An Old-fashioned Girl
Louisa May Alcott
Part 2 out of 6
They stepped aside, and he whizzed by, arms and legs going like
mad, with the general appearance of a runaway engine. It would
have been a triumphant descent, if a big dog had not bounced
suddenly through one of the openings, and sent the whole concern
helter-skelter into the gutter. Polly laughed as she ran to view the
ruin. for Tom lay flat on his back with the velocipede atop him,
while the big dog barked wildly, and his master scolded him for
his awkwardness. But when she saw Tom's face, Polly was
frightened, for the color had all gone out of it, his eyes looked
strange and dizzy, and drops of blood began to trickle from a great
cut on his forehead. The man saw it, too, and had him up in a
minute; but he could n't stand, and stared about him in a dazed sort
of way, as he sat on the curbstone, while Polly held her
handkerchief to his forehead, and pathetically begged to know if
he was killed.
"Don't scare mother, I 'm all right. Got upset, did n't I?" he asked,
presently, eyeing the prostrate velocipede with more anxiety about
its damages than his own.
"I knew you 'd hurt yourself with that horrid thing just let it be, and
come home, for your head bleeds dreadfully, and everybody is
looking at us," whispered Polly, trying to tie the little handkerchief
over the ugly cut.
"Come on, then. Jove! how queer my head feels! Give us a boost,
please. Stop howling, Maud, and come home. You bring the
machine, and I 'll pay you, Pat." As he spoke, Tom slowly picked
himself and steadying himself by Polly's shoulder, issued
commands, and the procession fell into line. First, the big dog,
barking at intervals; then the good-natured Irishman, trundling
"that divil of a whirligig," as he disrespectfully called the idolized
velocipede; then the wounded hero, supported by the helpful Polly;
and Maud brought up the rear in tears, bearing Tom's cap.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Shaw was out driving with grandma, and
Fanny was making calls; so that there was no one but Polly to
stand by Tom, for the parlor-maid turned faint at the sight of
blood, and the chamber-maid lost her wits in the flurry. It was a
bad cut, and must be sewed up at once, the doctor said, as soon as
he came. "Somebody must hold his head;" he added, as he
threaded his queer little needle.
"I 'll keep still, but if anybody must hold me, let Polly. You ain't
afraid, are you?" asked Tom, with imploring look, for he did n't
like the idea of being sewed a bit.
Polly was just going to shrink away, saying, "Oh I can't!" when she
remembered that Tom once called her a coward. Here was a
chance to prove that she was n't; besides, poor Tom had no one
else to help him; so she came up to the sofa where he lay, and
nodded reassuringly, as she put a soft little hand on either side of
the damaged head.
"You are a trump, Polly," whispered Tom. Then he set his teeth,
clenched his hands, lay quite still, and bore it like a man. It was all
over in a minute or two, and when he had had a glass of wine, and
was nicely settled on his bed, he felt pretty comfortable, in spite of
the pain in his head; and being ordered to keep quiet, he said,
"Thank you ever so much, Polly," and watched her with a grateful
face as she crept away.
He had to keep the house for a week, and laid about looking very
interesting with a great black patch on his forehead. Every one
'petted him;' for the doctor said, that if the blow had been an inch
nearer the temple, it would have been fatal, and the thought of
losing him so suddenly made bluff old Tom very precious all at
once. His father asked him how he was a dozen times a day; his
mother talked continually of "that dear boy's narrow escape"; and
grandma cockered him up with every delicacy she could invent;
and the girls waited on him like devoted slaves. This new
treatment had an excellent effect; for when neglected Tom got
over his first amazement at this change of base, he blossomed out
delightfully, as sick people do sometimes, and surprised his family
by being unexpectedly patient, grateful, and amiable. Nobody ever
knew how much good it did him; for boys seldom have
confidences of this sort except with their mothers, and Mrs. Shaw
had never found the key to her son's heart. But a little seed was
sowed then that took root, and though it grew very slowly, it came
to something in the end. Perhaps Polly helped it a little. Evening
was his hardest time, for want of exercise made him as restless and
nervous as it was possible for a hearty lad to be on such a short
He could n't sleep so the girls amused him; Fanny played and read
aloud; Polly sung, and told stories; and did the latter so well, that it
got to be a regular thing for her to begin as soon as twilight came,
and Tom was settled in his favorite place on grandma's sofa.
"Fire away, Polly," said the young sultan, one evening, as his little
Scheherazade sat down in her low chair, after stirring up the fire
till the room was bright and cosy.
"I don't feel like stories to-night, Tom. I 've told all I know, and
can't make up any more," answered Polly, leaning her head on her
hand with a sorrowful look that Tom had never seen before. He
watched her a minute, and then asked, curiously, "What were you
thinking about, just now, when you sat staring at the fire, and
getting soberer and soberer every minute?
"I was thinking about Jimmy."
"Would you mind telling about him? You know, you said you
would some time; but don't, if you 'd rather not," said Tom,
lowering his rough voice respectfully.
"I like to talk about him; but there is n't much to tell," began Polly,
grateful for his interest. "Sitting here with you reminded me of the
way I used to sit with him when he was sick. We used to have such
happy times, and it 's so pleasant to think about them now."
"He was awfully good, was n't he?"
"No, he was n't; but he tried to be, and mother says that is half the
battle. We used to get tired of trying; but we kept making
resolutions, and working hard to keep 'em. I don't think I got on
much; but Jimmy did, and every one loved him."
"Did n't you ever squabble, as we do?"
"Yes, indeed, sometimes; but we could n't stay mad, and always
made it up again as soon as we could. Jimmy used to come round
first, and say, 'All serene, Polly,' so kind and jolly, that I could n't
help laughing and being friends right away."
"Did he not know a lot?"
"Yes, I think he did, for he liked to study, and wanted to get on, so
he could help father. People used to call him a fine boy, and I felt
so proud to hear it; but they did n't know half how wise he was,
because he did n't show off a bit. I suppose sisters always are grand
of their brothers; but I don't believe many girls had as much right
to be as I had."
"Most girls don't care two pins about their brothers; so that shows
you don't know much about it."
"Well, they ought to, if they don't; and they would if the boys were
as kind to them as Jimmy was to me."
"Why, what did he do?"
"Loved me dearly, and was n't ashamed to show it," cried Polly,
with a sob in her voice, that made her answer very eloquent.
"What made him die, Polly?" asked Tom, soberly, after little
"He got hurt coasting, last winter; but he never told which boy did
it, and he only lived a week. I helped take care of him; and he was
so patient, I used to wonder at him, for he was in dreadful pain all
time. He gave me his books, and his dog, and his speckled hens,
and his big knife, and said, 'Good-by, Polly,' and kissed me the last
thing and then O Jimmy! Jimmy! If he only could come back!"
Poor Polly's eyes had been getting fuller and fuller, lips trembling
more and more, as she went on; when she came to that "good-by,"
she could n't get any further, but covered up her face, and cried as
her heart would break. Tom was full of sympathy, but did n't know
how to show it; so he sat shaking up the camphor bottle, and trying
to think of something proper and comfortable to say, when Fanny
came to the rescue, and cuddled Polly in her arms, with soothing
little pats and whispers and kisses, till the tears stopped, and Polly
said, she "did n't mean to, and would n't any more. I 've been
thinking about my dear boy all the evening, for Tom reminds me
of him," she added, with a sigh.
"Me? How can I, when I ain't a bit like him?" cried Tom, amazed.
