-looking lady entering a door, received by a
flock of pretty children, who cast themselves upon mamma and her parcels
with cries of rapture, did Polly good; and when, a minute after she
passed a gray old couple walking placidly together in the sunshine,
she felt better still, and was glad to see such a happy ending to the
romance she had read all down the street.

As if the mischievous little god wished to take Polly at a disadvantage,
or perhaps to give her another chance, just at that instant Mr. Sydney
appeared at her side. How he got there was never very clear to Polly,
but there he was, flushed, and a little out of breath, but looking so
glad to see her that she had n't the heart to be stiff and cool, as she
had fully intended to be when they met.

"Very warm, is n't it?" he said when he had shaken hands and fallen into
step, just in the old way.

"You seem to find it so." And Polly laughed, with a sudden sparkle in
her eyes. She really could n't help it, it was so pleasant to see him
again, just when she was feeling so lonely.

"Have you given up teaching the Roths?" asked Sydney, changing the
subject.

"No."

"Do you go as usual?"

"Yes."

"Well, it 's a mystery to me how you get there."

"As much as it is to me how you got here so suddenly."

"I saw you from the Shaws' window and took the liberty of running after
you by the back street," he said, laughing.

"That is the way I get to the Roths," answered Polly. She did not mean
to tell, but his frankness was so agreeable she forgot herself.

"It 's not nearly so pleasant or so short for you as the park."

"I know it, but people sometimes get tired of old ways and like to try
new ones."

Polly did n't say that quite naturally, and Sydney gave her a quick
look, as he asked; "Do you get tired of old friends, too, Miss Polly?"

"Not often; but" And there she stuck, for the fear of being ungrateful
or unkind made her almost hope that he would n't take the hint which she
had been carefully preparing for him.

There was a dreadful little pause, which Polly broke by saying abruptly;
"How is Fan?"

"Dashing, as ever. Do you know I 'm rather disappointed in Fanny,
for she don't seem to improve with her years," said Sydney, as if he
accepted the diversion and was glad of it.

"Ah, you never see her at her best. She puts on that dashing air before
people to hide her real self. But I know her better; and I assure you
that she does improve; she tries to mend her faults, though she won't
own it, and will surprise you some day, by the amount of heart and sense
and goodness she has got."

Polly spoke heartily now, and Sydney looked at her as if Fanny's
defender pleased him more than Fanny's defence.

"I 'm very glad to hear it, and willingly take your word for it.
Everybody shows you their good side, I think, and that is why you find
the world such a pleasant place."

"Oh, but I don't! It often seems like a very hard and dismal place, and
I croak over my trials like an ungrateful raven."

"Can't we make the trials lighter for you?"

The voice that put the question was so very kind, that Polly dared not
look up, because she knew what the eyes were silently saying.

"Thank you, no. I don't get more tribulation than is good for me, I
fancy, and we are apt to make mistakes when we try to dodge troubles."

"Or people," added Sydney in a tone that made Polly color up to her
forehead.

"How lovely the park looks," she said, in great confusion.

"Yes, it 's the pleasantest walk we have; don't you think so?" asked the
artful young man, laying a trap, into which Polly immediately fell.

"Yes, indeed! It 's always so refreshing to me to see a little bit of
the country, as it were, especially at this season."

Oh, Polly, Polly, what a stupid speech to make, when you had just given
him to understand that you were tired of the park! Not being a fool or a
cox-comb, Sydney put this and that together, and taking various trifles
into the account, he had by this time come to the conclusion that Polly
had heard the same bits of gossip that he had, which linked their names
together, that she did n't like it, and tried to show she did n't in
this way. He was quicker to take a hint than she had expected, and being
both proud and generous, resolved to settle the matter at once, for
Polly's sake as well as his own. So, when she made her last brilliant
remark, he said quietly, watching her face keenly all the while; "I
thought so; well, I 'm going out of town on business for several weeks,
so you can enjoy your 'little bit of country' without being annoyed by
me."

"Annoyed? Oh, no!" cried Polly earnestly; then stopped short, not
knowing what to say for herself. She thought she had a good deal of
the coquette in her, and I 've no doubt that with time and training she
would have become a very dangerous little person, but now she was far
too transparent and straightforward by nature even to tell a white lie
cleverly. Sydney knew this, and liked her for it, but he took advantage
of it, nevertheless by asking suddenly; "Honestly, now, would n't you go
the old way and enjoy it as much as ever, if I was n't anywhere about to
set the busybodies gossiping?"

"Yes," said Polly, before she could stop herself, and then could have
bitten her tongue out for being so rude. Another awful pause seemed
impending, but just at that moment a horseman clattered by with a smile
and a salute, which caused Polly to exclaim, "Oh, there 's Tom!" with a
tone and a look that silenced the words hovering on Sydney's lips, and
caused him to hold out his hand with a look which made Polly's heart
flutter then and ache with pity for a good while afterward, though he
only said, "Good by, Polly."

He was gone before she could do anything but look up at him with a
remorseful face, and she walked on, feeling that the first and perhaps
the only lover she would ever have, had read his answer and accepted
it in silence. She did not know what else he had read, and comforted
herself with the thought that he did not care for her very much, since
he took the first rebuff so quickly.

Polly did not return to her favorite walk till she learned from Minnie
that "Uncle" had really left town, and then she found that his friendly
company and conversation was what had made the way so pleasant after
all. She sighed over the perversity of things in general, and croaked a
little over her trials in particular, but on the whole got over her loss
better than she expected, for soon she had other sorrows beside her own
to comfort, and such work does a body more good than floods of regretful
tears, or hours of sentimental lamentation.

She shunned Fanny for a day or two, but gained nothing by it, for that
young lady, hearing of Sydney's sudden departure, could not rest till
she discovered the cause of it, and walked in upon Polly one afternoon
just when the dusk made it a propitious hour for tender confidences.

"What have you been doing with yourself lately?" asked Fanny, composing
herself, with her back toward the rapidly waning light.

"Wagging to and fro as usual. What's the news with you?" answered Polly,
feeling that something was coming and rather glad to have it over and
done with.

"Nothing particular. Trix treats Tom shamefully, and he bears it like a
lamb. I tell him to break his engagement, and not be worried so; but he
won't, because she has been jilted once and he thinks it 's such a mean
thing to do."

"Perhaps she 'll jilt him."

"I 've no doubt she will, if anything better comes along. But Trix is
getting passe, and I should n't wonder if she kept him to his word, just
out of perversity, if nothing else."

"Poor Tom, what a fate!" said Polly with what was meant to be a comical
groan; but it sounded so tragical that she saw it would n't pass, and
hastened to hide the failure by saying, with a laugh, "If you call Trix
passe at twenty-three, what shall we all be at twenty-five?" "Utterly
done with, and laid upon the shelf. I feel so already, for I don't get
half the attention I used to have, and the other night I heard Maud and
Grace wondering why those old girls 'did n't stay at home, and give them
a chance.'"

"How is Maudie?"

"Pretty well, but she worries me by her queer tastes and notions. She
loves to go into the kitchen and mess, she hates to study, and said
right before the Vincents that she should think it would be great fun to
be a beggar-girl, to go round with a basket, it must be so interesting
to see what you 'd get."

"Minnie said the other day she wished she was a pigeon so she could
paddle in the puddles and not fuss about rubbers."

"By the way, when is her uncle coming back?" asked Fanny, who could n't
wait any longer and joyfully seized the opening Polly made for her.

"I 'm sure I don't know."

"Nor care, I suppose, you hard-hearted thing."

"Why, Fan, what do you mean?"

"I 'm not blind, my dear, neither is Tom, and when a young gentleman
cuts a call abruptly short, and races after a young lady, and is seen
holding her hand at the quietest corner of the park, and then goes
travelling all of a sudden, we know what it means if you don't."

"Who got up that nice idea, I should like to know?" demanded Polly, as
Fanny stopped for breath.

"Now don't be affected, Polly, but just tell me, like a dear, has n't he
proposed?"

"No, he has n't."

"Don't you think he means to?"

"I don't think he 'll ever say a word to me."

"Well, I am surprised!" And Fanny drew a long breath, as if a load was
off her mind. Then she added in a changed tone: "But don't you love him,
Polly?"

"No."

"Truly?"

"Truly, Fan."

Neither spoke for a minute, but the heart of one of them beat joyfully
and the dusk hid a very happy face.

"Don't you think he cared for you, dear?" asked Fanny, presently. "I
don't mean to be prying, but I really thought he did."

"That 's not for me to say, but if it is so, it 's only a passing fancy
and he 'll soon get over it."

"Do tell me all about it; I 'm so interested, and I know something has
happened, I hear it in your voice, for I can't see your face."

"Do you remember the talk we once had after reading one of Miss
Edgeworth's stories about not letting one's lovers come to a declaration
if one did n't love them?"

"Yes."

"And you girls said it was n't proper, and I said it was honest, anyway.
Well, I always meant to try it if I got a chance, and I have. Mind you,
I don't say Mr. Sydney loved me, for he never said so, and never will,
now, but I did fancy he rather liked me and might do more if I did n't
show him that it was of no use."

"And you did?" cried Fanny, much excited.

"I just gave him a hint and he took it. He meant to go away before that,
so don't think his heart is broken, or mind what silly tattlers say.
I did n't like his meeting me so much and told him so by going another
way. He understood, and being a gentleman, made no fuss. I dare say
he thought I was a vain goose, and laughed at me for my pains, like
Churchill in 'Helen.'"

"No, he would n't; He 'd like it and respect you for doing it. But,
Polly, it would have been a grand thing for you."

"I can't sell myself for an establishment."

"Mercy! What an idea!"

"Well, that 's the plain English of half your fashionable matches. I
'm 'odd,' you know, and prefer to be an independent spinster and teach
music all my days."

"Ah, but you won't. You were made for a nice, happy home of your own,
and I hope you 'll get it, Polly, dear," said Fanny warmly, feeling so
grateful to Polly, that she found it hard not to pour out all her secret
at once.

"I hope I may; but I doubt it," answered Polly in a tone that made Fanny
wonder if she, too, knew what heartache meant.

"Something troubles you, Polly, what is it? Confide in me, as I do in
you," said Fanny tenderly, for all the coldness she had tried to hide
from Polly, had melted in the sudden sunshine that had come to her.

"Do you always?" asked her friend, leaning forward with an irresistible
desire to win back the old-time love and confidence, too precious to be
exchanged for a little brief excitement or the barren honor of "bagging
a bird," to use Trix's elegant expression. Fanny understood it then,
and threw herself into Polly's arms, crying, with a shower of grateful
tears; "Oh, my dear! my dear! did you do it for my sake?"

And Polly held her close, saying in that tender voice of hers, "I did
n't mean to let a lover part this pair of friends if I could help it."



CHAPTER XV. BREAKERS AHEAD


GOING into the Shaws' one evening, Polly found Maud sitting on the
stairs, with a troubled face.

"Oh, Polly, I 'm so glad you 've come!" cried the little girl, running
to hug her.

"What's the matter, deary?"

"I don't know; something dreadful must have happened, for mamma and Fan
are crying together upstairs, papa is shut up in the library, and Tom is
raging round like a bear, in the dining-room."

"I guess it is n't anything very bad. Perhaps mamma is sicker than
usual, or papa worried about business, or Tom in some new scrape. Don't
look so frightened, Maudie, but come into the parlor and see what I 've
got for you," said Polly, feeling that there was trouble of some sort in
the air, but trying to cheer the child, for her little face was full of
a sorrowful anxiety, that went to Polly's heart.

"I don't think I can like anything till I know what the matter is,"
answered Maud. "It 's something horrid, I 'm sure, for when papa came
home, he went up to mamma's room, and talked ever so long, and mamma
cried very loud, and when I tried to go in, Fan would n't let me, and
she looked scared and strange. I wanted to go to papa when he came down,
but the door was locked, and he said, 'Not now, my little girl,' and
then I sat here waiting to see what would happen, and Tom came home. But
when I ran to tell him, he said, 'Go away, and don't bother,' and just
took me by the shoulders and put me out. Oh, dear! everything is so
queer and horrid, I don't know what to do."

Maud began to cry, and Polly sat down on the stairs beside her, trying
to comfort her, while her own thoughts were full of a vague fear. All
at once the dining-room door opened, and Tom's head appeared. A single
glance showed Polly that something was the matter, for the care and
elegance which usually marked his appearance were entirely wanting. His
tie was under one ear, his hair in a toss, the cherished moustache had
a neglected air, and his face an expression both excited, ashamed, and
distressed; even his voice betrayed disturbance, for instead of the
affable greeting he usually bestowed upon the young lady, he seemed to
have fallen back into the bluff tone of his boyish days, and all he said
was, "Hullo, Polly."

"How do you do?" answered Polly.

"I 'm in a devil of a mess, thank you; send that chicken up stairs, and
come in and hear about it," he said, as if he had been longing to tell
some one, and welcomed prudent Polly as a special providence.

"Go up, deary, and amuse yourself with this book, and these ginger snaps
that I made for you, there 's a good child," whispered Polly, as Maud
rubbed away her tears, and stared at Tom with round, inquisitive eyes.

"You 'll tell me all about it, by and by, won't you?" she whispered,
preparing to obey.

"If I may," answered Polly.

Maud departed with unexpected docility, and Polly went into the
dining-room, where Tom was wandering about in a restless way. If he
had been "raging like a bear," Polly would n't have cared, she was so
pleased that he wanted her, and so glad to be a confidante, as she used
to be in the happy old days, that she would joyfully have faced a much
more formidable person than reckless Tom.

"Now, then, what is it?" she said, coming straight to the point.

"Guess."

"You 've killed your horse racing."

"Worse than that."

"You are suspended again."

"Worse than that."

"Trix has run away with somebody," cried Polly, with a gasp.

"Worse still."

"Oh, Tom, you have n't horse whipped or shot any one?"

"Came pretty near blowing my own brains out but you see I did n't."

"I can't guess; tell me, quick."

"Well, I 'm expelled."

Tom paused on the rug as he gave the answer, and looked at Polly to see
how she took it. To his surprise she seemed almost relieved, and after a
minute silence, said, soberly, "That 's bad, very bad; but it might have
been worse."

"It is worse;" and Tom walked away again with a despairing sort of
groan.

"Don't knock the chairs about, but come and sit down, and tell me
quietly."

"Can't do it."

"Well, go on, then. Are you truly expelled? Can't it be made up? What
did you do?"

"It 's a true bill this time. I just had a row with the Chapel watchman,
and knocked him down. If it was a first offence, I might have got off;
but you see I 've had no end of narrow escapes, and this was my last
chance; I 've lost it, and now there 'll be the dickens to pay. I knew
it was all up with me, so I did n't wait to be turned out, but just took
myself off."

"What will your father say?"

"It will come hard on the governor, but the worst of it is" there Tom
stopped, and stood a minute in the middle of the room with his head
down, as if he did n't find it easy to tell even kind little Polly.
Then out came the truth all in a breath, just as he used to bolt out his
boyish misdemeanors, and then back up against the wall ready to take the
consequences.

