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Title: Sweet P's
Author: Lippmann, Julie Mathilde
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 "Sweet P's" ***

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



[Illustration: SHE SAT OBEDIENTLY STILL]



                               SWEET P’S

                                  By
                           JULIE M. LIPPMANN

            Author of “Miss Wildfire,” “Dorothy Day,” etc.

                       ILLUSTRATED BY IDA WAUGH

                             PHILADELPHIA
                      THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY
                                 MCMII

             COPYRIGHT 1902 BY THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY

                       Published August 5, 1902



                         _TO MY LITTLE FRIEND
                            NATALIE WILSON_



Contents


    CHAP.                               PAGE

       I MISS CISSY’S PLAN                 7

      II “CASH ONE-HUNDRED-AND-FIVE”      21

     III “THE BEST OF ALL THE GAME”       36

      IV “SWEET P’S”                      51

       V POLLY’S PLUCK                    66

      VI SISTER’S PARTY                   79

     VII IN THE COUNTRY                   94

    VIII PRISCILLA’S VICTORY             114

      IX WHAT HAPPENED TO PRISCILLA      129

       X THE TELEGRAM                    146

      XI WHAT HAPPENED TO POLLY          161

     XII HOME AGAIN                      176



_Sweet P’s_



CHAPTER I

MISS CISSY’S PLAN


“There now! You’re done!” exclaimed Hannah, the nurse, giving Priscilla
an approving pat and looking her over carefully from head to heels to
see that nothing was amiss. “Now you’ll please to sit in this chair,
like a little lady, and not stir, else you’ll rumple your pretty frock
and then your mamma will be displeased, for she will want you to look
just right before all the company down-stairs. Your grandpapa and
grandmamma, and uncles and aunts, and Cousin Cicely--all the line folks
who have come to take dinner with you and bring you lovely birthday
presents. So up you go!”

Priscilla suffered herself to be lifted into the big armchair without
a word and then sat obediently still, watching Hannah, as she bustled
about the nursery “tidying up” as she called it.

Priscilla was a very quiet little girl, with great, solemn brown eyes,
a small, sober mouth and a quantity of soft, bright hair that had to be
brushed so often it made her eyes water just to think of it.

This was her eighth birthday. Now, when strangers asked her, as they
always did, “how old she was” she could reply “Going on nine,” but she
would still be compelled to give the same old answer to their next
familiar question of, “And have you any brothers and sisters?” for
Priscilla was an only child.

She sometimes wondered what they meant when they shook their heads
and murmured, “Such a pity! Poor little thing!” for when Theresa, the
parlor-maid, whom, by the way, Priscilla did not like very much, came
up to the nursery and saw all her wonderful toys and the new frocks and
hats and coats that were continually being sent home to her, she always
said sharply and with a curl of the lip: “My! But isn’t she a lucky
child! It must be grand to be such a rich little thing!” For how can
one be “a pity” and “lucky” at the same time? and “a poor little thing”
and a “rich little thing” at once?

Priscilla did not like to enquire of her mamma or Hannah about it, for
she had once been very sick with a pain in her head, and the doctors
had come, and she was in bed for a long time, and after that she had
been told not to ask questions. And whenever she sat, as she loved
to do, very quietly on the nursery couch, trying to puzzle things out
for herself, Hannah would come and bid her “stop her studyin’” and go
and play with her dolls, explaining that “little girls never would
grow big and strong and beautiful like their Cousin Cicely if they
sat still all the time and bothered their brains about things they
couldn’t understand.” So it was not as hard for Priscilla as it might
have been for some other little girls to “sit still like a lady” in
the big armchair, and she was just beginning to have “a nice time with
her mind” when there was a knock upon the door and James the butler,
announced in his grand, deep voice, “Dinner is served. And your mamma
says as ’ow she wishes you to come down, miss.”

She waited for Hannah to lift her to the floor, bade her good-bye very
politely and then tripped daintily down the long halls and softly
carpeted staircases to the dining-room, where there was a great stir
and murmur of voices and what seemed to Priscilla a vast crowd of
people. She knew them all well, of course; grandpapa and grandmamma;
Uncle Arthur Hamilton, who was the husband of Aunt Laura; Uncle Robert
and Aunt Louise Duer; dear Cousin Cissy, and her papa and mamma. They
were all very old and familiar friends, but when they were collected
together they seemed strange and “different” and frightened her very
much. Her heart always beat exceedingly fast as she moved about from
one to the other saying, “Yes, aunt” and “No, uncle,” so many times in
succession. When she entered the room now the hum of voices suddenly
stopped and then, the next instant, broke out afresh and louder than
ever.

“Dear child! Why, I do believe she’s grown!”

“Bless her heart, so she has!”

“But she doesn’t grow stout.”

“Nor rosy.”

“Come, my pet, and kiss grandpapa!”

“What a big girl grandmamma has got! Eight years old! Just fancy!”

“Do let me have her for a moment. I must have a kiss this second.”

Priscilla heaved a deep sigh under the lace of her frock at which, to
her embarrassment, all the company laughed and dear Cousin Cicely said:

“She’s bored to death with all our attention and I don’t wonder. It is
a nuisance to have to kiss so many people. There, Priscilla darling,
you shall sit right here, next to Cousin Cissy, and no one shall bother
you any more.”

Dinner down here in the big dining-room was always a very slow
and tiresome affair in Priscilla’s estimation. She liked her own
nursery-dinner best, which she ate in the middle of the day, with
Hannah sitting by to see that the baked potatoes were well done
and the beef rare enough. This “down-stairs-dinner” to-night was no
less long and wearisome than usual, but at last it was done and then
Priscilla was carried in state to the drawing-room upon the shoulder
of tall Uncle Arthur Hamilton, and at the head of a long procession of
laughing and chattering relations who, she knew, would stand around
in a great, embarrassing circle and watch her as she examined the
beautiful birthday gifts they had brought her.

And behold! There was a large table in the middle of the room, and
it was covered with a white cloth and piled high with wonderful
things. Dolls that walked and dolls that talked; books and games and
music-boxes. A doll’s kitchen and a doll’s carriage; a little piano
with “really-truly” white and black ivory keys, and all sorts and sizes
of fine silk, and velvet boxes containing gold chains and rings and
pins, with pretty glittering stones.

Uncle Arthur lifted Priscilla from his shoulder and set her down
upon the floor before the table, where she stood in silence, looking
wistfully at her new treasures, but not quite knowing what to do about
them.

“See this splendid dolly, Priscilla! She can say ever so many French
words. Don’t you want to hear her?”

“Listen to this lovely music-box, Priscilla! What pretty tunes it can
play!”

“Don’t you want me to hang this beautiful chain around your neck,
Priscilla? It will look so pretty on your white dress.”

Priscilla gazed from one thing to another, as they were thrust before
her and tried to be polite, as Hannah had told her to be, but she
felt dizzy and bewildered and could only stand still, clasping and
unclasping her hands in front of her.

“Why, I don’t believe she cares for them at all,” said Aunt Louise in a
surprised and disappointed tone.

“Embarrassment of riches, perhaps,” suggested Uncle Robert, her husband.

“Here, Priscilla, dear,” broke in Aunt Laura. “See this wonderful new
dolly that can walk! Now, you must certainly play with her. Why, when
I was a little girl I would have been delighted if my uncles and aunts
had given me such splendid things! I would not have stood, as you are
doing, and looked as if I did not care for them.”

Priscilla obediently took the accomplished dolly from her Aunt Laura’s
hands and held it loosely in her arms, but she did not make any attempt
to “play with her prettily.” Aunt Laura frowned.

Grandmamma came forward and passed her arm about Priscilla’s waist.
“Our dear little girl ought to be very happy with so many people to
love her,” she said, softly. Somehow her tone, kind as it was, made
Priscilla feel she was being naughty because she was not so happy as
grandmamma thought she ought to be. She would have liked to be obedient
and to please her relations, but if she was not doing so by being
very proper, and saying, “Yes, aunt,” and “No, uncle,” in answer to
their questions, she did not know what else they wanted. It puzzled
and bewildered her, and then the first thing she knew, the dolly had
fallen from her arms to the floor with a crash, where it lay foolishly
kicking its legs and sawing the air with its arms, while she herself
was sobbing big tears over her nice clean dress in a way that she knew
would most dreadfully provoke Hannah.

In a twinkling she was in her mother’s arms, and there was a great stir
and murmur of voices about her. No one could understand what was the
matter.

“She must be sick,” observed Aunt Laura.

“Perhaps something about the doll hurt her--a pin in its clothes
maybe,” suggested Aunt Louise.

“Doesn’t she like toys?” asked Uncle Robert.

“We grown-ups frighten her, poor youngster. There are a good many of
us, you know, and you are not all as handsome as I am,” laughed Uncle
Arthur, mischievously, “are they, Priscilla?”

“Well, she certainly is an odd child not to be perfectly delighted with
so many nice things. When I was a little girl----” reiterated Aunt
Laura.

But just then Hannah appeared at the door and Priscilla’s mother
murmured in her ear, “Say ‘Good-night all,’ my darling, ‘and thank you
for giving me such a happy birthday.’”

“Good-night all, and thank you for giving me such a happy birthday,”
whispered Priscilla with a sobbing catch in her voice.

“Don’t mention it,” responded Uncle Arthur, bowing low.

And then Hannah led her off to bed.

But that was by no means the end of her birthday, although she thought
it was. Long after she was safely asleep in her little brass bed the
grown-up people down-stairs were still talking about her. It seemed
so remarkable to them that she had not shown more interest in the
beautiful things they had prepared for her.

“Priscilla was never a very demonstrative child,” said her mother a
little sadly, as if she were excusing her.

“But her heart is in the right place, nevertheless,” her father
declared.

“Oh, it isn’t that,” broke in Aunt Laura. “She is a dear little girl,
of course, but--all I mean is, she doesn’t act as a child ought to
act; as a healthy child ought to act. She ought to be full of spirits,
jumping about and laughing and playing. Now when I was a little
girl----”

“I don’t think you quite understand Priscilla, dear Aunt Laura,” a
bright young voice interrupted quickly. “She is naturally a quiet,
timid little thing. She would never be boisterous, but you are right
in this, that she doesn’t act as a child of her age might be expected
to act, and the reason is, she is lonely. She has never known other
children. She has never learned to play. Now these presents here are
all very fine in their way, but they do not really interest her,
because she does not know how to use them.”

“But dear me,” observed Aunt Laura, “why doesn’t somebody teach her? I
wound up the walking-doll for her myself----”

Miss Cicely smiled. “I do not mean that,” she replied. “You couldn’t
teach her and I couldn’t, because--we’ve forgotten how. The only one
who could teach her would be a little girl of about her own age; a
playmate. Believe me, the best present we could give Priscilla would be
a companion; a flesh-and-blood little girl who could share her pretty
things, and who would teach her how to enjoy them.”

“Dear me!” exclaimed Aunt Laura. “What a very curious creature you are,
Cicely. Give Priscilla a present of a ‘flesh-and-blood little girl!’
‘A playmate of about her own age!’ Fancy!”

“I know you all think I am too young to know anything about bringing up
children,” continued Miss Cissy, “and you all, being older, are very
much wiser than I am. But I remember when I was a little girl----”

“Stop right there, Cicely,” interrupted Uncle Arthur. “No one in this
family but your Aunt Laura has any right to remember when she was a
little girl.”

Pretty Cicely pretended to frown at him, but her merry eyes laughed
in spite of themselves, though she went on at once: “I was the only
child in the family then, just as Priscilla is now, and it was a very
lonesome position, I assure you, so I can sympathize with her. I used
to long and long for the chance to romp and play with other children
of my own age, but I was always surrounded by a lot of servants whose
business it was to see that I was very sedate and proper and who were
made to feel that I was altogether too important and elegant a little
personage to be allowed to associate with the rest of the world. So
I saw from afar other children having jolly times and I had to be
contented, myself, with my fine playthings and splendid clothes. They
did not at all content me. I knew then, just as Priscilla does now,
that such things cannot make one happy. Children are like grown-up
people in this: that they are never really healthy or happy until they
share their good things with some one else.”

“Hear! Hear!” cried Uncle Arthur, clapping his hands approvingly.

Cicely’s whole face was aglow with earnestness and hope as she
concluded: “There! now, I have had my say and I am sorry it has been
such a long one, but I simply had to speak out, you know.”

“But think of the chances there are of Priscilla’s catching chicken-pox
and measles and influenza, if she plays with other children,” suggested
Aunt Louise anxiously.

“Children nowadays are so shamefully ill-behaved. They are regular
little ruffians. Fancy how wretched it would be if Priscilla caught
their horrid habits and became pert and forward and unmannerly,” added
Aunt Laura.

Cicely nodded brightly. “Yes, of course that is so,” she admitted, “but
on the other hand, fancy how splendid it would be if Priscilla played
with other children and caught happiness and health from them, and
generosity and kindness and sympathy. Good things are catching as well
as bad, don’t you think they are, Aunt Laura?”

This time Uncle Arthur did not cry “Hear! Hear!” but he came straight
over to where Cicely sat and took her hand in his.

“Cissy, my dear,” he said, quite seriously, “let me congratulate you.
You are the wisest member of the family, by all odds and,” with a
twinkle in his eye, “for your sake I am glad I married your Aunt Laura.
If Priscilla turns out as well as you have done the Duers will have no
cause to be ashamed of their two representatives--even though they are
‘only girls.’”

But just here Priscilla’s mother spoke up:

“I wonder what your plan is, Cissy, dear,” she said. “We are anxious,
of course, to do whatever is for Priscilla’s good and I can see that
she may be lonely, living so entirely with older people, but---- Do you
think a kindergarten----”

“No, dear Aunt Edith, that is not at all what I mean,” Cicely broke in
quickly. “What I mean is, that Priscilla ought to have a playmate--a
child--to live right here in the house with her; one who would rouse
her up and keep her from growing moody and oversensitive. A little girl
who would share her good things with her and to whom Priscilla would
have to give up and give in once in a while. Each would learn from the
other and I’m sure you would see that Priscilla would improve directly,
in health and in every other way. Please, please, Aunt Edith, try my
plan. I assure you it would work like a charm, if we got the right
child and gave the experiment time.”

“We will!”

It was Priscilla’s father who spoke and, of course, his word settled
the matter at once. But now the question arose where was “the right
child” to be found? It came over Cicely with a sudden shock, that
nothing less than a little cherub right out of the sky would suit
all these extremely particular people, for no mere human child could
possibly fulfil all their requirements.

Aunt Louise would insist upon her never, by any chance, being sick.
Aunt Laura would demand that she always be perfectly quiet and
faultlessly well-behaved. Aunt Edith would wish her to be older than
Priscilla so Priscilla could rely upon her, and grandmamma desired
her to be younger than Priscilla so Priscilla could learn to be
self-reliant: and so it went on.

“As far as I can see, Cicely,” spoke up Uncle Arthur, teasingly, “this
scheme of yours is first-rate! Quite as good, for instance, as the
well-known recipe for cooking a hare, which begins ‘first catch your
hare.’ In this case it is: first catch your child. It is clearly your
place to produce the prodigy. Now then, my dear, let’s see what sort of
a marvel you can discover. It will have to be a superfine article to
be fit to associate with the great and only Hope (but one, that’s you)
of the Duer family.”

“I tell you what it is,” suggested Cicely. “Let’s all try to find one.
And the best, by common consent, shall be Priscilla’s playmate. Is it a
bargain?”

There was a great chorus of “Yesses”; a lot of hand-shaking and
laughing and fun, and very shortly after the company went home, while
up-stairs Priscilla slept peacefully on in her pretty brass bed, never
dreaming of the curious birthday present she was to receive in the
course of the next few days.



CHAPTER II

“CASH ONE-HUNDRED-AND-FIVE”


When Miss Cicely Duer made up her mind to do a thing, she generally
succeeded in doing it and she had determined to prove that her plan
was a good one. So, first of all, she set to work putting the family
in good humor. “For,” she said to herself, “they are ever so much more
likely to be reasonable if they are in a cheerful frame of mind.” So
she straightway wrote out a number of very elegant invitations bidding
Grandpapa and Grandmamma Duer, Uncle Robert and Aunt Louise Duer, Uncle
Arthur and Aunt Laura Hamilton, Uncle Elliot and Aunt Edith Duer, and
Father and Mother Duer, “to come to Priscilla’s unbirthday party on
Thursday afternoon, February 10th, at three o’clock and to bring with
them, each and every couple, a little girl not over twelve years of
age and not under six. The grandpapa and grandmamma or uncle and aunt
bringing the nicest little girl will receive a prize. R.S.V.P.”

The invitations were sent out promptly and the answers came in
without delay. Not one member of the family sent a regret: every one
was “Pleased to accept Miss Cicely Duer’s kind invitation to Miss
Priscilla Duer’s unbirthday party,” etc., etc.

“It is just like the Queen and Alice,” laughed Miss Cicely merrily, but
her face grew sober as she thought of the search she would probably
have before she could get anything like the right sort of little girl
“to set before the king,” for the right sort of little girl doesn’t
grow on every bush and Miss Cicely knew it, and even if it did its
parents would not be likely to want to give it away.

“I shall not insist on her being pretty, of course, but she mustn’t be
utterly hideous,” the young lady thought. “I don’t want her to be a
goody-goody little prig but I can’t possibly have a young demon. Oh,
dear me! Suppose I cannot find a child at all and have to go to the
party without my share of small girl! How they will poke fun at me! It
would be another case of

    “‘Smarty, Smarty gave a party,
    Nobody came but Smarty, Smarty.’”

Her mind was so full of her mission, that one day while she was
shopping she found herself replying to a salesman before whose counter
she stood, “Yes, please. I want one between six and twelve. Truthful
and not too mischievous,” and she only realized her mistake when he
paused in measuring off the yards of silk she had selected and looked
at her as if he thought she was mildly insane and ought to be carefully
guarded.

Miss Cicely blushed furiously and tried to hide her embarrassment with
a laugh. The shopman laughed too and Miss Cicely, to explain her absurd
blunder, confided to him that she was really looking for a little
girl between six and twelve years of age who was truthful and not too
mischievous, and did they keep any of the sort in stock?

The salesman laughed again.

“Why, yes, madam, we do,” he replied. “Most of them are somewhat older
than you want, to be sure, but we have one, at least right here now,
that, come to think of it, ought to just fill the bill. Here! Cash!
Cash one-hundred-and-five! Cash! Cash!”

As the salesman said no more Miss Cicely concluded he had merely
replied to her joking question with a joking answer. He made out her
bill-of-sale and placed it with her yards of silk and then again rapped
upon his counter with the blunt end of his lead-pencil, repeating:
“Cash! One-hundred-and five! Here, Cash!”

Miss Cicely felt vaguely disappointed. Of course she had known that,
even in such a great department store as this, they did not have little
girls on sale, but the shopman’s manner and his reply to her laughing
question had been so serious that, for a flash, she had really thought
he was in earnest when he said he thought they had one that might “just
fill the bill.”

“It was very clever of him to carry out the joke so completely, any
one would have thought him in earnest; but--well,--Miss Cicely was
disappointed. She had searched and searched and not even the wee-est
sample of a nice little girl had she been able so far to find. And
Thursday was the day after to-morrow!

“Dear, dear!” she mused, “what in the world shall I do? The only place
I haven’t tried is ‘The Home for Friendless Children’ and I purposely
avoided it because I knew grandmamma and the aunts would fly there the
first thing, and I thought I’d be superior and discover something quite
original. Well, I suppose it serves me right! and my pride ought to go
before a fall. But there’s nothing left but an institution evidently!
Oh, me! I wonder if there would be a presentable little waif at the
Orphan Asylum? Positively I must go there at once and see. How long one
has to wait at these shops! Why doesn’t that Cash come?”

Miss Cicely grew almost irritable as she thought of her defeat. She
had quite given up the idea of taking the prize at the contest she
herself had arranged, but she could not face the ridicule that she knew
would be heaped upon her by the family if, after all her fine talk,
she failed to “produce” a “specimen” at all. Oh, dear! Why didn’t that
Cash----

“Cash! Cash! One hundred-and-five!” called the salesman a third time.

A very thin, small arm was thrust forward toward the counter from
between Miss Cicely and the crowding shopper next to her and a very
small breathless voice replied:

“Yes, sir! Here, sir! Cash one-hundred-and-five, sir!”

The salesman nodded.

“This is the one I was speaking about, madam,” he said turning to Miss
Cicely and indicating the arm and the voice just beside her.

Miss Cissy bent her head and looked down. There, at her elbow, almost
crushed flat by the crowd, and breathless with running, stood a little
errand-girl. She could not have been more than ten years old, but her
great anxious eyes and the little grown-up furrow between her brows
made her appear much older. Miss Cissy saw her small hand tremble as
she handed the salesman her basket, and noticed, also in a flash, that
it was a clean hand and that the shabby-sleeve through which it was
thrust, was clean also. Miss Cicely moved to make room for the mite of
a business-woman. The business-woman looked up--and the next moment
Miss Cicely had put an arm about her.

“So you are Cash one-hundred-and-five?” she inquired, kindly drawing
her to her side.

The child nodded, murmuring, “Yes’m,” and shoved her basket toward
the salesman who pretended to busy himself putting the silk and
bill-of-sale into it.

“And how old are you, I wonder?” pursued Miss Cissy.

“Ten, ’m,” answered Cash, feeling worried at these unbusinesslike
interruptions, but trying not to let the fine lady see it.

“And your name is----?”

“Ca--I mean Polly--Polly Carter please, ’m.”

“Polly is one of our best cash-girls, madam,” put in the salesman
quietly. “I don’t know what we’d do without Polly. She’s so quick and
ready, we all try to get her to carry to the desk for us, and that’s
why she didn’t come at my first call. She wasn’t loitering. She was
just rushed with business. That’s what comes of being reliable and
popular. Polly can always be trusted and she’s never cross.”

“Why, that is a royal recommendation!” said Miss Cissy approvingly.
“Now, I wonder how it happens that Polly is a cash-girl? Hasn’t she
anybody to take care of her? No father or mother?”

[Illustration: MISS CICELY HAD HER ARM AROUND HER]

“They’re dead, ’m,” answered Polly promptly. “I have a big sister and
she used to take care of me and send me to school. She worked here. She
was behind a counter. And she did needlework besides, oh, beautiful
needlework! but she got hurted last winter run over by a truck, and
both her legs were under the wheels and--so now--I take care of her,
and the s’ciety lets me ’cause I study when I’m through here, and
sister, she teaches me and I’m never sick and it’s nec’ary, ’cause
sister can’t do anything but her needlework now.”

Miss Cissy’s arm tightened about the waist of the little bread-winner.

“Where does your big sister live?” she asked quietly.

Polly gave the down-town east-side street and number and then reached
out for her basket. She felt that she could not spare any more time
to her personal affairs in business hours, even for such an elegant
customer as this.

“Well, Polly, I’m very glad to have met you,” said Miss Cicely, “and I
hope we shall see each other again. Here is a bright, new fifty-cent
piece for you. Won’t you take it, please, and buy yourself something
with it--whatever you like best.”

It gave Miss Cissy a thrill to see Polly’s face as she took the bit of
shining silver; all in a flash it changed from the face of a little
careworn woman to that of a dimpled child.

“I’ll get sister a book,” she cried happily. “I thank you ever so much!”

“Why, she’s actually pretty,” thought Miss Cissy and she pictured to
herself Cash one-hundred-and-five clad in a neat white frock, with hair
cut square round her neck and tied with crisp ribbon-bows over her
temples. “She’ll do. Most certainly she’ll do. Now, if I can only get
her!” she thought.

She was so entertained by her visions of the imagined Polly that it did
not seem a second before the actual one had returned with her bundle
and change. Miss Cissy took them from the salesman and, with a twinkle
in her eyes, thanked him for helping her to find just the article she
wanted. Then she hurried out into the street where her carriage was
awaiting her.

It was a long, rough ride over the uneven stones of the down-town
streets, but Miss Cissy did not care for little inconveniences. She
was too full of hope to mind the jolts and jars that made the coachman
grind his teeth. She readily found the tenement in which “big sister”
lived and she had no trouble in finding “big sister” herself. The big
sister who, by the way, was not, as it happened, big at all, but quite
little, in fact, heard Miss Cissy out very patiently. She seemed
used to listening to a great deal of talk and to seeing a great many
strange, fine ladies, and to not allowing herself to be bewildered by
their promises or them. She was extremely quiet and gave no sign of
either pleasure or surprise as the splendid plans for Polly’s welfare
were unfolded to her. How was she to know that this fine lady was in
earnest and would prove as good as her word?

When Miss Cissy had quite finished she said slowly:

“It is very kind of you to offer to help us. It would be a grand thing
for me, of course, to go to a hospital and be treated right, and I
think your little cousin would like Polly, but--it would be very bad
for Polly if, after she had had a taste of easy living, she’d have
to go back to the cash-running again and--this,” pointing to the
poor room. “I don’t think I’d better risk it for her, miss. Polly
is a cheerful little soul, but you can’t tell, it might make her
discontented later.”