"But you are in some ways."
"Wish I was; but I can't be, for he was good, you know."
"So are you, when you choose. Has n't he been good and patient,
and don't we all like to pet him when he 's clever, Fan?"' said Polly,
whose heart was still aching for her brother, and ready for his sake
to find virtues even in tormenting Tom.
"Yes; I don't know the boy lately; but he 'll be as bad as ever when
he 's well," returned Fanny, who had n't much faith in sick-bed
"Much you know about it," growled Tom, lying down again, for he
had sat bolt upright when Polly made the astounding declaration
that he was like the well-beloved Jimmy. That simple little history
had made a deep impression on Tom, and the tearful ending
touched the tender spot that most boys hide so carefully. It is very
pleasant to be loved and admired, very sweet to think we shall be
missed and mourned when we die; and Tom was seized with a
sudden desire to imitate this boy, who had n't done anything
wonderful, yet was so dear to his sister, that she cried for him a
whole year after he was dead; so studious and clever, the people
called him "a fine fellow"; and so anxious to be good, that he kept
on trying, till he was better even than Polly, whom Tom privately
considered a model of virtue, as girls go.
"I just wish I had a sister like you," he broke out, all of a sudden.
"And I just wish I had a brother like Jim," cried Fanny, for she felt
the reproach in Tom's words, and knew she deserved it.
"I should n't think you 'd envy anybody, for you 've got one
another," said Polly, with such a wistful look, that it suddenly set
Tom and Fanny to wondering why they did n't have better times
together, and enjoy themselves, as Polly and Jim did.
"Fan don't care for anybody but herself," said Tom.
"Tom is such a bear," retorted Fanny.
"I would n't say such things, for if anything should happen to either
of you, the other one would feel so sorry. Every cross word I ever
said to Jimmy comes back now, and makes me wish I had n't."
Two great tears rolled down Polly's cheeks, and were quietly
wiped away; but I think they watered that sweet sentiment, called
fraternal love, which till now had been neglected in the hearts of
this brother and sister. They did n't say anything then, or make any
plans, or confess any faults; but when they parted for the night,
Fanny gave the wounded head a gentle pat (Tom never would have
forgiven her if she had kissed him), and said, in a whisper, "I hope
you 'll have a good sleep, Tommy, dear."
And Tom nodded back at her, with a hearty "Same to you, Fan."
That was all; but it meant a good deal, for the voices were kind,
and the eyes met full of that affection which makes words of little
consequence. Polly saw it; and though she did n't know that she
had made the sunshine, it shone back upon her so pleasantly, that
she fell happily asleep, though her Jimmy was n't there to say
CHAPTER V SCRAPES
AFTER being unusually good, children are apt to turn short round
and refresh themselves by acting like Sancho. For a week after
Tom's mishap, the young folks were quite angelic, so much so that
grandma said she was afraid "something was going to happen to
them." The dear old lady need n't have felt anxious, for such
excessive virtue does n't last long enough to lead to translation,
except with little prigs in the goody story-books; and no sooner
was Tom on his legs again, when the whole party went astray, and
much tribulation was the consequence.
It all began with "Polly's stupidity," as Fan said afterward. Just as
Polly ran down to meet Mr. Shaw one evening, and was helping
him off with his coat, the bell rang, and a fine bouquet of hothouse
flowers was left in Polly's hands, for she never could learn city
ways, and opened the door herself.
"Hey! what's this? My little Polly is beginning early, after all," said
Mr. Shaw, laughing, as he watched the girl's face dimple and flush,
as she smelt the lovely nosegay, and glanced at a note half hidden
in the heliotrope.
Now, if Polly had n't been "stupid," as Fan said, she would have
had her wits about her, and let it pass; but, you see, Polly was an
honest little soul and it never occurred to her that there was any
need of concealment, so she answered in her straightforward way,
"Oh, they ain't for me, sir; they are for Fan; from Mr. Frank, I
guess. She 'll be so pleased."
"That puppy sends her things of this sort, does he?" And Mr. Shaw
looked far from pleased as he pulled out the note, and coolly
Polly had her doubts about Fan's approval of that "sort of thing,"
but dared not say a word, and stood thinking how she used to show
her father the funny valentines the boys sent her, and how they
laughed over them together. But Mr. Shaw did not laugh when he
had read the sentimental verses accompanying the bouquet, and his
face quite scared Polly, as he asked, angrily, "How long has this
nonsense been going on?"
"Indeed, sir, I don't know. Fan does n't mean any harm. I wish I had
n't said anything!" stammered Polly, remembering the promise
given to Fanny the day of the concert. She had forgotten all about
it and had become accustomed to see the "big boys," as she called
Mr. Frank and his friends, with the girls on all occasions. Now, it
suddenly occurred to her that Mr. Shaw did n't like such
amusements, and had forbidden Fan to indulge in them. "Oh, dear!
how mad she will be. Well, I can't help it. Girls should n't have
secrets from their fathers, then there would n't be any fuss,"
thought Polly, as she watched Mr. Shaw twist up the pink note and
poke it back among the flowers which he took from her, saying,
shortly, "Send Fanny to me in the library."
"Now you 've done it, you stupid thing!" cried Fanny, both angry
and dismayed, when Polly delivered the message.
"Why, what else could I do?" asked Polly, much disturbed.
"Let him think the bouquet was for you; then there'd have been no
"But that would have been doing a lie, which is most as bad as
"Don't be a goose. You 've got me into a scrape, and you ought to
help me out."
"I will if I can; but I won't tell lies for anybody!" cried Polly,
"Nobody wants you to just hold, your tongue, and let me manage."
"Then I 'd better not go down," began Polly, when a stern voice
from below called, like Bluebeard, "Are you coming down?"
"Yes, sir," answered a meek voice; and Fanny clutched Polly,
whispering, "You must come; I 'm frightened out of my wits when
he speaks like that. Stand by me, Polly; there 's a dear."
"I will," whispered "sister Ann"; and down they went with
Mr. Shaw stood on the rug, looking rather grim; the bouquet lay on
the table, and beside it a note, directed to "Frank Moore, Esq.," in a
very decided hand, with a fierce-looking flourish after the "Esq."
Pointing to this impressive epistle, Mr. Shaw said, knitting his
black eyebrows as he looked at Fanny, "I 'm going to put a stop to
this nonsense at once; and if I see any more of it, I 'll send you to
school in a Canadian convent."
This awful threat quite took Polly's breath away; but Fanny had
heard it before, and having a temper of her own, said, pertly, "I 'm
sure I have n't done anything so very dreadful. I can't help it if the
boys send me philopena presents, as they do to the other girls."
"There was nothing about philopenas in the note. But that 's not the
question. I forbid you to have anything to do with this Moore. He 's
not a boy, but a fast fellow, and I won't have him about. You knew
this, and yet disobeyed me."
"I hardly ever see him," began Fanny.
"Is that true?" asked Mr. Shaw, turning suddenly to Polly.
"Oh, please, sir, don't ask me. I promised I would n't that is Fanny
will tell you," cried Polly, quite red with distress at the
predicament she was in.
"No matter about your promise; tell me all you know of this absurd
affair. It will do Fanny more good than harm." And Mr. Shaw sat
down looking more amiable, for Polly's dismay touched him.
"May I?" she whispered to Fanny.
"I don't care," answered Fan, looking both angry and ashamed, as
she stood sullenly tying knots in her handkerchief.