"I owe an awful lot of money that the governor don't know about."

"Oh, Tom, how could you?"

"I 've been an extravagant rascal, I know it, and I 'm thundering sorry,
but that don't help a fellow, I 've got to tell the dear old buffer, and
there 's where it cuts."

At another time Polly would have laughed at the contrast between Tom's
face and his language, but there was a sincere remorse, which made even
the dreadful word "buffer" rather touching than otherwise.

"He will be very angry, I dare say; but he 'll help you, won't he? He
always does, Fan says."

"That 's the worst of it, you see. He 's paid up so often, that the last
time he said his patience could n't stand it, nor his pocket either, and
if I got into any more scrapes of that sort, I must get out as I could.
I meant to be as steady as Bunker Hill Monument; but here I am again,
worse than ever, for last quarter I did n't say anything to father, he
was so bothered by the loss of those ships just then, so things have
mounted up confoundedly."

"What have you done with all your money?"

"Hanged if I know."

"Can't you pay it anyway?"

"Don't see how, as I have n't a cent of my own, and no way of getting
it, unless I try gambling."

"Oh, mercy, no! Sell your horse," cried Polly, after a minute of deep
meditation.

"I have; but he did n't bring half I gave for him. I lamed him last
winter, and the beggar won't get over it."

"And that did n't pay up the debts?"

"Only about a half of 'em."

"Why, Tom, how much do you owe?"

"I have dodged figuring it up till yesterday; then things were so
desperate, I thought I might as well face the truth, so I overhauled my
accounts, and there 's the result."

Tom threw a blotted, crumpled paper into Polly's lap, and tramped up
and down again, faster than ever. Polly took one look at the total and
clasped her hands, for to her inexperienced eyes it looked appalling.

"Tidy little sum, is n't it?" asked Tom, who could n't bear the silence,
or the startled, grieved look in Polly's eyes.

"It 's awful! I don't wonder you dread telling your father."

"I 'd rather be shot. I say, Polly, suppose we break it to him easy!"
added Tom, after another turn.

"How do you mean?"

"Why, suppose Fan, or, better still, you go and sort of pave the way. I
can't bear to come down on him with the whole truth at once."

"So you 'd like to have me go and tell him for you?" Polly's lip curled
a little as she said that, and she gave Tom a look that would have
shown him how blue eyes can flash, if he had seen it. But he was at the
window, and did n't turn, as he said slowly, "Well, you see, he 's
so fond of you; we all confide in you; and you are so like one of the
family, that it seems quite natural. Just tell him I 'm expelled, you
know, and as much more as you like; then I 'll come in, and we 'll have
it out."

Polly rose and went to the door without a word. In doing so, Tom caught
a glimpse of her face, and said, hastily, "Don't you think it would be a
good plan?"

"No, I don't."

"Why not? Don't you think he 'd rather have it told him nicely by you,
than blurted out as I always do blurt things?"

"I know he 'd rather have his son go to him and tell the truth, like a
man, instead of sending a girl to do what he is afraid to do himself."

If Polly had suddenly boxed his ears, Tom could n't have looked more
taken aback than by that burst. He looked at her excited face, seemed
to understand the meaning of it, and remembered all at once that he was
trying to hide behind a girl. He turned scarlet, said shortly, "Come
back, Polly," and walked straight out of the room, looking as if going
to instant execution, for poor Tom had been taught to fear his father,
and had not entirely outgrown the dread.

Polly sat down, looking both satisfied and troubled. "I hope I did
right," she said to herself, "I could n't bear to have him shirk and
seem cowardly. He is n't, only he did n't think how it seemed to me, and
I don't wonder he was a little afraid, Mr. Shaw is so severe with the
poor fellow. Oh, dear, what should we do if Will got into such scrapes.
Thank goodness, he 's poor, and can't; I 'm so glad of that!"

Then she sat silent beside the half-open door, hearing the murmur of
Tom's voice across the hall, and hoping, with all her heart, that he
would n't have a very hard time. He seemed to tell his story rapidly and
steadily, without interruption, to the end; then Polly heard Mr. Shaw's
deeper voice say a few words, at which Tom uttered a loud exclamation,
as if taken by surprise. Polly could n't distinguish a word, so she kept
her seat, wondering anxiously what was going on between the two men. A
sudden pause seemed to follow Tom's ejaculation, then Mr. Shaw talked a
long time in a low, earnest tone, so different from the angry one Polly
had expected to hear, that it made her nervous, for Mr. Shaw usually
"blew Tom up first, and forgave him afterward," as Maud said. Presently
Tom's voice was heard, apparently asking eager questions, to which brief
replies were given. Then a dead silence fell upon the room, and nothing
was heard but the spring rain softly falling out of doors. All of a
sudden she heard a movement, and Tom's voice say audibly, "Let me bring
Polly;" and he appeared, looking so pale and miserable that Polly was
frightened.

"Go and say something to him; I can't; poor old father, if I 'd only
known," and to Polly's utter dismay, Tom threw himself into a chair, and
laid his head down on the table, as if he had got a blow that was too
much for him.

"Oh, Tom, what is it?" cried Polly, hurrying to him, full of fears she
dared not speak.

Without looking up, Tom answered, in a smothered voice, "Failed; all
gone to smash; and to-morrow every one will know it."

Polly held on to the back of Tom's chair, for a minute, for the news
took her breath away, and she felt as if the world was coming to an end,
"failed" was such a vaguely dreadful word to her.

"Is it very bad?" she asked, softly, feeling as if anything was better
than to stand still and see Tom so wretched.

"Yes; he means to give up everything. He 's done his best; but it can't
be staved off any longer, and it 's all up with him."

"Oh, I wish I had a million to give him!" cried Polly, clasping her
hands, with the tears running down her cheeks. "How does he bear it,
Tom?"

"Like a man, Polly; and I 'm proud of him," said Tom, looking up,
all red and excited with the emotions he was trying to keep under.
"Everything has been against him, and he has fought all alone to stand
the pressure, but it 's too much for him, and he 's given in. It 's an
honorable failure, mind you, and no one can say a word against him. I 'd
like to see 'em try it!" and Tom clenched his hands, as if it would
be an immense relief to him to thrash half a dozen aspersers of his
father's honest name.

"Of course they can't! This is what poor Maud troubled about. He had
told your mother and Fan before you came, and that is why they are so
unhappy, I suppose."

"They are safe enough. Father has n't touched mother's money; he 'could
n't rob his girls,' he said, and that 's all safe for 'em. Is n't he
a trump, Polly?" And Tom's face shone with pride, even while his lips
would twitch with a tenderer feeling.

"If I could only do anything to help," cried Polly, oppressed with her
own powerlessness.

"You can. Go and be good to him; you know how; he needs it enough, all
alone there. I can't do it, for I 'm only a curse instead of a comfort
to him."

"How did he take your news?" asked Polly, who, for a time, had forgotten
the lesser trouble in the greater.

"Like a lamb; for when I 'd done, he only said, 'My poor lad, we must
bear with one another.' and then told his story."

"I 'm glad he was kind," began Polly, in a soothing tone; but Tom cried
out, remorsefully, "That 's what knocks me over! Just when I ought to
be a pride and a prop to him, I bring him my debts and disgrace, and he
never says a word of blame. It 's no use, I can't stand it!" and Tom's
head went down again with something very like a sob, that would come
in spite of manful efforts to keep it back, for the poor fellow had the
warmest heart that ever was, and all the fine waistcoats outside could
n't spoil it.

That sound gave Polly more pain than the news of a dozen failures and
expulsions, and it was as impossible for her to resist putting her
hand tenderly on the bent head, as it was for her to help noticing with
pleasure how brown the little curls were growing, and how soft they
were. In spite of her sorrow, she enjoyed that minute very much, for she
was a born consoler, and, it is hardly necessary for me to add, loved
this reprehensible Tom with all her heart. It was a very foolish thing
for her to do, she quite agreed to that; she could n't understand it,
explain it, or help it; she only felt that she did care for him very
much, in spite of his faults, his indifference, and his engagement. You
see, she learned to love him one summer, when he made them a visit. That
was before Trix caught him; and when she heard that piece of news, Polly
could n't unlove him all at once, though she tried very hard, as was her
duty. That engagement was such a farce, that she never had much faith
in it, so she put her love away in a corner of her heart, and tried to
forget it, hoping it would either die, or have a right to live. It did
n't make her very miserable, because patience, work, and common-sense
lent her a hand, and hope would keep popping up its bright face from the
bottom of her Pandora-box of troubles. Now and then, when any one said
Trix would n't jilt Tom, or that Tom did care for Trix more than he
should, Polly had a pang, and thought she could n't possibly bear it.
But she always found she could, and so came to the conclusion that it
was a merciful provision of nature that girls' hearts could stand
so much, and their appetites continue good, when unrequited love was
starving.

Now, she could not help yearning over this faulty, well-beloved
scapegrace Tom, or help thinking, with a little thrill of hope, "If Trix
only cared for his money, she may cast him off now he 's lost it; but I
'll love him all the better because he 's poor." With this feeling warm
at her heart, I don't wonder that Polly's hand had a soothing effect,
and that after a heave or two, Tom's shoulders were quiet, and certain
smothered sniffs suggested that he would be all right again, if he could
only wipe his eyes without any one's seeing him do it.

Polly seemed to divine his wish, and tucking a little, clean
handkerchief into one of his half-open hands, she said, "I 'm going to
your father, now," and with a farewell smooth, so comforting that Tom
wished she 'd do it again, she went away.

As she paused a minute in the hall to steady herself, Maud called her
from above, and thinking that the women might need her more than the
men, she ran up to find Fanny waiting for her in her own room.

"Mamma's asleep, quite worn out, poor dear, so we can talk in here
without troubling her," said Fanny, receiving her friend so quietly,
that Polly was amazed.

"Let me come, too, I won't make any fuss; it 's so dreadful to be shut
out everywhere, and have people crying and talking, and locked up, and I
not know what it means," said Maud, beseechingly.

"You do know, now; I 've told her, Polly," said Fan, as they sat down
together, and Maud perched herself on the bed, so that she might retire
among the pillows if her feelings were too much for her.

"I 'm glad you take it so well, dear; I was afraid it might upset you,"
said Polly, seeing now that in spite of her quiet manner, Fan's eyes had
an excited look, and her cheeks a feverish color.

"I shall groan and moan by and by, I dare say, but at first it sort of
dazed me, and now it begins to excite me. I ought to be full of sorrow
for poor papa, and I am truly sorry, but, wicked as it may seem, it 's a
fact, Polly, that I 'm half glad it 's happened, for it takes me out of
myself, and gives me something to do."

Fanny's eyes fell and her color rose as she spoke, but Polly understood
why she wanted to forget herself, and put her arm round her with a more
tender sympathy than Fanny guessed.

"Perhaps things are not as bad as they seem; I don't know much about
such matters, but I 've seen people who have failed, and they seemed
just as comfortable as before," said Polly.

"It won't be so with us, for papa means to give up everything, and not
have a word said against him. Mamma's little property is settled upon
her, and has n't been risked. That touched her so much! She dreads
poverty even more than I do, but she begged him to take it if it would
help him. That pleased him, but he said nothing would induce him to
do it, for it would n't help much, and was hardly enough to keep her
comfortable."

"Do you know what he means to do?" asked Polly, anxiously.

"He said his plans were not made, but he meant to go into the little
house that belonged to grandma, as soon as he could, for it was n't
honest for a bankrupt to keep up an establishment like this."

"I shan't mind that at all, I like the little house 'cause it 's got a
garden, and there 's a cunning room with a three-cornered closet in it
that I always wanted. If that 's all, I don't think bankrupting is so
very bad," said Maud, taking a cheerful view of things.

"Ah, just wait till the carriage goes and the nice clothes and the
servants, and we have to scratch along as we can. You 'll change
your mind then, poor child," said Fanny, whose ideas of failure were
decidedly tragical.

"Will they take all my things away?" cried Maud, in dismay.

"I dare say; I don't know what we are allowed to keep; but not much,
I fancy," and Fan looked as if strung up to sacrifice everything she
possessed.

"They shan't have my new ear-rings, I 'll hide 'em, and my best dress,
and my gold smelling bottle. Oh, oh, oh! I think it 's mean to take a
little girl's things away!" And Maud dived among the pillows to smother
a wail of anguish at the prospect of being bereft of her treasures.

Polly soon lured her out again, by assurances that she would n't be
utterly despoiled, and promises to try and soften the hard hearts of
her father's creditors, if the ear-rings and the smelling-bottle were
attached.

"I wonder if we shall be able to keep one servant, just till we learn
how to do the work," said Fanny, looking at her white hands, with a
sigh.

But Maud clapped hers, and gave a joyful bounce, as she cried, "Now I
can learn to cook! I love so to beat eggs! I 'll have an apron, with
a bib to it, like Polly's, and a feather duster, and sweep the stairs,
maybe, with my head tied up, like Katy. Oh, what fun!"

"Don't laugh at her, or discourage her; let her find comfort in bibs and
dust-pans, if she can," whispered Polly to Fan, while Maud took a joyful
"header" among the pillows, and came up smiling and blowzy, for she
loved house-work, and often got lectured for stolen visits to the
kitchen, and surreptitious sweepings and dustings when the coast was
clear.

"Mamma is so feeble, I shall have to keep house, I suppose, and you must
show me how, Polly," said Fan.

"Good practice, ma'am, as you 'll find out some day," answered Polly,
laughing significantly.

Fanny smiled, then grew both grave and sad. "This changes everything;
the old set will drop me, as we did the Mertons when their father
failed, and my 'prospects,' as we say, are quite ruined."

"I don't believe it; your real friends won't drop you, and you 'll find
out which the true ones are now. I know one friend who will be kinder
than ever."

"Oh, Polly, do you think so?" and Fanny's eyes softened with sudden
tears.

"I know who she means," cried Maud, always eager to find out things. "It
's herself; Polly won't mind if we are poor, 'cause she likes beggars."

"Is that who you meant?" asked Fan, wistfully.

"No, it 's a much better and dearer friend than I am," said Polly,
pinching Fanny's cheek, as it reddened prettily under her eyes. "You 'll
never guess, Maud, so I would n't try, but be planning what you will put
in your cunning, three-cornered closet, when you get it."

Having got rid of "Miss Paulina Pry," as Tom called Maud, who was
immediately absorbed by her cupboard, the older girls soberly discussed
the sudden change which had come, and Polly was surprised to see what
unexpected strength and sense Fanny showed. Polly was too unconscious
of the change which love had made in herself to understand at first the
cause of her friend's new patience and fortitude; but she rejoiced over
it, and felt that her prophecy would yet be fulfilled. Presently Maud
emerged from her new closet, bringing a somewhat startling idea with
her.

"Do bankrupting men" (Maud liked that new word) "always have fits?"