But Miss Cicely was not one to be easily discouraged. She reassured and
she explained, she argued and she urged.

At last big sister spoke.

“I’m bound to tell you this, miss,” she said anxiously. “You say your
little cousin doesn’t know how to play--well, by the same token,
neither does Polly, I’m afraid. Polly’s always been, as you might say,
old for her age, and the last year she’s done nothing but work and wait
on me. I’m afraid she’s forgotten how to frolic as children do--ought,
I mean. The ‘little mothers,’ as they call them down here, haven’t much
time for fun. Not but that she couldn’t learn, you know. And it all
might come back to her, for she used to be as playful as a kitten, and
there’s lots of life in her yet, poor lamb! But the cash-running has
taken it out of her a lot. It might not be a good thing to put a child
that has seen so much worry, with your little cousin that hasn’t seen
any.”

“I know it--I have thought of that--” interrupted Miss Cissy
eagerly,--“but children don’t take things to heart as we older ones are
apt to do. I mean they don’t brood over their ills, and I know that
after Polly gets rested she’ll forget her worries and be as gay as a
lark. I saw it in her face when I gave her a bit of money. She changed,
all in a twinkling, and was as plump and jolly as any child need be.
Do let her come! I know she’ll be the one chosen for the place and
think what it will mean if you can get proper care and treatment. It
is possible you might really be cured. Think what it would mean to be
really cured!”

Big sister’s eyes filled with tears. “Don’t speak of that, please,”
she said hurriedly. “I am trying not to think of it. If I let you have
Polly it won’t be because of what I’d get by it, I want you to believe
that. It will be for the good that will come to the child herself. But
I can’t answer you now anyway. I must think it over. And I must find
out if Polly would be willing. Of course I would not tell her just how
the case stands, for I don’t want her to know she will be on trial.
It would make her ‘show off’ maybe, and then, too, I think Polly’s a
dear, but I know there are many children much prettier and more taking
than she is. It’s more likely than not that she wouldn’t get the place
at all, and then, if she knew, she would be disappointed. I’ll let you
know--say, Thursday morning. Will that do? That will give me to-day and
to-morrow to consider. I don’t want to do anything hasty that, later,
I’d be sorry for.”

“Couldn’t you possibly make it to-morrow?” pleaded Miss Cissy
earnestly. “I’ll send a messenger down to you to-morrow. I want
time too--I want time to get a few things ready before Thursday
and--and--please do!”

Big sister thought it over for a moment. Then she nodded her head
assentingly.

“All right, I will, miss, I’ll let you know to-morrow,” she said.

So it was settled and Miss Cicely drove away, if not quite in triumph,
at least having gained a partial victory. She knew there would be no
difficulty in getting Polly’s dismissal from the store. The firm would
be glad to oblige so valuable a customer as Miss Duer, and she “felt
it in her bones,” as she said to herself, that she would receive a
satisfactory word next day from big sister. And, sure enough, she did.
Early Wednesday forenoon her messenger brought back the intelligence
that big sister was willing, and so was Polly, and that if Miss Cicely
could arrange it with the store it would be all right.

How Miss Cissy did fly around after that! She astonished the
superintendent at the store by flashing in upon him, with a demand for
Cash one-hundred-and-five, and flashing out again with his consent to
take her. Then she astonished Polly by popping her up-stairs into the
“Misses’ Furnishing Department” and having her fitted out from head to
heels in new clothes. Shiny black shoes and spotless white stockings;
a lot of neat underclothes with trimmings at the edges, such as Polly
had never even dreamed of before; a “sweet” white frock; a warm outer
coat; a big felt hat with ribbons on it, and, last of all, and wonder
of wonders! gloves and handkerchiefs and ribbons for her hair! Then off
flew Miss Cissy to the hospital to arrange matters for big sister. Then
back home again through the evening darkness and just in time to dress
for dinner. She had not stopped to think how tired she was, and she
did not now, but she was glad when she was at last able to go to her
own room and to bed. It had been a long, and busy day.

The next morning she waked with the feeling that great things were to
be accomplished, and before she was fairly dressed there was a knock
upon her door, and on the threshold stood Polly with the maid who
had gone down-town to bring her up. It seemed to Miss Cissy almost
like playing dolls again to be washing and dressing this little girl;
cutting her hair in a straight line around her neck, tying it with
two bits of rosy ribbon over her temples, and slipping on her pretty
underclothes and dainty frock.

The anxious look had faded from Polly’s eyes and the anxious furrows
had disappeared from between her brows when, at length, she stood
before Miss Cicely’s cheval-glass all “booted and spurred and fit
for the fight” as her hostess merrily sang. They had a cozy luncheon
up-stairs--just Miss Cissy and Polly together--at which Polly was so
excited she could hardly eat. It seemed as if it would never be three
o’clock and time to go to the party, but at last it was time and then
off they rolled in, what seemed to Polly, the most splendid carriage
in the world; just exactly as if she were Cinderella herself and Miss
Cissy the Fairy-Godmother.

By this time Polly knew about Priscilla, of course, but she did not
know about the other children who, like herself, were to be brought
to Priscilla’s home, the best to be chosen for Priscilla’s playmate.
She just thought she was going to a party and to make a long visit
afterwards, for Miss Cicely had decided that if Polly were not voted
the best, and another child was selected in her stead she herself would
keep the little girl for a while, at least, and in the meantime big
sister should be sent to a hospital where she would receive the best of
treatment and the kindest of care.

So, when the carriage came to a halt before the great house in which
Priscilla lived, Polly’s little heart beat quick with pleasure and
excitement. To go to a real party! In brand-new clothes! Why it was
just too good to be true! Miss Cicely looked into the bright little
face and sparkling eyes and was glad that Polly did not know the real
state of the case--that, in fact, her present and, maybe her future,
was to depend on the way she behaved at Priscilla’s “unbirthday party.”
It might have sobered her happy heart had she known it, for Polly,
young as she was, had felt responsibility before, and would have
realized what a heavy one lay upon her now. But she did not know and
Miss Cicely did not give her the least little bit of a hint.

“I want her to be quite herself--quite natural,” she thought. “That
will be the only way to decide the stuff she’s made of, and whether
she is really the best or not.”

So Polly and Miss Cissy went hand-in-hand up the broad flight of steps,
from the street. A big door was mysteriously opened as soon as they
reached the top, and then, as it closed behind them, Polly heard a loud
hum of voices, saw a soft flood of light and knew she was really at the
party.



CHAPTER III

“THE BEST OF ALL THE GAME”


Miss Cicely herself led Polly up-stairs and into a splendid room, where
with her own hands, she unfastened the little girl’s coat and slipped
off her hat and gloves. There was a fine young woman present who seemed
to Polly to have manners which were ever so much prouder and haughtier
than Miss Cissy’s and whose jaunty cap sat like a stiff crown upon her
head, while her embroidered apron and white collar and cuffs were the
crispest Polly had ever seen, and this dignified personage loftily
offered to assist Miss Cicely, but was refused.

“No, thank you, Theresa, I prefer to do it myself,” Polly’s friend
replied easily at once, as she smoothed out the wrinkles in Polly’s
frock and plucked at the loops of her ribbon-bows. “By the way, are
they all here, I wonder?”

“Yes, miss,” Theresa answered. “You’re the last, miss.”

“Then we must hurry,” said Miss Cissy, and her own wraps were cast
aside in no time.

She and Polly went down-stairs as they had come up, hand-in-hand. At
the foot Miss Cissy stopped long enough to give her little companion
one last, careful look and then led her toward the room where all the
talking was. As they entered it Polly heard a very tall gentleman say:

“Oho! Here she comes at last! We thought she had deserted. We had been
led to believe that it was customary for a hostess to be present to
receive her guests, but don’t let a little thing like that trouble you,
Cicely. You usually manage to reverse the natural order of things and
as your guests are here to receive you, it’s all right.”

Miss Cicely laughed and blushed and then the very tall gentleman
suddenly stood extremely erect by the doorway and announced in a loud,
solemn voice:

“Miss Duer and--and----”

“Polly Carter,” prompted Miss Cissy.

“And Miss Polly Carter!” echoed the gentleman.

If Polly had been used to children’s parties, this one would have
seemed extremely curious to her, for there appeared to be so few
children and so many grown-up people. By looking very carefully, one
could have discovered five little girls, each of whom was tucked away
somewhere behind or beside one of the couples of ladies and gentlemen
present. None of the children seemed very glad to be there, and Polly,
who herself made the sixth, was beginning to feel dimly disappointed,
when Miss Cicely spoke up in her bright, jolly fashion:

“Now, dear people,” she said, “the first thing to do is to introduce
these little girls to one another. Grandfather and Grandmother Duer,
will you kindly let me present my little guest to yours? This is Polly
Carter.”

A youthful-looking, white-haired old lady and gentleman arose solemnly
from the far end of the long room, and came forward in a very stately
manner, holding a flaxen-braided young person by the hand.

“This is Miss Katie Schorr,” announced Grandmamma Duer, in a voice
that trembled a little (though that could hardly have been from
age, for her eyes and skin were as young and soft as Polly’s own).
“The Superintendent of our Mission Sunday-school was kind enough to
introduce us to Miss Katie Schorr. He said she was a good, obedient
child, and we believe it.”

Miss Cicely stooped and shook Miss Schorr by the hand in her own
cordial way.

“How do you do, Katie dear,” she said. “I’m glad to see you here. I
hope you will have a good time. This is Polly Carter. Won’t you two
please stand beside me while I receive the other little friends?
There, that’s right! Now, Uncle Arthur and Aunt Laura Hamilton, your
guest, please.”

The very tall gentleman, Polly had noticed before, sprang up and
gallantly assisted a handsome lady from her chair, offering her his
arm with a flourish. She refused the arm at once, saying, “Nonsense,
Arthur! don’t be absurd!” which Polly thought rather unkind of her. The
little girl they brought forward was so pretty that it was delightful
to look at her. Her name was pretty, too. Angeline Montague! And she
had elegant manners, for when she was introduced to Miss Cissy she
curtseyed beautifully, with her right hand upon her heart--or, rather,
on the spot where she supposed her heart was.

As she stepped beside Polly and Katie, Polly heard “Aunt Laura” say to
Miss Cicely in an undertone:

“Most excellent connections, I assure you. Her mother does my fine
sewing. Theresa, up-stairs, recommended her to me. She says they used
to have means. But the father--well, he’s in Canada or somewhere. Very
pitiful!”

Polly wondered, while “Uncle Robert and Aunt Louise” were bringing up
their little guest, why it was pitiful that Angeline’s father was in
Canada. She had supposed, from what the “geografy” said about Canada,
that it was a real nice place.

“‘One, two, three little Indians!’” hummed Uncle Arthur, as Miss
Cicely, with a kind hand on Angeline’s shoulder, placed her next to
Polly and Katie. “Now then, next customer!”

“Miss Rosy Hartigan!” announced Uncle Robert, handing forward a very,
very shy little girl.

“Her father is an industrious plumber,” explained Aunt Louise in Miss
Cissy’s ear. “But his wife died last fall, and the children have no one
to look out for them while he is at work.”

Poor Rosy was frightfully alarmed. She set up a violent crying at once,
shedding the biggest tears Polly had ever seen, and it took all Miss
Cissy’s tact to comfort her.

In the meantime a lady and gentleman called “Aunt Edith” and “Uncle
Elliot,” had brought up another little girl whose hair was as black as
Polly’s boots, and whose eyes almost snapped with mischief.

“This is Miss Elsie Blair, and she lives at our beautiful Home for
Friend--for Children,” explained Aunt Edith. “Mrs. McAdams, the matron,
says Elsie is an excellent child.”

“Now, father and mother,” said Miss Cicely, clasping Rosy Hartigan with
one hand, and patting the excellent Elsie into line with the other.

“Father” and “Mother,” it appeared, had brought Miss Sarah Findlay, who
was twelve, and tall for her age. She was very thin, with not much hair
to speak of, and no eyebrows at all. Miss Sarah came from the country
and her father was a minister. “She had twelve brothers and sisters,”
she confided to Polly.

“Now, I think we have all our party collected together,” said Miss
Cissy cheerfully. “Suppose we play London Bridge. Come, Polly and Katie
and Angeline! Come, Elsie and Sarah and Rosy! Join hands! Now sing!
‘London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down!’”

No one but Miss Cicely could possibly have managed to make those six
little girls feel so at home and so well-acquainted with one another
in so short a time. By the end of “London Bridge” they felt as if they
had been friends all their lives. Then followed “Oats, peas, beans and
barley grows,” and “Drop the handkerchief,” and in all the excitement
Polly had no time to wonder where Priscilla was and why she did not
come to her own party. After a while Miss Cissy sat down at the piano
and played a gay march and then the company was invited out to supper.

Polly and Sarah walked together; Katie Schorr and Angeline Montague
made a second couple and Rosy Hartigan and Elsie Blair brought up the
rear.

“It’s going off surprisingly well,” remarked Aunt Laura, as the
procession filed out into the hall. “They all seem decent children, but
of the lot I prefer Angeline Montague. She has such superior manners.
After her I should select Cicely’s Polly What’s-her-name.”

“Don’t whistle before you are out of the woods, my dear,” cautioned
Uncle Arthur. “The party isn’t over yet.”

In the dining-room the children were reveling in good things to eat.
Dainty chicken sandwiches; salad that made one’s mouth water; jelly and
cake and candied fruit; bonbons and ice cream, and chocolate served in
tall, slender cups, with whipped cream on top, and wee silver spoons
in the saucers--spoons that looked as if they were intended for the
daintiest of dolls.

“Gorry!” whispered Katie Schorr to Angeline Montague, “isn’t this fine?”

Uncle Arthur, standing in the doorway behind a heavy hanging, took a
note-book out of his pocket and jotted something down in it.

At first there was not much chatter. The children were too busy for
that, but by and by their tongues were loosened and then, how they did
talk!

Rosy Hartigan became so brave that she actually consented to spell
her name as the teacher in her school had taught her to do: “R-o, Ro,
s-y, sy, Rosy; H-a-r, Har; syHar; RosyHar; T-i, ti; Harti; syHarti;
RosyHarti; G-a-n, Gan; tigan; Hartigan; syHartigan; Rosy Hartigan!” At
which Miss Cissy clapped her hands and cried: “Good!” but Elsie Blair
whispered “Smarty!” in Rosy’s left ear.

Sarah Findlay, fired by Rosy’s success, said her brothers “Knew
lots and lots of tricks. They had taught her to make the awfullest
cross-eyed face in the world and she’d do it for them if they wanted
her to. You just had to pull your mouth down at the corners with your
two fingers, like this and then look cross eyed, like this and then----”

Uncle Arthur took out his note-book again and wrote down something in
it, though no one saw him do it.

Suddenly Rosy Hartigan gave a piercing shriek and Miss Cissy hurried
to her in distress, asking what the trouble was. It seemed that
Rosy’s left arm had been most terribly pinched, so that it “hurt like
everything,” but when Elsie Blair, who sat on that side of Rosy, was
asked if she had pinched her arm, she protested “No, she hadn’t, and if
Rosy went and said she had, Rosy was nothing but an old story----”

But Miss Cicely’s gentle hand over her lips smothered the rest of the
word and, Rosy being comforted, supper went merrily on. At last, when
nobody could possibly eat another mouthful, Miss Cissy said they would
all go back into the drawing-room and have more games. So back they
went and played “Hunt the slipper” and “A tisket, a tasket” and then a
big bag was brought in and they all “grabbed” for presents. After that
it was time to go home, but Uncle Arthur insisted on one more game and
chose “Forfeits,” which was “the loveliest fun” in the world, for when
Miss Cicely held the forfeits over his head he invented the funniest
things you ever heard of that the owner must do to redeem them.

Katie Schorr was to take what Miss Cissy gave her without moving a
muscle of her face or saying a word, and how could any little girl be
expected to succeed in doing such an impossible thing as that when what
Miss Cissy gave her was a perfectly darling doll all dressed in blue,
which she was to keep for her very own? Why, Katie’s mouth danced right
up at the corners and she said “O goody!” before she knew it.

Rosy Hartigan had to spell her name before all the grand ladies and
gentlemen (which almost frightened her out of her wits) but she did it
and then she got a doll just like Katie’s, only hers was dressed in
pink.

Next, Elsie Blair had to “guess” who had pinched Rosy during supper and
if she guessed wrong she was to have no doll. So Elsie, very red and
shamefaced, guessed right immediately; she “guessed she did it herself”
and then she received a doll dressed in red.

Sarah Findlay won her prize by “crossing her heart and promising sure
and true, black and blue,” she’d never make her cross-eyed face any
more, for Uncle Arthur had known a little girl once who had crossed her
eyes just so, in fun, and when she tried she couldn’t get them straight
again.

Polly had to tell them all what she wanted most in the whole world, but
if Uncle Arthur thought it would be difficult for her to decide, he was
mistaken. It did not take her an instant to say: “To have sister get
well.” Then she got her doll--and a pat on the head from Uncle Arthur,
as well.

But the most curious penalty of all came last. Angeline Montague was to
give Miss Cicely what she had in her pocket and no one need ask what it
was, for they should never know. So Angeline, very pale and trembling,
and after fumbling in her pocket for an instant brought out something
which she handed Miss Cissy behind the folds of her dress. Miss Cissy
took it with a look so sad and grieved that Polly could have cried to
see her. She bent down and whispered a secret in Angeline’s ear and
then gave her her doll. That ended the game. They all joined in singing
“America” and then the party was over.

While they were up-stairs getting ready to go home the grown-up people
were very busy in the drawing-room below. Grandpapa and Grandmamma
Duer were sorry Miss Katie Schorr had said, “Gorry!” as, of course,
Priscilla’s playmate must be a little lady and ladies do not say
“Gorry,” or words like that. Uncle Robert and Aunt Louise thought
Rosy Hartigan was a good little girl, but something of a cry-baby and
a telltale. Uncle Elliot and Aunt Edith said they could not dream of
having Priscilla associate with a child like Elsie Blair who did not
tell the truth until she was compelled. Miss Cicely’s father and mother
felt that Sarah Findlay’s brothers had taught her more tricks than were
necessary to complete Priscilla’s education, so the choice finally lay
between Polly Carter and Angeline Montague.

Aunt Laura liked Polly well enough and agreed with the rest that she
seemed an unaffected, honest little creature, but it was easy to see
that Angeline’s pretty face and beautiful manners had bewitched her
as well as the other ladies and that if Miss Cissy had no objection
Angeline would be chosen for the place of honor. Miss Cissy was in
the dressing-room overseeing the putting on of the children’s hats
and wraps and saying good-bye to them before they were taken home.
Uncle Arthur said it would be unfair not to wait for her to come down
before finally deciding on Angeline. She had been the one to suggest a
playmate for Priscilla and he thought she had the best right, next to
Uncle Elliot and Aunt Edith, Priscilla’s father and mother, to decide
who the playmate should be. Aunt Laura was willing, of course to wait
for Cicely, but the more she thought of it the better she was pleased
with the idea of Angeline for Priscilla’s companion.

Presently Miss Cissy came down. She listened patiently to everything
every one had to say about the children, and she gave particular
attention to Aunt Laura’s claim for Angeline, looking so sober
meanwhile that her relations were quite sorry for her, for though she
did not say a word in Polly’s favor, they gathered that she liked
the little girl and was disappointed because Angeline had proved
first-choice.

“Well, then,” concluded Aunt Laura briskly, “I suppose we can call
it settled that Angeline is to be the one. I’m a pretty good judge
of children and from the first I took to her. Your little Polly
What’s-her-name is all right, Cicely. I haven’t a word to say against
her and if Angeline were not there I should certainly choose her, but,
under the circumstances, I think there can be no doubt that Angeline is
the child for the place.”

Miss Cissy said nothing. For a moment there was silence. Then Uncle
Arthur inquired politely:

“Have any of you ever heard it suggested that appearances are sometimes
supposed to be deceitful?”

They all had heard it.

Uncle Arthur nodded. “Very well. Now, have any of you ever heard it
mentioned that all is not gold that glitters?”

Aunt Laura broke in with a “Don’t be absurd, Arthur,” but her husband
continued without noticing the interruption, “Or that handsome is as
handsome does? Good! I see you have. Now, it appears there is still
another proverb for you to learn which evidently Laura’s young friend,
Miss Angeline, believes to be true and which is that a broken chocolate
cup in the pocket is worth two in the saucer.”

Uncle Arthur paused. In a flash there broke out a quick chorus of
questions.

“Arthur, what do you mean?” from Aunt Laura.

“Won’t you please explain?” from Uncle Elliot.

And “Is it a joke?” “What is the point?” and “How do you know?” from
the rest.

Uncle Arthur waited a moment until the flurry was past. Then he said
in a very serious voice and one that was not at all trifling: “I mean,
simply, that Miss Angeline Montague is very pretty to look at and that
her manners are charming and that it is the greatest of pities that she
is not so nice a little girl as she appears to be, but the truth is--I
hate to say it--but the truth is----”

“Well, what? Do hurry, please!” urged Aunt Laura.

Miss Cissy drew something out of her handkerchief, and held it in her
outstretched palm for them all to see. It was one of Aunt Edith’s
pretty chocolate cups broken into fragments.

“Poor little Angeline did it,” she explained sadly. “No one but Uncle
Arthur saw the accident and there would have been no great harm done if
Angeline had not turned coward and tried to place the blame on some one
else. Uncle Arthur watched her closely and saw her slip Polly’s cup off
its saucer and put it upon her own. You see, her idea was to have the
blame laid on Polly if the accident were discovered and her plan would
have succeeded if it had not been for Uncle Arthur, for James missed
the cup at once and came and told me that it was gone from the saucer
of the little girl I had brought. I was glad to be able to say she was
not responsible for it and that Mr. Hamilton knew who was.”

Tears were in Miss Cissy’s eyes as she finished, and Uncle Arthur
looked so grieved that Aunt Laura rose and went to him to give his arm
a comforting pat. She knew that honorable people never “tell on” other
people unless they must and when they have to, it hurts them sadly, so
she felt very sorry for Uncle Arthur and for Miss Cicely too, and last
and most of all, for Angeline.

So that was how it came about that when the choice of Priscilla’s
playmate was put to vote Polly was “unanimously elected.”

    “The first’s the worst,
      The second’s the same;
    The last the best
      Of all the game.”

Miss Cissy hummed happily to herself as she ran up-stairs to hug and
kiss Cash one-hundred-and-five and explain to her that sister had given
her permission to make Priscilla a long, long visit and that she was to
begin it right off.



CHAPTER IV

“SWEET P’S”


Up-stairs in the nursery the lamps were lit and a bright fire glowed
on the hearth. Hannah was bustling about in her own busy fashion
and Priscilla lay cuddled up in the big sleepy-hollow chair with a
picture-book in her lap. It was all very quiet and cozy and Little Boy
Blue and Mary, Mary Quite Contrary and the rest of the dear Mother
Goose people who looked out from their places in the dainty wall-paper,
seemed to nod and wink at Priscilla as if they were glad it was their
good fortune to be here.

The clock on the mantel-shelf chimed six.

“I wonder what’s keeping James with your supper,” murmured Hannah
comfortably. “He’s generally prompt at the stroke o’ six but
to-night---- Oh, there he is now!”

Priscilla did not look up from her book as the door-knob turned. She
was not hungry and the prospect of James carrying a tray spread with
nice things to eat was too familiar to interest her. Poor little
Priscilla did not know it, but she was really pining for a change.

The door opened, swung wide upon its hinges and there, on the
threshold, stood Miss Cissy clasping a little stranger-girl by the
hand. Hannah gave a quick exclamation and Priscilla raised her eyes.
The next moment she was in Miss Cissy’s arms.

The little stranger-girl stood by and smiled, while Simple Simon and
Miss Muffet, in the wall-paper, quite grinned at each other with
satisfaction. It seemed to Polly as if she had stepped right into the
middle of a fairy-tale, for surely never was there so wonderful a place
as this outside of fairy-land, nor a little princess who was half so
fine and delicate.

Miss Cissy beckoned her to come forward saying gaily:

“See, Priscilla, I have brought you a visitor. This is Polly Carter.
Won’t you shake hands with her, dear?”

Priscilla shyly put out a frail, soft little hand which Polly grasped
in her thin, little chapped one.