So Polly told, with much reluctance and much questioning, all she
knew of the walks, the lunches, the meetings, and the notes. It was
n't much, and evidently less serious than Mr. Shaw expected; for,
as he listened, his eyebrows smoothed themselves out, and more
than once his lips twitched as if he wanted to laugh, for after all, it
was rather comical to see how the young people aped their elders,
playing the new-fashioned game, quite unconscious of its real
beauty, power, and sacredness.
"Oh, please, sir, don't blame Fan much, for she truly is n't half as
silly as Trix and the other, girls. She would n't go sleigh-riding,
though Mr. Frank teased, and she wanted to ever so much. She 's
sorry, I know, and won't forget what you say any more, if you 'll
forgive her this once," cried Polly, very earnestly, when the foolish
little story was told.
"I don't see how I can help it, when you plead so well for her.
Come here, Fan, and mind this one thing; drop all this nonsense,
and attend to your books, or off you go; and Canada is no joke in
winter time, let me tell you."
As he spoke, Mr. Shaw stroked his sulky daughter's cheek, hoping
to see some sign of regret; but Fanny felt injured, and would n't
show that she was sorry, so she only said, pettishly, "I suppose I
can have my flowers, now the fuss is over."
"They are going straight back where they came from, with a line
from me, which will keep that puppy from ever sending you any
more." Ringing the bell, Mr, Shaw despatched the unfortunate
posy, and then turned to Polly, saying, kindly but gravely, "Set this
silly child of mine a good example and do your best for her, won't
"Me? What can I do, sir?" asked Polly, looking ready, but quite
ignorant how to begin.
"Make her as like yourself as possible, my dear; nothing would
please me better. Now go, and let us hear no more of this folly."
They went without a word, and Mr. Shaw heard no more of the
affair; but poor Polly did, for Fan scolded her, till Polly thought
seriously of packing up and going home next day. I really have n't
the heart to relate the dreadful lectures she got, the snubs she
suffered, or the cold shoulders turned upon her for several days
after this. Polly's heart was full, but she told no one, and bore her
trouble silently, feeling her friend's ingratitude and injustice
Tom found out what the matter was, and sided with Polly, which
proceeding led to scrape number two.
"Where 's Fan?" asked the young gentleman, strolling into his
sister's room, where Polly lay on the sofa, trying to forget her
troubles in an interesting book.
"Down stairs, seeing company."
"Why did n't you go, too?"
"I don't like Trix, and I don't know her fine New York friends."
"Don't want to, neither, why don't you say?"
"Who cares? I say, Polly, come and have some fun."
"I 'd rather read."
"That is n't polite."
Polly laughed, and turned a page. Tom whistled a minute, then
sighed deeply, and put his hand to his forehead, which the black
plaster still adorned.
"Does your head ache?" asked Polly.
"Better lie down, then."
"Can't; I 'm fidgety. and want to be 'amoosed' as Pug says."
"Just wait till I finish my chapter, and then I 'll come," said pitiful
"All right," returned the perjured boy, who had discovered that a
broken head was sometimes more useful than a whole one, and
exulting in his base stratagem, he roved about the room, till Fan's
bureau arrested him. It was covered with all sorts of finery, for she
had dressed in a hurry, and left everything topsy-turvy. A
well-conducted boy would have let things alone, or a moral brother
would have put things to rights; being neither, Tom rummaged to
his hearts content, till Fan's drawers looked as if some one had
been making hay in them. He tried the effect of ear-rings, ribbons,
and collars; wound up the watch, though it was n't time; burnt his
inquisitive nose with smelling-salts; deluged his grimy
handkerchief with Fan's best cologne; anointed his curly crop with
her hair-oil; powdered his face with her violet-powder; and
finished off by pinning on a bunch of false ringlets, which Fanny
tried, to keep a profound secret. The ravages committed by this
bad boy are beyond the power of language to describe, as he
revelled in the interesting drawers, boxes, and cases, which held
his sister's treasures.
When the curls had been put on, with much pricking of fingers,
and a blue ribbon added, . la Fan, he surveyed himself with
satisfaction, and considered the effect so fine, that he was inspired
to try a still greater metamorphosis. The dress Fan had taken off
lay on a chair, and into it got Tom, chuckling with suppressed
laughter, for Polly was absorbed, and the bed-curtains hid his
iniquity. Fan's best velvet jacket and hat, ermine muff, and a
sofa-pillow for pannier, finished off the costume, and tripping
along with elbows out, Tom appeared before the amazed Polly just
as the chapter ended. She enjoyed the joke so heartily, that Tom
forgot consequences, and proposed going down into the parlor to
surprise, the girls.
"Goodness, no! Fanny never would forgive us if you showed her
curls and things to those people. There are gentlemen among them,
and it would n't be proper," said Polly, alarmed at the idea.
"All the more fun. Fan has n't treated you well, and it will serve her
right if you introduce me as your dear friend, Miss Shaw. Come
on, it will be a jolly lark."
"I would n't for the world; it would be so mean. Take 'em off, Tom,
and I 'll play anything else you like."
"I ain't going to dress up for nothing; I look so lovely, someone
must admire me. Take me down, Polly, and see if they don't call
me 'a sweet creature.' "
Tom looked so unutterably ridiculous as he tossed his curls and
pranced, that Polly went off into another gale of merriment; but
even while she laughed, she resolved not to let him mortify his
"Now, then, get out of the way if you won't come; I 'm going
down," said Tom.
"No, you 're not."
"How will you help it, Miss Prim?"
"So." And Polly locked the door, put the key in her pocket, and
nodded at him defiantly.
Tom was a pepper-pot as to temper, and anything like opposition
always had a bad effect. Forgetting his costume, he strode up to
Polly, saying, with a threatening wag of the, head, "None of that. I
won't stand it."
"Promise not to plague Fan, and I 'll let you out."
"Won't promise anything. Give me that key, or I 'll make you."
"Now, Tom, don't be savage. I only want to keep you out of a
scrape, for Fan will be raging if you go. Take off her things, and I
'll give up."
Tom vouchsafed no reply, but marched to the other door, which
was fast, as Polly knew, looked out of the three-story window, and
finding no escape possible, came back with a wrathful face. "Will
you give me that key?"
"No, I won't," said Polly, valiantly.
"I 'm stronger than you are; so you 'd better hand over."
"I know you are; but it 's cowardly for a great boy like you to rob a
"I don't want to hurt you; but, by George! I won't stand this!"
Tom paused as Polly spoke, evidently ashamed of himself; but his
temper was up, and he would n't give in. If Polly had cried a little
just here, he would have yielded; unfortunately she giggled, for
Tom's fierce attitude was such a funny contrast to his dress that she
could n't help it. That settled the matter. No girl that ever lived
should giggle at him, much less lock him up like a small child.
Without a word, he made a grab at Polly's arm, for the hand
holding the key was still in her, pocket. With her other hand she
clutched her frock, and for a minute held on stoutly. But Tom's
strong fingers were irresistible; rip went the pocket, out came the
hand, and with a cry of pain from Polly, the key fell on the floor.
"It 's your own fault if you 're hurt. I did n't mean to," muttered
Tom, as he hastily departed, leaving Polly to groan over her
sprained wrist. He went down, but not into the parlor, for
somehow the joke seemed to have lost its relish; so he made the
girls in the kitchen laugh, and then crept up the back way, hoping
to make it all right with Polly. But she had gone to grandma's
room, for, though the old lady was out, it seemed a refuge. He had
just time to get things in order, when Fanny came up, crosser than
ever; for Trix had been telling her of all sorts of fun in which she
might have had a share, if Polly had held her tongue.