"Mercy, no! What put that into your head, child?" cried Polly.

"Why, Mr. Merton did; and I was thinking perhaps papa had got one down
there, and it kind of frightened me."

"Mr. Merton's was a bad, disgraceful failure, and I don't wonder he had
a fit. Ours is n't, and papa won't do anything of that sort, you may be
sure," said Fanny, with as proud an air as if "our failure" was rather
an honor than otherwise.

"Don't you think you and Maud had better go down and see him?" asked
Polly.

"Perhaps he would n't like it; and I don't know what to say, either,"
began Fan; but Polly said, eagerly, "I know he would like it. Never mind
what you say; just go, and show him that you don't doubt or blame him
for this, but love him all the more, and are ready and glad to help him
bear the trouble."

"I 'm going, I ain't afraid; I 'll just hug him, and say I 'm ever so
glad we are going to the little house," cried Maud, scrambling off the
bed, and running down stairs.

"Come with me, Polly, and tell me what to do," said Fanny, drawing her
friend after her.

"You 'll know what to do when you see him, better than I can tell you,"
answered Polly, readily yielding, for she knew they considered her
"quite one of the family," as Tom said.

At the study door they found Maud, whose courage had given out, for Mr.
Merton's fit rather haunted her. Polly opened the door; and the minute
Fanny saw her father, she did know what to do. The fire was low, the gas
dim, and Mr. Shaw was sitting in his easy-chair, his gray head in both
his hands, looking lonely, old, and bowed down with care. Fanny gave
Polly one look, then went and took the gray head in both her arms,
saying, with a tender quiver in her voice, "Father dear, we 've come to
help you bear it."

Mr. Shaw looked up, and seeing in his daughter's face something that
never had been there before, put his arm about her, and leaned his
tired head against her, as if, when least expected, he had found the
consolation he most needed. In that minute, Fanny felt, with mingled joy
and self-reproach, what a daughter might be to her father; and Polly,
thinking of feeble, selfish Mrs. Shaw, asleep up stairs, saw with
sudden clearness what a wife should be to her husband, a helpmeet, not
a burden. Touched by these unusual demonstrations, Maud crept quietly
to her father's knee, and whispered, with a great tear shining on her
little pug nose, "Papa, we don't mind it much, and I 'm going to help
Fan keep house for you; I 'd like to do it, truly."

Mr. Shaw's other arm went round the child, and for a minute no one said
anything, for Polly had slipped behind his chair, that nothing should
disturb the three, who were learning from misfortune how much they loved
one another. Presently Mr. Shaw steadied himself and asked, "Where is my
other daughter, where 's my Polly?"

She was there at once; gave him one of the quiet kisses that had more
than usual tenderness in it, for she loved to hear him say "my other
daughter," and then she whispered, "Don't you want Tom, too?"

"Of course I do; where is the poor fellow?"

"I 'll bring him;" and Polly departed with most obliging alacrity.

But in the hall she paused a minute to peep into the glass and see if
she was all right, for somehow she was more anxious to look neat and
pretty to Tom in his hour of trouble than she had ever been in his
prosperous days. In lifting her arms to perk up the bow at her throat
she knocked a hat off the bracket. Now, a shiny black beaver is not an
object exactly calculated to inspire tender or romantic sentiments, one
would fancy, but that particular "stove pipe" seemed to touch Polly to
the heart, for she caught it up, as if its fall suggested a greater one,
smoothed out a slight dint, as if it was symbolical of the hard knocks
its owner's head was now in danger of receiving, and stood looking at
it with as much pity and respect, as if it had been the crown of a
disinherited prince. Girls will do such foolish little things, and
though we laugh at them, I think we like them the better for it, after
all.

Richard was himself again when Polly entered, for the handkerchief had
disappeared, his head was erect, his face was steady, and his whole
air had a dogged composure which seemed to say to fate, "Hit away, I 'm
ready." He did not hear Polly come in, for he was looking fixedly at
the fire with eyes that evidently saw a very different future there
from that which it used to show him; but when she said, "Tom, dear, your
father wants you," he got up at once, held out his hand to her, saying,
"Come too, we can't get on without you," and took her back into the
study with him.

Then they had a long talk, for the family troubles seemed to warm and
strengthen the family affection and confidence, and as the young people
listened while Mr. Shaw told them as much of his business perplexities
as they could understand, every one of them blamed him or herself for
going on so gayly and blindly, while the storm was gathering, and the
poor man was left to meet it all alone. Now, however, the thunder-clap
had come, and after the first alarm, finding they were not killed, they
began to discover a certain half-anxious, half-pleasant excitement
in talking it over, encouraging one another, and feeling unusually
friendly, as people do when a sudden shower drives two or three to the
shelter of one umbrella.

It was a sober talk, but not all sad, for Mr. Shaw felt inexpressibly
comforted by his children's unexpected sympathy, and they, trying to
take the downfall cheerfully for his sake, found it easier to bear
themselves. They even laughed occasionally, for the girls, in their
ignorance, asked queer questions; Tom made ludicrously unbusiness-like
propositions; and Maud gave them one hearty peal, that did a world of
good, by pensively remarking, when the plans for the future had been
explained to her, "I 'm so relieved; for when papa said we must give up
everything, and mamma called us all beggars, I did think I 'd got to go
round asking for cold vittles, with a big basket, and an old shawl over
my head. I said once I 'd like that, but I 'm afraid I should n't, for I
can't bear Indian cake and cold potatoes, that 's what the poor children
always seem to get, and I should hate to have Grace and the rest see me
scuffing round the back gates."

"My little girl shall never come to that, if I can help it," said Mr.
Shaw, holding her close, with a look that made Maud add, as she laid her
cheek against his own, "But I 'd do it, father, if you asked me to, for
I truly want to help."

"So do I!" cried Fanny, wondering at the same minute how it would seem
to wear turned silks, and clean her gloves.

Tom said nothing, but drew toward him a paper of figures which his
father had drawn up, and speedily reduced himself to the verge of
distraction by trying to understand them, in his ardent desire to prove
his willingness to put his shoulder to the wheel.

"We shall pull through, children, so don't borrow trouble, only be ready
for discomforts and annoyances. Put your pride in your pockets, and
remember poverty is n't disgraceful, but dishonesty is."

Polly had always loved kind Mr. Shaw, but now she respected him
heartily, and felt that she had not done him justice when she sometimes
thought that he only cared for making money.

"I should n't wonder if this was a good thing for the whole family,
though it don't look so. Mrs. Shaw will take it the hardest, but it may
stir her up, so she will forget her nerves, and be as busy and happy as
mother is," said Polly to herself, in a hopeful mood, for poverty was an
old friend, and she had learned long ago not to fear it, but to take its
bitter and its sweet, and make the best of both.

When they parted for the night, Polly slipped away first, to leave them
free, yet could n't help lingering outside to see how tenderly the girls
parted from their father. Tom had n't a word to say for himself, for men
don't kiss, caress, or cry when they feel most, and all he could do to
express his sympathy and penitence, was to wring his father's hand with
a face full of respect, regret, and affection, and then bolt up stairs
as if the furies were after him, as they were, in a mild and modern
form.



CHAPTER XVI. A DRESS PARADE


THE weeks that followed taught the Shaws, as many other families have
been taught, how rapidly riches take to themselves wings and fly away,
when they once begin to go. Mr. Shaw carried out his plans with an
energy and patience that worked wonders, and touched the hearts of his
hardest creditors. The big house was given up as soon as possible and
the little house taken; being made comfortable with the furniture Madam
left there when she went to live with her son. The old-fashioned things
had been let with the house, and now seemed almost like a gift from
Grandma, doubly precious in these troublous times. At the auction,
several persons tried to show the family that, though they had lost
their fortune, friends still remained, for one bid in Fanny's piano,
and sent it to her; another secured certain luxurious articles for Mrs.
Shaw's comfort; and a third saved such of Mr. Shaw's books as he valued
most, for he had kept his word and given up everything, with the most
punctilious integrity. So the little house was not bare, but made
pleasant to their eyes by these waifs from the wreck, brought them by
the tide of sympathy and good-will which soon set in. Everybody who
knew them hastened to call, many from a real regard, but more from mere
curiosity to "see how they took it." This was one of the hardest things
they had to bear, and Tom used strong language more than once, when some
fine lady came to condole, and went away to gossip. Polly's hopes of
Mrs. Shaw were disappointed, for misfortune did not have a bracing
effect. She took to her bed at once, received her friends in tears and a
point-lace cap, and cheered her family by plaintively inquiring when she
was to be taken to the almshouse. This was hard for Fanny; but after
an interval of despair, she came to the conclusion that under the
circumstances it was the best thing her mother could have done, and
with something of her father's energy, Fanny shouldered the new burden,
feeling that at last necessity had given her what she had long needed,
something to do.

The poor girl knew as much of household affairs as Snip; but pride and
the resolution "to stand by Father," kept up her courage, and she worked
away with feverish activity at whatever task came first till, just as
strength and heart were about to fail, order began to emerge from chaos
and the vision of a home made happy and comfortable by her skill and
care came to repay and sustain her.

Maud, being relieved from the fear of back-door beggary, soon became
reconciled to bankruptcy; thought it rather a good joke, on the whole,
for children like novelty, and don't care much for Mrs. Grundy. She
regarded the new abode as a baby house on a large scale, where she
was allowed to play her part in the most satisfactory manner. From the
moment when, on taking possession of the coveted room, she opened the
doors of the three-cornered closet, and found a little kettle just like
Polly's, standing there, she felt that a good time was coming for her
and fell to dusting furniture, washing cups, and making toast, the
happiest, fussiest little housewife in the city. For Maud inherited the
notable gifts of her grandmother, and would have made a capital farmer's
daughter, in spite of her city breeding.

Polly came and went through all these changes, faithful, helpful, and
as cheery as she could be when her friends were in trouble. The parts
seemed reversed now, and it was Polly who gave, Fanny who received; for
where everything seemed strange and new to Fan, Polly was quite at home,
and every one of the unfashionable domestic accomplishments now came
into play, to the comfort of the Shaws, and the great satisfaction of
Polly. She could not do enough to prove her gratitude for former favors,
and went toiling and moiling about, feeling that the hardest, most
disagreeable tasks were her especial duty. In the moving nothing suited
her better than to trot up and down, lugging heavy things, to pound her
fingers black and blue nailing carpets and curtains, and the day she
nearly broke her neck tumbling down the cellar stairs, in her eagerness
to see that Mrs. Shaw's wine was rightly stored, she felt that she was
only paying her debts, and told Tom she liked it, when he picked her up
looking as grimy as a chimney-sweep.

"You can turn your hand to anything, you clever girl, so do come and
give me some advice, for I am in the depths of despair," said Fanny when
the "maid-of-all-work" as Polly called herself, found a leisure hour.

"What is it? Moths in the furs, a smoky chimney, or small-pox next
door?" asked Polly, as they entered Fan's room, where Maud was trying on
old bonnets before the looking-glass.

"Actually I have nothing to wear," began Fan impressively; "I 've been
too busy to think or care till now, but here it is nearly May and I have
hardly a decent rag to my back. Usually, you know, I just go to Mrs.
O'Grady and tell her what I want; she makes my spring wardrobe, Papa
pays the bill, and there I am. Now I 've looked into the matter, and I
declare to you, Polly, I 'm frightened to see how much it costs to dress
me."

"Not so much as some girls I know," said Polly encouragingly.

"Perhaps not, for I have a conscience, and taste is economy sometimes;
but really, Polly, I have n't the heart to ask Papa for a cent just
now, and yet I must have clothes. You are such a genius for planning and
working wonders, that I throw myself upon you and ask, 'How shall I make
a spring wardrobe out of nothing?'"

"Let me see the 'nothing' before I advise. Bring out every rag you 've
got, and we 'll see what can be done," said Polly, looking as if she
enjoyed the prospect, for she had a great deal of that feminine faculty
which we call "knack," and much practice had increased it.

Fanny brought out her "rags" and was astonished to see how many she had,
for chair, sofa, bed, and bureau were covered, and still Maud, who was
burrowing in the closets, kept crying, "Here 's another."

"There 's a discouraging heap of rubbish for you!" said Fan, as she
added a faded muslin to the last pile.

"Now, to me your 'rubbish' looks very encouraging, because there is good
material there, and not much worn-out finery, that 's my detestation,
for you can't do anything with it. Let me see, five bonnets. Put the
winter ones away till autumn, rip up the summer ones, and out of three
old ones we 'll get a pretty new one, if my eyes don't deceive me."

"I 'll rip, and then do let me see you make a bonnet, it must be so
interesting," said Maud, whipping out her scissors and eagerly beginning
to reduce a shabby little bonnet to its original elements. "Now the
dresses," continued Polly, who had rapidly sorted out the piles.

"Will you have the goodness to look at this?" said Fan, holding up a
gray street suit faded past cure.

Polly whisked it wrong side out, and showing the clean, bright fabric,
said, with a triumphant wave, "Behold your new suit; fresh trimming and
less of it will finish you off as smart as ever."

"I never wore a turned dress in my life; do you suppose people will know
it?" said Fan doubtfully.

"What if they do? It won't hurt you. Not one in a hundred will ever
think anything about your dress, except that it is pretty. I 've worn
turned and dyed gowns all my days, and it don't seem to have alienated
my friends, or injured my constitution."

"That it has n't; I 'm a goose, Polly, and I 'll get over the feeling
that it 's sort of disgraceful to be poor and have to economize. We 'll
turn the gray, and I 'll wear it bravely."

"Then it will be more becoming than ever. Oh, here 's the pretty violet
silk. That will make a lovely suit," cried Polly, going on with the
review.

"Don't see how two draggled skirts and a stained waist can be
transformed into a whole rig," said Fan, sitting on the bed, with her
garments strewn about her in various attitudes of limp despondency.

"Well, ma'am, my plan is this," began Polly, imitating Mrs. O'Grady's
important tone, and bad grammar: "Gores is out, and plaits is in;
therefore, as the top of this skirt is quite fresh, we will take off the
ruffles, turn it upside down, and leave it plain. The upper skirt
will be made scanter, and finished with a frill; then the waist can be
refreshed with the best parts of these wide flounces, and out of those
new bits we will concoct a hat. The black lace Maud has just taken
off the green one will do to edge the violet, and with your nice silk
mantilla you are complete, don't you see?"

"I don't quite see it yet, but I have firm faith that I shall in time,
and consider my calling costume finished," said Fanny, getting more and
more interested as she saw her condemned wardrobe coming out fresh again
under Polly's magic knack.

"There are two; then that piqu, is all right, if you cut the tail off
the jacket and change the trimming a bit. The muslins only need mending
and doing up to look as well as ever; you ought not to put them away
torn and soiled, my child. The two black silks will be good stand-bys
for years. If I were you, I 'd have a couple of neat, pretty prints for
home-wear, and then I don't see why you are n't fixed well enough for
our short season."