“Polly is going to stay all night,” went on Miss Cicely, “and if she
has a good time and enjoys herself, and if you get on nicely and like
each other, she won’t go home for a while. They will put up a bed
for her in your room, right across the way from yours and you can
chatter to each other in the morning and be as jolly as you like.
Just think what fun it’s going to be, Priscilla! Why, you can have
breakfast-parties and dinner-parties and tea-parties together every
day at your little table, all by yourselves, and you can show Polly
your toys and she can show you new ways of playing with them, and you
can keep house and visit and have--oh! lots of good times! And perhaps,
if I’m very good, you’ll let me come and join in the sport sometimes,
for I think I like your kind of play better than the sort they have
down-stairs--I mean, the grown-up people. I wouldn’t tell anybody but
you, of course, but it’s sometimes a little--just a little dull down
there. But up here! dear me! why there’s no end to the sport you can
have up here, if you want to. I don’t believe Polly ever saw anything
so funny in all her life as your walking-doll was the other night,
Priscilla, when you dropped her on the floor and she lay there on her
back, sawing the air with her arms, and kicking.”

Priscilla smiled demurely and drew herself from Miss Cissy’s arm. “I’ll
get her now,” she volunteered in a timid whisper. “If you wind her up
and put her on the floor she’ll do it again.”

How Polly did laugh to see the fine French lady in such an awkward
predicament and seeming to be so indignant about it! Her merry giggle
was so irresistible that Priscilla, after a moment, joined in with a
soft little chuckle on her own account. Then a music-box was brought
out and the Parisian Mademoiselle was set upon her feet and made to
walk to its tune. It appeared she could not keep step at all, though at
first she flew about very fast trying to do so, but by and by she got
discouraged and walked slower and slower, until, at last, she collapsed
entirely and fell on the floor with a final wriggle of despair, as
if she gave it up as a bad job. Polly’s giggle broke into a laughing
shout at this and James, coming in with a huge tray in his arms, almost
stumbled over in amazement at the unaccustomed sight and sound of such
merriment in the usually quiet nursery.

Priscilla discovered that supper was a very different affair when one
did not have to sit and eat it alone. When Hannah served her and Polly
to the bread and butter they bit into their slices and compared the
impressions made by their teeth. Polly’s arch was wide and shallow with
a little uneven place in the centre where one of her front teeth lapped
a trifle, and Priscilla’s was narrower but quite exact all around. By
biting carefully on one side and another of this first shape they found
they could make different figures, new patterns being disclosed by each
nibble, a fact which was so amusing that though Priscilla had not been
hungry and Polly had thought she had had as much as she could possibly
eat down-stairs, they managed to dispose of several slices before they
were aware. Hannah shook her head at such “bad table-manners” but
Miss Cissy would not have the children disturbed “just for once.” They
sipped their creamy milk and ate their fruit and, what she said she
used to call “good-for-you pudding” when she was a little girl, with as
much relish as if neither of them had tasted a mouthful since morning,
and by the end of the meal Polly had told Priscilla about sister and
Priscilla had confided to Polly that she did not like to have her hair
combed “’cause it pulled so and hurt most aw’fly.”

“That’s ’cause it’s so fine and curly,” explained Polly. “Mine is
straight and the tangles come out easy, but I’d rather have yours if
I were you. Yours looks like fine silk--the kind ladies buy at the
embroidery counter to do fancy-work with. Floss, that’s what they call
it. Your hair is just like floss.”

Since Polly appeared to think it was nice to have hair like floss
Priscilla felt it might be easier to bear the pulling of the comb. At
any rate she made up her mind, then and there, that she would be “as
brave as a soldier” after that and show Polly how she could bear pain
without a whimper.

Miss Cicely stayed until the supper-table was cleared and the two Sweet
P’s, as she called them, were contentedly cutting out paper dolls in
the light of the lamp, and then she slipped quietly away down-stairs
to join the rest of the family, who were going in to dinner.

Polly passed the evening in a sort of happy dream of delight. The
warmth of the cheerful fire, its soft light and the pleasant coziness
of the room, were so different from anything she had ever known before
that she felt she would certainly wake up, in a minute or so and find
it all vanished and herself back in the little room down-town, where
the kerosene lamp gave out a sickening odor, and the fire in the stove
couldn’t be kept burning after supper was prepared because coal was so
high this winter. The wind came in through the chinks of the windows
and door in chilling gusts, and even when one cuddled up in bed under
the blankets and snuggled next to sister, one hardly got warmed through
before morning. And then, to have to get up before it was light, and
go shivering about in the dark, groping around blind with sleep, and
have to hurry out into the icy, wintry streets to a weary day of
cash-running at the store! She was so full of her own thoughts that her
scissors had almost snipped the head off the splendid paper lady she
was cutting out before she knew it, and Priscilla seeing the narrow
escape, gave a little low exclamation of dismay.

“I guess you’re pretty tired, aren’t you?” Hannah asked kindly, coming
and standing beside her chair and looking down at her benevolently.
Polly nodded, but could not answer in words. The memory of the cold,
bare little down-town room had awakened another memory: the memory of
sister, and all at once her heart sickened of the warmth and comfort
and light here and just turned hungrily to the poorer place where
sister was, in longing to go back.

“Come, you two little ladies, it’s time for bed,” cried Hannah briskly.
“Now, which one can get her clothes off first? I warrant I know.”

Poor little Priscilla tugged and wrenched in vain; she was not
accustomed to do for herself, and Polly stood undressed and clad in
her “nightie” before she even had her slippers untied. At sight of her
disappointed little face Hannah caught her up in her arms and gave her
a good hug, and the next moment all her buttons were unfastened as
if by magic. It was an old story to Priscilla to sit before the fire
wrapped in her downy bath-robe and have her hair brushed and braided
for the night, while Hannah told her stories of kings and queens or
repeated the exciting history of “The Little Schmall Rid Hin.” But to
Polly it was a new and curious experience which made her forget for the
moment the strange, sickening ache in her heart. She thrust her feet
out toward the pleasant fire-glow and laughed approvingly when the fox,
having planned to “git the little schmall rid hin” and carry her home
in a bag to be “biled and ate up, shure, by his ould marm and he” was
cleverly fooled by the wonderful biddy and, with his wicked mother,
was killed outright when “the pot o’ boilin’ wather came over thim,
kersplash,

    “And scalted thim both to death
      So they couldn’t brathe no more,
    An’ the little schmall rid hin lived safe
      Just where she lived before.”

Priscilla’s head was fairly nodding by the time prayers were said and
Hannah ready to carry her off to bed and tuck her in. But long after
she was breathing softly on her pillow, Polly lay awake and thought and
thought and thought of sister in her loneliness, at home in the cold
and dark, until, at length, she could bear it no longer and the tears
came in a flood, quite drenching the fine, embroidered handkerchief
Miss Cissy had given her and of whose new crispness she had been so
proud.

In a moment Hannah was at her side.

“What is it, honey? Tell Hannah,” she urged very tenderly, as she knelt
down and slid her arm under Polly’s head. Then it all came out: about
the dreadful ache and longing in her heart and the choking in her
throat.

“Why, bless you, you’re homesick and so you are,” explained Priscilla’s
nurse encouragingly. “And no wonder at all--not the least in the
world. Lots of folks are homesick and they get over it in no time at
all, if they just make up their minds to it. Why, think of me! I came
over,--away from my father and mother, across the wide sea, when I was
but a slip of a girl, not seven years older than you. And think of the
gain that’ll come to your sister if you are good and contented here.
Why, the hospital doctors will look at her and they’ll say: ‘Now, here
is a young woman we must certainly manage to cure whether or not for
Miss Cicely Duer says so.’ And the nurses will say the same thing.
And they’ll give her a room all to herself with sun coming in at the
windows, and there’ll be flowers on the bureau that Miss Cicely and
Priscilla’s mamma will send. And her bed will be all soft and white,
and the nurses will have on white caps and aprons and cuffs, just spick
and spandy and they’ll give her lovely things to eat and then--and
then--before you know it almost, sister will be well and walking around
as fine as can be. And that will be your doing if you’re a good girl
and don’t get mopey and homesick.”

Polly’s eyes were quite dry by the time Hannah paused to take breath.
The picture of sister in such pleasant surroundings almost reconciled
her to her own good fortune. She saw the sunlight coming in at the
windows and the flowers nodding on the bureau and the white-capped
nurses hovering round and then, by and by, Hannah’s voice seemed to
melt into a gentle drone--the drone of a sleepy fly bobbing against
sister’s hospital-room window in the sunlight and then----

Polly opened her eyes to see the sunlight really slanting in at the
window of the pretty bedroom in which she and Priscilla had slept. For
a moment she lay still, trying to remember where she was and how she
came to be in this splendid gold bed, between soft, fleecy blankets and
smooth linen. There was another bed just like her own standing against
the wall across the room--but the other bed was empty. Then it all came
back to her. Priscilla had slept in that other bed. Where was Priscilla?

A sound of splashing and running water seemed to answer her and
in another moment Hannah appeared carrying Priscilla wrapped in
bath-sheets, fresh from her morning tub.

“Just wait a moment till I have Priscilla dry and then in you go,”
threatened Hannah with a pretended frown.

But Polly was not in the least alarmed. She reveled in the warm water
and plunged about in the white tub as energetically as if she had been
a canary taking a morning dip in a china dish. Then she and Priscilla
had breakfast in the nursery, with Peter Pumpkin-Eater and Jack
Sprat-Could-Eat-No-Fat looking down at them from the walls and probably
wishing they had such delicious milk-toast and cream-of-wheat and
poached eggs to feast upon.

Priscilla’s mother came to visit them soon after the meal was over and
she proved so sweet and beautiful a lady that Polly felt there was
only one person in the whole world who was more wonderful than she and
that Miss Cicely was that one. She talked to Priscilla and Polly for a
long time and seemed sorry when some one--the haughty Theresa--came to
summon her down-stairs and she had to leave them.

Then hats and coats were brought out and the Sweet P’s made ready for a
walk. There was not much fun in pacing slowly up the avenue and around
the windy paths of the Park. Before they had gone three blocks Polly
was stiff and chilly and poor little Priscilla was having the cold
shivers inside her fur coat.

“Let’s play las’-tag,” suggested Polly. “Then we can run, and running
makes you warm. Why, I used to get as hot as anything at the store,
just with running.”

“What’s las’-tag?” asked Priscilla listlessly.

Polly explained. “And I’ll be ‘It’ if you like,” she said. “Now, you
run and I’ll try to catch you. Hannah’ll be ‘Hunk.’ One, two, three!
Off goes she!”

In no time at all they were both in a glow, their cheeks ruddy and
tingling with warmth and their eyes sparkling with fun. Priscilla was
delighted and she and Polly las’-tagged each other merrily all the way
home. Certainly the hated morning walk was going to be a different
affair after this. James could hardly believe his eyes at the change he
saw in Priscilla’s appearance when he opened the door to them at one
o’clock.

“Why, she looks like another child,” he said to Theresa who was passing
through the hall.

Theresa curled her lip.

“You and Hannah may do as you like,” she snapped pettishly, “but
nobody’ll get me to wait on any beggar-child--not if I know it. Why
couldn’t they have taken that sweet little Angeline Montague, if they
must have some one, and not given the place to a common little thing
like this Polly-one. I know Angeline’s mother well. I got her the job
at Mrs. Hamilton’s and she’s a lady,--I tell you. And Angeline herself
is a little angel! Who knows anything about this child they have taken
in?” and Theresa tossed her head spitefully.

James pursed his lips as if he were going to whistle. “I don’t know
anything about her, that’s certain,” he admitted, “and if you don’t
either, Theresa, why, I guess there ain’t any call for you to clap
names on her like what you’ve done. After all, she ain’t harming you.
Fair play is a jewel. If she don’t interfere with you, you don’t need
to interfere with her!”

“Interfere with me!” cried Theresa hotly. “Much you know about it,
James Craig. That’s just what she has done, with a vengeance!”

James shrugged his shoulders. “Why, I don’t see what concern it is of
yours, if the family chooses to get a companion for Miss Priscilla. You
ain’t got to pay for her board and keep.”

“Perhaps I ain’t,” returned Theresa with added sharpness, “but perhaps,
on the other hand, I got to pay for the board and keep of somebody
else, that she has done out of a rare chance.”

The butler’s eyes opened wide. “You don’t mean to say----” he stammered.

“I don’t mean to say nothing,” the maid retorted quickly. “I just
ain’t going to do anything that’s outside my work, that’s all. I
respect myself too much to lay a hand to anything I didn’t engage for,
and if you and Hannah choose to fetch and carry for strangers from
no-one-knows-where, you can do it and welcome! But the more sillies
you, that’s all!”

The good-natured James watched the irate woman as she flounced
up-stairs and then drew in his breath with a long whistling sound. He
thought Theresa was “a terror” and he made up his mind then and there
that he would “steer clear of her” in the future.

In the meantime Polly, who was quite unconscious of having given
offense to any one in the world and who felt at peace with all men, was
astonished and dismayed, as the days went by, to find that Theresa did
not like her. At first she did not realize that anything was amiss. The
maid seemed to her a very haughty lady whose manners were proud and
overbearing to be sure, and not at all gentle and sweet as Priscilla’s
mother’s and Miss Cicely’s were, but who was probably, nevertheless,
good and kind at heart, like all the rest of the world. Once or twice
she brushed roughly against Polly in the halls, but Polly said, “Excuse
me,” as sister had taught her to do when she got in any one’s way, and
then thought no more about it.

Then, another time, Polly was going down-stairs on an errand for
Hannah and just as she reached the second flight Theresa came out of
the sitting-room and began to busy herself dusting the top of the
baluster-rail. Polly said, “Good-morning!” as politely as she could,
but Theresa did not appear to hear her and the next minute Polly’s
dress had caught in a nail or something, it could not have been
Theresa’s hand, of course, and she was crashing down-stairs, heels
over head, bumpety-bump! as hard as she could go. She was so badly
frightened that it took her some time to recover herself, but her
bruises were not serious and James brought a chocolate spice-cake out
of the butler’s pantry, which he said he would give her if she did not
cry any more. So she dried her tears and promised she would “look where
she walked” after that and was happy again in no time at all.

But before she went up-stairs James whispered in her ear: “Say, I
wouldn’t get in Theresa’s way, if I were you. Theresa is--er--nervous
and little girls bother her, I guess, and it’s always better when folks
is like that to keep yourself to yourself. See?”



CHAPTER V

POLLY’S PLUCK


Angeline Montague did not tell her mother the forfeit she had had to
pay to “redeem” the beautiful doll she had brought home from Miss
Cicely’s party. In the first place, she conveniently forgot it, and
in the second, she always made a point of keeping very still when
her mother was in a “tantrum,” and her mother was in a terrible one
that day. Something had gone wrong somewhere, for the moment Angeline
reached home her mother had caught her by the arm and swung her about
roughly, saying: “Ho! So here you are, are you? Then you didn’t get
it, did you? And after all the trouble I went to, to teach you how to
bow and to hold your tongue and to speak soft and genteel when you did
speak! And the money I spent on your clothes, too! I’ve half a mind to
beat you well, you great silly. What under the sun your Aunt Theresa’ll
do to you, I don’t know--like as not she’ll put you in jail or send
you to the reform-school or something. I do declare I never saw such a
numb-scull! Where’s your brains, I’d like to know, to let any one else
get ahead of you like that?”

Angeline sobbed.

“There now,” continued her mother less harshly. “Quit that, and take
off those togs you’ve got on. It makes me just wild to see ’em and
think what they cost, and then what a fool you were to let such a
chance slip through your fingers.”

Angeline sobbed still more piteously. She knew it was the only way to
disarm her mother. After a minute or two the angry woman said: “Hush,
hush, I tell you, Angeline, or the neighbors’ll think I’m killing
you--and they have enough to say about us already. Besides, you’d
better save your tears till your Aunt Theresa comes, for you’ll need
’em then, or I’m mistaken. She ain’t as easy as I am, not by a long
sight, and she’ll scold the life out of us both for your foolishness.
She’ll probably stop paying for your board and keep into the bargain,
and then what’ll become of us, I don’t see. We’ll be turned out into
the street, most likely, for I’m two weeks behind with the rent as it
is, and goodness knows where I’ll get the money to pay up.”

Angeline’s sobs grew softer. “I did the best I could,” she whimpered.
“I never told a livin’ soul my name ain’t Montague or that Aunt Theresa
is my aunt, an’ I bowed just like you tol’ me to, an’ I didn’t hardly
say annything to annyboddy. I just smiled the way you showed me, as
soft as ever I could, an’ Mis’ Hamilton she said I was a sweet little
thing. I listened an’ I heard her. I didn’t let noboddy get ahead of me
nor nothing. I got the best cakes an’ the biggest orange an’--an’--I
would have got a--other things too, but a big man, he was real mean and
kept looking!”

“Well, go ’long with you now,” said her mother, whose true name was
McGaffey. “Take off those duds or you’ll tear ’em or something an’ then
the fat will be in the fire.”

Later that evening when Angeline was in bed her mother had a visitor.
It was Theresa, and her angry voice made the little girl quail. She
knew Aunt Theresa well and dreaded her, so she pretended to be asleep
when her bedroom door was rudely flung open and quick steps came toward
her where she lay.

“Get up, you Angeline,” ordered Theresa, clutching her by the arm. “You
ain’t asleep, I know your tricks. Get up this minute, I want to talk
with you.”

The child came shivering into the outer room.

“Now tell me this minute,” commanded her aunt, “every single thing that
happened this afternoon at my house. Don’t you leave out anything, and
don’t you tell me a falsehood, or it’ll be the worse for you.”

So the wretched Angeline, shaking with cold and sobbing from fright,
confessed to the affair of the broken chocolate-cup.

“There! What did I tell you,” demanded Theresa of Mrs. McGaffey when
the story was done. “I knew there was something wrong somewhere, or
she’d have gotten the place, sure as preaching. Her tricks will be the
ruin of us all before she’s through, I tell you, Harriet. She ought
to be beat, that’s what ought to be done to her. She’s a bad child,
right through. Why, Mrs. Hamilton as good as told me the whole thing
was settled and Angeline was to go straight up to the nursery then and
there, and you was to get sixteen dollars a month for the loan of her.
The young un that’s there now is nothing to look at--nothing next to
Angeline, but she got the place because she hasn’t underhand ways and
doesn’t try to make other people suffer for her faults. But I’ll pay
her off before I’m through with her, never you fear. In the meantime if
I could just punish this child here for her foolishness, it’d do me a
world of good. Now go back to bed, you Angeline McGaffey, and if I ever
catch you deceiving again and running your mother and me into danger of
being disgraced, I’ll attend to you, rest assured of that.”

Angeline crept off to her room, greatly relieved that she had escaped
so easily at the hands of her vixenish aunt. She was accustomed by
this time, to loud and angry talking, and did not let herself be much
disturbed by it. In a very little while, therefore, and long before
her Aunt Theresa had gone, she was asleep and dreaming, and the next
day she had forgotten all about it. But Theresa did not forget. She had
told her sister that she meant to bide her time and wait her chance,
but that in the end she’d get even with Polly for having cut Angelina
out, as she expressed it, and she intended to keep her word.

After her tumble down-stairs, and the whispered warning James had given
her, Polly managed to avoid Theresa. It was not very difficult to do
this, for the children spent most of their time in the open air or
in the nursery. The cold and stupid morning walks that Priscilla had
used to dread, she now looked forward to with pleasure, and her skin
and eyes were beginning to show the difference. Miss Cissy’s plan was
working like a charm--there could be no doubt about that.

Priscilla, in her quiet, shy little way, had grown to love Polly
dearly, and as for Polly, why, she simply adored Priscilla, and would
have done anything in the world for her. She “gave up” so entirely
in fact, that Hannah often had to interfere to save Priscilla from
becoming selfish through too much indulgence. When they played house,
Polly was always the baby and Priscilla the mother; when they played
school, Polly was the scholar and Priscilla the teacher. In las’-tag,
Polly was “It,” no matter how often she caught Priscilla, and when
Hannah shook her finger at her, she was sure to whisper: “She’s so
little, you know. She can’t run as fast as I can, and it isn’t fair.
’Sides, she likes to think she’s beating. When she las’-tags me she
laughs right out loud, she’s so pleased.”

“Well, you mustn’t spoil her, that’s all,” warned Hannah, but she
confided to James on more than one occasion that, “that Polly’s a
caution. I never saw her equal. She don’t know what it means to think
of herself. And the grown-up way she’s got with her, of looking out for
Priscilla! Why, you’d think she’d been used to protecting some one all
her life.”

“Well, perhaps she has,” suggested James, thoughtfully. “How about that
crippled sister of hers. Ain’t she had to protect her? An experience
like that puts years on a young thing’s age. By the way, how is the
sister?”

Hannah shook her head. “It’s a bad case the doctors think, so Miss
Cicely and Mrs. Duer tell me. If it had been properly attended to
in the first place, it would be different, but the poor thing was
neglected and now it may be too late. We don’t dare tell the child, for
her heart is bound up in her sister, and she’s set on her getting well.
The two of them were all run down, what with not having enough food to
nourish ’em, and perishin’ with the cold last winter on account of no
coal, and that tells against the girl’s getting well. She has nothing
to bear up on. See now, she’s been at the hospital ever since the week
after Priscilla’s birthday, that was the first part of February, and
now it’s the last of March. But we don’t give up hope. The doctors say
she may possibly get to walk again--only it’ll take a long time, and
she’ll have to go through a lot before it happens, if it ever does.
She’ll be at the hospital all summer anyhow, and maybe longer. But it’s
true, what you say about her being the cause of Polly’s acting old for
her years, and having such motherly ways. Poor little creature! She’s
actually getting a bit of flesh on her bones, as well as Priscilla,
and I declare she’s as pretty as a picture sometimes. I told Mrs. Duer
the other day, I was never afraid for Priscilla when Polly was around.
She’d just let herself be cut into small pieces before she’d see a hair
of Priscilla’s head harmed.”

“She’s got good pluck, I know that,” answered James, thinking of
Theresa, and Polly’s fall down-stairs.

Polly had occasion to prove her “pluck” within the course of the next
few days.

The children had had their regular romp in the Park one morning and
were ready to go home, when Hannah bethought herself of a few little
sewing odds and ends that she sorely needed. She made up her mind she
would buy them on the way back. It would take her but a few blocks out
of her way, and the children would not mind the little extra walk,
especially as it was on the fascinating, forbidden ground of the
bustling avenue, where so many shops and clanging cable-cars were.

Poor Polly, who had been perfectly used to shifting for herself amid
crowds, was greatly amused at Hannah’s command that she “mustn’t let
go her hand one minute,” but she did as she was bade, and clung to the
nurse’s arm until they reached the shop, where Hannah’s trifles were to
be bought. It was an attractive place enough, full of bright-colored
ribbons and laces and tinsel and gay embroidery stuffs. There was,
however, nothing very interesting to children, except in one corner,
where was a counter upon which a number of artistically made rag-dolls
were perched. Priscilla fell in love with these at first sight, and
tugged at Hannah’s skirts, begging her to “come and see.”

Hannah was busy with her own affairs, but she left them to follow
Priscilla and to exclaim, “Why, ain’t they just splendid, now?” as she
knew Priscilla wanted her to do.

But Priscilla, it seemed, wanted more than this. “I wish,” she said, in
a hesitating, shy murmur: “I wish I could have one of those dollies.”

Hannah stared. “Eh? Mercy on us, what next? Why, what in the world
should you want with one of those dolls, when you have a nurseryful
already at home. And such superior ones, into the bargain, as these
couldn’t hold a candle to. Why, these are nothing but rag-babies,
dearie.”

Priscilla swallowed. “I know it,” she whispered, with an effort. “But I
like them. I wish I could have one.”

When the little girl spoke in that wistful tone her nurse could deny
her nothing. “Well, if you ain’t the curiousest child!” she exclaimed.
“But if you want one, why, you want one, and that’s all there is about
it.”

The next moment the pinkest-cheeked rag-baby of them all was in
Priscilla’s arms. She hugged it to her bosom with a loving clutch she
had never given to any of her French dolls, and Hannah exchanged a wink
with the saleswoman at sight of her satisfaction.

“May I take my dolly into the street? Just to give her the air?” she
asked with motherly solicitude for her baby’s health.

Hannah nodded. “Yes, if you’ll be sure not to leave the door-step.
Polly, you go with her, like a good child, and don’t let anything
happen to her. Now, run along, like dearies, and let me do my shoppin’
in peace.”

[Illustration: “GIVE THAT DOLL BACK THIS MINUTE!”]

“I think,” said Priscilla, as she and Polly stood outside the
shop-door, “I think I’ll name this baby Polly. Then she’ll be part
yours, won’t she? ’Sides, I think the name of Polly is a ’stremely nice
name.”

Polly laughed right out with pleasure at the compliment. “If you name
her Polly I’ll be her relation, won’t I? And I’ll have to give her
things and look after her. Oh, dear me! I wonder what Hannah’ll say?”

What Hannah would say was never recorded, for just at this moment a
dirty hand thrust itself over Priscilla’s shoulder and snatched her
precious baby from her arms, while a hoarse voice broke out into a
jeering laugh that almost frightened the children out of their wits.