"Where is she?" asked Fan, wishing to vent her vexation on her
"Moping in her room, I suppose," replied Tom, who was
discovered reading studiously.
Now, while this had been happening, Maud had been getting into
hot water also; for when her maid left her, to see a friend below,
Miss Maud paraded into Polly's room, and solaced herself with
mischief. In an evil hour Polly had let her play boat in her big
trunk, which stood empty. Since then Polly had stored some of her
most private treasures in the upper tray, so that she might feel sure
they were safe from all eyes. She had forgotten to lock the trunk,
and when Maud raised the lid to begin her voyage, several objects
of interest met her eyes. She was deep in her researches when Fan
came in and looked over her shoulder, feeling too cross with Polly
to chide Maud.
As Polly had no money for presents, she had exerted her ingenuity
to devise all sorts of gifts, hoping by quantity to atone for any
shortcomings in quality. Some of her attempts were successful,
others were failures; but she kept them all, fine or funny, knowing
the children at home would enjoy anything new. Some of Maud's
cast-off toys had been neatly mended for Kitty; some of Fan's old
ribbons and laces were converted into dolls' finery; and Tom's little
figures, whittled out of wood in idle minutes, were laid away to
show Will what could be done with a knife.
"What rubbish!" said Fanny.
"Queer girl, is n't she?" added Tom, who had followed to see what
was going on.
"Don't you laugh at Polly's things. She makes nicer dolls than you,
Fan; and she can wite and dwar ever so much better than Tom,"
cried Maud. "How do you know? I never saw her draw," said
"Here 's a book with lots of pictures in it. I can't wead the witing;
but the pictures are so funny."
Eager to display her friend's accomplishments, Maud pulled out a
fat little book, marked "Polly's Journal," and spread it in her lap.
"Only the pictures; no harm in taking a look at 'em," said Tom.
"Just one peep," answered Fanny; and the next minute both were
laughing at a droll sketch of Tom in the gutter, with the big dog
howling over him, and the velocipede running away. Very rough
and faulty, but so funny, that it was evident Polly's sense of humor
was strong. A few pages farther back came Fanny and Mr. Frank,
caricatured; then grandma, carefully done; Tom reciting his
battle-piece; Mr. Shaw and Polly in the park; Maud being borne
away by Katy; and all the school-girls turned into ridicule with an
"Sly little puss, to make fun of us behind our backs," said Fan,
rather nettled by Polly's quiet retaliation for many slights from
herself and friends.
"She does draw well," said Tom, looking critically at the sketch of
a boy with a pleasant face, round whom Polly had drawn rays like
the sun, and under which was written, "My dear Jimmy."
"You would n't admire her, if you knew what she wrote here about
you," said Fanny, whose eyes had strayed to the written page
opposite, and lingered there long enough to read something that
excited her curiosity.
"What is it?" asked Tom, forgetting his honorable resolves for a
"She says, 'I try to like Tom, and when he is pleasant we do very
well; but he don't stay so long. He gets cross and rough, and
disrespectful to his father and mother, and plagues us girls, and is
so horrid I almost hate him. It 's very wrong, but I can't help it.'
How do you like that?" asked Fanny.
"Go ahead, and see how she comes down on you, ma'am," retorted
Tom, who had read on a bit.
"Does she?" And Fanny continued, rapidly: "As for Fan, I don't
think we can be friends any more; for she told her father a lie, and
won't forgive me for not doing so too. I used to think her a very
fine girl; but I don't now. If she would be as she was when I first
knew her, I should love her just the same; but she is n't kind to me;
and though she is always talking about politeness, I don't think it is
polite to treat company as she does me. She thinks I am odd and
countrified, and I dare say I am; but I should n't laugh at a girl's
clothes because she was poor, or keep her out of the way because
she did n't do just as other girls do here. I see her make fun of me,
and I can't feel as I did; and I 'd go home, only it would seem
ungrateful to Mr. Shaw and grandma, and I do love them dearly."
"I say, Fan, you 've got it now. Shut the book and come away,"
cried Tom, enjoying this broadside immensely, but feeling guilty,
as well he might.
"Just one bit more," whispered Fanny, turning on a page or two,
and stopping at a leaf that was blurred here and there as if tears
had dropped on it.
"Sunday morning, early. Nobody is up to spoil my quiet time, and I
must. write my journal, for I 've been so bad lately, I could n't bear
to do it. I 'm glad my visit is most done, for things worry me here,
and there is n't any one to help me get right when I get wrong. I
used to envy Fanny; but I don't now, for her father and mother
don't take care of her as mine do of me. She is afraid of her father,
and makes her mother do as she likes. I 'm glad I came though, for
I see money don't give people everything; but I 'd like a little all the
same, for it is so comfortable to buy nice things. I read over my
journal just now, and I 'm afraid it 's not a good one; for I have said
all sorts of things about the people here, and it is n't kind. I should
tear it out, only I promised to keep my diary, and I want to talk
over things that puzzle me with mother. I see now that it is my
fault a good deal; for I have n't been half as patient, and pleasant as
I ought to be. I will truly try for the rest of the time, and be as good
and grateful as I can; for I want them to like me, though I 'm only
'an old-fashioned country girl.'"
That last sentence made Fanny shut the book, with a face full of
self-reproach; for she had said those words herself, in a fit of
petulance, and Polly had made no answer, though her eyes filled
and her cheeks burned. Fan opened her lips to say something, but
not a sound followed, for there stood Polly looking at them with an
expression they had never seen before.
"What are you doing with my things?" she demanded, in a low
tone, while her eyes kindled and her color changed.
"Maud showed us a book she found, and we were just looking at
the pictures," began Fanny, dropping it as if it burnt her fingers.
"And reading my journal, and laughing at my presents, and then
putting the blame on Maud. It 's the meanest thing I ever saw; and I
'll never forgive you as long as I live!"
Polly said, this all in one indignant breath, and then as if afraid of
saying too much, ran out of the room with such a look of mingled
contempt, grief, and anger, that the three culprits stood dumb with
shame. Tom had n't even a whistle at his command; Maud was so
scared at gentle Polly's outbreak, that she sat as still as a mouse;
while Fanny, conscience stricken, laid back the poor little presents
with a respectful hand, for somehow the thought of Polly's poverty
came over her as it never had done before; and these odds and
ends, so carefully treasured up for those at home, touched Fanny,
and grew beautiful in her eyes. As she laid by the little book, the
confessions in it reproached her more sharply that any words Polly
could have spoken; for she had laughed at her friend, had slighted
her sometimes, and been unforgiving for an innocent offence. That
last page, where Polly took the blame on herself, and promised to
"truly try" to be more kind and patient, went to Fanny's heart,
melting all the coldness away, and she could only lay her head on
the trunk, sobbing, "It was n't Polly's fault; it was all mine."
Tom, still red with shame at being caught in such a scrape, left
Fanny to her tears, and went manfully away to find the injured
Polly, and confess his manifold transgressions. But Polly could n't
be found. He searched high and low in every room, yet no sign of
the girt appeared, and Tom began to get anxious. "She can't have
run away home, can she?" he said to himself, as he paused before
the hat-tree. There was the little round hat, and Tom gave it a
remorseful smooth, remembering how many times he had tweaked
it half off, or poked it over poor Polly's eyes. "Maybe she 's gone
down to the office, to tell pa. 'T is n't a bit like her, though.