"Can't I do anything with this barege? It 's one of my favorite dresses,
and I hate to give it up."

"You wore that thoroughly out, and it 's only fit for the rag-bag. Yes,
it was very pretty and becoming, I remember, but its day is over."

Fanny let the dress lie in her lap a minute as she absently picked at
the fringe, smiling to herself over the happy time when she wore it last
and Sydney said she only needed cowslips in her lap to look like spring.
Presently she folded it up and put it away with a sigh, but it never
went into the rag-bag, and my sentimental readers can understand what
saved it.

"The ball dresses had better be put nicely away till next year," began
Polly, coming to a rainbow colored heap.

"My day is over, I shall never use them again. Do what you like with
them," said Fan calmly.

"Did you ever sell your cast-off finery, as many ladies do?" asked
Polly.

"Never; I don't like the fashion. I give it away, or let Maud have it
for tableaux."

"I wonder if you would mind my telling you something Belle proposed?"

"If it 's an offer to buy my clothes, I should mind," answered Fanny,
sharply.

"Then I won't," and Polly retired behind a cloud of arsenic-green gauze,
which made her look as if she had the cholera.

"If she wanted to buy that horrid new 'gooseberry-colored gown,' as
Tom calls it, I 'd let her have it cheap," put in Maud, who was of a
practical turn.

"Does she want it, Polly?" asked Fan, whose curiosity got the better of
her pride.

"Well, she merely asked me if I thought you 'd be mortally offended,
if she offered to take it off your hands, as you 'd never worn it. You
don't like it, and in another season it will be all out of fashion,"
said Polly from her verdant retreat.

"What did you say?"

"I saw she meant it kindly, so I said I 'd ask. Now between ourselves,
Fan, the price of that dress would give you all you 'll want for your
spring fixings, that 's one consideration; then here 's another, which
may have some weight with you," added Polly slyly. "Trix told Belle she
was going to ask you for the dress, as you would n't care to wear it
now. That made Belle fire up, and say it was a mean thing to do without
offering some return for a costly thing like that; and then Belle said,
in her blunt way, 'I 'll give Fan all she paid for it, and more, too, if
it will be any help to her. I don't care for the dress, but I 'd like to
slip a little money into her pocket, for I know she needs it and is too
good to ask dear Mr. Shaw for anything she can get on without.'"

"Did she say that? I 'll give her the dress, and not take a penny for
it," cried Fan, flushing up with mingled anger toward Trix and gratitude
to Belle.

"That won't suit her; you let me manage it, and don't feel any shame or
anxiety about it. You did many a kind and generous thing for Belle when
you had the power, and you liked to do it; now let her pay her debts,
and have the same pleasure."

"If she looks at it in that way, it makes a difference. Perhaps I 'd
better the money would be an immense help only I don't quite like to
take it."

"Kings and queens sell their jewels when times are hard or they get
turned off their thrones, and no one thinks it anything amiss, so
why need you? It 's just a little transaction between two friends who
exchange things they don't want for things which they do, and I 'd do it
if I were you."

"We 'll see about it," said Fan, privately resolving to take Polly's
advice.

"If I had lots of things like Fan, I 'd have an auction and get all
I could for them. Why don't you?" asked Maud, beginning on her third
bonnet.

"We will," said Polly, and mounting a chair, she put up, bid in, and
knocked down Fan's entire wardrobe to an imaginary group of friends,
with such droll imitations of each one that the room rang with laughter.

"That 's enough nonsense; now we 'll return to business," said Polly,
descending breathless but satisfied with the effect of her fun.

"These white muslins and pretty silks will keep for years, so I should
lay them by till they are needed. It will save buying, and you can go to
your stock any time and make over what you want. That 's the way Mother
does; we 've always had things sent us from richer friends, and whatever
was n't proper for us to wear at the time, Mother put away to be used
when we needed it. Such funny bundles as we used to have sometimes, odd
shoes, bonnets without crowns, stockings without heels or toes, and old
finery of all sorts. We used to rush when a bundle came, and sit round
while Mother opened it. The boys always made fun of the things, though
they were as grateful, really, as any of us. Will made a verse one day
which we thought pretty well for a little chap: 'To poor country folks
Who have n't any clothes, Rich folks, to relieve them, Send old lace
gowns and satin bows.'"

"I think that Will is going to be as nice a poet as Mr. Shakespeare,"
remarked Maud in a tone of serious conviction.

"He is already a Milton; but I don't believe he will ever be anything
but a poet in name," said Polly, working away while she talked.

"Did n't your mother ever let you wear the nice things that came?" asked
Maud.

"No, she thought it was n't the thing for a poor minister's girls to go
flourishing about in second-hand finery, so she did what I 'm doing now,
put away what would be useful and proper for us by and by, and let us
play with the shabby, silk bonnets and dirty, flounced gowns. Such fun
as we used to have up in our big garret! I remember one day we 'd been
playing have a ball, and were all rigged up, even the boys. Some new
neighbors came to call, and expressed a wish to see us, having been told
that we were pattern children. Mother called us, but we had paraded out
into the garden, after our ball, and were having a concert, as we sat
about on the cabbages for green satin seats, so we did n't hear the
call, and just as the company was going, a great noise arrested them
on the doorstep, and round the corner of the house rattled Ned in
full costume, wheeling Kitty in a barrow, while Jimmy, Will, and I ran
screaming after, looking like Bedlamites; for we were playing that Lady
Fitz Perkins had fainted, and was being borne home senseless in a cab.
I thought mother would kill herself with laughing; and you can imagine
what a fine impression the strangers received of the model children."

Maud was so tickled with this youthful prank that she unguardedly sat
down to laugh on the edge of an open trunk, immediately doubled up, fell
in, and was with difficulty extricated.

"People in the country have great deal nicer times than we do. I never
rode in a wheelbarrow, I never sat on cabbages, and I don't think it 's
fair," she said with an injured expression. "You need n't save any old
silk gowns for me; I don't mean to be a fine lady when I grow up, I 'm
going to be a farmer's wife, and make butter and cheese, and have ten
children, and raise pigs," she added in one enthusiastic burst.

"I do believe she will if she can find a farmer anywhere," said Fanny.

"Oh, I 'm going to have Will; I asked him and he said, 'All right.' He
's going to preach Sundays, and work on the farm the rest of the time.
Well, he is, so you need n't laugh, for we 've made all our plans,"
said Maud with comical dignity as she tried the effect of an old white
bonnet, wondering if farmers' wives could wear ostrich feathers when
they went to meeting.

"Blessed innocence! Don't you wish you were a child, and dared tell what
you want?" murmured Fanny.

"I wish I had seen Will's face when Maud proposed," answered Polly, with
a nod which answered her friend's speech better than her words.

"Any news of anybody?" whispered Fan, affecting to examine a sleeve with
care.

"Still at the South; don't think late events have been reported yet;
that accounts for absence," answered Polly.

"I think Sir Philip was hit harder than was supposed," said Fan.

"I doubt it, but time cures wounds of that sort amazing quick."

"Wish it did!"

"Who is Sir Philip?" demanded Maud, pricking up her ears.

"A famous man who lived in the time of Queen Elizabeth," answered Fan,
with a look at Polly.

"Oh!" And Maud seemed satisfied, but the sharp child had her suspicions
nevertheless.

"There will be an immense deal of work in all this fixing over and I
hate to sew," said Fanny, to divert a certain person's thoughts.

"Jenny and I are going to help. We are your debtors, as well as Belle,
and demand the privilege of paying up. Blessings, like curses, come home
to roost, Fan."

"Mine come home a good deal bigger than they went," answered Fanny,
looking pleased that little favors should be so faithfully remembered.

"The interest on that sort of investment rolls up beautifully, you know.
Now rip that dress for Jenny to put in order, and I 'll toss you up a
bonnet in less than no time," said Polly, determined to have things go
smoothly, for she knew Fan's feelings had been a good deal tried lately,
in many ways.

"I must have something to match my dress, and blue inside," said Fanny,
bringing out her ribbon boxes.

"Anything you like, my dear; when it comes to bonnets, I am usually
inspired. I have it! There we are! And nothing could be nicer," cried
Polly, making a dive among the silks Fan was turning over with a lost
expression. "This bit of silver-gray is all I ask, here 's enough for
a killing bonnet, and those forget-me-nots are both pretty and
appropriate."

"You wretch, be still!" cried Fanny, as Polly looked up at her with a
wicked laugh in her eyes.

"It will be done in time, and the dress likewise, so look your
prettiest, and accept my blessing," continued Polly, seeing that Fan
liked her raillery.

"Time for what?" asked Paulina Pry.

"Your wedding, dear," sweetly answered Fan, for Polly's pleasant hints
and predictions put her in a charming humor, and even made old clothes
of little consequence.

Maud gave an incredulous sniff, and wondered why "big girls need to be
so dreadful mysterious about their old secrets."

"This silk reminds me of Kitty's performance last summer. A little
checked silk was sent in our spring bundle from Mrs. Davenport, and
Mother said Kit might have it if she could make it do. So I washed it
nicely, and we fussed and planned, but it came short by half of one
sleeve. I gave it up, but Kit went to work and matched every scrap that
was left so neatly that she got out the half sleeve, put it on the under
side, and no one was the wiser. How many pieces do you think she put in,
Maud?"

"Fifty," was the wise reply.

"No, only ten, but that was pretty well for a fourteen-year-old
dressmaker. You ought to have seen the little witch laugh in her sleeve
when any one admired the dress, for she wore it all summer and looked as
pretty as a pink in it. Such things are great fun when you get used to
them; besides, contriving sharpens your wits, and makes you feel as if
you had more hands than most people."

"I think we 'll get a farm near your house; I should like to know
Kitty," said Maud, feeling a curious interest in a girl who made such
peculiar patchwork.

"The dress-parade is over, and I 'm ever so much obliged to you, Polly,
for helping me through, and showing me how to make the best of things.
I hope in time to have as many hands as you," said Fan gratefully,
when the simple bonnet was done and everything planned out ready to be
finished.

"I hope you will soon have two good, strong ones beside your own, my
dear," answered Polly, as she vanished, with a parting twinkle that kept
Fan's face bright all day.



CHAPTER XVII. PLAYING GRANDMOTHER


I THINK Tom had the hardest time of all, for besides the family
troubles, he had many of his own to perplex and harass him. College
scrapes were soon forgotten in greater afflictions; but there were
plenty of tongues to blame "that extravagant dog," and plenty of heads
to wag ominously over prophecies of the good time Tom Shaw would now
make on the road to ruin. As reporters flourish in this country, of
course Tom soon heard all the friendly criticisms passed upon him and
his career, and he suffered more than anybody guessed; for the truth
that was at the bottom of the gossip filled him with the sharp regret
and impotent wrath against himself as well as others, which drives many
a proud fellow, so placed, to destruction, or the effort that redeems
boyish folly, and makes a man of him.

Now that he had lost his heritage, Tom seemed to see for the first
time how goodly it had been, how rich in power, pleasure, and gracious
opportunities. He felt its worth even while he acknowledged, with the
sense of justice that is strong in manly men, how little he deserved
a gift which he had so misused. He brooded over this a good deal, for,
like the bat in the fable, he did n't seem to find any place in the new
life which had begun for all. Knowing nothing of business, he was not
of much use to his father, though he tried to be, and generally ended
by feeling that he was a hindrance, not a help. Domestic affairs were
equally out of his line, and the girls, more frank than their father,
did not hesitate to tell him he was in the way when he offered to lend
a hand anywhere. After the first excitement was over, and he had time to
think, heart and energy seemed to die out, remorse got hold of him, and,
as generous, thoughtless natures are apt to do when suddenly confronted
with conscience, he exaggerated his faults and follies into sins of the
deepest dye, and fancied he was regarded by others as a villain and an
outcast. Pride and penitence made him shrink out of sight as much as
possible, for he could not bear pity, even when silently expressed by a
friendly hand or a kindly eye. He stayed at home a good deal, and loafed
about with a melancholy and neglected air, vanished when anyone came,
talked very little, and was either pathetically humble or tragically
cross. He wanted to do something, but nothing seemed to appear; and
while he waited to get his poise after the downfall, he was so very
miserable that I 'm afraid, if it had not been for one thing, my poor
Tom would have got desperate, and been a failure. But when he seemed
most useless, outcast, and forlorn, he discovered that one person needed
him, one person never found him in the way, one person always welcomed
and clung to him with the strongest affection of a very feeble nature.
This dependence of his mother's was Tom's salvation at that crisis of
his life; and the gossips, who said softly to one another over their
muffins and tea. "It really would be a relief to that whole family if
poor, dear Mrs. Shaw could be ahem! mercifully removed," did not know
that the invalid's weak, idle hands were unconsciously keeping the son
safe in that quiet room, where she gave him all that she had to give,
mother-love, till he took heart again, and faced the world ready to
fight his battles manfully.

"Dear, dear! how old and bent poor father does look. I hope he won't
forget to order my sweetbread," sighed Mrs. Shaw one day, as she watched
her husband slowly going down the street.

Tom, who stood by her, idly spinning the curtain tassel, followed the
familiar figure with his eye, and seeing how gray the hair had grown,
how careworn the florid face, and how like a weary old man his once
strong, handsome father walked, he was smitten by a new pang of
self-reproach, and with his usual impetuosity set about repairing the
omission as soon as he discovered it.

"I 'll see to your sweetbread, mum. Good-by, back to dinner," and with a
hasty kiss, Tom was off.

He did n't know exactly what he meant to do, but it had suddenly come
over him, that he was hiding from the storm, and letting his father
meet it alone; for the old man went to his office every day with the
regularity of a machine, that would go its usual round until it stopped,
while the young man stayed at home with the women, and let his mother
comfort him.

"He has a right to be ashamed of me, but I act as if I was ashamed of
him; dare say people think so. I 'll show them that I ain't; yes, by the
powers, I will!" and Tom drew on his gloves with the air of a man about
to meet and conquer an enemy.

"Have an arm, sir? If you don't mind I 'll walk down with you. Little
commission for mother, nice day, is n't it?"

Tom rather broke down at the end of his speech, for the look of pleased
surprise with which his father greeted him, the alacrity with which he
accepted and leaned on the strong arm offered him, proved that the
daily walks had been solitary and doubtless sad ones. I think Mr. Shaw
understood the real meaning of that little act of respect, and felt
better for the hopeful change it seemed to foretell. But he took it
quietly, and leaving his face to speak for him, merely said, "Thanky,
Tom; yes, mother will enjoy her dinner twice as much if you order it."

Then they began to talk business with all their might, as if they feared
that some trace of sentiment might disgrace their masculine dignity. But
it made no difference whether they discussed lawsuits or love, mortgages
or mothers, the feeling was all right and they knew it, so Mr. Shaw
walked straighter than usual, and Tom felt that he was in his proper
place again. The walk was not without its trials, however; for while it
did Tom's heart good to see the cordial respect paid to his father,
it tried his patience sorely to see also inquisitive or disapproving
glances fixed upon himself when hats were lifted to his father, and
to hear the hearty "Good day, Mr. Shaw," drop into a cool or careless,
"That 's the son; it 's hard on him. Wild fellow, do him good."