“Hi, there!” it cried roughly. “A doll’s relation! That’s good! The
name of Polly is a ’stremely nice name! Bless me if it ain’t!”

Priscilla’s lips were blue with terror and she but dimly saw the face
of the mischievous newsboy, as he leered wickedly at her darling doll,
pretending to dance it up and down in his dirty hands.

But Polly’s eyes were blazing. “Give that doll back this minute!” she
broke out in a tremor of indignation.

The newsboy looked at her and grinned. “Oh, say, now,” he cried.
“Who’ll make me? Ain’t I fond o’ dolls meself? An’ ain’t I got
a little sister at home as just dotes on ’em? W’y, my little
sister--queer now, ain’t it, but her name’s Polly! a ’stremely nice
name, Polly is! well my sister Polly will just be tickled out of her
boots when I bring her this.”

“You give it back,” stammered Polly, breathless and panting with anger.

“Not on your life,” jeered the young rascal, delighted to see he was
teasing her so successfully, and clutching the rag-doll more tightly in
one arm while he shifted his bundle of papers in the other.

Polly darted at him; her hand swung out, and the next moment his ear
was tingling from a well-aimed blow. For an instant he was too amazed
to stir. Then he dropped his papers and the doll together and made a
dash for Polly. She ducked, he tripped on the shallow door-step and
lost his footing. It was Polly’s chance and she did not lose it. In a
twinkling she had dived for his papers, caught them up and was flying
down the street as fast as her swift feet would carry her.

“Go in,” she shouted back to Priscilla. “Go in to Hannah!” Then on she
sped like a little whirlwind, the newsboy after her in hot pursuit.

She knew he must outstrip her in a very few moments, for he was far
older and stronger than she. Her breath was already coming in painful
gasps and she felt she could not hold out much longer with the wind
blowing against her like this. He was rapidly gaining. She could hear
the clatter of his heavy boots on the pavement. In a second more he
would have clutched her. Her brain worked like lightning. She snatched
a paper from the bunch in her arm and flung it into the teeth of the
wind, not daring to pause long enough to look back to see if her
pursuer had stopped to capture it. She dropped another and another, all
the while making toward home, as fast as she could fly. At length she
had only one left, but she was in sight of the house and Priscilla’s
tormentor was a full block behind. She flung the last one back with a
great sob of relief and then paused a second to catch her breath and
look behind her. The wind carried the paper straight into the young
rascal’s face. He caught it and hurried on without losing a second.
Polly’s heart almost stopped beating. It seemed to her as if her feet
had grown suddenly heavy as lead. If she could only reach home! But she
heard those heavy boots stamping nearer and nearer. Lagging and panting
she reached the house and began to crawl and stumble up the steps
scrambling on all fours, like a baby. The fellow was close at hand. He
could leap the flight, two steps at a time she knew. She reached the
top just as he sprung to the bottom. Her strength served her to touch
the bell. It faintly rang--but too faintly to bring James if he did
not happen to be right there. On the instant, however, the door opened
and to the butler’s amazement Polly stumbled blindly over the threshold
and pitched headlong into the hall.



CHAPTER VI

SISTER’S PARTY


When Polly opened her eyes the first thing she saw was James’ kindly
face bending over her anxiously.

“Hullo!” he said encouragingly.

Polly sat up, feeling faint and dizzy. “What is it?” she faltered,
trying to get upon her feet.

“Oh, nothing much,” replied James. “Nothing at all, in fact. Just,
as far as I can make out, you thought you was the Limited an’ I was
Chicago. You run in on schedule time, and no mistake. Why, you almost
knocked me flat, the way you bolted in this door.”

His good-natured laugh gave Polly courage.

“I’m sorry if I hurt you,” she said in a firmer voice. “I didn’t mean
to.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” returned the kind-hearted fellow. “I didn’t
mind. I’d a got out of your way if I’d a known this was your busy day
and you was in such a hurry, you know.”

He saw that the little girl was weak and trembling and though he did
not know the cause, he wisely concluded the best plan was to keep her
mind off the matter as long as he could.

So he chatted cheerfully on, meanwhile helping her to rise and guiding
her to the dining-room where he offered her a couple of ladies’-fingers
and a glass of raspberry juice to “sort-of give you an appetite for
your luncheon,” he explained.

But, somehow, Polly’s head had begun to ache and she felt as if the
room were rocking. She did not want anything to eat, she only wanted
to lie down somewhere and go to sleep. Her eyelids drooped and her
head nodded. James, thinking she might have had a bad fall, racked his
brains for jokes that would be funny enough to keep her awake and he
was just about to give up in despair when the bell rang and in came
Hannah with Priscilla clinging to her hand while she clasped a pretty
rag-doll to her bosom. Both were as white as paper. Priscilla was
crying softly. Before James could open his lips Hannah gasped wildly:

“Polly! Whatever shall I do? She’s running the streets! She’ll get
killed. If he catches her he’ll beat her, maybe! Oh, dear! the young
ruffian! I was just coming out of the shop when I saw---- But she was
off like a shot from a shovel and he after her. I couldn’t keep up with
them, not if I’d been paid a million dollars for it, and in a minute
they were out of sight. Oh, that poor child! Where is she now?” and
Hannah wrung her hands.

James looked bewildered as well he might. “I haven’t the least notion
what you’re talking about,” he said, “but I kind of dimly make out
you’re worried about Polly. Well, you don’t need to be. She’s in the
dining-room, all safe and sound, though a bit unsteady in the feet and
dizzy in the head, by the looks of her.”

But Hannah had not waited to hear more than the words that told her
Polly was safe. The next instant she was in the dining room with the
little girl gathered tight in her arms. Polly tried to smile at her and
at Priscilla who was gently patting her arms and whispering something
that no one could hear, but she dared not keep her eyes open when
the room whirled about so dizzily and Hannah had to call on James to
carry her up-stairs and put her on the nursery lounge. It was while
she was curled up there, sleeping off her fright and fatigue, with
Priscilla sitting on guard beside her, that Hannah told James what
had happened. She did not mind his frequent interruptions of “Good
girl!” “First-rate!” “Hurrah for Polly!” for she was as excited over
the adventure as he was, and was glad to have the child appreciated
for her part in it. The story had to be gone over again from beginning
to end for the benefit of Priscilla’s mother and Miss Cicely and when
Polly woke it was to find herself famous. She was surprised and a
little shamefaced at the praise she received. She could not see why
they made so much of her. She had “just made that naughty boy give back
Priscilla’s doll, that was all. Of course she knew he’d be mad when she
boxed his ears, but a boy was a coward who made a little girl cry and
he ought to be punished. Then, of course, she ran when he chased her
and--and she snatched up his papers ’cause somehow, it came into her
mind that if she took them he would forget about Priscilla’s doll. It
was too bad she had scared Hannah. She would try not to worry her any
more.”

Miss Cissy kissed her tenderly and so did Mrs. Duer, at which Polly
felt as if she were a queen who had just been crowned. And that was the
end of the affair as far as she knew.

Priscilla seemed to be thriving so splendidly that it was decided to
leave the city much earlier than usual so she could spend the bright
spring days entirely out of doors and get the good of the beautiful
country air.

One morning toward the middle of April Hannah took Polly to the
hospital to say good-bye to sister. Polly had often been there before,
but to-day she found the invalid in a cheerful little sitting-room,
with the sun streaming in at the window and violets and daffodils upon
the table. It was all just as Hannah had said it would be, even to the
white-capped nurses, “as neat as wax,” bringing sister lovely things
to eat. Sister had been in bed when Polly was there before, but now to
the little girl’s delight, she found her sitting up in a wheeled-chair
and looking cheerful and happy in a dainty pink flannel robe with bows
of ribbon on it and lace about the throat and wrists. Miss Cissy had
brought it to her the day before.

“Why, you’re almost well,” cried Polly joyously.

Sister smiled. “It looks like it, doesn’t it?” she replied and hugged
her little visitor to her with a sort of hungry look in her patient
eyes.

“I guess you’ll be walking around before I know it almost,” quoted
Polly eagerly, and sister nodded her head.

“So you are going off into the country,” she said quickly. “What
fun you’ll have and how beautiful it will be to see the flowers
blossoming and to hear the birds singing. The fields will all be green
and there’ll be dandelions in them and daisies, and you must hunt
for four-leafed clovers. Why, you ought to be the best girl in the
world with so much good coming to you. She tries to do right, doesn’t
she, Hannah? I’m glad. I knew she would. You’ll remember, won’t you,
Polly, that sister wants you to tell the truth always; never to tell a
falsehood. And you must be kind and generous to every one and cheerful
too. There’s a little young mother here who has the cunningest baby! A
tiny thing only a few months old; and she has made up a song to sing
to it that goes like this:

    “‘Nice little babies never, never cry
    Or when they do, we know the reason why.
      Good little babies bravely bear a deal,
    They hold their little heads up
      No matter how they feel.’

I want my Polly to ‘hold her little head up, no matter how she feels,’
for that is the only brave way, you know.”

Polly felt a lump rising in her throat. “I’ll try,” she whispered.

Then Hannah brought out a basket packed full of dainties, which Mrs.
Duer had sent, and nothing would do but they must have a tea-party, to
which sister insisted upon inviting Polly, Hannah, the nurse and the
mother of the “nice little baby.”

While Polly went to carry the invitations Hannah hurriedly asked, “You
are better, though, aren’t you really? Oh, I hope so, miss.” Sister’s
eyes brimmed with gratitude. “I hope so too,” she said hesitatingly.
“The doctors are giving me a little rest now because they say I
couldn’t stand any more pain for a while. I tried very hard to be
courageous; ‘to bravely bear a deal,’ you know; ‘to hold my little head
up no matter how I felt,’ but they say I’ll have to rest for a few
weeks. By and by they are going to try again, and then, if my strength
holds out, I may really get better. They say there is a chance--just
think what that means! a chance that I may be able to walk again! It
makes me too happy!”

Hannah caught up the basket and hid her face behind the cover, while
she pretended to be very busy taking out the hidden goodies.

Polly thought that it was the jolliest tea-party in the world, though
she, herself, ate hardly anything at all because she was so occupied
with the wonderful mite of a baby which she was permitted to hold in
her own arms, just as if she had been a grown-up woman. Its mother
seemed to see at once that she was reliable and could be trusted, and
that, in itself, was an honor to be proud of. The baby, too, seemed
to have confidence in her new nurse, for she smiled and gurgled and
blinked her eyes and did all the dear, ridiculous things that babies
do, and then fell fast asleep in Polly’s lap, with her little hands
clinched tight into two tiny fists, as if she meant to stand up and
fight anybody who said she wasn’t the biggest and bravest baby in all
the town.

“What’s her name?” whispered Polly at last when the mite was too sound
asleep to be disturbed by her voice.

“She hasn’t got a name yet,” answered her mother. “No name seems quite
pretty enough. Do you know of any name you think would be nice? What
is the loveliest name you know?”

“I know lots,” returned Polly confidently. “There’s Hannah! Hannah is a
fine name. And Ruth! Ruth is sister’s name. Then I think Edith is just
sweet and Priscilla is most the grandest one I ever heard. But, I know
the one I love the best--it’s Cicely! Did you ever hear of a handsomer
name than Cicely? If you could call this baby Cicely I think it would
be perfectly splendid.”

The little young mother did not answer at once. She seemed to be
considering. But suddenly she gave a decided nod of her head. “Well
then,” she announced firmly, “I’ll call the baby Cicely. I’m sure
she’d like to be named by so good a little girl as you are. So Cicely
she will be called, Cicely Bell. They go nicely together, don’t they,
without any middle name to interfere? When she wakes I’ll tell her her
name’s Cicely.”

“Whose name is Cicely?”

The entire tea-party turned around in confusion and there in the
doorway stood Miss Cissy herself and just behind her a tall and very
elegant gentleman.

“Dear me!” laughed she. “I hope we are not intruding. But please tell
me, before we run away and leave you to yourselves again, whose name is
Cicely?”

Polly seemed to be the only one who could find her tongue. “Why--why,
the baby’s,” she cried eagerly. “Don’t you see her here in my lap? Mrs.
Bell let me name her. And isn’t she the prettiest, cunningest baby in
the world. See her tiny hands and her darling ears! And isn’t she good?
She let me put her to sleep. Oh, if she hadn’t been the best baby she
couldn’t have been named Cicely.”

Miss Cissy flushed with pleasure and amusement at the genuine
compliment and coming forward knelt down before Polly’s knee.

“She is indeed a dear baby,” she said, taking one of the wee pink fists
in hers and kissing it lightly. “And so you have really called her
Cicely?”

Mrs. Bell nodded and murmured shyly, “Yes’m. Polly named her.”

“Well, that’s my name, you know, and if Polly gave it to her because
it’s mine, of course she is my namesake, there’s no doubt about that.”

Little Mrs. Bell flushed and trembled. “Excuse me, miss,” she stammered
faintly. “I didn’t know. I wouldn’t have made so bold. Indeed I
wouldn’t.”

But Miss Cissy broke in on her apologies with a merry laugh. “Oh, pray
don’t spoil the compliment,” she begged. “Why, I am as flattered and
pleased as possible.”

The gentleman who had followed Miss Cissy into the room seemed almost
as flattered and pleased as she. His face quite glowed with pride and
Polly saw him draw an important looking leathern wallet from his inner
coat pocket and bring out of it a shining gold piece. “May I shake
hands with your young daughter?” he enquired of Mrs. Bell and when,
almost dumb with astonishment and confusion she nodded shyly, he bent
over the baby as Miss Cissy had done, took the mite’s hand in his and,
uncurling the tiny fingers tried to close them around the wonderful
coin, saying, as he did so, and too low for any but Polly to hear;
“There! That’s for your name’s sake, my little woman.”

Polly wanted to jump for joy, but all she could do was to point
silently to the treasure the little Cicely clutched at tightly with her
wee, pink fingers, when her mother came to bear her away. Mrs. Bell
was quite overcome by the baby’s good fortune and found it a difficult
matter to make her way to the door. But she managed it somehow and
nodded again happily and gratefully as Miss Cissy called after her:

“I shall not forget my little namesake, Mrs. Bell. She’ll hear from
me every once in a while and I shall always want to learn how she is
getting along. So, be sure to let me know where she is when you go away
from here.”

The white-capped nurse slipped out with Mrs. Bell and then Hannah,
also, made ready to go, but Miss Cissy detained her.

“I want Mr. Cameron to meet my Polly,” she explained. “I brought him
with me to-day because I knew our patient was sitting up and I was
certain she would not mind seeing a friend of mine.”

“Oh, no indeed!” murmured sister, flushing however a little. But her
shyness melted away in a twinkling for if she had been the greatest
lady in the land Mr. Cameron could not have shown her more deference
and respect.

“Ah, he’s a true gentleman,” the little seamstress thought, and all the
while he sat talking to Polly, she was building beautiful castles in
the air in which a certain lovely young princess named Miss Cicely was
to “live happy ever after” with a certain handsome young prince, her
husband, whose name was--well, whatever Mr. Cameron’s happened to be.

“A penny for your thoughts,” announced Miss Cissy mischievously bending
forward and peering up at sister with eyes full of fun.

Sister’s cheeks flushed guiltily. “Oh, I was just having a pretty
day-dream,” she replied. “I hope it will come true.”

Miss Cicely’s eyes grew soft and bright. “I think I know what the dream
is,” she said, “and I also hope it will come true. I think it will come
true. In fact, I came here to-day to tell you about it, though it is
to be kept a secret from others for a while. But you are a privileged
person and I thought it would interest you and I wanted to say that
when the dream does come true you are to have a part in it, my dear.”

This time it was sister’s eyes that grew soft and bright, seeing which
Miss Cissy began to chatter very fast.

“Don’t you want me to tell you a story?” she asked. “Well, I intend to
do it anyway. Once upon a time there was a dear little uncomplaining
woman who was so dutiful and kind that every one loved and respected
her. She kept her wee bit of a home in apple-pie order and she taught
her little sister to be as dutiful and good and uncomplaining as she
was. It was mighty difficult, I can tell you, to be dutiful and good
and uncomplaining where that little woman lived, for it was in a great
wilderness of a place where there were wolves that it was almost
impossible to keep from the door. But the little woman, by working
early and late, managed to fight them off and she never complained.
Then one day a great, cruel tyrant came and said: ‘Hark, little woman!
My name is Pain. I am going to chain you to this chair. Now will you
complain?’

“But the little woman shook her head. Then as the days grew cold and
bleak a great wolf came and howled hungrily at her door. ‘Let me in!
Let me in!’ And still the little woman shook her head and did not
complain. Then up sprang the small sister crying: ‘I’m not very big to
be sure, but I think I can help keep that wolf from our door if you
will let me try. He’s a great nuisance and ought to be put away. I’m
sure some one will get hurt if he’s allowed to stay where he is, even
if he doesn’t eat us both up beforehand.’

“This was so sensible that the little woman consented to let small
sister take a hand in the fight. She gave her a heart full of courage
and many other splendid weapons for use in such struggles and, do
you believe it? Small sister actually did help to keep that wolf at
a distance. Them one day the story of all this came to the ears of a
person----”

“No, a princess,” corrected sister.

“I’m afraid not,” objected Miss Cicely. “I’m afraid she was only
a person; well, one day the story of all this came to the ears of
a person who said to herself, ‘dear me! these two ladies are just
precisely the ones I have been searching for. They can teach me ever
so many things I don’t know, and if they will only consent to it, I
think I’d like to begin a course of instruction under them at once.’
So she carried them off quite out of the wolf’s reach, for she was a
very strong, athletic person, and watched them closely and little
by little she really did begin to learn of them. Oh, I can’t begin
to tell you the number of things they taught her, but one was to
distinguish between real and make-believe people. Where she lived
there were a great many make-believe people; in fact, she just escaped
being one herself, though please don’t mention it. But as she grew
wiser she learned to tell the difference between the real thing and
the make-believers, and that changed her whole life, for it seemed,
there were two suitors for her hand and as both were dressed exactly
alike she hadn’t been able to tell them apart and hadn’t known at all
which one was real and which only make-believe. But after she had taken
several lessons of the little woman and small sister she searched for
the heart of one of them and, to her horror, found he hadn’t any, that
he was just a poor make-believer dressed up in fine clothes. And then
she searched for the heart of the other and there it was all safe
and sound! the jolliest, biggest, truest one you ever saw, only his
fine clothes hid it from every one who hadn’t clear enough eyes to
see. Well, of course that settled it. The person said: ‘Yes’ to the
real-one-with-the-heart and they are going to live happy ever after,
unless I’m much mistaken. But you needn’t think the story ends there.
The little woman is going to be rescued from her awful tyrant and is
going to be quite free to come and go as she chooses. Then the person
and the real-one-with-the-heart are going to take her with them--over
the hills and far away, and she is to study in books as she longs to
do, and is to hear music and see pictures and grow, oh! very wise and
learned; only, for my part, I don’t believe she can learn anything
better than what she knows already which is to be dutiful and kind and
uncomplaining and--well, that’s the beginning of the end of the story,
and I think it’s almost the best of all.”

By the looks of her, sister did too, for when Mr. Cameron and Polly
managed to glance up from the mazes of the wonderful cat’s-cradle they
were weaving, they were surprised to see the change that had come over
her face. All the traces of pain and care were gone and it was as glad
and as young as Polly’s own.



CHAPTER VII

IN THE COUNTRY


Priscilla and Polly proved to be famous travelers, for everything about
the journey interested them. They thought it great sport to look out of
the car-window and watch the telegraph-poles flash past and when this
grew less amusing they made up words to the tune the train was grinding
out.

“Going to the country! Going to the country!” chanted Polly, “that is
what it says.”

“Priscilla and Polly! Priscilla and Polly!” sang Priscilla, “don’t
you hear it?” And, sure enough, the tune did actually seem to change
as they listened, and that set them to composing other words for the
wheels to whirl out, and the accommodating train sang them all.

Then, it was fun to sit opposite each other across the aisle and count
the white cows they saw. First there seemed to be more on Polly’s side
than on Priscilla’s, but all at once they flashed by a meadow where
quite a drove of cattle was grazing and Priscilla got all the benefit
of the white cows in it.

But when, at last, they arrived at “the country” itself, Polly could
hardly keep from shouting with delight. Why, it was just the most
beautiful place she had ever dreamed of, and it was precisely as
sister had said it would be. There were the blossoming flowers and the
singing birds and the green fields all starred over with dandelions and
daisies. The daylight was fading as they drove through the leafy lanes
from the railroad-station to the house and Priscilla’s tired eyelids
were drooping, but Polly was as wide-awake and alert as when she
started out. She saw a big gate of “curly” iron set between two huge
stone posts, a cozy little cottage that Hannah said was “the Lodge”
nestling beside it, broad lawns and towering trees and then, after
they had passed all these, a great house standing high and stately
against the glowing sky. It was beneath the carriage entrance of this
that they stopped and Polly was just beginning to feel strange and
awe-struck when out came James, with smiling face, to welcome them and
she felt at home at once. In another moment Theresa appeared and busied
herself carrying in the wraps and umbrellas, while she gave Priscilla
a radiant smile and Polly a not unkindly pat on the shoulder. She even
assisted James to serve them at tea, and was so altogether amiable and
accommodating that Polly concluded the city air had not agreed with her
and that she felt better in her mind here. But she did not have much
opportunity to think about it, for Hannah whisked her and Priscilla
up-stairs and had them safely tucked into bed in no time and then,
somehow, that was the end of things until the next morning.

It appeared that, in the stable, there was a little square basket,
perched on two wheels, which was to be drawn by a wee scrap of a shaggy
pony not much bigger than a St. Bernard dog, and this was Priscilla’s
own private and particular turnout. She could not be trusted alone to
manage her fiery steed and therefore Hannah always went along when she
and Polly drove out, but, dear me! they didn’t mind that! Hannah was
just like another little girl, she was so jolly and full of fun. What
splendid times they had, to be sure, trundling along the country-roads
behind “Oh-my.”

Polly thought Oh-my a very curious name and Priscilla had to explain
that pony received it from Uncle Arthur who had said “He was little
but, Oh my!”

“I don’t care if he is little,” asserted Priscilla, “I love him just
the same.”

“Why, of course you do,” responded Polly. “He’s the best and smartest
horse I ever saw. He understands everything we say and sometimes I
think he likes jokes, ’cause when we make ’em and laugh he starts up
quick as anything, and his sides just shake, as if he were laughing
too.”

So Oh-my was made one of them, as it were; was included in most
of their play and had to “make-believe” he was everything from an
elephant in an Indian jungle to one of the rats that drew Cinderella’s
pumpkin-coach to the ball.

April was gone in a flash and May and June followed mild and warm.
Then, one day in late July the Sweet P’s had a bright idea. Polly had
been telling Priscilla about when she was “at home, where the poor
people live” and had grown quite excited over her description of the
sickly, poverty-stricken children that thronged the tenements and
swarmed out into the streets these breathless days, and Priscilla had
sighed and said, “Oh dear! I didn’t know they were ever like that! I
wish I could give them some money.”

“I earned quite a lot being cash-girl,” ventured Polly.

“I wish I could be a cash-girl!” murmured Priscilla.

“For the land’s sake!” Hannah exclaimed.

Polly was silent for a moment. Then she jumped to her feet with a
bound. “I tell you what!” she cried. “Let’s make a fair. We can sew
lots of pretty things and tie ribbons around them and Hannah can sell
them behind a counter and you and I’ll be cash-girls. Miss Cissy and
all the rest will buy from us and pay real money and we’ll give it to
the people who have the Fresh Air Fun’.”

Hannah turned away her head and coughed violently into her
handkerchief, but Priscilla clapped her hands.

“Oh, do! Oh, let’s!” she cried eagerly.

“Sister can make the loveliest lace you ever saw,” continued Polly,
“and she’ll do some for us if we ask her, and--and---- Oh! I know we
could have a beautiful fair.”

Priscilla was so captivated by the idea that she could hardly wait for
a chance to lay it before her mother. The dear little girl was timid
even with those she loved best and it required considerable courage
to go and knock upon the great living-room door and ask if she might,
“please come in.”

“Is that my Priscilla?” asked a dear voice in response.

“Yes, mamma,” replied the younger Sweet P.

Mrs. Duer held out her arms and gathered her small daughter into them
with a quick laugh of pleasure.

“Mother is always glad to see her little girl,” she said.

Priscilla smiled.

“What have you been doing to-day? Having a nice time?”

Priscilla nodded.

“Where is Polly?”

“Up-stairs,” whispered Polly’s partner.

“I wonder,” ventured Mrs. Duer, “if there is anything particular mother
can do for her little girl?”

Priscilla ducked her head quickly.

“What is it you want, darling? Tell mother and, who knows, perhaps she
can get it for you.”

Priscilla smiled and swallowed hard.

“What is it, sweetheart? Surely you’re not afraid to speak to mother!
What do you want?”