Anyway, I 'll take a look round the corner."
Eager to get his boots, Tom pulled open the door of a dark closet
under the stairs, and nearly tumbled over backward with surprise;
for there, on the floor, with her head pillowed on a pair of rubbers,
lay Polly in an attitude of despair. This mournful spectacle sent
Tom's penitent speech straight out of his head, and with an
astonished "Hullo!" he stood and stared in impressive silence.
Polly was n't crying, and lay so still, that Tom began to think she
might be in a fit or a faint, and bent anxiously down to inspect the
pathetic bunch. A glimpse of wet eyelashes, a round cheek redder
than usual, and lips parted by quick, breathing, relieved his mind
upon that point; so, taking courage, he sat down on the boot-jack,
and begged pardon like a man.
Now, Polly was very angry, and I think she had a right to be; but
she was not resentful, and after the first flash was over, she soon
began to feel better about it. It was n't easy to forgive; but, as she
listened to Tom's honest voice, getting gruff with remorse now and
then, she could n't harden her heart against him, or refuse to make
up when he so frankly owned that it "was confounded mean to read
her book that way." She liked his coming and begging pardon at
once; it was a handsome thing to do; she appreciated it, and
forgave him in her heart some time before she did with her lips;
for, to tell the truth, Polly had a spice of girlish malice, and rather
liked to see domineering Tom eat humble-pie, just enough to do
him good, you know. She felt that atonement was proper, and
considered it no more than just that Fan should drench a
handkerchief or two with repentant tears, and that Tom should sit
on a very uncomfortable seat and call himself hard names for five
or ten minutes before she relented.
"Come, now, do say a word to a fellow. I 'm getting the worst of it,
anyway; for there 's Fan, crying her eyes out upstairs, and here are
you stowed away in a dark closet as dumb as a fish, and nobody
but me to bring you both round. I 'd have cut over to the Smythes
and got ma home to fix things, only it looked like backing out of
the scrape; so I did n't," said Tom, as a last appeal.
Polly was glad to hear that Fan was crying. It would do her good;
but she could n't help softening to Tom, who did seem in a
predicament between two weeping damsels. A little smile began to
dimple the cheek that was n't hidden, and then a hand came slowly
out from under the curly head, and was stretched toward him
silently. Tom was just going to give it a hearty shake, when he saw
a red mark on the wrist, and knew what made it. His face changed,
and he took the chubby hand so gently, that Polly peeped to see
what it meant.
"Will you forgive that, too?" he asked, in a whisper, stroking the
"Yes, it don't hurt much now." And Polly drew her hand away,
sorry he had seen it.
"I was a beast, that 's what I was!" said Tom, in a tone of great
disgust. And just at that awkward minute down tumbled his
father's old beaver over his head and face, putting a comical
quencher on his self-reproaches. Of course, neither could help
laughing at that; and when he emerged, Polly was sitting up,
looking as much better for her shower as he did for his momentary
"Fan feels dreadfully. Will you kiss and be friends, if I trot her
down?" asked Tom, remembering his fellow-sinner.
"I 'll go to her." And Polly whisked out of the closet as suddenly as
she had whisked in, leaving Tom sitting on the boot-jack, with a
How the girls made it up no one ever knew. But after much talking
and crying, kissing and laughing, the breach was healed, and peace
declared. A slight haze still lingered in the air after the storm, for
Fanny was very humble and tender that evening; Tom a trifle
pensive, but distressingly polite, and Polly magnanimously friendly
to every one; for generous natures like to forgive, and Polly
enjoyed the petting after the insult, like a very human girl.
As she was brushing her hair at bedtime there came a tap on her
door and, opening it, she beheld nothing but a tall black bottle,
with a strip of red flannel tied round it like a cravat, and a
cocked-hat note on the cork. Inside were these lines, written in a
sprawling hand with very black ink:
DEAR POLLY, Opydilldock is first-rate for sprains. You put a lot
on the flannel and do up your wrist, and I guess it will be all right
in the morning. Will you come a sleigh-ride tomorrow? I 'm awful
sorry I hurt you.
CHAPTER VI GRANDMA
WHERE 'S Polly?" asked Fan one snowy afternoon, as she came
into the dining-room where Tom was reposing on the sofa with his
boots in the air, absorbed in one of those delightful books in which
boys are cast away on desert islands, where every known fruit,
vegetable and flower is in its prime all the year round; or, lost in
boundless forests, where the young heroes have thrilling
adventures, kill impossible beasts, and, when the author's
invention gives out, suddenly find their way home, laden with tiger
skins, tame buffaloes and other pleasing trophies of their prowess.
"Dun no," was Tom's brief reply, for he was just escaping from an
alligator of the largest size.
"Do put down that stupid book, and let 's do something," said
Fanny, after a listless stroll round the room.
"Hi, they 've got him!" was the only answer vouchsafed by the
"Where 's Polly?" asked Maud, joining the party with her hands
full of paper dolls all suffering for ball-dresses.
"Do get along, and don't bother me," cried Tom exasperated at the
"Then tell us where she is. I 'm sure you know, for she was down
here a little while ago," said Fanny.
"Up in grandma's room, maybe."
"Provoking thing! you knew it all the time, and did n't tell, just to
plague us," scolded Maud.
But Tom was now under water stabbing his alligator, and took no
notice of the indignant departure of the young ladies.
"Polly 's always poking up in grandma's room. I don't see what fun
there is in it," said Fanny as they went up stairs.
"Polly 's a verwy queer girl, and gwandma pets her a gweat deal
more than she does me," observed Maud, with an injured air.
"Let 's peek and see what they are doing," whispered Fan, pausing
at the half-open door.
Grandma was sitting before a quaint old cabinet, the doors of
which stood wide open, showing glimpses of the faded relics
treasured there. On a stool, at the old lady's feet, sat Polly, looking
up with intent face and eager eyes, quite absorbed in the history of
a high-heeled brocade shoe which lay in her lap.
"Well, my dear," grandma was saying, "she had it on the very day
that Uncle Joe came in as she sat at work, and said, 'Dolly, we
must be married at once.' 'Very well, Joe,' says Aunt Dolly, and
down she went to the parlor, where the minister was waiting, never
stopping to change the dimity dress she wore, and was actually
married with her scissors and pin-ball at her side, and her thimble
on. That was in war times, 1812, my dear, and Uncle Joe was in
the army, so he had to go, and he took that very little pin-ball with
him. Here it is with the mark of a bullet through it, for he always
said his Dolly's cushion saved his life."
"How interesting that is!" cried Polly, as she examined the faded
cushion with the hole in it.
"Why, grandma, you never told me that story," said Fanny,
hurrying in, finding the prospect was a pleasant one for a stormy
"You never asked me to tell you anything, my dear, so I kept my
old stories to myself," answered grandma, quietly.
"Tell some now, please. May we stay and see the funny things?"
said Fan and Maud, eyeing the open cabinet with interest.
"If Polly likes; she is my company, and I am trying to entertain her,
for I love to have her come," said grandma, with her old-time
"Oh, yes! do let them stay and hear the stories. I 've often told them
what good times we have up here, and teased them to come, but
they think it 's too quiet. Now, sit down, girls, and let grandma go
on. You see I pick out something in the cabinet that looks
interesting, and then she tells me about it," said Polly, eager to
include the girls in her pleasures, and glad to get them interested in
grandma's reminiscences, for Polly knew how happy it made the
lonely old lady to live over her past, and to have the children round
"Here are three drawers that have not been opened yet; each take
one, and choose something from it for me to tell about," said
Madam, quite excited at the unusual interest in her treasures.