"Granted; but you need n't hit a man when he 's down," muttered Tom to
himself, feeling every moment a stronger desire to do something that
should silence everybody. "I 'd cut away to Australia if it was n't for
mother; anything, anywhere to get out of the way of people who know me.
I never can right myself here, with all the fellows watching, and laying
wagers whether I sink or swim. Hang Greek and Latin! wish I 'd learned
a trade, and had something to fall back upon. Have n't a blessed thing
now, but decent French and my fists. Wonder if old Bell don't want
a clerk for the Paris branch of the business? That would n't be bad;
faith, I 'll try it."

And when Tom had landed his father safely at the office, to the great
edification of all beholders, he screwed up his courage, and went to
prefer his request, feeling that the prospect brightened a little. But
Mr. Bell was not in a good humor, and only gave Tom a severe lecture on
the error of his ways, which sent him home much depressed, and caused
the horizon to lower again.

As he roamed about the house that afternoon, trying to calculate how
much an Australian outfit would cost, the sound of lively voices and
clattering spoons attracted him to the kitchen. There he found
Polly giving Maud lessons in cookery; for the "new help" not being a
high-priced article, could not be depended on for desserts, and Mrs.
Shaw would have felt as if the wolf was at the door if there was not "a
sweet dish" at dinner. Maud had a genius for cooking, and Fanny hated
it, so that little person was in her glory, studying receipt books, and
taking lessons whenever Polly could give them.

"Gracious me, Tom, don't come now; we are awful busy! Men don't belong
in kitchens," cried Maud, as her brother appeared in the doorway.

"Could n't think what you were about. Mum is asleep, and Fan out, so I
loafed down to see if there was any fun afoot," said Tom, lingering, as
if the prospect was agreeable. He was a social fellow, and very grateful
just then to any one who helped him to forget his worries for a time.
Polly knew this, felt that his society would not be a great affliction
to herself at least, and whispering to Maud, "He won't know," she added,
aloud, "Come in if you like, and stir this cake for me; it needs a
strong hand, and mine are tired. There, put on that apron to keep you
tidy, sit here, and take it easy."

"I used to help grandma bat up cake, and rather liked it, if I remember
right," said Tom, letting Polly tie a checked apron on him, put a big
bowl into his hands, and settle him near the table, where Maud
was picking raisins, and she herself stirring busily about among
spice-boxes, rolling-pins, and butter-pots.

"You do it beautifully, Tom. I 'll give you a conundrum to lighten your
labor: Why are bad boys like cake?" asked Polly, anxious to cheer him
up.

"Because a good beating makes them better. I doubt that myself, though,"
answered Tom, nearly knocking the bottom of the bowl out with his
energetic demonstrations, for it really was a relief to do something.

"Bright boy! here 's a plum for you," and Polly threw a plump raisin
into his mouth.

"Put in lots, won't you? I 'm rather fond of plum-cake," observed
Tom, likening himself to Hercules with the distaff, and finding his
employment pleasant, if not classical.

"I always do, if I can; there 's nothing I like better than to shovel in
sugar and spice, and make nice, plummy cake for people. It 's one of the
few things I have a gift for."

"You 've hit it this time, Polly; you certainly have a gift for putting
a good deal of both articles into your own and other people's lives,
which is lucky, as, we all have to eat that sort of cake, whether we
like it or not," observed Tom, so soberly that Polly opened her eyes,
and Maud exclaimed, "I do believe he 's preaching."

"Feel as if I could sometimes," continued Tom; then his eye fell upon
the dimples in Polly's elbows, and he added, with a laugh, "That 's more
in your line, ma'am; can't you give us a sermon?"

"A short one. Life, my brethren, is like plum-cake," began Polly,
impressively folding her floury hands. "In some the plums are all on
the top, and we eat them gayly, till we suddenly find they are gone. In
others the plums sink to the bottom, and we look for them in vain as we
go on, and often come to them when it is too late to enjoy them. But
in the well-made cake, the plums are wisely scattered all through, and
every mouthful is a pleasure. We make our own cakes, in a great measure,
therefore let us look to it, my brethren, that they are mixed according
to the best receipt, baked in a well regulated oven, and gratefully
eaten with a temperate appetite."

"Good! good!" cried Tom, applauding with the wooden spoon. "That 's a
model sermon, Polly, short, sweet, sensible, and not a bit sleepy. I 'm
one of your parish, and will see that you get your 'celery punctooal,'
as old Deacon Morse used to say."

"'Thank you, brother, my wants is few, and ravens scurser than they used
to be,' as dear old Parson Miller used to answer. Now, Maud, bring on
the citron;" and Polly began to put the cake together in what seemed
a most careless and chaotic manner, while Tom and Maud watched with
absorbing interest till it was safely in the oven.

"Now make your custards, dear; Tom may like to beat the eggs for you; it
seems to have a good effect upon his constitution."

"First-rate; hand 'em along," and Tom smoothed his apron with a cheerful
air. "By the way, Syd's got back. I met him yesterday, and he treated me
like a man and a brother," he added, as if anxious to contribute to the
pleasures of the hour.

"I 'm so glad!" cried Polly, clapping her hands, regardless of the egg
she held, which dropped and smashed on the floor at her feet. "Careless
thing! Pick it up, Maud, I 'll get some more;" and Polly whisked out of
the room, glad of an excuse to run and tell Fan, who had just come
in, lest, hearing the news in public, she might be startled out of the
well-bred composure with which young ladies are expected to receive
tidings, even of the most vital importance.

"You know all about history, don't you?" asked Maud, suddenly.

"Not quite," modestly answered Tom.

"I just want to know if there really was a man named Sir Philip, in the
time of Queen Elizabeth."

"You mean Sir Philip Sidney? Yes, he lived then and a fine old fellow he
was too."

"There; I knew the girls did n't mean him," cried Maud, with a chop that
sent the citron flying.

"What mischief are you up to now, you little magpie?"

"I shan't tell you what they said, because I don't remember much of it;
but I heard Polly and Fan talking about some one dreadful mysterious,
and when I asked who it was, Fan said,'Sir Philip.' Ho! she need n't
think I believe it! I saw 'em laugh, and blush, and poke one another,
and I knew it was n't about any old Queen Elizabeth man," cried Maud,
turning up her nose as far as that somewhat limited feature would go.

"Look here, you are letting cats out of the bag. Never mind, I thought
so. They don't tell us their secrets, but we are so sharp, we can't help
finding them out, can we?" said Tom, looking so much interested, that
Maud could n't resist airing her knowledge a little.

"Well, I dare say, it is n't proper for you to know, but I am old enough
now to be told anything, and those girls better mind what they say, for
I 'm not a stupid chit, like Blanche. I just wish you could have heard
them go on. I 'm sure there 's something very nice about Mr. Sydney,
they looked so pleased when they whispered and giggled on the bed, and
thought I was ripping bonnets, and did n't hear a word."

"Which looked most pleased?" asked Tom, investigating the kitchen boiler
with deep interest.

"Well, 'pears to me Polly did; she talked most, and looked funny and
very happy all the time. Fan laughed a good deal, but I guess Polly is
the loveress," replied Maud, after a moment's reflection.

"Hold your tongue; she 's coming!" and Tom began to pump as if the house
was on fire.

Down came Polly, with heightened color, bright eyes, and not a single
egg. Tom took a quick look at her over his shoulder, and paused as if
the fire was suddenly extinguished. Something in his face made Polly
feel a little guilty, so she fell to grating nutmeg, with a vigor which
made red cheeks the most natural thing in life. Maud, the traitor, sat
demurely at work, looking very like what Tom had called her, a magpie
with mischief in its head. Polly felt a change in the atmosphere, but
merely thought Tom was tired, so she graciously dismissed him with a
stick of cinnamon, as she had nothing else just then to lay upon the
shrine. "Fan's got the books and maps you wanted. Go and rest now. I 'm
much obliged; here 's your wages, Bridget."

"Good luck to your messes," answered Tom, as he walked away meditatively
crunching his cinnamon, and looking as if he did not find it as spicy as
usual. He got his books, but did not read them; for, shutting himself up
in the little room called "Tom's den," he just sat down and brooded.

When he came down to breakfast the next morning, he was greeted with
a general "Happy birthday, Tom!" and at his place lay gifts from every
member of the family; not as costly as formerly, perhaps, but infinitely
dearer, as tokens of the love that had outlived the change, and only
grown the warmer for the test of misfortune. In his present state of
mind, Tom felt as if he did not deserve a blessed thing; so when every
one exerted themselves to make it a happy day for him, he understood
what it means "to be nearly killed with kindness," and sternly resolved
to be an honor to his family, or perish in the attempt. Evening brought
Polly to what she called a "festive tea," and when they gathered round
the table, another gift appeared, which, though not of a sentimental
nature, touched Tom more than all the rest. It was a most delectable
cake, with a nosegay atop, and round it on the snowy frosting there
ran a pink inscription, just as it had been every year since Tom could
remember.

"Name, age, and date, like a nice white tombstone," observed Maud,
complacently, at which funereal remark, Mrs. Shaw, who was down in honor
of the day, dropped her napkin, and demanded her salts.

"Whose doing is that?" asked Tom, surveying the gift with satisfaction;
for it recalled the happier birthdays, which seemed very far away now.

"I did n't know what to give you, for you 've got everything a man
wants, and I was in despair till I remembered that dear grandma always
made you a little cake like that, and that you once said it would n't be
a happy birthday without it. So I tried to make it just like hers, and I
do hope it will prove a good, sweet, plummy one."

"Thank you," was all Tom said, as he smiled at the giver, but Polly knew
that her present had pleased him more than the most elegant trifle she
could have made.

"It ought to be good, for you beat it up yourself, Tom," cried, Maud.
"It was so funny to see you working away, and never guessing who the
cake was for. I perfectly trembled every time you opened your mouth,
for fear you 'd ask some question about it. That was the reason Polly
preached and I kept talking when she was gone."

"Very stupid of me; but I forgot all about to-day. Suppose we cut it;
I don't seem to care for anything else," said Tom, feeling no appetite,
but bound to do justice to that cake, if he fell a victim to his
gratitude.

"I hope the plums won't all be at the bottom," said Polly, as she rose
to do the honors of the cake, by universal appointment.

"I 've had a good many at the top already, you know," answered Tom,
watching the operation with as much interest as if he had faith in the
omen.

Cutting carefully, slice after slice fell apart; each firm and dark,
spicy and rich, under the frosty rime above; and laying a specially
large piece in one of grandma's quaint little china plates, Polly added
the flowers and handed it to Tom, with a look that said a good deal,
for, seeing that he remembered her sermon, she was glad to find that her
allegory held good, in one sense at least. Tom's face brightened as he
took it, and after an inspection which amused the others very much he
looked up, saying, with an air of relief, "Plums all through; I 'm glad
I had a hand in it, but Polly deserves the credit, and must wear the
posy," and turning to her, he put the rose into her hair with more
gallantry than taste, for a thorn pricked her head, the leaves tickled
her ear, and the flower was upside down.

Fanny laughed at his want of skill, but Polly would n't have it altered,
and everybody fell to eating cake, as if indigestion was one of the lost
arts. They had a lively tea, and were getting on famously afterward,
when two letters were brought for Tom, who glanced at one, and retired
rather precipitately to his den, leaving Maud consumed with curiosity,
and the older girls slightly excited, for Fan thought she recognized the
handwriting on one, and Polly, on the other.

One half an hour and then another elapsed, and Tom did not return. Mr.
Shaw went out, Mrs. Shaw retired to her room escorted by Maud, and the
two girls sat together wondering if anything dreadful had happened. All
of a sudden a voice called, "Polly!" and that young lady started out of
her chair, as if the sound had been a thunder-clap.

"Do run! I 'm perfectly fainting to know what the matter is," said Fan.

"You 'd better go," began Polly, wishing to obey, yet feeling a little
shy.

"He don't want me; besides, I could n't say a word for myself if that
letter was from Sydney," cried Fanny, hustling her friend towards the
door, in a great flutter.

Polly went without another word, but she wore a curiously anxious look,
and stopped on the threshold of the den, as if a little afraid of its
occupant. Tom was sitting in his favorite attitude, astride of a chair,
with his arms folded and his chin on the top rail; not an elegant
posture, but the only one in which, he said, he could think well.

"Did you want me, Tom?"

"Yes. Come in, please, and don't look scared; I only want to show you a
present I 've had, and ask your advice about accepting it."

"Why, Tom, you look as if you had been knocked down!" exclaimed Polly,
forgetting all about herself, as she saw his face when he rose and
turned to meet her.

"I have; regularly floored; but I 'm up again, and steadier than ever.
Just you read that, and tell me what you think of it."

Tom snatched a letter off the table, put it into her hands, and began to
walk up and down the little room, like a veritable bear in its cage. As
Polly read that short note, all the color went out of her face, and her
eyes began to kindle. When she came to the end, she stood a minute, as
if too indignant to speak, then gave the paper a nervous sort of crumple
and dropped it on the floor, saying, all in one breath, "I think she is
a mercenary, heartless, ungrateful girl! That 's what I think."

"Oh, the deuce! I did n't mean to show that one; it 's the other." And
Tom took up a second paper, looking half angry, half ashamed at his
own mistake. "I don't care, though; every one will know to-morrow; and
perhaps you 'll be good enough to keep the girls from bothering me
with questions and gabble," he added, as if, on second thoughts, he was
relieved to have the communication made to Polly first.

"I don't wonder you looked upset. If the other letter is as bad, I 'd
better have a chair before I read it," said Polly, feeling that she
began to tremble with excitement.

"It 's a million times better, but it knocked me worse than the other;
kindness always does." Tom stopped short there, and stood a minute
turning the letter about in his hand as if it contained a sweet which
neutralized the bitter in that smaller note, and touched him very much.
Then he drew up an arm-chair, and beckoning Polly to take it, said in
a sober, steady tone, that surprised her greatly, "Whenever I was in a
quandary, I used to go and consult grandma, and she always had something
sensible or comfortable to say to me. She 's gone now, but somehow,
Polly, you seem to take her place. Would you mind sitting in her chair,
and letting me tell you two or three things, as Will does?"

Mind it? Polly felt that Tom had paid her the highest and most beautiful
compliment he could have devised. She had often longed to do it, for,
being brought up in the most affectionate and frank relations with her
brothers, she had early learned what it takes most women some time to
discover, that sex does not make nearly as much difference in hearts and
souls as we fancy. Joy and sorrow, love and fear, life and death
bring so many of the same needs to all, that the wonder is we do not
understand each other better, but wait till times of tribulation teach
us that human nature is very much the same in men and women. Thanks to
this knowledge, Polly understood Tom in a way that surprised and won
him. She knew that he wanted womanly sympathy, and that she could give
it to him, because she was not afraid to stretch her hand across the
barrier which our artificial education puts between boys and girls, and
to say to him in all good faith, "If I can help you, let me."