“A fair,” murmured Priscilla with an effort, “We want to make one,
Polly and I do, and tie it with ribbons and have Hannah sell it behind
a counter. Polly and I will be cash-girls and give the money to the
Fresh Air Fun’.”

Mrs. Duer hesitated a moment, for Priscilla’s description of the Sweet
P’s plan was not altogether as clear as it might have been. But the
anxious, small face, flushing and paling with eagerness, hastened her
answer.

“Why, yes, you dear child,” she returned. “If you and Polly want to
have a fair I see no reason why you should not have one. In fact, I
shall be very glad to help you all I can. You may tell Theresa to give
Hannah my piece-bag and silk-boxes and you can choose all the fancy
bits you like for pin-balls and needle-cases and book-marks. And when
you have shown what you can do I will fit out a table for you myself.”

Priscilla did not wait for more. She pressed her cheek lovingly against
her mother’s for an instant and then hurried away to tell Polly the
glorious news.

How they did work after that! They sat under the trees and stitched
away until the robins must have wondered what manner of nests these
large birds were building that required such an endless supply of
threads and silks and sweet-smelling cotton-wool. Hannah was kept
breathlessly busy, planning and cutting out and basting, for when
fingers are willing, needles fly.

A little bird (perhaps one of the robins) told Miss Cissy what was
afoot and the first thing the Sweet P’s knew there she was, declaring
she did not intend to be excluded from all the fun and that if they
did not mind she was going to have a finger in their Fresh Air pie. In
spite of their good-will they had discovered that a fair meant pretty
hard work and, sew as diligently as they might, they seemed to make
very little progress after the first few days. But when Miss Cicely
arrived everything was changed. She helped them with such energy that,
before they knew it their stock in trade had outgrown the nursery
limits and had to be shifted to the great picture-gallery. Then,
suddenly, contributions began to pour in from every side. Grandpapa
and grandmamma sent a huge boxful of the most wonderful articles and
all the uncles and aunts followed suit, until it was plain that the
Sweet P’s modest fair was developing into a very elaborate affair. Miss
Cicely had said she would take charge of one of the booths, but she
soon discovered she could not do it alone, even with the assistance of
two such tireless cash-girls as Priscilla and Polly, and so she asked
their permission to invite some of the neighborhood ladies to lend
a hand. Then some one suggested that it would sound much grander if
the fair were called a kirmess and, this being agreed upon, of course
all the booths had to be arranged in the quaint fashion of those at
a German village festival and the attendants dressed in the peasant
costume. The Sweet P’s were to be arrayed in scarlet woolen petticoats;
black-velvet, gold-laced bodices over white guimpes, with white aprons,
black velvet caps, low, gilt-buckled shoes and dark-blue stockings.
Oh-my heard them talking about it as they sat behind him in the little
basket-cart that he drew so patiently over hill and dale for their
amusement, and Polly was quite certain his feelings were hurt because
he was not included in the plans for the bazaar.

“The poor, dear thing!” she confided to Priscilla. “He feels left out
in the cold.”

Hannah laughed. “Cold, is it?” she repeated, fanning herself with her
apron and trying to dodge the hot sun beneath the little canopy-top of
the cart. “Well, he may be glad of it. I wouldn’t mind being left out
in the cold myself for a bit these stifling days.”

“Well, heat, then,” Polly laughingly corrected herself but with a
pretended pout. “I’m quite certain he feels left out in the--heat.”

“Do you really think so?” asked Priscilla. “Oh, poor pony! We didn’t
really mean it! We didn’t really mean to leave you out.”

“But he mustn’t be left out,” insisted Polly, decidedly. “He just has
got to be part of it, that’s all. We’ll ask Miss Cissy as soon as we
get home what he can do to help.”

Miss Cicely knew at once. “He can take all the little boys and girls
for a drive; fare, five cents. We’ll put ribbons and bells on the cart
to make it look festive and we’ll get some nice lad, who is a careful
driver, to dress himself up as a German Hans, and then you see if Oh-my
does not make a nice pocketful of money for us.”

Polly clapped her hands. She was convinced that Oh-my understood and
would be charmed with the idea. And certainly this seemed to be the
case, for when the great day of the kirmess arrived he proved as
earnest and excited a worker as any there. Up the driveway and down he
scampered, prancing a bit at the turning where a low railing protected
the road from the edge of a steep bank of the ravine, and mischievously
making the happy children who crowded the basket to the brim shriek
aloud with excitement that was half fun, half fear. He was, in fact,
one of the most popular attractions at the festival and Uncle Arthur,
who was in charge of the prize-parcel booth, threatened to put him off
the grounds, he was so dangerous a rival and monopolized so much of the
custom.

Polly and Priscilla fluttered about like two tireless, industrious
Gretchens, filling orders and carrying bundles and doing their duty so
thoroughly and well that it was a pleasure to watch them. The grounds
were thronged and it was difficult to get about amid such a crowd, but
their patience never wavered and the day bade fair to prove a glorious
success. Polly carried a little chamois-skin bag filled with quarters
and dimes and nickels and whenever there was a bill to change she
seemed to be on the spot to assist in the transaction.

“Keep your eyes open, Pollykin,” Miss Cicely had advised. “And don’t
let any one escape with the apology that they have nothing but bills.
Make it easy for them to get change and then they will have no excuse
for not buying.”

Polly laughed. “I’ll try,” she said, over her shoulder, as she skipped
away, her eyes flashing and her breath coming fast.

But if the gaily decked booths, the pretty nurses and children and the
gold-laced uniforms of the orchestra-men gave a festive look to the
place in the daytime, the numberless chains of dainty Chinese lanterns
and sparkling electric lights glowing among the trees made it appear
like fairy-land at night.

Priscilla and Polly were in an ecstasy, for they were to stay up as
long as the kirmess lasted and do their part to the very end. It was
the proudest day in their lives, for even Oh-my had been led off to
his stable at sunset, and it seemed very grown-up and important to
be tripping about when all the other children were safely in bed and
asleep. But Polly found her responsibilities heavier than ever, for
whereas the place had been crowded with nurses and children during the
daytime, it was thronged with gentlemen and ladies now; and gentlemen
and ladies who seemed to carry nothing but big bills in their pockets,
which frequently the saleswomen in the booths were unable to change.
She was here, there and everywhere at once and as fast as her coins
disappeared she went to Miss Cicely for more.

“Now, here’s another bagful of silver,” explained Miss Cissy. “Five
dollars’ worth, in halves and quarters and dimes. Take good care of
it, dear, and see that you don’t stumble in the shadows; these electric
lights are shifty and it is easy to trip.”

Polly picked her way carefully over the patches of light and shadow in
the grass and fastened her fingers more securely about the money-bag
she carried. She was congratulating herself that she had not had one
mishap all day and she was determined it should not be her fault if
everything did not end as well as it had begun. She was proud of
Miss Cissy’s confidence in her and anxious to prove she deserved it.
These thoughts and a crowd of others were flashing through her mind
when--alas for Polly! she never knew how it happened, but before she
had time to prevent it, she had missed her footing, had fallen, struck
her head sharply against the iron railing that guarded the driveway
from the steep bank of the ravine and was only saved from pitching
headlong down into the gorge by the slender bar itself. For one instant
she lay quite still, then she struggled to her feet in terror, for in
the midst of her pain and shock she realized that her precious bag was
gone. The jolt of her fall had wrenched it from her grasp. Her hands
were bruised and scratched by the sharp gravel-stones, a rapidly-rising
lump upon her head throbbed heavily, but she lost no time in
considering these. Her one thought was for the money-bag. On hands and
knees she crept up and down and across the spot where she had fallen,
groping for her treasure, but all to no purpose; the bag was nowhere to
be found. Big tears of dismay welled up into her eyes, as second after
second passed and still she had not recovered it. Suddenly she saw a
figure coming toward her that proved to be Theresa hurrying to the
house on some errand or other.

“What’s the matter?” asked the maid pausing in surprise.

“Oh, dear!” Polly almost sobbed, “I fell---- I tripped and fell, and my
money-bag is gone--with five dollars in it.”

Theresa gave a pretended gasp of horror. “Gracious me!” she exclaimed.
“You are in trouble, for sure, aren’t you? I don’t wonder you feel
bad. Five dollars! That’s a big pile of money, when you haven’t got
it! Like’s not your bag is at the bottom of the ravine this minute,
floating down the brook. I declare I’m sorry for you, for of course if
you don’t hand it over prompt and quick to Miss Cicely, she’ll think
hard things of you, and maybe turn you out besides. Goodness! if it was
me, I’d run away this minute and never come back here again. I’d be
that frightened and ashamed!”

Polly stopped short in her search and looked up at Theresa with a new
terror in her eyes. “What--what do you mean?” she stammered. “Why
should I be frightened--and ashamed? It wasn’t my fault! I tried to be
careful. Why should they turn me out?”

“Because, silly! That’s why,” replied the maid sourly. “If you don’t
hand that bag over to Miss Cicely right away she’ll think hard things
of you. She’ll say you’re careless and not to be trusted. Oh, dear,
there is no knowing what she will say and do, she’ll be so angry at the
loss of that much money. I wouldn’t risk it, if I were you. I’d run
away before they found out.”

Polly gasped painfully. “It isn’t my fault,” she repeated, sobbing. “I
have tried to be careful, I have, really and truly. I don’t think Miss
Cissy will think those things of me you say she will, but--but--even
if she does, I can’t run away. It wouldn’t be right to run away. If I
can’t find the bag and she blames me, I’ll have to--to tell her all
about it and stand it, somehow.”

Theresa gave a sharp laugh. “Well, do as you please,” she cried
harshly. “It’s none of my business, I’m sure. But I can tell you this
much, you won’t find your bag, and you will be blamed, so there! You’re
mighty brave and courageous now, but wait till you’re turned out in
disgrace, and then see how you’ll feel. I guess you’ll wish you had
taken my advice then. Listen to me! if you want, I’ll hide you in my
room to-night, and to-morrow morning I’ll smuggle you out of the house
as quiet as a mouse, and no one will ever be the wiser. I’ll slip
you down to the station, and you can go to your sister in the cars,
and--and----”

For a moment Polly saw herself as Theresa pictured her: blamed,
disgraced, turned out of this home maybe, where every one had been so
kind to her, and it seemed as if she could not face it.

“Will you do as I say?” demanded Theresa eagerly, catching her by the
arm.

Polly gave a quick, low sob and shook her head.

Theresa released her hold with sudden violence, turned short round upon
her heel and, without another word, strode toward the house. Polly
looked after her with misery and despair in every line of her pale
little face. Then she fell to searching again, feeling about blindly
along every inch of the spot where she had fallen. But still the bag
could not be found. Time was flying, and Theresa had said if she did
not return the money at once they would think hard things of her. She
could not believe it! She could not bear it! She struggled to her feet
and tried to gather her wits together. What should she do? What would
sister tell her to do if she were here and knew the truth. Suddenly
Polly gave a little gasp of joy and flew toward the house as fast as
her feet would carry her. She had found a way out of her trouble, and
her heart beat so quick with the relief of it, that it almost took her
breath away. Up into the nursery she ran, and to her own particular
little table upon which her bank stood. It was so heavy with money it
would hardly rattle, and every cent of it was her very own by right,
to do with as she chose. But how was she to get at the money? The bank
was locked and she had given sister the key. She twisted and tugged
at it fiercely, but only a stray copper or nickle slipped through the
opening in the top, and at this rate it would take her all night to
shake out the rest. She thought of James. James would help her! James
was a good friend of hers. She flew down-stairs like a small whirlwind,
and surprised the butler as he stood in the front doorway, watching the
gaieties outside and resting for a moment from his labors. He heard her
out patiently, though she was so excited her words came in gasps, and
she made confusing work of her story.

“So you fell and hurt yourself, and lost your bag of change, eh?” he
commented. “Well, I declare, that’s rare hard luck, it is! No mistake!
And you want me to open this affair and get the money out of it to
make up for what you lost? Well, you’re a real up-and-down square one,
you are. Now just you wait. I’ve a big ring of keys down-stairs, and
I’ll bring it up and see if we can’t fit one into this lock, and if we
can’t--why!----”

He did not wait to explain what would happen then but ran quickly below
and before many minutes was back again and trying one key after another
into the obstinate lock that absolutely refused to be fitted. Polly, at
his side, twisted and jerked with impatience and excitement, and when
at last James shook his head and said with a sigh: “It’s no use! there
ain’t one in the whole lot that’ll do,” she almost broke into crying
again.

The kind fellow gave her an encouraging glance. “Don’t you worry,” he
said. “If we can’t do one way we’ll do another. If we can’t unlock the
door we’ll have to break open the bank. Are you willing?”

Polly nodded eagerly. “Yes, oh yes!” she quivered.

“Well, come along then,” returned James and led the way down-stairs.
Polly following dumbly. She could hardly wait while he got from his
tool-chest the things he needed and set to work. Once, twice, three
times the heavy hammer fell, and then, with a cry of joy, Polly made a
dash toward the shattered bank and gathered up the stream of coins that
poured out of it.

“Oh, James, I thank you ever so much,” she cried gratefully.

“Hadn’t you better count your money,” suggested the butler sensibly.
“Are you sure there’s enough here? It takes a good many pennies and
nickles to make five dollars, you know.”

The next moment he was almost sorry he had spoken when he saw all the
brightness vanish from her face as quickly as it had come there. But
she did not stop to lament.

“Take half, please,” she said, “and count it and I’ll count the other
part and then we’ll add what we’ve both got.”

Poor James! He was not, as he himself admitted, “a lightening
calculator,” and his progress was very slow, so that Polly had
announced: “One dollar and sixteen cents,” while he was still stumbling
over, “A quarter--and ten cents: that makes thirty-five! And five more:
that makes forty,” and so on. Would he never get done? Would he never
say, “One dollar!” Suppose there were not enough!

“One dollar!” announced James triumphantly, and Polly’s heart beat fast
for he still held quite a little heap of coins that were uncounted. It
was a great trial of patience to stand there and wait and wait, when so
much was at stake. Polly wanted to jump up and down and cry: “Hurry!
Hurry!” to urge him on, but she shut her teeth hard and kept the words
back.

“One dollar and fifty!” droned James. “And a dime: that makes sixty:
and five pennies: that makes sixty-five. And a quarter: that makes
ninety: a dollar and ninety! I guess I’ve got most of the big pieces!
And a dime: two dollars! Two dollars and ten cents! fifteen! eighteen!
and another dime: that’s twenty-eight! And, hey there! If here ain’t a
fifty-cent piece! That makes two dollars and seventy-eight. I say, two
dollars and seventy-eight is better than nothing! And your one dollar
and sixteen added to that! why that makes--that makes--three dollars
and ninety-four. Now ten cents makes four dollars and four cents and
six more is ten and--and--four dollars and ten cents and--and--that’s
all!”

Yes, Polly had seen it was all. A couple of great tears crowded out the
sight of James and the cruelly disappointing pile of money he held, and
then rolled down her burning cheeks in two hot streams. But the next
moment she had brushed them hastily aside, for the butler had grasped
her arm with a jolly laugh.

“Oh, I say!” he shouted. “See here! What’s the matter with counting
in this nice one-dollar bill lying there all hid away where we didn’t
see it! I ain’t a lightening calculator, and I ain’t proud if I am
handsome, but the way I add up four dollars and ten cents and a one
dollar bill, brings it up to five dollars, with a silver dime over.
Now, young lady, just you take this money and skip as fast as ever you
can.”

Skip! Why Polly fairly flew and James, looking after her with a smile,
patted his vest-pocket approvingly, muttering to himself: “I got a
dollar’s worth of fun just seeing the worry go out of her eyes and the
glad look come back again. I ain’t rich, but I’m satisfied I spent that
money right!”



CHAPTER VIII

PRISCILLA’S VICTORY


So, after all, the kirmess ended in a blaze of glory for Polly as well
as for every one else and she would have thought herself the happiest
girl in the world even if, at the close of the evening, when they were
sitting under the trees, eating ice cream and cake and resting after
the fatigue of the day, Miss Cicely had not risen and said:

“Now I hope all present who vote our kirmess a success will give a
cheer for the two ladies who, from the first, have been the means of
making it so. I propose a cheer for our two Sweet P’s.”

“Three cheers and an extra one for good measure!” cried Uncle Arthur
jumping to his feet, and although Aunt Laura murmured, “Don’t be
absurd, Arthur!” they were given with a will.

But the next day! Oh dear, how different everything seemed then! The
grounds were littered with torn paper and scorched lanterns and scraps
of twine and tattered shreds of muslin and bunting. The grass of the
lawns was cruelly trodden down and, in some places, fairly torn up
by the roots. Indoors it was no better. The articles that had been
left over from the fair were scattered here, there, and everywhere in
everybody’s way.

Priscilla looked pale and worn out and, for the first time since Polly
had known her, was, as Hannah expressed it, “cross as two sticks.”
Polly herself was far from well. There was a big aching bump upon her
head and her body felt stiff and sore all over. Her cheeks were flushed
and feverish and she, as well as Priscilla, felt so tired and forlorn
that they could hardly drag themselves to the stable on a visit of
condolence to Oh-my, when it was discovered that the poor little pony
had been overdriven the day before, had caught cold and would have
to be very carefully tended before he could recover. Even Hannah was
inclined to be irritable, and there was no doubt at all about Theresa’s
and the other servants’ ill-temper.

The sight of the empty place upon her table where her precious bank
had stood made Polly so melancholy that she felt like sitting down and
having a “good cry” over it, but she remembered sister’s advice to
“hold her little head up no matter how she felt” and decided that she
would follow it at once. But the sacrifice of her savings meant a real
struggle, for Polly had had great plans as to what she meant to do with
her money and now it looked as if all those lovely dreams could never
be realized. As soon as her breakfast was eaten she left the nursery,
inclining to confess to Miss Cissy about the little chamois-skin bag,
but everything was in confusion down-stairs for, it appeared, Miss
Cicely had to hurry off at once to join a party of friends at the
seaside, the rest of the relations were going their own ways and, in
a very little while, the house would be left deserted and dull to
struggle with the sultry, trying weather alone.

“Let’s come out under the trees and play house,” suggested Polly to
Priscilla.

“I don’t want to,” Priscilla murmured, a little fretfully, letting
herself drop limply upon the veranda cushions with a whimper.

“My child, Ruthie Carter, has got the mumps and the doctor said I must
take her to the seashore right away,” explained Polly, clasping the
invalid-doll in her arms and trying to make herself believe she cared
whether Ruthie Carter recovered from her attack or not.

Priscilla did not answer.

“Is your baby quite well, Mrs. Priscilla?” inquired Mrs. Polly politely.

Mrs. Priscilla shook her head silently, and after a few more
unsuccessful attempts to engage her in conversation, Mrs. Polly gave
it up and sauntered slowly across the lawn, bound for the seashore to
which the imaginary doctor had advised her to take her ailing child.
She chose the pretty, rustic summer-house called Pine Lodge, for her
play to-day, because it was shady and quiet there, and its sides, which
were open half-way down from the roof, let the breeze in unhindered.
A bench ran round the walls of the place, and was very useful and
convenient for housekeeping; purposes, for, with a little arrangement
and imagination, it could be made to serve as table, cupboard, bed,
piano, and a host of other things, just as one chose. One section
of it only was forbidden ground: that running along the side of the
summer-house that overhung the ravine. It was a rule remaining over
from Priscilla’s baby-days that she was never to be left alone in
Pine Lodge, and that she was never, never, never to mount upon that
particular portion of the bench, for though now she was old enough
to realize the danger of leaning over the wall’s edge, an accident
might occur, and the ravine was deep and its steep walls rocky and
sheer, while the tall trees that clung to them showed many a bare and
unsupported root. When Polly had passed quite out of sight Priscilla
began to cry. She had not wanted to play with her, but neither had she
wanted Polly to go off and play by herself.

“She’s real mean to leave me all alone,” she sobbed irritably. “I don’t
think she’s very polite.”

But only a robin, hopping nimbly across the driveway, heard her
complaint, and as he did not seem to sympathize with her, she felt it
was of no use to say any more. She gathered herself up with a pettish
sigh and set out to follow Polly across the lawn.

“Hello!” said Polly as she came in sight.

“Hello,” returned Priscilla.

“Didn’t you bring your child with you? The seashore will do her a lot
of good. My Ruthie Carter’s almost well already.”

Priscilla shook her head.

“Don’t you want to go and fetch your baby?” inquired Polly. “Let’s play
you came to visit me and didn’t bring her along, ’cause you were afraid
she’d be a bother, and I said: ‘No, indeed, I’d be pleased to have
her!’”

“I don’t want to,” returned Priscilla. “My feet hurt. You go.”

“My feet hurt, too, and so do my arms and all the rest of me.”

“I don’t think you’re very polite, Polly Carter, so there! Your head
doesn’t feel half as bad as mine does.”

Polly jumped up and laid Priscilla’s hand on the big bump that was
throbbing beneath her hair. “There!” she said, triumphantly, “what do
you think of that? Doesn’t that thump? And it aches like anything.”

“How did you do it?”

“I tripped last night in the dark and knocked it against that iron
fence by the driveway. I was running as quick as I could to make change
and all of a sudden I fell down and my money-bag--the one Miss Cissy
gave me with five dollars in it--jogged out of my hand and I hit my
head and--I guess you’ll believe I don’t feel very well now!”

Under all Priscilla’s real sweetness of nature there lay a hidden rock
of obstinacy that made her, at times, a very difficult little personage
to deal with. Hannah had encountered it often and often, but Hannah was
indulgent and excused her pet to herself by saying: “She’s so young;
she’ll outgrow it by and by.”

Polly had, up to this, given in almost entirely to Priscilla, no matter
what her whims might be, and so had not really had any conflict with
the quiet persistence and iron will that underlay the little girl’s
other really lovable traits. But she was to have one now.

Priscilla listened attentively to the story of the bag and the bruise
and then repeated slowly: “I don’t think you’re very polite. I think
you might get my doll.”

“Hannah told me not to wait on you so much. She says it spoils you.”

Priscilla silently regarded the toes of her shoes and seemed to be
considering. Her lips were pressed tightly together, and she did not
reply for a minute. Then she said gently: “I think you might get my
doll.”

Polly pretended not to hear. She bent over the mumpy Ruth and drew her
handkerchief across the sick infant’s chest to shield her from the
supposed fresh sea-breeze that was blowing inshore smartly from the
great stretch of imaginary ocean beyond.

“I think you might get my doll,” droned Priscilla again.

“I’ve been hunting for that bag so long this morning I’m tired clear
through to my bones,” explained Polly at length, with a touch of
reproach in her voice.

“Where do you s’pose it is?” asked Priscilla.

“I don’t know. Down the bank, maybe, and in the water. Theresa said
it was. I went back to the place before breakfast and searched and
searched.”

“Let’s lean over the edge of this and p’raps we can see it.”

“No, no,” protested Polly, quickly. “Don’t you! don’t you! Your mother
’spressly told us never to do that. She said you might fall over. She
said I was never to leave you here alone--and that’s another reason why
I can’t go get your doll.”

For answer Priscilla rose slowly and crossed the summer-house to the
side that overhung the ravine. Very slowly and deliberately she mounted
the bench, knelt up upon it and, leaning far over the ledge, peered
into the dark depths of the ravine below.

Polly held her breath for a moment, too horrified to speak. Then she
gasped out imploringly: “Don’t, don’t! Oh, Priscilla, don’t do so! Your
mother told you not to. She said it was dangerous!”

For response Priscilla leaned out a little further.

Polly was speechless. She grasped the little girl’s dress and clutched
it fiercely; it was all she could do.

“I think you might get my doll,” repeated Priscilla.

“Oh, Priscilla, how can I? I couldn’t leave you here alone like this
for anything. They’d think I was awful; they’d scold.”

“You might get my doll.”

“I can’t.”

“Then I’ll lean out further.”

“Don’t you! Don’t you!”

“I will, ’less you get my doll!”

Priscilla was beginning quite to enjoy herself. Her usually gentle
heart was hardened now with the determination to have her own way at
any cost. There was a fearful excitement in leaning over that forbidden
ledge, and it was “fun” of a sort to know that Polly stood in fear of
what she would do. She did not draw back an inch, and the hand on her
skirt tightened fiercely.

“Let go my dress!”

“I mustn’t: you’ll fall!”

“I won’t fall if you’ll get my doll!”

“Will you get down if I do? Really and truly?”

“Yes; if you’ll get my doll, I’ll get down.”

Polly struggled with herself.

“Oh, I can’t,” she panted. “They told me not to let you be here alone.
I can’t! Honest, I can’t.”

“I think I see your bag. It’s over there! ’Way over there down behind
the roots of that tree,” declared Priscilla, unconcernedly.

“Never mind! Don’t lean over so! Don’t look! You’ll get dizzy! Come
away! Let’s play----”

“If you’ll get my doll.”

Polly gasped helplessly. “Well--well----” she stammered, “I--I will--if
you’ll solemnly promise to come down, I will.”