So the girls each opened a drawer and turned over the contents till
they found something they wanted to know about. Maud was ready
first, and holding up an oddly shaped linen bag, with a big blue F
embroidered on it, demanded her story. Grandma smiled as she
smoothed the old thing tenderly, and began her story with evident
"My sister Nelly and I went to visit an aunt of ours, when we were
little girls, but we did n't have a very good time, for she was
extremely strict. One afternoon, when she had gone out to tea, and
old Debby, the maid, was asleep in her room, we sat on the
door-step, feeling homesick, and ready for any thing to amuse us.
" 'What shall we do?' said Nelly.
"Just as she spoke, a ripe plum dropped bounce on the grass before
us, as if answering her question. It was all the plum's fault, for if it
had n't fallen at that minute, I never should have had the thought
which popped into my mischievous mind.
" 'Let 's have as many as we want, and plague Aunt Betsey, to pay
her for being so cross,' I said, giving Nelly half the great purple
" 'It would be dreadful naughty,' began Nelly, 'but I guess we will,'
she added, as the sweet mouthful slipped down her throat.
" 'Debby 's asleep. Come on, then, and help me shake,' I said,
getting up, eager for the fun.
"We shook and shook till we got red in the face, but not one
dropped, for the tree was large, and our little arms were not strong
enough to stir the boughs. Then we threw stones, but only one
green and one half-ripe one came down, and my last stone broke
the shed window, so there was an end of that.
" 'It 's as provoking as Aunt Betsey herself,' said Nelly, as we sat
down, out of breath.
" 'I wish the wind would come and blow 'em down for us,' panted I,
staring up at the plums with longing eyes.
" 'If wishing would do any good, I should wish 'em in my lap at
once,' added Nelly.
" 'You might as well wish 'em in your mouth and done with it, if
you are too lazy to pick 'em up. If the ladder was n't too heavy we
could try that,' said I, determined to have them.
" 'You know we can't stir it, so what is the use of talking about it?
You proposed getting the plums, now let 's see you do it,' answered
Nelly, rather crossly, for she had bitten the green plum, and it
puckered her mouth.
" 'Wait a minute, and you will see me do it,' cried I, as a new
thought came into my naughty head.
" 'What are you taking your shoes and socks off for? You can't
climb the tree, Fan.' " 'Don't ask questions, but be ready to pick 'em
up when they fall, Miss Lazybones.' "With this mysterious speech I
pattered into the house bare-footed and full of my plan. Up stairs I
went to a window opening on the shed roof. Out I got, and
creeping carefully along till I came near the tree, I stood up, and
suddenly crowed like the little rooster. Nelly looked up, and stared,
and laughed, and clapped her hands when she saw what I was
going to do.
" 'I 'm afraid you 'll slip and get hurt.' " 'Don't care if I do; I 'll have
those plums if I break my neck doing it,' and half sliding, half
walking I went down the sloping roof, till the boughs of the tree
were within my reach.
"Hurrah!" cried Nelly, dancing down below, as my first shake sent
a dozen plums rattling round her.
"'Hurrah!" cried I, letting go one branch and trying to reach
another. But as I did so my foot slipped, I tried to catch something
to hold by, but found nothing, and with a cry, down I fell, like a
very big plum on the grass below.
"Fortunately the shed was low, the grass was thick and the tree
broke my fall, but I got a bad bump and a terrible shaking. Nelly
thought I was killed, and began to cry with her mouth full. But I
picked myself up in a minute, for I was used to such tumbles; and
did n't mind the pain half as much as the loss of the plums.
" 'Hush! Debby will hear and spoil all the fun. I said I 'd get 'em
and I have. See what lots have come down with me.' "So there had,
for my fall shook the tree almost as much as it did me, and the
green and purple fruit lay all about us.
"By the time the bump on my forehead had swelled as big as a nut,
our aprons were half full, and we sat down to enjoy ourselves. But
we did n't. O dear, no! for many of the plums were not ripe, some
were hurt by the birds, some crushed in falling, and many as hard
as stones. Nelly got stung by a wasp, my head began to ache, and
we sat looking at one another rather dismally, when Nelly had a
" 'Let 's cook 'em, then they 'll be good, and we can put some away
in our little pails for to-morrow.' " 'That will be splendid! There 's a
fire in the kitchen, Debby always leaves the kettle on, and we can
use her saucepan, and I know where the sugar is, and we 'll have a
grand time.' "In we went, and fell to work very quietly. It was a
large, open fire-place, with the coals nicely covered up, and the big
kettle simmering on the hook. We raked open the fire, put on the
saucepan, and in it the best of our plums, with water enough to
spoil them. But we did n't know that, and felt very important as we
sat waiting for it to boil, each armed with a big spoon, while the
sugar box stood between us ready to be used.
"How slow they were, to be sure! I never knew such obstinate
things, for they would n't soften, though they danced about in the
boiling water, and bobbed against the cover as if they were doing
"The sun began to get low, we were afraid Debby would come
down, and still those dreadful plums would n't look like sauce. At
last they began to burst, the water got a lovely purple, we put lots
of sugar in, and kept tasting till our aprons and faces were red, and
our lips burnt with the hot spoons.
"'There 's too much juice,' said Nelly, shaking her head wisely. 'It
ought to be thick and nice like mamma's.' "'I 'll pour off some of
the juice, and we can drink it,' said I, feeling that I 'd made a
mistake in my cooking.
"So Nelly got a bowl, and I got a towel and lifted the big saucepan
carefully off. It was heavy and hot, and I was a little afraid of it,
but did n't like to say so. Just as I began to pour, Debby suddenly
called from the top of the stairs, 'Children, what under the sun are
you doing?' "It startled us both. Nelly dropped the bowl and ran. I
dropped the saucepan and did n't run, for a part of the hot juice
splashed upon my bare feet, and ankles, and made me scream with
"Down rushed Debby to find me dancing about the kitchen with a
great bump on my forehead, a big spoon in my hand, and a pair of
bright purple feet. The plums were lying all over the hearth, the
saucepan in the middle of the room, the basin was broken, and the
sugar swimming about as if the bowl had turned itself over trying
to sweeten our mess for us.
"Debby was very good to me, for she never stopped to scold, but
laid me down on the old sofa, and bound up my poor little feet
with oil and cotton wool. Nelly, seeing me lie white and weak,
thought I was dying, and went over to the neighbor's for Aunt
Betsey, and burst in upon the old ladies sitting primly at, their tea,
crying, distractedly, " 'Oh, Aunt Betsey, come quick! for the
saucepan fell off the shed, and Fan's feet are all boiled purple!'
"Nobody laughed at this funny message, and Aunt Betsey ran all
the way home with a muffin in her hand and her ball in her pocket,
though the knitting was left behind.
"I suffered a great deal, but I was n't sorry afterward, for I learned
to love Aunt Betsey, who nursed me tenderly, and seemed to forget
her strict ways in her anxiety for me.
"This bag was made for my special comfort, and hung on the sofa
where I lay all those weary days. Aunt kept it full of pretty
patchwork or, what I liked better, ginger-nuts, and peppermint
drops, to amuse me, though she did n't approve of cosseting
children up, any more than I do now."