Ten minutes sooner Polly could have done this almost as easily to Tom as
to Will, but in that ten minutes something had happened which made this
difficult. Reading that Trix had given Tom back his freedom changed many
things to Polly, and caused her to shrink from his confidence, because
she felt as if it would be harder now to keep self out of sight; for,
spite of maiden modesty, love and hope would wake and sing at the good
news. Slowly she sat down, and hesitatingly she said, with her eyes on
the ground, and a very humble voice, "I 'll do my best, but I can't fill
grandma's place, or give you any wise, good advice. I wish I could!"

"You 'll do it better than any one else. Talk troubles mother, father
has enough to think of without any of my worries. Fan is a good soul,
but she is n't practical, and we always get into a snarl if we try to
work together, so who have I but my other sister, Polly? The pleasure
that letter will give you may make up for my boring you."

As he spoke, Tom laid the other paper in her lap, and went off to the
window, as if to leave her free to enjoy it unseen; but he could not
help a glance now and then, and as Polly's face brightened, his own
fell.

"Oh, Tom, that 's a birthday present worth having, for it 's so
beautifully given I don't see how you can refuse it. Arthur Sydney is a
real nobleman!" cried Polly, looking up at last, with her fact glowing,
and her eyes full of delight.

"So he is! I don't know another man living, except father, who would
have done such a thing, or who I could bring myself to take it from. Do
you see, he 's not only paid the confounded debts, but has done it in my
name, to spare me all he could?"

"I see, it 's like him; and I think he must be very happy to be able to
do such a thing."

"It is an immense weight off my shoulders, for some of those men could
n't afford to wait till I 'd begged, borrowed, or earned the money.
Sydney can wait, but he won't long, if I know myself." "You won't take
it as a gift, then?"

"Would you?"

"No."

"Then don't think I will. I 'm a pretty poor affair, Polly, but I 'm
not mean enough to do that, while I 've got a conscience and a pair of
hands."

A rough speech, but it pleased Polly better than the smoothest Tom had
ever made in her hearing, for something in his face and voice told her
that the friendly act had roused a nobler sentiment than gratitude,
making the cancelled obligations of the boy, debts of honor to the man.

"What will you do, Tom?"

"I 'll tell you; may I sit here?" And Tom took the low footstool that
always stood near grandma's old chair. "I 've had so many plans in my
head lately, that sometimes it seems as if it would split," continued
the poor fellow, rubbing his tired forehead, as if to polish up his
wits. "I 've thought seriously of going to California, Australia, or
some out-of-the-way place, where men get rich in a hurry."

"Oh, no!" cried Polly, putting out her hand as it to keep him, and then
snatching it back again before he could turn round.

"It would be hard on mother and the girls, I suppose; besides, I don't
quite like it myself; looks as if I shirked and ran away."

"So it does," said Polly, decidedly.

"Well, you see I don't seem to find anything to do unless I turn clerk,
and I don't think that would suit. The fact is, I could n't stand
it here, where I 'm known. It would be easier to scratch gravel on a
railroad, with a gang of Paddies, than to sell pins to my friends and
neighbors. False pride, I dare say, but it 's the truth, and there 's no
use in dodging."

"Not a bit, and I quite agree with you."

"That 's comfortable. Now I 'm coming to the point where I specially
want your advice, Polly. Yesterday I heard you telling Fan about your
brother Ned; how well he got on; how he liked his business, and wanted
Will to come and take some place near him. You thought I was reading,
but I heard; and it struck me that perhaps I could get a chance out West
somewhere. What do you think?"

"If you really mean work, I know you could," answered Polly, quickly, as
all sorts of plans and projects went sweeping through her mind. "I wish
you could be with Ned; you 'd get on together, I 'm sure; and he 'd be
so glad to do anything he could. I 'll write and ask, straight away, if
you want me to."

"Suppose you do; just for information, you know, then I shall have
something to go upon. I want to have a feasible plan all ready, before
I speak to father. There 's nothing so convincing to business men as
facts, you know."

Polly could not help smiling at Tom's new tone, it seemed so strange
to hear him talking about anything but horses and tailors, dancing and
girls. She liked it, however, as much as she did the sober expression of
his face, and the way he had lately of swinging his arms about, as if he
wanted to do something energetic with them.

"That will be wise. Do you think your father will like this plan?"

"Pretty sure he will. Yesterday, when I told him I must go at something
right off, he said, 'Anything honest, Tom, and don't forget that your
father began the world as a shop-boy.' You knew that, did n't you?"

"Yes, he told me the story once, and I always liked to hear it, because
it was pleasant to see how well he had succeeded."

"I never did like the story, a little bit ashamed, I 'm afraid; but
when we talked it over last night, it struck me in a new light, and I
understood why father took the failure so well, and seems so contented
with this poorish place. It is only beginning again, he says; and having
worked his way up once, he feels as if he could again. I declare to you,
Polly, that sort of confidence in himself, and energy and courage in a
man of his years, makes me love and respect the dear old gentleman as I
never did before."

"I 'm so glad to hear you say that, Tom! I 've sometimes thought you did
n't quite appreciate your father, any more than he knew how much of a
man you were."

"Never was till to-day, you know," said Tom, laughing, yet looking as
if he felt the dignity of his one and twenty years. "Odd, is n't it, how
people live together ever so long, and don't seem to find one another
out, till something comes to do it for them. Perhaps this smash-up was
sent to introduce me to my own father."

"There 's philosophy for you," said Polly, smiling, even while she felt
as if adversity was going to do more for Tom than years of prosperity.

They both sat quiet for a minute, Polly in the big chair looking at him
with a new respect in her eyes, Tom on the stool near by slowly tearing
up a folded paper he had absently taken from the floor while he talked.

"Did this surprise you?" he asked, as a little white shower fluttered
from his hands.

"No."

"Well, it did me; for you know as soon as we came to grief I offered to
release Trix from the engagement, and she would n't let me," continued
Tom, as if, having begun the subject, he wished to explain it
thoroughly.

"That surprised me," said Polly.

"So it did me, for Fan always insisted it was the money and not the
man she cared for. Her first answer pleased me very much, for I did not
expect it, and nothing touches a fellow more than to have a woman stand
by him through thick and thin."

"She don't seem to have done it."

"Fan was right. Trix only waited to see how bad things really were, or
rather her mother did. She 's as cool, hard, and worldly minded an old
soul as I ever saw, and Trix is bound to obey. She gets round it very
neatly in her note, 'I won't be a burden,' 'will sacrifice her hopes,'
'and always remain my warm friend,' but the truth is, Tom Shaw rich was
worth making much of, but Tom Shaw poor is in the way, and may go to the
devil as fast as he likes."

"Well, he is n't going!" cried Polly, defiantly, for her wrath burned
hotly against Trix, though she blessed her for setting the bondman free.

"Came within an ace of it," muttered Tom to himself; adding aloud, in
a tone of calm resignation that assured Polly his heart would not
be broken though his engagement was, "It never rains but it pours,
'specially in hard times, but when a man is down, a rap or two more
don't matter much, I suppose. It 's the first blow that hurts most."

"Glad to see you take the last blow so well." There was an ironical
little twang to that speech, and Polly could n't help it. Tom colored up
and looked hurt for a minute, then seemed to right himself with a shrug,
and said, in his outspoken way, "To tell the honest truth, Polly, it was
not a very hard one. I 've had a feeling for some time that Trix and I
were not suited to one another, and it might be wiser to stop short. But
she did not or would not see it; and I was not going to back out, and
leave her to wear any more willows, so here we are. I don't bear malice,
but hope she 'll do better, and not be disappointed again, upon my word
I do."

"That 's very good of you, quite Sydneyesque, and noble," said Polly,
feeling rather ill at ease, and wishing she could hide herself behind a
cap and spectacles, if she was to play Grandma to this confiding youth.

"It will be all plain sailing for Syd, I fancy," observed Tom, getting
up as if the little cricket suddenly ceased to be comfortable.

"I hope so," murmured Polly, wondering what was coming next.

"He deserves the very best of everything, and I pray the Lord he may get
it," added Tom, poking the fire in a destructive manner.

Polly made no answer, fearing to pay too much, for she knew Fan had made
no confidant of Tom, and she guarded her friend's secret as jealously as
her own. "You 'll write to Ned to-morrow, will you? I 'll take anything
he 's got, for I want to be off," said Tom, casting down the poker,
and turning round with a resolute air which was lost on Polly, who sat
twirling the rose that had fallen into her lap.

"I 'll write to-night. Would you like me to tell the girls about Trix
and Sydney?" she asked as she rose, feeling that the council was over.

"I wish you would. I don't know how to thank you for all you 've done
for me; I wish to heaven I did," said Tom, holding out his hand with a
look that Polly thought a great deal too grateful for the little she had
done.

As she gave him her hand, and looked up at him with those confiding eyes
of hers, Tom's gratitude seemed to fly to his head, for, without the
slightest warning, he stooped down and kissed her, a proceeding which
startled Polly so that he recovered himself at once, and retreated into
his den with the incoherent apology, "I beg pardon could n't help it
grandma always let me on my birthday."

While Polly took refuge up stairs, forgetting all about Fan, as she sat
in the dark with her face hidden, wondering why she was n't very angry,
and resolving never again to indulge in the delightful but dangerous
pastime of playing grandmother.



CHAPTER XVIII. THE WOMAN WHO DID NOT DARE


POLLY wrote enthusiastically, Ned answered satisfactorily, and after
much corresponding, talking, and planning, it was decided that Tom
should go West. Never mind what the business was; it suffices to say
that it was a good beginning for a young man like Tom, who, having been
born and bred in the most conservative class of the most conceited city
in New England, needed just the healthy, hearty, social influences of
the West to widen his views and make a man of him.

Of course there was much lamentation among the women, but every one felt
it was the best thing for him; so while they sighed they sewed, packed
visions of a brilliant future away with his new pocket handkerchiefs,
and rejoiced that the way was open before him even in the act of
bedewing his boots with tears. Sydney stood by him to the last, "like
a man and a brother" (which expression of Tom's gave Fanny infinite
satisfaction), and Will felt entirely consoled for Ned's disappointment
at his refusal to go and join him, since Tom was to take the place Ned
had kept for him.

Fortunately every one was so busy with the necessary preparations that
there was no time for romance of any sort, and the four young people
worked together as soberly and sensibly as if all sorts of emotions were
not bottled up in their respective hearts. But in spite of the silence,
the work, and the hurry, I think they came to know one another better
in that busy little space of time than in all the years that had gone
before, for the best and bravest in each was up and stirring, and
the small house was as full of the magnetism of love and friendship,
self-sacrifice and enthusiasm, as the world outside was full of spring
sunshine and enchantment. Pity that the end should come so soon, but the
hour did its work and went its way, leaving a clearer atmosphere behind,
though the young folks did not see it then, for their eyes were dim
because of the partings that must be.

Tom was off to the West; Polly went home for the summer; Maud was
taken to the seaside with Belle; and Fanny left alone to wrestle with
housekeeping, "help," and heartache. If it had not been for two things,
I fear she never would have stood a summer in town, but Sydney often
called, till his vacation came, and a voluminous correspondence with
Polly beguiled the long days. Tom wrote once a week to his mother, but
the letters were short and not very satisfactory, for men never do
tell the interesting little things that women best like to hear. Fanny
forwarded her bits of news to Polly. Polly sent back all the extracts
from Ned's letters concerning Tom, and by putting the two reports
together, they gained the comfortable assurance that Tom was well, in
good spirits, hard at work, and intent on coming out strong in spite of
all obstacles.

Polly had a quiet summer at home, resting and getting ready in mind and
body for another winter's work, for in the autumn she tried her plan
again, to the satisfaction of her pupils and the great joy of her
friends. She never said much of herself in her letters, and Fanny's
first exclamation when they met again, was an anxious "Why, Polly, dear!
Have you been sick and never told me?"

"No, I 'm only tired, had a good deal to do lately, and the dull weather
makes me just a trifle blue. I shall soon brighten up when I get to my
work again," answered Polly, bustling about to put away her things.

"You don't look a bit natural. What have you been doing to your precious
little self?" persisted Fanny, troubled by the change, yet finding it
hard to say wherein it lay.

Polly did not look sick, though her cheeks were thinner and her color
paler than formerly, but she seemed spiritless, and there was a tired
look in her eyes that went to Fanny's heart.

"I 'm all right enough, as you 'll see when I 'm in order. I 'm proper
glad to find you looking so well and happy. Does all go smoothly, Fan?"
asked Polly, beginning to brush her hair industriously.

"Answer me one question first," said Fanny, looking as if a sudden fear
had come over her. "Tell me, truly, have you never repented of your hint
to Sydney?"

"Never!" cried Polly, throwing back the brown veil behind which she had
half hidden her face at first.

"On your honor, as an honest girl?"

"On my honor, as anything you please. Why do you suspect me of it?"
demanded Polly, almost angrily.

"Because something is wrong with you. It 's no use to deny it, for you
've got the look I used to see in that very glass on my own face when I
thought he cared for you. Forgive me, Polly, but I can't help saying it,
for it is there, and I want to be as true to you as you were to me if I
can."

Fanny's face was full of agitation, and she spoke fast and frankly, for
she was trying to be generous and found it very hard. Polly understood
now and put her fear at rest by saying almost passionately, "I tell you
I don't love him! If he was the only man in the world, I would n't marry
him, because I don't want to."

The last three words were added in a different tone, for Polly had
checked herself there with a half-frightened look and turned away to
hide her face behind her hair again.

"Then if it 's not him, it 's some one else. You 've got a secret,
Polly, and I should think you might tell it, as you know mine," said
Fanny, unable to rest till everything was told, for Polly's manner
troubled her.

There was no answer to her question, but she was satisfied and putting
her arm round her friend, she said, in her most persuasive tone, "My
precious Polly, do I know him?"

"You have seen him."

"And is he very wise, good, and splendid, dear?"

"No."

"He ought to be if you love him. I hope he is n't bad?" cried Fan,
anxiously, still holding Polly, who kept her head obstinately turned.

"I 'm suited, that 's enough."

"Oh, please just tell me one thing more. Don't he love back again?"

"No. Now don't say another word, I can't bear it!" and Polly drew
herself away, as she spoke in a desperate sort of tone.

"I won't, but now I 'm not afraid to tell you that I think, I hope, I
do believe that Sydney cares a little for me. He 's been very kind to us
all, and lately he has seemed to like to see me always when he comes
and miss me if I 'm gone. I did n't dare to hope anything, till Papa
observed something in his manner, and teased me about it. I try not to
deceive myself, but it does seem as if there was a chance of happiness
for me."

"Thank heaven for that!" cried Polly, with the heartiest satisfaction in
her voice. "Now come and tell me all about it," she added, sitting down
on the couch with the air of one who has escaped a great peril.