Priscilla had won the battle.

“I’ll promise,” she said gently and slid back upon the bench and then
down to the safety of the floor, as quietly and obediently as if she
had never been defiant in all her life.

But the scare and the struggle had been too much for Polly. At sight
of Priscilla’s innocent air, her eyes blazed resentfully. She felt,
somehow, that she was being terribly wronged and imposed upon, and
for the first time since she had known Priscilla she was thoroughly
indignant at her.

The sound of the sweet little voice repeating softly: “Aren’t you
going to get my doll?” roused her to a sudden quick and uncontrollable
anger. She grasped Priscilla by the arm and shook her fiercely; shook
her till her bright, flossy hair danced up and down upon her shoulders
in a golden cloud and all the color was gone from her lips and cheeks.
Polly’s own face was scarlet and her eyes flashing fire.

“You are a naughty girl!” she cried, vehemently. “As naughty as you can
be. You ought to be punished!”

Priscilla simply gazed at her and made no answer. She was so pale,
Polly’s heart misgave her.

“I--I’m sorry I shook you,” she burst out remorsefully. “I didn’t mean
to, Priscilla. I don’t know what made me do it! I’m awfully sorry.”

Still Priscilla was silent.

“You’re not angry at me, are you, Priscilla?”

Priscilla’s white lips opened just far enough to let out the words: “I
think you might get my doll.”

Polly started to run, but on the threshold she stopped and turned back.
“Remember what you’ve promised,” she said, with trembling lips.

Priscilla nodded; the next minute she was alone. She watched Polly
scudding across the lawn, her soft blue eyes grown hard and gray as
flint. The thoughts in her busy brain swarmed as stinging midges. She
was very, very angry. Never before in all her young life had rough
hands been laid upon her. Polly had shaken her! Her face was white as
snow, but her heart was hot with fury. She was shocked, frightened and
terribly resentful. Polly had said she was naughty and ought to be
punished! No one had ever before spoken so harshly to her. It was Polly
who was naughty and ought to be punished. Polly had said she was sorry,
but there was time enough to think of that. The thing to do now was to
pay Polly back for what she had done. The stinging thought-midges in
the back of her brain buzzed so loud they made her dizzy. In a minute
Polly would come back with her doll and then she would want to make
up and be friends again. Priscilla’s lips pressed tight, one upon the
other. She did not want to be friends with any one just yet. All she
wanted was to pay Polly back.

Meanwhile Polly was making what haste she could in search of the
miserable doll that, as she said to herself, had been the beginning of
all the trouble, but it was not in its accustomed place in the nursery,
nor yet in the little girls’ bedroom. Hannah was busy helping settle
the place down-stairs and could not stop to tell her where it was
likely to be found. Up-stairs and down she hurried, but to no purpose;
here, there and everywhere she hunted, but all in vain. She dared not
go back to Priscilla without the doll and still, she had been told over
and over again never to leave her alone in that dangerous Lodge. What
should she do? As a last resort she burrowed among the cushions upon
the veranda where Priscilla had lain a little while before and there,
sure enough, lay the wretched rag-baby, peacefully and uncomplainingly
buried beneath a mountain of down. Polly snatched her up fiercely and
started across the lawn.

“Helloa there, Polly!”

It was James who called.

Polly paused and turned. “Oh, James, I’m in an awful hurry,” she gasped
anxiously.

The butler smiled. “Another of your busy days, I s’pose,” he remarked
teasingly. “You seem to have a good many of ’em, first and last. Take
my advice, go slower and you’ll go surer. It pays in the long run--and
the short one too, for that matter. The more haste the worse speed, you
know.”

“Oh, James,” protested Polly again.

“Well, if you’re catching a train I guess I’d better not detain you. I
just had something to say, I thought you’d like to know, that’s all.
About the little chamois-bag you dropped last night. I’m going down
the ravine to hunt for it.”

But Polly had sped out of hearing before he had finished his sentence
and he strolled slowly after her saying to himself: “She must want
something to do, sprinting around like that, this hot day! But children
don’t seem to mind the heat. My! But her face is red! All the blood’s
in her head! Hannah ought to tell her she hadn’t ought to exert herself
like that when it’s ninety-four in the shade.”

It seemed no time at all to Priscilla before Polly reappeared across
the lawn. She was holding the doll and running as fast as her feet
would carry her.

The biggest and fiercest thought-midge of all stung Priscilla with
so sharp a point that she started as if she had been pricked with a
needle. In a flash she saw how she could revenge herself on Polly,
could punish her so that her face would look as queer and terrified as
it had done a little while ago when she had been afraid Priscilla would
fall over the ledge of Pine Lodge and had implored her to come away
from it; in fact had made her getting down from the bench the condition
on which the doll was to be brought. Priscilla had gotten down, as she
had promised to do. But she had not promised not to get up again. Her
teeth set hard.

[Illustration: SHE WAS LEANING FAR, FAR OUT]

As she drew near the entrance of the summer-house Polly heaved a long
sigh of relief. There was Priscilla safe and sound, standing in the
doorway just as she had left her. She had disobeyed orders, of course,
when she left Priscilla alone in Pine Lodge, but she felt sure that
would be forgiven her when she explained how it was she had come to go
and that, notwithstanding, Priscilla was unharmed.

“See, Priscilla,” she cried, eagerly as soon as she was within earshot,
“I’ve got her. I would have come quicker, only I couldn’t find her
anywhere. I hunted every place I could think of and where d’you s’pose
she was? Under the cushions on the veranda. Now we can play and it’ll
be ever so nice.”

Priscilla made no response. She did not even hold out her arms for
the doll. She waited until Polly reached the threshold and then she
turned on her heel and very slowly and deliberately walked away from
her and toward the forbidden side of the Lodge. Polly halted a moment
in bewilderment and the skin all over her body seemed to grow cold and
to be shriveling together, while her eyes turned into two burning balls
that smarted and stung, for Priscilla was climbing up upon the bench
and leaning far, far over.

Polly tried to call out but no sound would come. After a second
Priscilla turned her head and glanced around with a look in her eyes
that no one had ever seen there before. She had determined to punish
Polly and she meant to do it thoroughly.

“Oh, Priscilla,” gasped Polly. “Please, please--get down! Remember, you
promised.”

For answer, Priscilla stared at her coldly with those strange gray,
steely eyes of hers and then bent her body far over the dangerous ledge
again.

Polly’s breath caught in a tight, choking knot in her throat and she
turned sick all over, and faint and weak. There was one second in which
she was quite blind and then another in which everything before her
appeared to burn right through her eyes and back into her brain. The
motionless leaves on the trees; the patches of blue sky through the
green boughs: the soft, gray slab-side walls of Pine Lodge: the low
bench running round them; Priscilla standing upon the bench and leaning
far, far out, and then--and then--no Priscilla at all. Without a cry,
without a sound she had vanished over the edge,--she had lost her
balance and had fallen into the ravine!



CHAPTER IX

WHAT HAPPENED TO PRISCILLA


James followed leisurely after in the path Polly had taken, mopping
his perspiring forehead and thinking uncomplimentary things about the
weather.

“Yes, children don’t mind runnin’ when it’s ninety-four in the shade,”
he observed, “but as for me, you don’t catch me hurryin’ myself to-day,
not for nothin’ nor nobody. Hark! What’s that?”

A sharp, piercing, frantic cry tore the stillness into echoes and went
resounding down the length of the gorge. The butler paused an instant;
the cry was repeated again and again. Without more ado he started into
a fierce run that brought him, in no time at all, to the threshold of
Pine Lodge where, peering in, he saw Polly crouching on the further
bench, leaning over the ledge and uttering shriek after shriek for
help. He sprang to her side with a bound, gave one quick glance into
the gloom of the ravine below and then, with a warning “Hush!” to
her and an encouraging nod and smile to the white face turned toward
him from a tangle of brush and gnarled roots upon the bank beneath,
wheeled about and, like a flash, disappeared around the side of the
summer-house.

Polly caught her breath in a queer, gulping sob. After what seemed to
her like ages of time help had come! Now if Priscilla could but keep
her hold upon that bare pine-tree root to which she was clinging! If
the bare pine-tree root would not give way beneath her grasp! In some
miraculous way she had escaped plunging headlong to the bottom of the
gorge. Her fall had been broken by the tangle of wild bushes and the
undergrowth of strong young saplings lining the bank, and in the quick
second in which she felt the earth beneath her again she had managed
to brace herself and cling to a supporting root. But her strength was
almost gone and Polly could see that in a moment more her slender
courage must give way. Would James never come? Why had he not leaped
right over the side of the Lodge and reached Priscilla that way? It
would have been quicker. Surely it would have been quicker! But James
knew what he was about, if Polly did not. He had seen at a glance
that the weight of a heavier body might readily dislodge the insecure
rocks and earth that were serving to support the little girl and that
his only safe course was to skirt the Lodge, go to a farther point of
the bank and, by slipping and sliding down, as best he might, reach
the bottom of the ravine and rescue Priscilla from below. It was,
in reality, but a few seconds before Polly saw him again, swinging
himself over the little rail that fenced in the bank, and dropping
carefully down, down from rock to rock to the bed of the shallow stream
that flowed at the base of the gorge. Once at the bottom he was less
impeded. In a twinkling he had reached the point where Priscilla hung,
had found a firm foothold, and was urging her to drop into one of his
strong arms while he clung to the supporting roots of a towering pine
with the other. Polly watched him with straining eyes.

“Don’t be afraid! Drop!” commanded James encouragingly.

Whether Priscilla heard him or not Polly could not tell, but the
frantic grasp of her little fingers around the root did not relax and
her white face and wide-open eyes stared up blindly from out of the
soft gloom below without a trace of life in them. “Don’t be afraid!
Drop!” repeated James.

He drew himself up an inch or two higher and flung his strong arm tight
about her. It was not an instant too soon for, with a sudden, sharp
snap and crack of sundering wood the half-rotten root she clung to gave
way beneath her gripping fingers. The sound of it and the feeling that
she had lost her support, seemed the only things she had reason enough
left to realize. With a long, low cry of despair her arms dropped to
her sides and her eyelids closed upon her staring eyes.

James’ strong arm was firm and steady; he held her close. Polly
breathlessly watched him as, inch by inch, he descended the bank to the
bottom of the gorge and then carefully picked his way along to the far
point where a flight of wooden steps, securely fastened to the rock,
led up the terrace beyond.

Then, for the first time the thought flashed into Polly’s mind, “What
would Priscilla’s mother say?”

She slid down to the floor, forgetful of dolls, play-toys and
everything else, and ran blindly back to the house. Her flying feet
brought her to the entrance before James, with his little burden, had
fairly reached the terrace.

“Hannah! Oh, Hannah!” she called out, as soon as she had crossed the
door-sill and was actually within the hall.

Hannah hurried to her from the living-room, alarmed by her
terror-stricken voice.

“What on earth is it, child? For pity’s sake what’s happened now?”

“Oh, Hannah!” Polly panted, “Priscilla! It’s Priscilla! She--she----
We were in Pine Lodge and she fell over into the ravine and James has
got her--he’s bringing her in now, I guess. Oh, Hannah! Hannah---- She
was alive! But her eyes shut when the root broke and now I’m afraid
she’s----”

“Hush, Polly!” commanded Hannah sternly. “Stop your crying. Mrs. Duer
mustn’t hear you. She mustn’t know--yet. You say James has got her? Oh,
here he is! Give her to me, James! Quick, quick, man! How slow you are!”

“Go easy, Hannah!” the young man said. “She’s all right. Don’t get
upset! She’s got a few bruises, no doubt, and her hands are torn a bit,
but she’ll pull through all right when she comes out of this faint and
has time to get over the shock and the fright of it.”

But Hannah hardly heard him. She gathered her darling into her arms
with a sort of savage eagerness, and, puffing and panting with the
exertion and the heat, carried her up-stairs into her mother’s room and
closed the door. Polly dared not follow.

Oh, the wretched hours that passed before the doctor came! And the
miserable hours that passed while he was there! That closed door seemed
to shut Polly out from all the brightness and joy of the world and she
felt she would never, never, never be happy again. Midday came, but no
one wanted to eat. The dreary afternoon crawled slowly past and the
great red sun began to sink. Polly could not swallow her supper; James
had to carry it away again almost untasted.

“Don’t you go to being so down-hearted,” he said, kindly. “Little Miss
Priscilla is coming out all right, never you fear. She’s had an ugly
shock, but she’ll get over it by and by and be as right as a trivet
again.”

“Oh, James, do you really think so?” Polly cried, longing to be
comforted.

“Sure!” responded the butler cheerfully.

Late that night Hannah, stealing noiselessly up-stairs was surprised to
hear Polly’s voice softly calling to her through the dark.

“Hannah! is that you?”

“Yes, Polly. Why aren’t you asleep, child?”

“I don’t know. How’s Priscilla?”

“Well, to tell the truth, the doctor isn’t ready to say. He isn’t
worryin’ much about her bruises, but--but--well, we’ll have to wait,
that’s all. She’s got considerable fever and the fright won’t leave
her. She drops asleep for a minute or two and then starts up wide awake
and shrieking with terror. She can’t get any rest, poor lamb. It’s that
that makes us most anxious. Of course we don’t take for truth anything
she says in this state, but it’s curious how contrary-minded people get
when they’re not quite themselves. She has an idea you’re trying to
hurt her and she cries out to us not to let you come into the room.
I’ve told her mother over and over again you wouldn’t see a hair of
Priscilla’s head harmed and you wouldn’t, now would you, Polly?”

Hannah paused a moment for Polly’s answer, but when none came she went
on consolingly, “I’ve told Mrs. Duer not to mind the foolish things
Priscilla says, for it isn’t believable that you would lay hands on
her to shake her or that it was because of a falling-out you had that
she fell over the side of the lodge. Only, you see, Polly, while
Priscilla’s head is like this and she has such foolish sick fancies it
wouldn’t do to excite her and so you’ll just have to keep out of the
way for a while, and not fret to go to her. When she’s up and about
again it’ll be all right, but for the present it’s pretty hard on us
all--the waiting. Now, go to sleep, like a good girl and to-morrow you
shall tell just how it all happened. You’re not to blame, I’m sure,
Polly, but it will be better all round for you to let Mrs. Duer know
the right of the case and that Priscilla’s saying you shook her and was
the cause of her fall, is just something she’s dreaming and that it
isn’t really true at all.”

Then, with a tired “Good-night! Now go to sleep like a good girl,” and
without waiting for more, Hannah left the room to return to Priscilla,
and Polly was left in the darkness and the silence again.

The big clock in the corner ticked out the seconds with slow
distinctness; a little screech-owl in the branches of the big oak-tree
just beyond the window repeated its dismal, quivering call. Polly
buried her face in the pillows and trembled. She had thought she was
unhappy before, when Priscilla’s sickness was the only weight upon her
heart. But now there was a worse one added to that. The knowledge that
she would be held responsible for the accident and whatever resulted
from it.

Poor Polly! She had quite forgotten the little tiff of the morning
but now it came back to her with cruel clearness for Hannah’s words
showed plainly enough that Priscilla had not forgotten. What could she
say the next morning when Mrs. Duer should ask her if what Priscilla
said was true? For what Priscilla said was true: Polly could not deny
it. It was true Polly had shaken Priscilla and Priscilla “to pay her
back” it appeared, had leaned over the ledge of the Lodge. She saw it
all now. So it was true also that Priscilla’s fall was somehow due to
Polly’s temper. It all seemed very terrible and confusing and hopeless.
She knew in her heart that she was not utterly to blame and yet--and
yet she could not reason out her excuse and she could not explain. She
heard the clock strike “Twelve!”--“one”--“two”--and then, at last, worn
out and thoroughly miserable she fell asleep and slept until long
after her usual time for rising.

This morning there was no kindly Hannah to oversee her bath; no
friendly Priscilla to frolic with. Everything was lonely, still, and
discouraging. She ate her breakfast in silence and then wandered off
to the nursery window and gazed out disconsolately into the blinding
brightness of the sunny grounds below. Presently she heard the sound
of wheels crunching on the gravel of the driveway and saw the doctor’s
carriage swing briskly around the sweep in front of the house. She
slipped quickly down-stairs and flew breathlessly out into the
vestibule, just in time to meet Dr. Crosby on his way into the hall.

“Good-morning, little lady!” he said genially, resting a kind hand for
a moment upon her shoulder and looking narrowly into her pale, anxious,
tear-stained face. “And how do you do this fine, hot morning?”

Polly nodded gratefully and tried to say, “Very well, I thank you,” but
could not quite accomplish it. The doctor saw she had something upon
her mind and patiently waited to learn what it was. At last she was
able to speak.

“Priscilla,” she stammered. “Is Priscilla going to--going to--be worse?”

“Why, bless your heart, no,” Dr. Crosby replied promptly. “On the
contrary Priscilla is going to be better very soon, quite well, in
fact. When I left her at four o’clock this morning she was sleeping
soundly, and if she has rested well ever since, we’ll have her up and
about in no time. So don’t be down-hearted, child. I suppose you are
the Polly Priscilla has had so much to say about, and you’re fretting
because she has sick notions and doesn’t want to see you? Pooh, pooh!
never mind that! We’ll send her away somewhere for a few weeks for a
change, and by the time she comes back she will have forgotten all
about it and you’ll be as good friends as ever,” and with that, and
an encouraging pat upon the head, the good-hearted doctor hurried
up-stairs.

Polly crept back to the nursery only half-comforted. Priscilla might be
better and, if she were, of course, that would be an immense relief,
but in the meantime she was angry at Polly and would have to be taken
away before she would get over it.

Presently there were the sounds of opening and closing doors on
the floor below; the doctor’s cheery voice was raised in a jovial
laugh, and, after a moment, Hannah came up-stairs looking tired and
hollow-eyed, to be sure, but still smiling and happy.

“Thanks be to God,” she said reverently, “the child is better. She’s
had five hours of steady sleep, and the rest has done her a world of
good. She’s her own dear, quiet little self again.”

“Then I can go to her?” cried Polly, springing up eagerly. “She isn’t
angry at me any more, now she’s better?”

Hannah hesitated. “Well, I can’t say exactly that,” she replied. “I
asked her if she didn’t want to see you and she shook her head. It’s
just a whim of course, but it wouldn’t do to force her against her
will while she’s so weak, so you’ll just have to wait patiently till
she comes around of herself. Meanwhile Mrs. Duer wants to have you
come to her in the living-room. There, there, child! don’t look like
that! You’ve nothing to fear. Just keep up a brave heart, answer her
questions truthfully and don’t cry, or tire her with a long story. She
hasn’t slept a wink all night and she needs rest as much as Priscilla
does, so be quick about what you have to say; only speak when you’re
spoken to and leave her to catch a nap if she can.”

How she got down to the living-room door Polly did not know. The brave
heart Hannah had bade her keep up must have sunk to the region of her
shoes, for her feet were as heavy as lead and her left side felt quite
sickeningly empty and hollow. She managed to give the door a gentle
tap, and when Mrs. Duer’s gentle voice said, “Come in!” she crossed the
threshold.

“Good-morning, Polly!” said Priscilla’s mother kindly from where she
lay on the couch by the open French windows.

“Good-morning!” responded Polly from between two stiffened lips.

“Come over here, dear, and sit upon this cushion beside me. I want to
ask you a few questions about yesterday. I’m sure you can answer them
satisfactorily. There! That is right! Now, you know, dear, Priscilla
had a serious shock yesterday, and for a number of hours she was not
responsible for what she said. She said strange things which we do not
believe are true. I’m sure, for instance, that you would not refuse to
get her doll for her if she asked you to do so.”

Polly did not answer.

“You did not refuse to get her doll for her, did you?”

“Yes, Mrs. Duer.”

Mrs. Duer’s pale cheeks flushed a little. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“I’m very sorry and disappointed, Polly. That was not like you; it
was hardly kind, I think. But I am quite confident you did not shake
Priscilla because she continued to ask you to get her doll after you
had refused. Tell me, dear, you did not shake Priscilla?”

“Yes, Mrs. Duer.”

For a second or two the room was very quiet. Polly was having a mighty
struggle with herself. Hannah had told her only to speak when she was
spoken to, and yet she knew that her answers to Mrs. Duer’s questions,
truthful though they were, did not give a just account of the trouble
between her and Priscilla. There was something amiss somewhere that she
could not straighten out.

Mrs. Duer, meanwhile, was struggling on her side to conquer the feeling
that had grown in her against this ungrateful little girl for whom she
had done so much.

At length she spoke again.

“I am very sorry and very much disappointed, Polly. I never could have
believed that you would grieve me so. To raise your hand against gentle
little Priscilla, who is so delicate and who loved you so much! Well,
child, I suppose you did not realize what you were doing, and you
certainly look as if you had suffered for your fault. Still, I do not
feel as if I could ever trust you again with my little girl.”

Then somehow, in spite of Hannah, in spite of everything, Polly’s
self-control gave way. “I wasn’t to blame! I wasn’t to blame!” she
cried chokingly, over and over again.

Mrs. Duer sighed. “I am willing to believe you did not mean to be to
blame,” she admitted patiently. “But now I want to tell you that I have
decided to take Priscilla away for a while. She needs a change and it
will be better for you both to be separated for the present. Hannah
will go with me, but you can stay on here while we are gone, at least,
and Theresa will look after you. I am sure you will be a good and
obedient child and do just as she tells you, so that I shall not have
to be anxious on your account while I am absent. You have been honest
in confessing the truth and so I am willing to believe you will keep
your promise if you give me your word you will be good and obedient
while I am away and will do as Theresa tells you. Will you, Polly?”

“Yes, Mrs. Duer.”

“You will not go outside the gates unless Theresa goes with you?”

“No, Mrs. Duer.”

“And you will remember your promise to obey her absolutely?”

“Ye-es, Mrs. Duer.”

“Very well. Now I think you may go up-stairs, or out under the trees to
play, or anywhere within the grounds that you choose.”

But Polly still lingered, trying to utter the words that were catching
so cruelly in her throat.

Mrs. Duer wondered a little why she did not start.

“May I--may I----”

“May you what?”

“May I go back to--to the--store again, please?”

“To the store? I don’t understand.”

“Where I was when Miss Cissy came. Mr. Phelps--he’s the
superintendent--said I--he would take me back any time. He said I was a
trustable--he said I was a good cash-girl and--and---- I’d like to go,
if you don’t mind,” Polly murmured in broken breaths.

Mrs. Duer raised herself upon her elbow. “Ah, but I do mind,” she
replied instantly. “On no consideration can you go back. In the first
place you would have nowhere to stay--your sister at the hospital could
not have you--and then,--but it is quite out of the question and we
won’t discuss it further.”

Polly turned slowly and went toward the door. She had to grope her way
because of the blur before her eyes that shut out everything, but at
last she managed to lay her hand upon the knob and to turn it. The next
moment she was in the cool, dim hall and the next--she had hung herself
face downward on the great tiger-skin upon the polished floor and was
crying as if her heart would break. No one saw her; no one heard her.

Mrs. Duer in the living-room was trying to rest. Priscilla was dozing
in the darkened bedchamber up-stairs, with Hannah on guard and James
was carrying down from the attic the trunks and traveling-bags that
would be needed for the journey, and whistling cheerfully beneath
his breath as he did it, for Mrs. Duer had told him he might take the
occasion of her absence to go upon a little trip of his own and he was
looking forward to his holiday as eagerly as if he had been a boy.

But in the midst of her misery Polly remembered the absurd little rhyme
sister had repeated to her that last day at the hospital:

    “Good little babies bravely bear a deal,
    They hold their little heads up
    No matter how they feel.”

She scrambled to her feet in a twinkling, brushed away her tears
and returned to the nursery where she busied herself setting her
writing-desk in order and rearranging the articles upon her table. She
put the fragments of her shattered bank into the table-drawer after
vainly trying to fit them together again. It was the first bank she had
ever owned and she reflected sadly that it would probably be the last.
For surely what Mrs. Duer had meant a little while ago was that she did
not wish Priscilla to play with her any more. And if Priscilla was not
to play with her any more then--then--why then she would be sent away.
She wondered what sister would say; and dear Miss Cicely! how grieved
and disappointed she would be. And yet, if Miss Cicely were here Polly
felt she could make her understand the things she could not explain to
Mrs. Duer--the things that would show she was not so entirely blamable
as she seemed. Yes, Miss Cicely would certainly understand. As for
Hannah----

Good Hannah found an opportunity, in the midst of all her hurry and
worry, to run up-stairs to the nursery for a minute, just before
bedtime and to say in a confidential whisper:

“There now, Polly, don’t you go to fretting yourself to skin and bone
over this. Just you keep still and be good and it will all come out
right in the end.”

“But Hannah, oh, Hannah,” Polly groaned. “Priscilla’s angry at me, and
she stays angry. And Mrs. Duer said she couldn’t trust me any more.”