"I like that vewy well, and I wish I could have been there," was
Maud's condescending remark, as she put back the little bag, after
a careful peep inside, as if she hoped to find an ancient ginger-nut,
or a well-preserved peppermint drop still lingering in some corner.
"We had plums enough that autumn, but did n't seem to care much
about them, after all, for our prank became a household joke, and,
for years, we never saw the fruit, but Nelly would look at me with
a funny face, and whisper, 'Purple stockings, Fan!' "
"Thank you, ma'am," said Polly. "Now, Fan, your turn next."
"Well, I 've a bundle of old letters, and I 'd like to know if there is
any story about them," answered Fanny, hoping some romance
might be forthcoming.
Grandma turned over the little packet tied up with a faded pink
ribbon; a dozen yellow notes written on rough, thick paper, with
red wafers still adhering to the folds, showing plainly that they
were written before the day of initial note-paper and self-sealing
"They are not love-letters, deary, but notes from my mates after I
left Miss Cotton's boarding-school. I don't think there is any story
about them," and grandma turned them over with spectacles before
the dim eyes, so young and bright when they first read the very
Fanny was about to say, "I 'll choose again," when grandma began
to laugh so heartily that the girls felt sure she had caught some
merry old memory which would amuse them.
"Bless my heart, I have n't thought of that frolic this forty years.
Poor, dear, giddy Sally Pomroy, and she 's a great-grandmother
now!" cried the old lady, after reading one of the notes, and
clearing the mist off her glasses.
"Now, please tell about her; I know it 's something funny to make
you laugh so," said Polly and Fan together.
"Well, it was droll, and I 'm glad I remembered it for it 's just the
story to tell you young things.
"It was years ago," began grandma, briskly, "and teachers were
very much stricter than they are now. The girls at Miss Cotton's
were not allowed lights in their rooms after nine o'clock, never
went out alone, and were expected to behave like models of
propriety from morning till night.
"As you may imagine, ten young girls, full of spirits and fun, found
these rules hard to keep, and made up for good behavior in public
by all sorts of frolics in private.
"Miss Cotton and her brother sat in the back parlor after school
was over, and the young ladies were sent to bed. Mr. John was
very deaf, and Miss Priscilla very near-sighted, two convenient
afflictions for the girls on some occasions, but once they proved
quite the reverse, as you shall hear.
"We had been very prim for a week, and our bottled up spirits
could no longer be contained; so we planed a revel after our own
hearts, and set our wits to work to execute it.
"The first obstacle was surmounted in this way. As none of us
could get out alone, we resolved to lower Sally from the window,
for she was light and small, and very smart.
"With our combined pocket-money she was to buy nuts and candy,
cake and fruit, pie, and a candle, so that we might have a light,
after Betsey took ours away as usual. "We were to darken the
window of the inner chamber, set a watch in the little entry, light
up, and then for a good time.
"At eight o'clock on the appointed evening, several of us professed
great weariness, and went to our room, leaving the rest sewing
virtuously with Miss Cotton, who read Hannah More's Sacred
Dramas aloud, in a way that fitted the listeners for bed as well as a
dose of opium would have done.
"I am sorry to say I was one of the ringleaders; and as soon as we
got up stairs, produced the rope provided for the purpose, and
invited Sally to be lowered. It was an old-fashioned house, sloping
down behind, and the closet window chosen by us was not many
feet from the ground.
"It was a summer evening, so that at eight o'clock it was still light;
but we were not afraid of being seen, for the street was a lonely
one, and our only neighbors two old ladies, who put down their
curtains at sunset, and never looked out till morning.
"Sally had been bribed by promises of as many 'goodies' as she
could eat, and being a regular madcap, she was ready for anything.
"Tying the rope round her waist she crept out, and we let her safely
down, sent a big basket after her, and saw her slip round the comer
in my big sun bonnet and another girl's shawl, so that she should
not be recognized.
"Then we put our night-gowns over our dresses, and were laid
peacefully in bed when Betsey came up, earlier than usual; for it
was evident that Miss Cotton felt a little suspicious at our sudden
"For half an hour we lay laughing and whispering, as we waited for
the signal from Sally. At last we heard a cricket chirp shrilly under
the window, and flying up, saw a little figure below in the twilight.
" 'O, quick! quick!' cried Sally, panting with haste. 'Draw up the
basket and then get me in, for I saw Mr. Cotton in the market, and
ran all the way home, so that I might get in before he came.' "Up
came the heavy basket, bumping and scraping on the way, and
smelling, O, so nice! Down went the rope, and with a long pull, a
strong pull, and a pull all together, we hoisted poor Sally half-way
up to the window, when, sad to tell, the rope slipped and down she
fell, only being saved from broken bones by the hay-cock under
"'He 's coming! he 's coming! O pull me up, for mercy sake!' cried
Sally, scrambling to her feet unhurt, but a good deal shaken.
"We saw a dark figure approaching, and dragged her in with more
bumping and scraping, and embraced her with rapture, for we had
just escaped being detected by Mr. John, whose eyes were as sharp
as his ears were dull.
"We heard the front-door shut, then a murmur of voices, and then
Betsey's heavy step coming up stairs.
"Under the bed went the basket, and into the beds went the
conspirators, and nothing could have been more decorous than the
appearance of the room when Betsey popped her head in.
" 'Master's an old fidget to send me travelling up again, just
because he fancied he saw something amiss at the window.
Nothing but a curtain flapping, or a shadder, for the poor dears is
sleeping like lambs.' "We heard her say this to herself, and a
general titter agitated the white coverlets as she departed.
"Sally was in high feather at the success of her exploit, and danced
about like an elf, as she put her night-gown on over her frock,
braided her hair in funny little tails all over her head, and fastened
the great red pin-cushion on her bosom for a breastpin in honor of
"The other girls went to their rooms as agreed upon, and all was
soon dark and still up stairs, while Miss Cotton began to enjoy
herself below, as she always did when 'her young charges' were
safely disposed of.
"Then ghosts began to walk, and the mice scuttled back to their
holes in alarm, for white figures glided from room to room, till all
were assembled in the little chamber.
"The watch was set at the entry door, the signal agreed upon, the
candle lighted, and the feast spread forth upon a newspaper on the
bed, with the coverlet arranged so that it could be whisked over the
refreshments at a moment's notice.
"How good everything was, to be sure! I don't think I 've eaten any
pies since that had such a delicious flavor as those broken ones,
eaten hastily, in that little oven of a room, with Sally making jokes
and the others enjoying stolen sweets with true girlish relish. Of
course it was very wicked, but I must tell the truth.
"We were just beginning on the cake when the loud scratching of a
rat disturbed us.
" 'The signal! fly! run! hide! Hush, don't laugh!' cried several
voices, and we scuttled into bed as rapidly and noiselessly as
possible, with our mouths and hands full.
"A long pause, broken by more scratching; but as no one came, we
decided on sending to inquire what it meant. I went and found
Mary, the picket guard half asleep, and longing for her share of the
" 'It was a real rat; I 've not made a sound. Do go and finish; I 'm
tired of this,' said Mary, slapping away at the mosquitoes.
"Back I hurried with the good news. Every one flew up, briskly.
We lighted the candle again, and returned to our revel. The
refreshments were somewhat injured by Sally's bouncing in among
them, bit we did n't care, and soon finished the cake.
" 'Now let 's have the nuts,' I said, groping for the paper bag.