"I 've got some notes and things I want to ask your opinion about, if
they really mean anything, you know," said Fanny, getting out a bundle
of papers from the inmost recesses of her desk. "There 's a photograph
of Tom, came in his last letter. Good, is n't it? He looks older, but
that 's the beard and the rough coat, I suppose. Dear old fellow, he is
doing so well I really begin to feel quite proud of him."

Fan tossed her the photograph, and went on rummaging for a certain note.
She did not see Polly catch up the picture and look at it with hungry
eyes, but she did hear something in the low tone in which Polly said,
"It don't do him justice," and glancing over her shoulder, Fan's quick
eye caught a glimpse of the truth, though Polly was half turned away
from her. Without stopping to think, Fan dropped her letters, took Polly
by the shoulders, and cried in a tone full of astonishment, "Polly, is
it Tom?"

Poor Polly was so taken by surprise, that she had not a word to say.
None were needed; her telltale face answered for her, as well as the
impulse which made her hide her head in the sofa cushion, like a foolish
ostrich when the hunters are after it.

"Oh, Polly, I am so glad! I never thought of it you are so good, and he
's such a wild boy, I can't believe it but it is so dear of you to care
for him."

"Could n't help it tried not to but it was so hard you know, Fan, you
know," said a stifled voice from the depths of the very fuzzy cushion
which Tom had once condemned.

The last words, and the appealing hand outstretched to her, told Fanny
the secret of her friend's tender sympathy for her own love troubles,
and seemed so pathetic, that she took Polly in her arms, and cried over
her, in the fond, foolish way girls have of doing when their hearts are
full, and tears can say more than tongues. The silence never lasts long,
however, for the feminine desire to "talk it over" usually gets the
better of the deepest emotion. So presently the girls were hard at
it, Polly very humble and downcast, Fanny excited and overflowing with
curiosity and delight.

"Really my sister! You dear thing, how heavenly that will be," she
cried.

"It never will be," answered Polly in a tone of calm despair.

"What will prevent it?"

"Maria Bailey," was the tragic reply.

"What do you mean? Is she the Western girl? She shan't have Tom; I 'll
kill her first!"

"Too late, let me tell you is that door shut, and Maud safe?"

Fanny reconnoitered, and returning, listened breathlessly, while Polly
poured into her ear the bitter secret which was preying on her soul.

"Has n't he mentioned Maria in his letters?"

"Once or twice, but sort of jokingly, and I thought it was only some
little flirtation. He can't have time for much of that fun, he 's so
busy."

"Ned writes good, gossipy letters I taught him how and he tells me all
that 's going on. When he 'd spoken of this girl several times (they
board with her mother, you know), I asked about her, quite carelessly,
and he told me she was pretty, good, and well educated, and he thought
Tom was rather smitten. That was a blow, for you see, Fan, since Trix
broke the engagement, and it was n't wrong to think of Tom, I let myself
hope, just a little, and was so happy! Now I must give it up, and now I
see how much I hoped, and what a dreadful loss it 's going to be."

Two great tears rolled down Polly's cheeks, and Fanny wiped them away,
feeling an intense desire to go West by the next train, wither Maria
Bailey with a single look, and bring Tom back as a gift to Polly.

"It was so stupid of me not to guess before. But you see Tom always
seems so like a boy, and you are more womanly for your age than any girl
I know, so I never thought of your caring for him in that way. I knew
you were very good to him, you are to every one, my precious; and I knew
that he was fond of you as he is of me, fonder if anything, because he
thinks you are perfect; but still I never dreamed of his loving you as
more than a dear friend."

"He does n't," sighed Polly.

"Well, he ought; and if I could get hold of him, he should!"

Polly clutched Fan at that, and held her tight, saying sternly, "If you
ever breathe a word, drop a hint, look a look that will tell him or any
one else about me, I 'll yes, as sure as my name is Mary Milton I 'll
proclaim from the housetops that you like Ar" Polly got no further,
for Fan's hand was on her mouth, and Fan's alarmed voice vehemently
protested, "I won't! I promise solemnly I 'll never say a word to a
mortal creature. Don't be so fierce, Polly; you quite frighten me."

"It 's bad enough to love some one who don't love you, but to have them
told of it is perfectly awful. It makes me wild just to think of it. Oh,
Fan, I 'm getting so ill-tempered and envious and wicked, I don't know
what will happen to me."

"I 'm not afraid for you, my dear, and I do believe things will go
right, because you are so good to every one. How Tom could help adoring
you I don't see. I know he would if he had stayed at home longer after
he got rid of Trix. It would be the making of him; but though he is my
brother, I don't think he 's good enough for you, Polly, and I don't
quite see how you can care for him so much, when you might have had a
person so infinitely superior."

"I don't want a 'superior' person; he 'd tire me if he was like A. S.
Besides, I do think Tom is superior to him in many things. Well, you
need n't stare; I know he is, or will be. He 's so different, and very
young, and has lots of faults, I know, but I like him all the better for
it, and he 's honest and brave, and has got a big, warm heart, and I 'd
rather have him care for me than the wisest, best, most accomplished man
in the world, simply because I love him!"

If Tom could only have seen Polly's face when she said that! It was so
tender, earnest, and defiant, that Fanny forgot the defence of her own
lover in admiration of Polly's loyalty to hers; for this faithful, all
absorbing love was a new revelation to Fanny, who was used to hearing
her friends boast of two or three lovers a year, and calculate their
respective values, with almost as much coolness as the young men
discussed the fortunes of the girls they wished for, but "could not
afford to marry." She had thought her love for Sydney very romantic,
because she did not really care whether he was rich or poor, though she
never dared to say so, even to Polly, for fear of being laughed at.
She began to see now what true love was, and to feel that the sentiment
which she could not conquer was a treasure to be accepted with
reverence, and cherished with devotion.

"I don't know when I began to love Tom, but I found out that I did last
winter, and was as much surprised as you are," continued Polly, as if
glad to unburden her heart. "I did n't approve of him at all. I
thought he was extravagant, reckless, and dandified. I was very much
disappointed when he chose Trix, and the more I thought and saw of it,
the worse I felt, for Tom was too good for her, and I hated to see her
do so little for him, when she might have done so much; because he is
one of the men who can be led by their affections, and the woman he
marries can make or mar him."

"That 's true!" cried Fan, as Polly paused to look at the picture, which
appeared to regard her with a grave, steady look, which seemed rather to
belie her assertions.

"I don't mean that he 's weak or bad. If he was, I should hate him; but
he does need some one to love him very much, and make him happy, as
a good woman best knows how," said Polly, as if answering the mute
language of Tom's face.

"I hope Maria Bailey is all he thinks her," she added, softly, "for I
could n't bear to have him disappointed again."

"I dare say he don't care a fig for her, and you are only borrowing
trouble. What do you say Ned answered when you asked about this
inconvenient girl?" said Fanny turning hopeful all at once.

Polly repeated it, and added, "I asked him in another letter if he did
n't admire Miss B. as much as Tom, and he wrote back that she was 'a
nice girl,' but he had no time for nonsense, and I need n't get my white
kids ready for some years yet, unless to dance at Tom's wedding. Since
then he has n't mentioned Maria, so I was sure there was something
serious going on, and being in Tom's confidence, he kept quiet."

"It does look bad. Suppose I say a word to Tom, just inquire after his
heart in a general way, you know, and give him a chance to tell me, if
there is anything to tell." "I 'm willing, but you must let me see the
letter. I can't trust you not to hint or say too much."

"You shall. I 'll keep my promise in spite of everything, but it will be
hard to see things going wrong when a word would set it right."

"You know what will happen if you do," and Polly looked so threatening
that Fan trembled before her, discovering that the gentlest girls when
roused are more impressive than any shrew; for even turtle doves peck
gallantly to defend their nests.

"If it is true about Maria, what shall we do?" said Fanny after a pause.

"Bear it; People always do bear things, somehow," answered Polly,
looking as if sentence had been passed upon her.

"But if it is n't?" cried Fan, unable to endure the sight.

"Then I shall wait." And Polly's face changed so beautifully that Fan
hugged her on the spot, fervently wishing that Maria Bailey never had
been born.

Then the conversation turned to lover number two, and after a long
confabulation, Polly gave it as her firm belief that A. S. had forgotten
M. M., and was rapidly finding consolation in the regard of F. S. With
this satisfactory decision the council ended after the ratification of a
Loyal League, by which the friends pledged themselves to stand staunchly
by one another, through the trials of the coming year.

It was a very different winter from the last for both the girls. Fanny
applied herself to her duties with redoubled ardor, for "A. S." was a
domestic man, and admired housewifely accomplishments. If Fanny wanted
to show him what she could do toward making a pleasant home, she
certainly succeeded better than she suspected, for in spite of many
failures and discouragements behind the scenes, the little house became
a most attractive place, to Mr. Sydney at least, for he was more the
house-friend than ever, and seemed determined to prove that change of
fortune made no difference to him.

Fanny had been afraid that Polly's return might endanger her hopes, but
Sydney met Polly with the old friendliness, and very soon convinced her
that the nipping in the bud process had been effectual, for being taken
early, the sprouting affection had died easy, and left room for an older
friendship to blossom into a happier love.

Fanny seemed glad of this, and Polly soon set her heart at rest by
proving that she had no wish to try her power. She kept much at home
when the day's work was done, finding it pleasanter to sit dreaming over
book or sewing alone, than to exert herself even to go to the Shaws'.

"Fan don't need me, and Sydney don't care whether I come or not, so I
'll keep out of the way," she would say, as if to excuse her seeming
indolence.

Polly was not at all like herself that winter, and those nearest to her
saw and wondered at it most. Will got very anxious, she was so quiet,
pale and spiritless, and distracted poor Polly by his affectionate
stupidity, till she completed his bewilderment by getting cross and
scolding him. So he consoled himself with Maud, who, now being in her
teens, assumed dignified airs, and ordered him about in a style that
afforded him continued amusement and employment.

Western news continued vague, for Fan's general inquiries produced only
provokingly unsatisfactory replies from Tom, who sang the praises of
"the beautiful Miss Bailey," and professed to be consumed by a hopeless
passion for somebody, in such half-comic, half-tragic terms, that the
girls could not decide whether it was "all that boy's mischief," or only
a cloak to hide the dreadful truth.

"We 'll have it out of him when he comes home in the spring," said Fanny
to Polly, as they compared the letters of their brothers, and agreed
that "men were the most uncommunicative and provoking animals under
the sun." For Ned was so absorbed in business that he ignored the whole
Bailey question and left them in utter darkness.

Hunger of any sort is a hard thing to bear, especially when the sufferer
has a youthful appetite, and Polly was kept on such a short allowance of
happiness for six months, that she got quite thin and interesting; and
often, when she saw how big her eyes were getting, and how plainly the
veins on her temples showed, indulged the pensive thought that perhaps
spring dandelions might blossom o'er her grave. She had no intention of
dying till Tom's visit was over, however, and as the time drew near,
she went through such alternations of hope and fear, and lived in such a
state of feverish excitement, that spirits and color came back, and she
saw that the interesting pallor she had counted on would be an entire
failure.

May came at last, and with it a burst of sunshine which cheered even
poor Polly's much-enduring heart. Fanny came walking in upon her one
day, looking as if she brought tidings of such great joy that she hardly
knew how to tell them.

"Prepare yourself somebody is engaged!" she said, in a solemn tone,
that made Polly put up her hand as if to ward off an expected blow. "No,
don't look like that, my poor dear; it is n't Tom, it 's I!"

Of course there was a rapture, followed by one of the deliciously
confidential talks which bosom friends enjoy, interspersed with tears
and kisses, smiles and sighs.

"Oh, Polly, though I 've waited and hoped so long I could n't believe it
when it came, and don't deserve it; but I will! for the knowledge that
he loves me seems to make everything possible," said Fanny, with an
expression which made her really beautiful, for the first time in her
life.

"You happy girl!" sighed Polly, then smiled and added, "I think you
deserve all that 's come to you, for you have truly tried to be worthy
of it, and whether it ever came or not that would have been a thing to
be proud of."

"He says that is what made him love me," answered Fanny, never calling
her lover by his name, but making the little personal pronoun a very
sweet word by the tone in which she uttered it. "He was disappointed in
me last year, he told me, but you said good things about me and though
he did n't care much then, yet when he lost you, and came back to me, he
found that you were not altogether mistaken, and he has watched me
all this winter, learning to respect and love me better every day. Oh,
Polly, when he said that, I could n't bear it, because in spite of all
my trying, I 'm still so weak and poor and silly."

"We don't think so; and I know you 'll be all he hopes to find you, for
he 's just the husband you ought to have."

"Thank you all the more, then, for not keeping him yourself," said
Fanny, laughing the old blithe laugh again.

"That was only a slight aberration of his; he knew better all the time.
It was your white cloak and my idiotic behavior the night we went to the
opera that put the idea into his head," said Polly, feeling as if the
events of that evening had happened some twenty years ago, when she was
a giddy young thing, fond of gay bonnets and girlish pranks.

"I 'm not going to tell Tom a word about it, but keep it for a surprise
till he comes. He will be here next week, and then we 'll have a
grand clearing up of mysteries," said Fan, evidently feeling that the
millennium was at hand.

"Perhaps," said Polly, as her heart fluttered and then sunk, for this
was a case where she could do nothing but hope, and keep her hands busy
with Will's new set of shirts.

There is a good deal more of this sort of silent suffering than the
world suspects, for the "women who dare" are few, the women who "stand
and wait" are many. But if work-baskets were gifted with powers of
speech, they could tell stories more true and tender than any we read.
For women often sew the tragedy or comedy of life into their work as
they sit apparently safe and serene at home, yet are thinking deeply,
living whole heart-histories, and praying fervent prayers while they
embroider pretty trifles or do the weekly mending.



CHAPTER XIX. TOM'S SUCCESS


     "Come, Philander, let us be a marching,
     Every one his true love a searching,"

WOULD be the most appropriate motto for this chapter, because,
intimidated by the threats, denunciations, and complaints showered upon
me in consequence of taking the liberty to end a certain story as I
liked, I now yield to the amiable desire of giving satisfaction, and,
at the risk of outraging all the unities, intend to pair off everybody I
can lay my hands on.

Occasionally a matrimonial epidemic appears, especially toward spring,
devastating society, thinning the ranks of bachelordom, and leaving
mothers lamenting for their fairest daughters. That spring the disease
broke out with great violence in the Shaw circle, causing paternal heads
much bewilderment, as one case after another appeared with alarming
rapidity. Fanny, as we have seen, was stricken first, and hardly had she
been carried safely through the crisis, when Tom returned to swell the
list of victims. As Fanny was out a good deal with her Arthur, who was
sure that exercise was necessary for the convalescent, Polly went every
day to see Mrs. Shaw, who found herself lonely, though much better than
usual, for the engagement had a finer effect upon her constitution than
any tonic she ever tried. Some three days after Fan's joyful call Polly
was startled on entering the Shaws' door, by Maud, who came tumbling
down stairs, sending an avalanche of words before her, "He 's come
before he said he should to surprise us! He 's up in mamma's room,
and was just saying, 'How 's Polly?' when I heard you come, in your
creep-mouse way, and you must go right up. He looks so funny with
whiskers, but he 's ever so nice, real big and brown, and he swung me
right up when he kissed me. Never mind your bonnet, I can't wait."