“Well, well, it’s hard, I know, but all the same, be a good girl and I
warrant things will come out right in the end. We won’t be gone so very
long and when we come back who knows what may happen.”

So Polly went to sleep with a more hopeful heart than she had carried
for many hours and the next morning she watched the travelers depart
with what was almost a smile of contentment, for was she not going to
be the best and most obedient of girls while they were gone, so that
when they came back--who knew what might happen?



CHAPTER X

THE TELEGRAM


The days dragged slowly by; hot, sultry, lonely days. There was nothing
much for a little girl to do in the great empty house, and Polly
wandered about rather disconsolately at first, missing good Hannah and
Priscilla at every turn and learning anew how dear they had become to
her. There was not much fun in playing with her doll when there was no
one to join in the game. She visited Oh-my in his stable and found the
greatest consolation in telling him her secrets and feeling that he
understood and sympathized with her.

“You see, pony,” she explained, “I haven’t got anybody to talk to now
but you, and it makes me feel lonesome. Theresa has the charge of me,
but she stays down-stairs mostly and doesn’t pay very much attention.
Besides, James told me she doesn’t like little girls, and I guess it’s
true, for sometimes her voice isn’t very pleasant when she says things
to me and I’d rather not bother her unless I have to, because it makes
her nervous.”

And Oh-my put his head down and nosed Polly’s hand in the friendliest,
manner possible, as if to say: “I understand perfectly, my dear. I’ve
gone through the same thing myself, so I know precisely how you feel.”

But one thunder-stormy day Polly happened to stroll into the library
down-stairs, because the nursery seemed so far off when the lightning
was flashing and the great, crashing peals made one’s breath clutch at
one’s throat, and as it happened, that was the last of her loneliness,
for how could one possibly feel solitary with such a multitude of
delightful friends as she found in those well-filled book-shelves? She
forgot the storm, forgot the heat, forgot everything, in fact, but the
new world she had found and that proved so full of endless delights and
surprises.

She did not venture to take any of the volumes very far from their
shelves, but she discovered it was thoroughly comfortable, as well
as convenient, to cuddle back of the library curtains on the wide
window-sill, and, in this hidden nook with her new-found treasures to
keep her company, she was entirely happy and remained lost to the world
for hours at a time. So long as she appeared promptly at meal-time
Theresa did not care where she was, so Polly got through the days much
bettor than could have been expected and before she realized it, it was
drawing near the time when the travelers should return.

Meanwhile, Priscilla was causing her mother and Hannah no end of
disappointment and worry. The railroad journeys tired and bored her
since there was no lively Polly across the aisle to invent new plays
for her or take the lead in the old ones. She sat upon the beach at
the seashore and could not be induced to stir from Hannah’s side. Once
or twice, some sociable child, anxious to make friends, would venture
up and ask if she did not want to come and play, but Priscilla always
turned away her head shyly and refused to be neighborly.

“Why don’t you go and play with that nice little girl, Priscilla?”
Hannah urged. “She’s a real little lady. I’ve watched her ever since we
came on the sands and I’ve never seen her cross or selfish. Go along,
dear! You’ll have lots of fun.”

But Priscilla shook her head. “I don’t want to,” she murmured
wistfully. “She doesn’t play the right way. Not--not--the way Polly
does. Polly plays the best way. If Polly were here I’d play.”

The fresh sea-air brought the color back to her cheeks and she grew
thoroughly strong and well again, but she was languid and restless and
nothing appeared to please her.

After three weeks of this her mother grew fairly discouraged.

“We have tried the seaside and we have tried the mountains,” she
declared mournfully to Hannah, after a particularly dreary day in which
everything had gone wrong with Priscilla. “She doesn’t seem contented
anywhere.”

“She’s not sick, that’s certain,” Hannah assured her consolingly. “The
doctors all say there’s nothing the matter with her. Dr. Crosby told me
he thought it was just a miracle the way she got over the shock of that
fall. He said it wouldn’t have been possible if she were as she used to
be.”

“Yes, I know she is not sick,” went on the anxious mother, “but her
spirits do not improve. She was so happy and merry this summer, it
was a pleasure to see her. Her aunts and uncles all remarked what
a different child she was, but now--ever since her fall--she has
been going back to her old listless, moody ways again. I am utterly
distressed about her.”

“Oh, now, I wouldn’t feel like that,” ventured Hannah, who in her heart
felt entirely the same, but wouldn’t have admitted it for the world.

Just then Priscilla herself wandered into the room. The corners of her
mouth were drooping and her eyes looked quite ready for tears.

Her mother held out her arms and the little girl went to her silently.

“I wonder,” said Mrs. Duer, kissing the mournful lips and stroking back
the glossy hair with a loving hand, “I wonder what pleasant plan we
can make for to-morrow. What would you like to do, little daughter?”

For answer Priscilla suddenly buried her face in her mother’s neck and
began to cry.

“Why, what is it, darling?”

“I don’t know,” came back in a broken whisper.

“Don’t you like it here, dear?”

“N-no.”

“Would you like to go away?”

“Y-yes, please.”

“Very well, dear. We can leave to-morrow. And we’ll go anywhere you
choose.”

Priscilla raised her head and her eyes were shining with pleasure as
well as tears.

“Really?--Truly?” she cried eagerly.

“Why, yes, pet,” her mother assured her in surprise. “Certainly we can
go to-morrow and anywhere you choose.--Back to the mountains if you
like.”

Priscilla’s face fell and all the light went out of it. Her lip began
to quiver. Her mother and Hannah exchanged puzzled glances over her
head.

“Don’t you want to go back to the mountains?” Mrs. Duer asked gently.

“N-no.”

“Well, we have plenty of time, dear. We can go where you like. We need
not hurry home.”

But somehow this comforting assurance seemed only to start Priscilla’s
tears afresh.

“I don’t want plenty of time,” she wailed dolefully.

A sudden idea popped into Hannah’s head. She gave Mrs. Duer a quick
glance and then said quietly: “I shouldn’t want to hurry you on any
account, madam, but perhaps if we were to go home for a day or two
Priscilla might make up her mind better where she’d like to be. If we
didn’t stay out the rest of our time here, for instance, we could go
right home to-morrow.”

But Priscilla had started up, her eyes aglow. Hannah pretended not to
notice her and continued unconcernedly: “We could telegraph to Theresa
to-night that we were coming to-morrow and, if we started bright and
early we could be home by evening, sure.”

Priscilla clapped her hands. “And s’posing Lawrence and Richard would
meet us at the station!” she cried, half-laughing, half-crying,
her voice quivering with excitement: “and s’posing Oh-my was there
too--and--and s’posing--s’posing Polly was driving him--and--and----”

“I shouldn’t wonder one mite if I were to ask the telegraph operator
down in the office to send that telegram to Theresa,” declared Hannah,
“that he’d send it for me in a minute.”

Priscilla slipped from her mother’s arms.

“Oh, Hannah,” she exclaimed, “would you ask him, would you?”

Hannah laughed: “Well, dearie, I rather think I will,” she said.

And that was the end of Priscilla’s low spirits. For the rest of the
afternoon she could hardly contain herself, and had to be warned of the
danger of postponing their journey if she did not sleep, before she
could be induced to compose herself for bed that night.

It was plain enough, the child had been homesick.

Early that same evening Polly, from her perch on the library window
seat, saw a bicycle shoot swiftly around the sweep of the driveway. She
was so absorbed in her book that she hardly raised her eyes to look at
it and was only dimly aware that the rider wore a uniform of blue, with
the cap of a telegraph-messenger upon his head. But Theresa was not, by
any means, so blind to what was going on about her. She spied the boy
at once and ran down to the kitchen area-way at the back of the house
to receive him.

“Oh, botheration!” she ejaculated as she read the message. “If this
ain’t the most provoking world! Here I was counting on two more weeks’
vacation at the very least and making plans and everything and now
comes a telegram to say the whole thing is up to-morrow.”

“What’s that?” asked the cook, full of curiosity at once.

“Why, the folks are coming-back to-morrow, that’s what!” Theresa
snapped. “And a horrid shame it is too. Upsetting a body’s arrangements
and disappointing ’em of two weeks’ holiday at least. James is the
lucky one! can go off where he chooses and take it easy.”

“Oh, my!” exclaimed the cook good-naturedly, “is that all? Goodness!
I thought you’d lost your best friend, you acted so cut up. Why under
the sun shouldn’t the folks come home if they want to? It’s their
house. They ain’t running it altogether for our convenience, and as
to disappointing us of two extra weeks’ holiday as you call it--why,
that’s just nonsense, Theresa. We had no right to expect, so we
oughtn’t to be disappointed.”

“Oh, you’re too good to be true!” Theresa retorted angrily, as she
flounced out of the kitchen.

The cook looked after her with a broad smile of amusement on her fat,
good-natured face. “Well, well,” she murmured, comfortably, “Theresa
is a caution, and no mistake. Such a temper as she has got! And the
idea of her being in a fury because the folks is coming home! Plans!
Now, I wonder what the great plans are that she’s made and that their
coming’ll interfere with.”

But it was not Theresa’s way to confide her plans to others and least
of all to one who would be pretty certain to disapprove of them. She
knew very well that the good-hearted cook would never stand by and see
her carry out a cruel plot of revenge against a helpless child if she
were aware of it. And that was what, to her shame, Theresa had meant
to do. She had by no means forgotten her grudge against Polly and had
intended to take this opportunity to prove it. But now the elaborate
scheme that it had taken her weeks to contrive was upset, for, with
James and Hannah about again the little girl would be well protected
and she would have no chance to wreak her spite upon her. She bit her
lips savagely as she went up-stairs with the unwelcome telegram crushed
tightly in her palm.

Polly, happening to come out of the library just at the moment that
Theresa was crossing the hall, noticed the maid’s white lips quiver
and, thinking she was sick or unhappy, broke out at once with an
impulsive: “Oh, Theresa, what’s the matter? Has anything happened?”

Theresa looked down at her for an instant with an ugly gleam in her
eyes. “Only a telegram,” she muttered curtly.

Polly’s cheeks whitened. “A telegram!” she echoed. “They send telegrams
when people are sick or hurt or dead, don’t they?”

Theresa nodded grimly.

“Is any one you know of sick?” asked poor Polly, her quick sympathy
aroused at once and her thoughts traveling instantly to sister and
reminding her how badly she would feel if a telegram had come saying
sister was worse.

Again Theresa nodded.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Polly heartily. “I’m ever and ever so sorry,
Theresa. I hope it isn’t your sister. I know how I’d feel if it was my
sister.”

But like a flash of lightning a thought had shot across Theresa’s brain
and before she fairly knew she was speaking she heard herself say: “It
is your sister!”

All in an instant she saw her way to get Polly out of the house before
the family returned. One plan was as good as another; if her first had
failed, this would be pretty sure to succeed.

“Yes, child,” she went on, “it’s very sad, but--now don’t get
excited,--your sister is very sick! Very, very sick indeed.”

“Does--does the telegram say that?” stammered Polly hoarsely.

“The telegram says,” declared Theresa, unfolding the paper and
pretending to read it: “‘Sister worse. Wants Polly. Take first train
to-morrow morning.’”

Polly clung to the stair-rail for support. She did not ask to see the
telegram. It never entered her innocent mind that Theresa would stoop
to deceive her. She did not doubt the woman for a moment, there was
no room in her overburdened little heart for anything but grief over
sister.

“Now, Polly,” said Theresa quietly, “you mustn’t give way. You must
have grit and content yourself for to-night. And to-morrow morning I’ll
get you off by the first train. There won’t be the slightest trouble
about it. I’ll pack your things in a nice bundle and you can carry it
with you.”

“But--but----” broke out Polly in despair, “Mrs. Duer told me not to go
outside the gates--and I promised.”

“Unless I went with you,” corrected Theresa. “She told me all about
it and she made you give your word that you’d mind what I said and do
everything I told you to do.”

“But--but----” cried Polly, still only half-convinced, “I don’t know
the way. I haven’t any money.”

“Oh, pshaw!” exclaimed the maid. “That’s nothing. I’ll be glad to give
you your carfare and you haven’t to change cars once all the way. All
you have to do when you’re in the train is to sit still until you get
to the city. Then you walk through the station and up Madison Avenue
for a while and there you are, right at the hospital door. You can’t
possibly lose your way. It’s as plain as a pipe-stem. And I’ll wake you
early to-morrow morning, before the rest are up, and you can get away
on that first train.”

Polly’s head was whirling. She passively let Theresa lead her up-stairs
and, in a sort of dream, saw her make ready a neat bundle containing
the very best of the dainty garments Miss Cissy and Mrs. Duer had given
her. She could not touch her supper, though Theresa had taken unusual
pains to make it an especially tempting one and kindly urged her, in
the friendliest manner possible, to eat. And later, although it grew
long past her bedtime, her tearless eyes refused to close. She lay
awake staring into the darkness, hearing the big clock tick and the
miserable little screech-owl moan and thought of sister and what she
would do if---- But here she always had to stop and go back again to
the beginning, for she could not get her thoughts to carry her beyond
the point of sister’s leaving her in the world alone.

She must have fallen into a doze at last, for it was with a start of
surprise that she heard Theresa’s voice whispering in her ear: “Wake
up, Polly! Hurry! It’s time you were up and dressing! I’ve got a glass
of milk for you and some biscuits, and if you’re quick you won’t have
any trouble getting to the station in time for the train,” and knew
that it was morning and that she was back in the world again with that
awful gloom of sister’s being worse hanging over her and shutting out
the sunshine.

Theresa was kindness itself. She helped Polly to dress, encouraged her
to eat her breakfast and quite laughed with good-natured generosity at
Polly’s reluctance to accept the money for her journey.

“You see, Theresa, I could have paid for it myself,” the little girl
explained, “but I took the money out of my bank to give to Miss Cissy
when I lost the bag the night of the Fair.”

“Oh, you did, did you?” said Theresa. “Did Miss Cissy know?”

“Yes, I did,” repeated Polly. “No, I started to tell her, but she went
away. I took all there was in it. We had to break the bank to get it
out. The pieces are in my table-drawer. I couldn’t bear to throw them
away and, oh, dear!--now I guess I’d better go, please. I can’t eat any
more, really! And I’ve drunk all the milk----”

“That’s a good girl,” the maid said kindly. “Now, step soft as ever you
can so as not to wake anybody. I’ll go down to the station, or almost
down to it, and see you in the train myself.”

“But it’s such a long walk,” protested poor Polly. “You’ll get all
tired out.”

“Oh, that’s nothing. I’ll carry your bundle and if we hurry I can be
back here in no time--before Bridget and the rest are up, I’m sure.”

So, creeping softly and noiselessly down the long, silent halls and
staircases the two stole out of the house, through the grounds and out
into the sunny stretch of road beyond. It was a long, tiresome tramp,
but Polly was too excited to notice it. She wanted to hurry, to run, to
do anything that would help her to get to sister more speedily. Theresa
carried her bundle, which was rather heavy, to within a short distance
of the station.

“Now, I can’t go any further with you,” she said as they reached the
last turn in the road, “for it’s getting late and I ought to be home if
I don’t want the girls to think I--I’m neglecting my work. But you’re
all right now, you can see the depot there in front of you. Just you
go straight into the waiting-room and up to the little window in the
middle and ask for a ticket to the city, and if the ticket-seller says
‘return?’ you say ‘No!’ for I couldn’t very well spare you the money
for both ways and have only given you enough to carry you down. You
won’t need any change after you get there, for the hospital isn’t very
far, and when you get to the hospital your sister will see to you or
some one else will. There’ll be no trouble about that. Well, run along
now and don’t, for the life of you, tell anybody what’s the matter or
why you’re going away or anything. It isn’t safe for little girls to
speak to strangers.”

Polly promised and, with rather a heavy pat upon the shoulder that was
meant to seem friendly, Theresa shoved her forward on her way.

After she had gone the maid stood and watched her with narrow, eager
eyes. She waited there, in fact hidden from sight behind the roadside
trees and bushes, until she heard the heavy train thunder up and off
again. Then she turned, sped quickly back along the path she and Polly
had come, and reached the house and the shelter of her own room before
any of the other servants were astir.



CHAPTER XI

WHAT HAPPENED TO POLLY


Priscilla’s spirits rose with every mile that brought her nearer home.
Her mother and Hannah watched her shining eyes with satisfaction and
listened to the rare sound of her merry chatter as if it had been the
sweetest of music. They were as grateful for the change in her as
sparrows are when, after a long succession of stormy days, the sun
comes out again.

One question rather puzzled and disturbed her mother.

What was to be done about Polly after their return? Priscilla seemed
to have forgiven and forgotten their quarrel and was ready and anxious
to make up and be friends once more, as Hannah had foretold she would
be, but Mrs. Duer could not help remembering that Polly had raised her
hand against her darling and, she felt that no one could blame her
if she were not willing to trust the child with her again. Priscilla
had so tender and compassionate a little heart that she could never
harbor ill-will against anybody, but she had barely escaped a dreadful
calamity and her mother felt that it would be worse than reckless
to run the risk of repeating a danger for which, plainly, Polly was
responsible. No; Polly must go, that was clear, and Priscilla would
doubtless soon cease to miss her, once she was at home again.

But as they drew nearer and nearer their journey’s end it was easy
to see for whom Priscilla’s heart had been longing, and for what she
had been homesick. She thought and talked of nothing but Polly and
her usually silent little tongue fairly ran over with eager, anxious
chatter.

“S’posing Polly were to be at the station to meet them!” “S’posing
Polly didn’t know they were coming and would be so surprised she’d jump
right up and down with gladness!” There seemed to be no end to the
delightful things Priscilla amused herself by “s’posing.”

“When we get home I want to speak to Polly the first thing,” she
confided to Hannah. “I have something I very p’rtic’larly want to say
to her.”

But when the train at last drew up beside the station and the travelers
stepped out upon the platform, Priscilla’s happy smile faded to a
wistful shadow of itself, for no Polly was awaiting her anywhere
about, as she had fondly encouraged herself to “s’pose” might be the
case. However, in the pleasant excitement of feeling she was really
at home at last, she recovered her good spirits and was as gay and
light-hearted as ever during the brisk drive from the depot.

“I guess Polly will be waiting for us at the gate,” she managed to
whisper eagerly in Hannah’s ear, between quick little peerings this way
and that in the hope of spying her nearer at hand. But the carriage
rolled through the gate and up the shady avenue without bringing any
waiting Polly into view. Again Priscilla’s expectant smile grew wistful.

“I s’pose, maybe, she’s waiting for us at the door,” she murmured still
hopefully, and kept her brown eyes fixed resolutely before her so that,
when the carriage should swing around the sweep in the driveway and
under the porte-cochêre, she might be the first to call out the glad
“Hello!” that would show Polly she was sorry and wanted to be friends
again; but only Theresa stood upon the steps to receive them, and Polly
was nowhere to be seen.

Priscilla suffered herself to be lifted out of the carriage without
a word. Her chin was quivering a little but she did not cry. Perhaps
Polly was hiding somewhere and meant to surprise her by springing out
unexpectedly to welcome her with a kiss and a hug.

Priscilla was naturally very timid, but in her eagerness to find Polly
she braved the shadowy staircases and lonely dim halls without a
moment’s hesitation.

“P’raps she’s in the nursery and won’t come down ’cause I was horrid
and wouldn’t see her before I went away. Of course that’s it! Why
didn’t I think of it before?” Priscilla reasoned, and she ran along the
upper hall crying, “Polly! Polly! I’m home again! Where are you, Polly
dear?”

But no jolly little figure came bounding forward in answer to her call
and the only sounds to be heard were those of her own quick-coming
breaths and the solemn ticking of the big clock in the corner. Then the
dimness, the quiet and the sense of her loneliness and disappointment
overcame Priscilla and with a long, quivering sob she cast herself face
downward upon the nursery-couch, where she and Polly had played so many
happy times and cried the bitterest tears she had ever shed.

Down-stairs all was in the greatest confusion, for it seemed that no
one was able to inform Mrs. Duer where Polly was. Lawrence and Richard,
the coachman and groom, declared they had not seen her near the stables
all day: “And she never missed a morning all the time you were gone,
madam, to come out and give Oh-my an apple or a lump of sugar.”

Theresa declared she had served the child her breakfast but hadn’t had
a glimpse of her since.

“I was so busy getting the place in order, to receive you, that I
hadn’t a minute to think of Polly,” she confessed. “And when she
didn’t come in to luncheon I didn’t feel I could spare the time to hunt
for her.”

“And yet I left her especially in your charge,” Mrs. Duer said, in
stern rebuke.

Poor Hannah, tired as she was, set out immediately with Lawrence and
Richard to scour the grounds, while Mrs. Duer bade the household
servants search the house from garret to cellar.

She herself hastened up to the nursery in the hope of finding some
clue to the mystery of the child’s disappearance. But all she saw
on entering the room was Priscilla crouching on the rug before
the nursery-couch and crying her heart out from loneliness and
disappointment.

“My dearest, what is it?” asked Mrs. Duer anxiously hastening to her
and gathering her up tenderly in her arms.

Priscilla hid her tear-stained face in her mother’s neck. “I want
Polly,” she sobbed out brokenly.

“Yes, darling, I know you do,” Mrs. Duer said gently, “and I have no
doubt she will be found in a very little while. She was here, safe and
well, this morning, and she cannot have wandered far, for I forbade her
to go beyond the gates and I cannot believe she has disobeyed me.”

“I have something I must p’rtic’larly tell her right away,” the shaken
little voice continued.

“I wonder what it can be?” ventured Mrs. Duer, encouragingly. “Don’t
you think you can confide it to mother?”

“I don’t know.”

“Try.”

The big clock in the corner ticked out the seconds with melancholy
distinctness. It seemed to Priscilla to be reproachfully repeating:
“Pol-ly’s gone! Pol-ly’s gone!” until she could endure it no longer.

“I wanted to tell Polly I was sorry,” she gasped in a difficult whisper.

“Sorry for what, dearest?”

“The day I fell--I--I was horrid to Polly,” went on the penitent little
voice in a broken undertone. “I--I wouldn’t play with her first-off
when she wanted me to and then, when she went out to Pine Lodge, I was
lonesome and I wanted her, and so I went there too. I didn’t have my
doll and we couldn’t play. I asked her to get it ’cause I was tired.
She was tired too; she had a big bump on her head that hurt her; she
let me feel it thump. But--I teased her to get my doll; I kept right on
teasing.--She would have gone then but you’d told her not to leave me
alone there and then--and then--I felt wicked in my heart and wanted
to be horrid and--I thought it would frighten her if I got up on the
bench where you said I mustn’t. She begged me to get down--but I
leaned over--just to tease her. And I said I’d get down if she’d fetch
my doll. At last, after ever so long, she said she’d go and then I got
down.--But--but I guess she was ’xasp’rated, I had teased her so, and
leaned over the edge when she said I shouldn’t, and wouldn’t even let
her hold on to my skirt and--and--so--she shook me. She ’most cried the
minute she had done it and asked me to forgive her and make up. But I
wouldn’t.--I don’t know why I was so horrid;--it was awful--it choked
me--but I couldn’t vanquish it--I just kept on teasing her to get my
doll.--Then she did.--While she was gone I tried to think of a way to
pay her back for shaking me--and by and by I thought of one.--When
she brought the doll I just walked over to the bench and got up on it
again. I did it to pay her back.--She begged me not to--and I did--and
then--I fell--and it wasn’t Polly’s fault and--I--I want Polly!”

And this was how Priscilla fought her first great battle with her
conscience and won. Her mother, hearing her heart flutter and bound,
and feeling the cold drops of moisture on her temples, knew that the
struggle had been a fierce one and loved her all the better for it.

And somehow Priscilla had never felt so happy in all her life, in spite
of her unhappiness, as she did in that moment when her beautiful young
mother, of whom she had always stood a little in awe, kissed her
tenderly on her forehead and said: “God bless my little girl for being
honest enough to tell the truth and brave enough to confess her fault,”
and they had both cried and clung together and felt that they were very
fast friends indeed.

But in the meantime it was growing darker every moment and still Polly
had not been found. Hannah came hastening up to report that no trace of
her had been discovered anywhere out of doors and Theresa had no better
news to tell of their search within.

“She was all right and well this morning, I do assure you, madam,” the
maid insisted. “I served her breakfast with my own hands. She seemed
terribly upset, I will own, when you went away, but after a while it
seemed as if she had found something to take up her mind for she was
more contented-like. Since she’s been missing it has occurred to me
that perhaps she intended to run away and that she was planning how to
do it all the time I thought she was just amusing herself with books
and so on. I never was the prying kind, but I wonder if it would be
a good idea to look around and see if her things are all here--her
clothes, I mean, and such-like.”

Mrs. Duer thought it would be an extremely good idea and Hannah made
haste to the little girl’s bureau drawers and closet. A great lump rose
in her throat as she discovered that the very finest and daintiest
of her garments--the ones Polly had liked the best--were missing from
their customary places.