And pouncing upon Polly, Maud dragged her away like a captured ship
towed by a noisy little steam-tug.

"The sooner it 's over the better for me," was the only thought Polly
had time for before she plunged into the room above, propelled by Maud,
who cried triumphantly, "There he is! Ain't he splendid?"

For a minute, everything danced before Polly's eyes, as a hand shook
hers warmly, and a gruffish voice said heartily, "How are you, Polly?"
Then she slipped into a chair beside Mrs. Shaw, hoping that her reply
had been all right and proper, for she had not the least idea what she
said.

Things got steady again directly, and while Maud expatiated on the great
surprise, Polly ventured to look at Tom, feeling glad that her back
was toward the light, and his was not. It was not a large room, and Tom
seemed to fill it entirely; not that he had grown so very much, except
broader in the shoulders, but there was a brisk, genial, free-and-easy
air about him, suggestive of a stirring, out-of-door life, with people
who kept their eyes wide open, and were not very particular what they
did with their arms and legs. The rough-and-ready travelling suit, stout
boots, brown face, and manly beard, changed him so much, that Polly
could find scarcely a trace of elegant Tom Shaw in the hearty-looking
young man who stood with one foot on a chair, while he talked business
to his father in a sensible way, which delighted the old gentleman.
Polly liked the change immensely, and sat listening to the state of
Western trade with as much interest as if it had been the most thrilling
romance, for, as he talked, Tom kept looking at her with a nod or a
smile so like old times, that for a little while, she forgot Maria
Bailey, and was in bliss.

By and by Fanny came flying in, and gave Tom a greater surprise than his
had been. He had not the least suspicion of what had been going on at
home, for Fan had said to herself, with girlish malice, "If he don't
choose to tell me his secrets, I 'm not going to tell mine," and had
said nothing about Sydney, except an occasional allusion to his
being often there, and very kind. Therefore, when she announced her
engagement, Tom looked so staggered for a minute, that Fan thought he
did n't like it; but after the first surprise passed, he showed such an
affectionate satisfaction, that she was both touched and flattered.

"What do you think of this performance?" asked Tom, wheeling round to
Polly, who still sat by Mrs. Shaw, in the shadow of the bed-curtains.

"I like it very much," she said in such a hearty tone, that Tom could
not doubt the genuineness of her pleasure.

"Glad of that. Hope you 'll be as well pleased with another engagement
that 's coming out before long"; and with an odd laugh, Tom carried
Sydney off to his den, leaving the girls to telegraph to one another the
awful message, "It is Maria Bailey."

How she managed to get through that evening, Polly never knew, yet it
was not a long one, for at eight o'clock she slipped out of the room,
meaning to run home alone, and not compel any one to serve as escort.
But she did not succeed, for as she stood warming her rubbers at the
dining-room fire, wondering pensively as she did so if Maria Bailey
had small feet, and if Tom ever put her rubbers on for her, the
little overshoes were taken out of her hands, and Tom's voice said,
reproachfully, "Did you really mean to run away, and not let me go home
with you?"

"I 'm not afraid; I did n't want to take you away," began Polly,
secretly hoping that she did n't look too pleased.

"But I like to be taken away. Why, it 's a whole year since I went home
with you; do you remember that?" said Tom, flapping the rubbers about
without any signs of haste.

"Does it seem long?"

"Everlasting!"

Polly meant to say that quite easily, and smile incredulously at his
answer; but in spite of the coquettish little rose-colored hood she
wore, and which she knew was very becoming, she did not look or speak
gayly, and Tom saw something in the altered face that made him say
hastily, "I 'm afraid you 've been doing too much this winter; you look
tired out, Polly."

"Oh, no! it suits me to be very busy," and she began to drag on her
gloves as if to prove it.

"But it does n't suit me to have you get thin and pale, you know."

Polly looked up to thank him, but never did, for there was something
deeper than gratitude in the honest blue eyes, that could not hide
the truth entirely. Tom saw it, flushed all over his brown face, and
dropping the rubbers with a crash, took her hands, saying, in his old
impetuous way, "Polly, I want to tell you something!"

"Yes, I know, we 've been expecting it. I hope you 'll be very happy,
Tom;" and Polly shook his hands with a smile that was more pathetic than
a flood of tears.

"What!" cried Tom, looking as if he thought she had lost her mind.

"Ned told us all about her; he thought it would be so, and when you
spoke of another engagement, we knew you meant your own."

"But I did n't! Ned's the man; he told me to tell you. It 's just
settled."

"Is it Maria?" cried Polly, holding on to a chair as if to be prepared
for anything.

"Of course. Who else should it be?"

"He did n't say you talked about her most and so we thought" stammered
Polly, falling into a sudden flutter.

"That I was in love? Well, I am, but not with her."

"Oh!" and Polly caught her breath as if a dash of cold water had fallen
on her, for the more in earnest Tom grew, the blunter he became.

"Do you want to know the name of the girl I 've loved for more than a
year? Well, it 's Polly!" As he spoke, Tom stretched out his arms to
her, with the sort of mute eloquence that cannot be resisted, and Polly
went straight into them, without a word.

Never mind what happened for a little bit. Love scenes, if genuine, are
indescribable; for to those who have enacted them, the most elaborate
description seems tame, and to those who have not, the simplest picture
seems overdone. So romancers had better let imagination paint for them
that which is above all art, and leave their lovers to themselves during
the happiest minutes of their lives.

Before long, Tom and Polly were sitting side by side, enjoying the
blissful state of mind which usually follows the first step out of our
work-a-day world, into the glorified region wherein lovers rapturously
exist for a month or two. Tom just sat and looked at Polly as if he
found it difficult to believe that the winter of his discontent had
ended in this glorious spring. But Polly, being a true woman, asked
questions, even while she laughed and cried for joy.

"Now, Tom, how could I know you loved me when you went away and never
said a word?" she began, in a tenderly reproachful tone, thinking of the
hard year she had spent.

"And how could I have the courage to say a word, when I had nothing on
the face of the earth to offer you but my worthless self?" answered Tom,
warmly.

"That was all I wanted!" whispered Polly, in a tone which caused him to
feel that the race of angels was not entirely extinct.

"I 've always been fond of you, my Polly, but I never realized how fond
till just before I went away. I was n't free, you know, and besides I
had a strong impression that you liked Sydney in spite of the damper
which Fan hinted you gave him last winter. He 's such a capital fellow,
I really don't see how you could help it."

"It is strange; I don't understand it myself; but women are queer
creatures, and there 's no accounting for their tastes," said Polly,
with a sly look, which Tom fully appreciated.

"You were so good to me those last days, that I came very near speaking
out, but could n't bear to seem to be offering you a poor, disgraced
sort of fellow, whom Trix would n't have, and no one seemed to think
worth much. 'No,' I said to myself, 'Polly ought to have the best; if
Syd can get her, let him, and I won't say a word. I 'll try to be better
worthy her friendship, anyway; and perhaps, when I 've proved that I
can do something, and am not ashamed to work, then, if Polly is free, I
shan't be afraid to try my chance.' So I held my tongue, worked like a
horse, satisfied myself and others that I could get my living honestly,
and then came home to see if there was any hope for me."

"And I was waiting for you all the time," said a soft voice close to his
shoulder; for Polly was much touched by Tom's manly efforts to deserve
her.

"I did n't mean to do it the first minute, but look about me a little,
and be sure Syd was all right. But Fan's news settled that point, and
just now the look in my Polly's face settled the other. I could n't wait
another minute, or let you either, and I could n't help stretching out
my arms to my little wife, God bless her, though I know I don't deserve
her."

Tom's voice got lower and lower as he spoke, and his face was full of
an emotion of which he need not be ashamed, for a very sincere love
ennobled him, making him humble, where a shallower affection would have
been proud of its success. Polly understood this, and found the honest,
hearty speech of her lover more eloquent than poetry itself. Her hand
stole up to his cheek, and she leaned her own confidingly against the
rough coat, as she said, in her frank simple way, "Tom, dear, don't say
that, as if I was the best girl in the world. I 've got ever so many
faults, and I want you to know them all, and help me cure them, as you
have your own. Waiting has not done us any harm, and I love you all the
better for your trial. But I 'm afraid your year has been harder than
mine, you look so much older and graver than when you went away. You
never would complain; but I 've had a feeling that you were going
through a good deal more than any of us guessed."

"Pretty tough work at first, I own. It was all so new and strange, I
'm afraid I should n't have stood it if it had not been for Ned. He 'd
laugh and say 'Pooh!' if he heard me say it, but it 's true nevertheless
that he 's a grand fellow and helped me through the first six months
like a well, a brother as he is. There was no reason why he should go
out of his way to back up a shiftless party like me, yet he did, and
made many things easy and safe that would have been confoundedly hard
and dangerous if I 'd been left to myself. The only way I can explain it
is that it 's a family trait, and as natural to the brother as it is to
the sister."

"It 's a Shaw trait to do the same. But tell me about Maria; is Ned
really engaged to her?"

"Very much so; you 'll get a letter full of raptures tomorrow; he had
n't time to send by me, I came off in such a hurry. Maria is a sensible,
pretty girl and Ned will be a happy old fellow."

"Why did you let us think it was you?"

"I only teased Fan a little; I did like Maria, for she reminded me of
you sometimes, and was such a kind, cosy little woman I could n't help
enjoying her society after a hard day's work. But Ned got jealous, and
then I knew that he was in earnest, so I left him a clear field, and
promised not to breathe a word to any one till he had got a Yes or No
from his Maria."

"I wish I 'd known it," sighed Polly. "People in love always do such
stupid things!"

"So they do; for neither you nor Fan gave us poor fellows the least hint
about Syd, and there I 've been having all sorts of scares about you."

"Serves us right; brothers and sisters should n't have secrets from each
other."

"We never will again. Did you miss me very much?"

"Yes, Tom; very, very much."

"My patient little Polly!"

"Did you really care for me before you went?"

"See if I did n't;" and with great pride Tom produced a portly
pocket-book stuffed with business-like documents of a most imposing
appearance, opened a private compartment, and took out a worn-looking
paper, unfolded it carefully, and displayed a small brown object which
gave out a faint fragrance.

"That 's the rose you put in the birthday cake, and next week we 'll
have a fresh one in another jolly little cake which you 'll make me; you
left it on the floor of my den the night we talked there, and I 've kept
it ever since. There 's love and romance for you!"

Polly touched the little relic, treasured for a year, and smiled to read
the words "My Polly's rose," scribbled under the crumbling leaves.

"I did n't know you could be so sentimental," she said, looking so
pleased that he did not regret confessing his folly.

"I never was till I loved you, my dear, and I 'm not very bad yet, for I
don't wear my posy next my heart, but where I can see it every day, and
so never forget for whom I am working. Should n't wonder if that bit
of nonsense had kept me economical, honest, and hard at it, for I never
opened my pocket-book that I did n't think of you."

"That 's lovely, Tom," and Polly found it so touching that she felt for
her handkerchief; but Tom took it away, and made her laugh instead of
cry, by saying, in a wheedlesome tone, "I don't believe you did as much,
for all your romance. Did you, now?"

"If you won't laugh, I 'll show you my treasures. I began first, and I
've worn them longest."

As she spoke, Polly drew out the old locket, opened it, and showed the
picture Tom gave her in the bag of peanuts cut small and fitted in on
one side on the other was a curl of reddish hair and a black button. How
Tom laughed when he saw them!

"You don't mean you 've kept that frightful guy of a boy all this time?
Polly! Polly! you are the most faithful 'loveress,' as Maud says, that
was ever known."

"Don't flatter yourself that I 've worn it all these years, sir; I only
put it in last spring because I did n't dare to ask for one of the new
ones. The button came off the old coat you insisted on wearing after the
failure, as if it was your duty to look as shabby as possible, and the
curl I stole from Maud. Are n't we silly?"

He did not seem to think so, and after a short pause for refreshments,
Polly turned serious, and said anxiously, "When must you go back to your
hard work?"

"In a week or two; but it won't seem drudgery now, for you 'll write
every day, and I shall feel that I 'm working to get a home for you.
That will give me a forty-man-power, and I 'll pay up my debts and get a
good start, and then Ned and I will be married and go into partnership,
and we 'll all be the happiest, busiest people in the West."

"It sounds delightful; but won't it take a long time, Tom?"

"Only a few years, and we need n't wait a minute after Syd is paid, if
you don't mind beginning rather low down, Polly."

"I 'd rather work up with you, than sit idle while you toil away all
alone. That 's the way father and mother did, and I think they were very
happy in spite of the poverty and hard work."

"Then we 'll do it by another year, for I must get more salary before I
take you away from a good home here. I wish, oh, Polly, how I wish I had
a half of the money I 've wasted, to make you comfortable, now."

"Never mind, I don't want it; I 'd rather have less, and know you earned
it all yourself," cried Polly, as Tom struck his hand on his knee with
an acute pang of regret at the power he had lost.

"It 's like you to say it, and I won't waste any words bewailing myself,
because I was a fool. We will work up together, my brave Polly, and you
shall yet be proud of your husband, though he is 'poor Tom Shaw.'"

She was as sure of that as if an oracle had foretold it, and was not
deceived; for the loving heart that had always seen, believed, and
tried to strengthen all good impulses in Tom, was well repaid for its
instinctive trust by the happiness of the years to come.

"Yes," she said, hopefully, "I know you will succeed, for the best thing
a man can have, is work with a purpose in it, and the will to do it
heartily."

"There is one better thing, Polly," answered Tom, turning her face up a
little, that he might see his inspiration shining in her eyes.

"What is it, dear?"

"A good woman to love and help him all his life, as you will me, please
God."

"Even though she is old-fashioned," whispered Polly, with happy eyes,
the brighter for their tears, as she looked up at the young man, who,
through her, had caught a glimpse of the truest success, and was not
ashamed to owe it to love and labor, two beautiful old fashions that
began long ago, with the first pair in Eden.

Lest any of my young readers who have honored Maud with their interest
should suffer the pangs of unsatisfied curiosity as to her future, I
will add for their benefit that she did not marry Will, but remained a
busy, lively spinster all her days, and kept house for her father in the
most delightful manner.

Will's ministerial dream came to pass in the course of time, however,
and a gentle, bright-eyed lady ruled over the parsonage, whom the
reverend William called his "little Jane."

Farther into futurity even this rash pen dares not proceed, but pauses
here, concluding in the words of the dear old fairy tales, "And so they
were married, and all lived happily till they died."





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