But Theresa was fingering the articles on Polly’s little table in the
corner, pulling the books and papers about and rummaging among them
busily. Suddenly she gave a start and exclamation:

“It seems to me I remember that there used to be a little iron bank
here somewhere, full of loose change, wasn’t there, Hannah?”

“Yes! Why?” responded Hannah almost harshly.

“Because it isn’t here now,” replied Theresa.

“It was Polly’s own bank,” Priscilla whispered in her mother’s ear.
“The money belonged to her, to do what she liked with. When Cousin
Cissy gave her some or Uncle Arthur did, or anybody, Polly always put
it in her bank, and she said she meant to buy things with it for some
people she knew; and I guess she meant us.”

While Priscilla was talking Theresa, with a great ado, pulled open
the little drawer of the table. It came out with a jerk and there,
directly before her, lay the broken fragments of the bank. Without
a word she gathered them up and brought them to her mistress. They
seemed convincing proof that Polly had deliberately planned to go away
(without doubt back to the city) and had taken her savings to pay her
fare.

Mrs. Duer rose. “That is enough, Theresa,” she said sadly. “Put
those pieces back where you found them, please, and then you can go
down-stairs. I shall not need you here any longer.”

She was anxious to be alone with Hannah.

As soon as the maid had left the room she turned to the nurse
exclaiming: “Oh, Hannah, it seems impossible! I can’t believe it of
the child. She promised me faithfully not to go beyond the gates and I
trusted her perfectly.”

Hannah hesitated. “Polly thought you didn’t trust her,” she said
quietly. “It was only the night before we left home that she told me
you had said you couldn’t trust her any more. If it’s true that she has
deliberately gone away I think there’s no doubt but that’s why. But I’m
not ready to believe she’s run off so without a word of thanks for all
the love and kindness and generosity’s been shown her in this house. It
wouldn’t be like her. I won’t believe it till I must.”

But Mrs. Duer’s thoughts were traveling back to the last time she had
seen the little girl: that afternoon in the living-room when she had
asked her about Priscilla’s accident, when she had told her she could
not trust her any more. She remembered the hurt look in Polly’s eyes
and the quiver in her voice as she asked to be permitted to go back to
the store where--where--(it was all clear to her now) where they did
trust her, where they thought she was “a good cash-girl.” Like a flash
the whole thing explained itself to Mrs. Duer. Polly had gone back to
the city, back to her old place. In a few hurried words she told Hannah
of what she was thinking:

“I shall telephone at once to the station-master and learn if she has
taken any of the trains from the depot to-day and if she has I will go
to the city the first thing in the morning and find her, wherever she
is, and bring her back.”

Priscilla’s tears had ceased. The thought of Polly alone, far off,
somewhere in the distant, dangerous darkness, made her heart stand
still with horror. She followed her mother and Hannah silently
down-stairs and stood by trembling while the telephone bell tinkled
merrily and the dreadful news came back over the wire that Polly had
indeed taken the earliest morning train that very day for the city and
that if there was anything wrong the station-master was very sorry, but
he had thought it was all right to let her go, although, now he came to
think of it, he had wondered at her being permitted to take such a long
journey alone. The ticket-seller said he remembered her particularly,
“because she seemed such a young one to be shifting for herself.” He
recollected that she had bought a ticket to town, but not back, and had
paid for it with a lot of loose change--“quarters and dimes and nickles
and such.” If he could do anything for Mrs. Duer she’d oblige him by
letting him know.

But even now Hannah would not believe that Polly had run away.

“Why, don’t you see, Mrs. Duer, it’s impossible,” she exclaimed in real
distress. “Polly isn’t disobedient nor ungrateful nor disloyal and
she’d be all of these and more if she’d gone off so and left us without
a word. There must be some way of explaining it.”

But Mrs. Duer was not so sure. She felt terribly anxious and harassed.
What could she say to Polly’s sister if anything had happened to the
child? What could she do?

Well, certainly nothing to-night. She would take the earliest train to
the city in the morning and in the meantime they must all get what rest
they could. Priscilla looked white and worn and ought to be put to bed
as soon as she had eaten her supper. But Priscilla could only choke
over her food and beg to be “excused” from the table. It was a sad
ending to a day that had begun so merrily.

And how was Polly faring all this time?

The journey in the train proved to be tediously long and dreary.
Quite, quite different from the one she had taken last, when she and
Priscilla had passed over the same road some months ago, in coming to
the country. After a while she began to feel faint and sick from the
motion of the cars and, though she did not realize it, from hunger.
The cold milk and hard biscuits of her breakfast were all Theresa had
provided her with, so her usual luncheon time came and went and she
had nothing to eat. Her empty little stomach rebelled. But she had
no thought for herself, her mind and heart were brimful of sister,
while the train that was carrying her to the city where sister lay
sick--worse--seemed to do no more than slowly crawl. The wheels refused
to grind out pleasant tunes, the hot sun blazed viciously through the
window next which she sat and the dust and smoke and cinders blew in
and settled upon her until she was covered with grime and grit.

Put at last the end of the journey was reached. Polly took up her
heavy, cumbersome bundle and stumbled blindly out into the vast, busy
station, amid a babel of voices and a hurrying, struggling press
of passengers. She pushed forward in the thickest of the crowd and
presently found herself in the street, almost deafened by the clang and
clatter of trolley cars, the shouts of eager hackmen and the piercing
cries of shrill-voiced newsboys. The midday sun glared blindly into
her eyes and beat pitilessly upon her burning cheeks. She looked
about her in dismay, for she did not know her way about this part of
town and, for the first time in her life, the confusion of the city
terrified her. Theresa had bade her speak to no one and so she did
not venture to ask her way. Tugging wearily at her bulky burden she,
somehow, got past the line of shouting hackmen standing about the
station steps, and managed to cross the street. People pushed and
jostled her; draymen, with rough, hoarse voices, ordered her out of
the way, and motormen clanged their bells to warn her off the track.
She stumbled blindly along, hardly knowing where she set her feet and
really wandering straight in the wrong direction. It seemed to her that
she was forgotten and forsaken by all the world.

She had known her way to and from the store and around and about the
streets near Priscilla’s house, but here she was all astray. She
stood still and tried to recall Theresa’s directions for reaching the
hospital: “You go through the station and up Madison Avenue for a while
and there you are!”

She had left the station far, far behind and Madison Avenue was nowhere
within sight.

The twine that Theresa had fastened about her bundle and that had
threatened to break from the time she started out, gave way with a
snap. She would have to gather up the loose ends and knot them as best
she could to prevent her clothes from strewing the pavement. While
she was bungling awkwardly over this, balancing the bundle unsteadily
against her knee, some one ran heavily against her and in an instant
her bundle was on the sidewalk. She dared not turn her head or look
around for she felt pretty sure that whoever had jostled her had done
it “on purpose,” since there was no crowd here and the street was wide.
But the next instant she heard a shrill whistle, a coarse laugh and
then a rough voice crying jeeringly:

“My eyes! But if this ain’t a go! Blest if here isn’t the fine young
lady that lives on the Avenoo! The lady that ran away with my papers
one day along las’ spring! Hi, though, you don’t get off so easy this
time, sis! I owes you one an’ I’m honest, I am. When I owes, I pays,
see?”

She turned her head, lifted her eyes and stared straight into the
mischievous, leering face of her old enemy--the newsboy.



CHAPTER XII

HOME AGAIN


Strangely enough the sight seemed to give her courage. She looked
fearlessly up at him and met his twinkling eyes without flinching.

“Well, you are a cool one!” he exclaimed appreciatively.

Polly’s fingers fumbled with the string of her recaptured bundle, but
she said nothing, nor did she remove her gaze from his face.

“Say now--you needn’t go to the trouble of tyin’ up that bundle,” the
fellow continued. “I’m goin’ to carry it for you, see? and I won’t want
a string. You didn’t need a string the time you carried my papers for
me, did you? Droppin’ things behind you, one by one, can be done better
without a string!”

Polly simply made a knot in the cord she was fingering and did not
reply.

“I say!” exclaimed the newsboy at last, “what kind of a girl are you,
anyway? Why don’t you cry?”

“There’s nothing to cry for,” said Polly, stoutly.

“Oh, ain’t there! How do you know but I’m goin’ to cuff you over the
ear, same’s you did me?”

“Because you won’t. It’s cowardly for a boy to hit a girl.”

“And how about a girl hittin’ a fellow? Hey?”

“You took my Priscilla’s doll! You made my Priscilla cry!”

“Why, so I did! And you wouldn’t stand it! And so you hit me! Well,
you’re an out-an’-outer, and no mistake! Say now, d’you want to know
all I have against you?”

Polly looked at him squarely but was too cautious to reply.

“You can’t take a joke. You don’t know when a feller’s funnin’. Why,
bless your boots, I wouldn’t have took the kid’s doll off of her for a
farm! I was only foolin’, just to see what ye’d do and--my eye! but the
joke was on me--for you did it! you gave me as good a chase as I want
in a hurry! Say now, I like you a lot! I like any feller a lot that’s
got nerve and grit and when I like a feller a lot I stand by him! I’m
going to stand by you, see?”

Then suddenly and without any warning Polly felt her eyes fill.

The newsboy’s face fell. “Say now,” he exclaimed in a tone of anxious
reproach, “you ain’t goin’ to weaken now, are ye? When there ain’t
anything to cry for? An’ me thinkin’ you was an out-an’-outer, and
countin’ on your grit and savin’ I’d stand by you!”

Polly smiled through the mist in her eyes. “I guess that’s just what
made me,” she confessed. “You see, I don’t know my way, and my sister’s
sick at the hospital and I can’t find her, and I thought I was all
alone, and when you said you’d stand by me--why----”

The newsboy nodded. “I know,” he assured her bluffly. “But now, just
you leave that whole business to me. I’ll find the ’ospittle for you
without any trouble at all an’ you wait an’ see if your sister ain’t
better by the time you get there. That bundle of yours ’s no good. Who
did it up? Well, they--they didn’t know how, that’s all. Now you see
this leather? It’s what goes around my papers! Just you watch me strap
it round your bundle, fast an’ tight, like this--so-fashion! There y’
are. See! Now come along. Step lively and keep off the grass!”

Polly followed as fast as she could in his swinging steps. He guided
her across the crowded streets as safely and swiftly as if they had
been country lanes and, though it proved a long, long walk, almost
before she knew it, she found herself at the door of the hospital.

“Now, I tell you what it is,” explained her escort, as she turned
to thank him. “I’ll wait out here till you give me the word that
everything’s O.K. inside. If ’tis, why, good enough! I’ll go about my
business, but if it isn’t--well--all you’ve got to do is to give me a
nod and I’ll be there for whatever ’s to be done.”

So Polly went up the steps and timidly rang the bell. Her heart beat
suffocatingly as she asked for her sister, but no one in the office
seemed to be able to tell anything about her. Some one was sent
up-stairs to enquire and, meanwhile, she sat upon a wooden bench in
the cool, tiled hall and waited. It seemed ages before the messenger
returned. Nurses flitted through the corridors, laughing and chatting
together, telephone-bells rang, dispatch-boys came and went and the
office was astir with business. But Polly’s mind and heart were too
full for her to feel any concern in all the interesting bustle and
commotion about her. All she longed for was to be led to that quiet
room up-stairs where sister lay.

The minutes dragged slowly, slowly by, and the hands of the round-faced
clock over the desk in the office seemed scarcely to move at all. Then,
just as she was beginning to think the messenger had forgotten her,
he returned accompanied by a cheerful-looking young woman in nurse’s
uniform, who came directly up to Polly and said in a kindly voice:
“You are enquiring about Miss Ruth Carter?”

Polly nodded.

“Well, her nurse has been called away and I don’t really know much more
than this--that a lady came for Miss Carter yesterday and took her
away. She isn’t here any more. Another patient has her room.”

Polly stared hopelessly up at the cheerful-looking young woman and her
lips moved but she could not speak.

“Perhaps you are Miss Carter’s little sister? Yes, I thought you might
be. Well, you’ll probably hear all about her when you get home. If her
nurse hadn’t been called away she could tell you just how the case
stands. I’m new here and don’t know anything more about Miss Carter
than what I’ve told you.”

“Then you don’t know if she’s worse?” stammered Polly.

“Why, no--I don’t,” admitted the nurse.

“Do they--do they--ever take them away when they’re worse?” The
cheerful-looking nurse examined her cuffs with a good deal of interest.

“Why, yes--sometimes they do,” she replied hesitatingly. “You know this
isn’t a hospital for incurables. If your sister had been here some time
and she couldn’t be cured, or if she grew worse she would have to be
removed.”

Polly moved slowly toward the door. The cheerful-looking nurse did
not think it was worth while to take the trouble of looking up Ruth
Carter’s case in the hospital records just to satisfy a child. She had
something she wanted very much more to do, and so she let Polly out of
the great building with a pleasant, encouraging smile. The newsboy came
whistling around the corner as soon as the little girl appeared upon
the outer steps.

“Everything O.K.?” he enquired.

Polly shook her head.

“O, I say, nothin’ ’s wrong with the sick lady, is there?”

Polly nodded.

“She ain’t--gone?”

Again Polly nodded.

“Well, I’m--I’m sorry! I say, you’re hard hit and that’s a fact!
Come--cry if you want to. Never mind me! It’ll do you good, p’raps.
Even a feller’d be let cry if--if--his folks at the ’ospittle
was--gone.”

But Polly did not cry. She was too stunned. The newsboy joined her and
they walked slowly and silently down the street. At last Polly spoke:

“I--don’t quite know--what I’d better do,” she said drearily. “I
haven’t any place to go and I haven’t any money.”

Her companion whistled.

“Why, I thought you were one of the four-hundred! You live on the
Avenoo!”

“Yes, but the house is shut up. No one is there. They’re all in the
country.”

“What’d they mean then, by lettin’ you come away alone with no money in
your pocket, eh?”

Polly sighed. “I don’t know,” she said wearily. “A telegram came and
Theresa--she’s the parlor-maid--told me it was about sister’s being
worse and wanting me, and Theresa got me ready and--and--that’s all.”

The newsboy considered. “Well, Tresser hasn’t got much sense--or
else--she’s got too much, that’s all I have to say about it,” he
exclaimed. “But that ain’t our business just now. What’s our business
just now is this: What are you goin’ to do? Now just you think. Ain’t
there any one--not a single soul you know in this friendly town? Not a
one? Just make a try at it, an’ fish up one! One ain’t much! Oh, I say,
I’d be willing to--to--declare you can think of one!”

Polly shook her head.

“We used to live down-town,” she explained. “But sister and I didn’t
know many people there, and besides they move about a great deal--the
down-town people do. And all Priscilla’s relations are in the country.
And sister’s nurse at the hospital is away too and----”

“Did you, may be, know any one at the ’ospittle besides your sister?”

“Only Mrs. Bell.”

“Who’s Mrs. Bell?”

“She’s the mother of little Cicely. She isn’t at the hospital any more.
Miss Cissy said she had moved into a nice little flat.”

“Where?”

Polly gave the street and number.

The newsboy hailed a trolley and the next moment they were flashing
up-town as fast as electricity would take them. She was too bewildered
to know how or where they went, but blindly followed her leader and let
him pilot her from one car to another without a word.

Dazed by the heat and her hunger, and stunned by the blow she had
received at the hospital, Polly did not even realize that they had
reached the street in which, Miss Cissy said, Mrs. Bell lived and was
not conscious of the fact that her companion had rung the bell of the
ground-floor flat and that they were standing before the door waiting
for it to be opened to them. But, in another moment her wits returned,
for the door was flung open, a flood of mellow sunlight streamed into
the dim hall in which they stood, and Mrs. Bell’s hearty voice, full of
amazement, was crying out:

“Why, Polly!--Polly Carter! What brings you here?”

The newsboy chuckled. Baby Cicely, in her mother’s arms, crowed lustily
and Polly uttered a sharp cry of joy--for there, just before her--not
two yards away--stood sister! Smiling and happy and--well!

Nobody could understand how it had all come about, perhaps because
nobody could keep still long enough to listen to explanations, but one
can be very, very glad and thankful without quite understanding just
the way the things have occurred that make one so.

Mrs. Bell would not hear of Polly’s protector leaving her house till he
had promised faithfully to come back again as soon as he had sold out
his “Extry ’Dition! Evenin’ Papers!” But when he had given his word and
gone whistling away she set about getting Polly something to eat, for
it was easy to see, in spite of her joy and excitement, that the child
was worn out with fatigue and faint from hunger.

It was nothing less than luxury to sit in Mrs. Bell’s best chair,
sipping cool, fresh milk and eating a soft-boiled egg and buttered
bread, and seeing sister walk--really walk (somewhat slowly, to be
sure, and with the help of a stick, as yet) but still walk--back and
forth and about the room.

Then, little by little, everything began to explain itself. Polly’s
coming to town on account of the telegram that had never been sent
(at which gentle sister’s eyes shot sparks of righteous indignation);
her meeting with her old enemy, who proved such a friend (at which
sister’s eyes grew soft again); sister’s having left the hospital the
day before, because she was entirely cured and because Miss Cicely
had arranged to take her up to the country the following morning as a
surprise for Polly, and Mrs. Bell having the dearest little flat in
the world because her husband had got a good position in Mr. Cameron’s
office and could afford to give her a comfortable home now, in which
she had begged to be allowed to entertain sister the first day she was
out of the hospital. It all seemed very wonderful and yet very simple,
when the tangles were unraveled. Even the cloud that had hung over
Polly since Priscilla’s accident seemed to grow lighter when sister
knew of it and pointed out the way to explain the matter to Mrs. Duer.
“We ought to send a dispatch to her at once,” Ruth Carter declared.
“She will be anxious about you, dear,” but Polly soon explained that
Priscilla, her mother and Hannah were still at the seashore and would
not be back for a week at least, and that as they had not known she was
absent they would hardly worry about her safety. So it was decided to
wait until to-morrow when Polly would go up to the country with Miss
Cicely and sister and they would all three be there together to welcome
the travelers on their return.

So, while Priscilla and her mother and Hannah were spending the
dolefulest of evenings in the great country-house, Polly and sister and
little Cicely’s parents and Jim Conroy, the newsboy, were having the
happiest of ones in the little city flat.

Priscilla, in her lonely night-nursery, fell asleep at last with her
cheek pressed against one of Polly’s old pinafores, which she had
smuggled into bed with her and was clasping lovingly to her breast,
while Mrs. Duer and Hannah sat up late, talking and planning about the
next day and the hurried trip to the city in search of Polly that both
of them felt should be made without delay. As it happened they were
both so tired that when they did, finally, go to bed, they slept so
soundly that they were late in waking the next morning and Mrs. Duer
missed her train.

Her plan had been to go, directly upon reaching the city, to the store
where she felt pretty confident Polly had meant to return. But now this
idea must be given up and she must think of another way to get news of
the child. She sent a telegram to the firm and within an hour received
the reply:

“Polly Carter left us in spring. Know nothing of her present
whereabouts.”

It was a sort of comfort to Hannah and Priscilla when James returned,
as he did that morning. James had always seemed to like Polly and he
would surely grieve to hear she had gone. The good nurse told him
everything that had happened, as far as she knew it, with tears in her
voice as well as in her eyes, but when she came to the part where the
broken bank was made to prove that Polly had used her money to pay her
fare to the city, he sprang up with a shout and Hannah’s eyes grew dry
in a twinkling.

“Why, bless your heart,” the butler exclaimed, “I can tell you all
about that bank. I smashed it myself--the night of the kirmess. It was
this way:----”

And then out came the story of the little “chamois bag.”

“And, by the way,” James concluded, “that bag is somewhere down the
ravine this minute, and I’m going to find it. I was on the way to,
when Miss Priscilla fell and then, in all the hurry and worry, I clean
forgot about it. But the five dollars in it belongs to Polly--fair and
square--and I’m going to get it for her, or my name’s not James Craig.”

“But James,” interposed Hannah, “even if Polly didn’t take the money to
pay her fare, the fact remains that she’s gone.”

“Why, yes, true enough,” admitted James, “but if Mrs. Duer told Polly
not to go out of the gates unless Theresa gave her leave, you may be
pretty certain Polly didn’t do it. The kind of character a person has
stands for something, as I look at it, and Polly has proved she’s the
right sort, clear through. You mark my words, Hannah, there’s a screw
loose somewhere, but it ain’t with Polly.”

[Illustration: SHE RUSHED WILDLY FORWARD]

So James strode off to the ravine to search for the little “chamois
bag,” and Hannah hastened back to Mrs. Duer to repeat to her what the
butler had just been saying. His cheery air and encouraging words
seemed to lift a weight from the heart of every one in the house except
Theresa. She was plunged in the deepest gloom, for she seemed to see
possibilities of her deception being discovered and she made up her
mind that if the truth of the telegram were brought to light she would
leave the house of her own accord rather than risk the disgrace of
being discharged by Mrs. Duer. She had not had an easy moment since
she saw the train sweep by that was carrying Polly into the sweltering
city on her hopeless errand. She had been haunted by the vision of her
trusting, sorrowful eyes as they had looked when she, Theresa, had told
her of the telegram and Polly had thought it contained bad news for
her. The memory seemed to stab her every time she thought of the child,
and, somehow, she thought of the child continually. She did not really
believe Polly would come back. The chances were too many against
her. She had no money, no friends in the city save the sister whom it
was improbable she would find and the heat in town was reported to be
prostrating. To her surprise Theresa found herself worrying about the
little girl’s danger and her heart softened in spite of herself.

“The poor scrap,” she muttered uneasily, “I hope she’ll come to no
harm. Who knows, if Angeline had been like her, I might have been
different--better!--And then, again, who knows, if I’d been like her,
Angeline might have been different--better. Perhaps I’ll try, if I go
away from here, to be nicer to Angeline and maybe, if I am, and her
mother helps me, we can make a good child of her, after all. And maybe
we’ll be better, helping her, you can’t tell.”

Theresa’s eyes grew curiously blurred and dim at the vision and her
hard, handsome face took on a very gentle, softened look. But all of a
sudden its expression changed to one of eager anxiety. She dropped Mrs.
Duer’s brush and comb, with a handful of other toilet articles she had
been in the act of replacing in the traveling-bag, which her mistress
intended taking with her when she went to the city, as she expected
to do, that afternoon; flew to the window and gazed out in a sort of
trance of amazement, for there, coming around the driveway, was one of
the station hacks and in it were Miss Cicely, Polly and some one else
whom, she knew at a glance, to be sister herself.

Priscilla had lain hidden away in a shady corner of the veranda since
breakfast, mourning lonesomely, and refusing to be comforted, when
the sound of wheels upon the gravel made her look up. One glance was
enough. She was on her feet in an instant, rushing wildly to the
carriage entrance and crying: “Polly! Oh, my Polly! My Polly!” between
a shower of happy tears and a quiver of joyous laughter.

Polly’s wistful face lit up with sudden surprise. Her lips trembled and
her cheeks grew pale. For a moment she could not speak; her heart was
too full. But Priscilla, frantic with delight, noticed nothing but that
she had her Polly back again.

“Polly, oh, my Polly! My Polly!” she repeated over and over, while
James came running around the side of the house at the sound of her
happy voice, victoriously swinging the recaptured “chamois bag” above
his head, and Mrs. Duer and Hannah appeared simultaneously from the
house to join in the general jollification.

It was a reception to be remembered.

Priscilla clung to Polly and would not let her out of her sight for an
instant. Even the beloved Cousin Cicely had to take second place on
this occasion, but far from objecting, she joined with the others in
giving the little wanderer a royal welcome home and told the story of
her trials with so much truth and tenderness that--well, even James was
guilty of a stealthy sniff as he listened to the recital.

Lawrence and Richard came up from the stables for the express purpose
of shaking Polly by the hand and telling her they were glad to have her
back again and Bridget and the rest had to be allowed to give their
greeting too, while the only one who did not appear was Theresa and
even she, it proved, had left her message behind her, for later in the
day Polly, on going to the nursery, discovered a hurriedly-written note
upon her bureau which read:

    “I’m going away. I’m sorry I acted mean to you. Tell them to
    send my trunk where it’s directed to.

                                                        “THERESA.”

So Polly’s cup of bliss was filled to the brim and, as if it needed
one drop more for good measure, pressed down and running over, Miss
Cicely supplied it in the wonderful secret she had to tell and which
sounded very much like the ending to the story she had told sister that
memorable day of the tea-party in the hospital.

“But,” concluded Miss Cicely, “if the Person and
The-Real-one-with-the-Heart are to get married, as they certainly
hope to do very soon, why, I’m afraid they will have to ask two
little girls they know to assist them through the ceremony. The two
little girls must consent to be dressed in white and lead the bridal
procession up the church aisle, for though there will be plenty
of blossoms to be had for the buying, there are none the Person
and The-Real-one-with-the-Heart like quite so much as the ones we
call--Sweet-P’s.”





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