" 'They are almonds and peanuts, so we can crack them with our
teeth. Be sure you get the bag by the right end,' said Sally.
" 'I know what I 'm about,' and to show her that it was all right, I
gave the bag a little shake, when out flew the nuts, rattling like a
hail-storm all over the uncarpeted floor.
" 'Now you 've done it,' cried Sally, as Mary scratched like a mad
rat, and a door creaked below, for Miss Cotton was not deaf.
"Such a flurry as we were in! Out went the candle, and each one
rushed away with as much of the feast as she could seize in her
haste. Sally dived into her bed, recklessly demolishing the last pie,
and scattering the candy far and wide.
"Poor Mary was nearly caught for Miss Cotton was quicker than
Betsey, and our guard had to run for her life.
"Our room was the first, and was in good order, though the two
flushed faces on the pillows were rather suspicious. Miss Cotton
stood staring about her, looking so funny, without her cap, that my
bedfellow would have gone off in a fit of laughter, if I had not
pinched her warningly.
" 'Young ladies, what is this unseemly noise?' "No answer from us
but a faint snore. Miss Cotton marched into the next room, put the
same question and received the same reply.
"In the third chamber lay Sally, and we trembled as the old lady
went in. Sitting up, we peeped and listened breathlessly.
" 'Sarah, I command you to tell me what this all means?' "But Sally
only sighed in her sleep, and muttered, wickedly, 'Ma, take me
home. I 'm starved at Cotton's.' " 'Mercy on me! is the child going
to have a fever?' cried the old lady, who did not observe the tell
tale nuts at her feet.
" 'So dull, so strict! O take me home!' moaned Sally, tossing her
arms and gurgling, like a naughty little gypsy.
"That last bit of acting upset the whole concern, for as she tossed
her arms she showed the big red cushion on her breast.
Near-sighted as she was, that ridiculous object could not escape
Miss Cotton, neither did the orange that rolled out from the pillow,
nor the boots appearing at the foot of the bed.
"With sudden energy the old lady plucked off the cover, and there
lay Sally with her hair dressed . la Topsy, her absurd breast-pin
and her dusty boots, among papers of candy, bits of pie and cake,
oranges and apples, and a candle upside down burning a hole in
"At the sound of Miss Cotton's horrified exclamation Sally woke
up, and began laughing so merrily that none of us could resist
following her example, and the rooms rang with merriment far
many minutes. I really don't know when we should have stopped if
Sally had not got choked with the nut she had in her mouth, and so
frightened us nearly out of our wits."
"What became of the things, and how were you punished?" asked
Fan, in the middle of her laughter.
"The remains of the feast went to the pig, and we were kept on
bread and water for three days."
"Did that cure you?"
"Oh, dear, no! we had half a dozen other frolics that very summer;
and although I cannot help laughing at the remembrance of this,
you must not think, child, that I approve of such conduct, or
excuse it. No, no, my dear, far from it."
"I call that a, tip-top story! Drive on, grandma, and tell one about
boys," broke in a new voice, and there was Tom astride of a chair
listening and laughing with all his might, for his book had come to
an end, and he had joined the party unobserved.
"Wait for your turn, Tommy. Now, Polly, dear, what will you
have?" said grandma, looking, so lively and happy, that it was very
evident "reminiscing" did her good.
"Let mine come last, and tell one for Tom next," said Polly,
looking round, and beckoning him nearer.
He came and sat himself cross-legged on the floor, before the
lower drawer of the cabinet, which grandma opened for him,
saying, with a benign stroke of the curly head, "There, dear, that 's
where I keep the little memorials of my brother Jack. Poor lad, he
was lost at sea, you know. Well, choose anything you like, and I 'll
try to remember a story about it."
Tom made a rapid rummage, and fished up a little broken pistol.
"There, that 's the chap for me! Wish it was n't spoilt, then we 'd
have fun popping away at the cats in the yard. Now, then,
"I remember one of Jack's pranks, when that was used with great
effect," said grandma, after a thoughtful pause, during which Tom
teased the girls by snapping the lock of the pistol in their faces.
"Once upon a time," continued Madam, much flattered by the row
of interested faces before her, "my father went away on business,
leaving mother, aunt, and us girls to Jack's care. Very proud he
was, to be sure, of the responsibility, and the first thing he did was
to load that pistol and keep it by his bed, in our great worriment,
for we feared he 'd kill himself with it. For a week all went well;
then we were startled by the news that robbers were about. All
sorts of stories flew through the town (we were living in the
country then); some said that certain houses were marked with a
black cross, and those were always robbed; others, that there was a
boy in the gang, for windows, so small that they were considered
safe, were entered by some little rogue. At one place the thieves
had a supper, and left ham and cake in the front yard. Mrs. Jones
found Mrs. Smith's shawl in her orchard, with a hammer and an
unknown teapot near it. One man reported that some one tapped at
his window, in the night, saying, softly, 'Is anyone here?' and when
he looked out, two men were seen to run down the road.
"We lived just out of town, in a lonely place; the house was old,
with convenient little back windows, and five outside doors. Jack
was the only man about the place, and he was barely thirteen.
Mother and aunt were very timid, and the children weren't old
enough to be of any use, so Jack and I were the home-guard, and
vowed to defend the family manfully."
"Good for you! Hope the fellows came!" cried Tom, charmed with
"One day, an ill-looking man came in and asked for food,"
continued grandma, with a mysterious nod; "and while he ate, I
saw him glance sharply about from the wooden buttons on the
back-doors, to the silver urn and tankards on the dining-room
sideboard. A strong suspicion took possession of me, and I
watched him as a cat does a mouse.
"'He came to examine the premises, I 'm sure of it, but we will be
ready for him,' I said, fiercely, as I told the family about him.
"This fancy haunted us all, and our preparations were very funny.
Mother borrowed a rattle, and kept it under her pillow. Aunt took a
big bell to bed with her; the children had little Tip, the terrier, to
sleep in their room; while Jack and I mounted guard, he with the
pistol, and I with a hatchet, for I did n't like fire-arms. Biddy, who
slept in the attic, practised getting out on the shed roof, so that she
might run away at the first alarm. Every night we arranged pit-falls
for the robbers, and all filed up to bed, bearing plate, money,
weapons, and things to barricade with, as if we lived in war times.
"We waited a week and no one came, so we began to feel rather
slighted, for other people got 'a scare,' as Tom says, and after all
our preparations we really felt a trifle disappointed that we had had
no chance to show our courage. At last a black mark was found
upon our door, and a great panic ensued, for we felt that now our
time had come.
"That night we put a tub of water at the bottom of the back-stairs,
and a pile of tin pans at the top of the front stairs, so that any
attempt to come up would produce a splash or a rattle. Bells were
hung on door handles, sticks of wood piled up in dark corners for
robbers to fall over, and the family retired, all armed and all
provided with lamps and matches.
"Jack and I left our doors open, and kept asking one another if we
did n't hear something, till he fell asleep. I was wakeful and lay
listening to the crickets till the clock struck twelve; then I got
drowsy, and was just dropping off when the sound of steps outside
woke me up staring wide awake. Creeping to the window I was in
time to see by the dim moonlight a shadow glide round the corner
and disappear. A queer little thrill went over me, but I resolved to
keep quiet till I was sure something was wrong, for I had given so
many false alarms, I did n't want Jack to laugh at me again.
Popping my head out of the door, I listened, and presently heard a
scraping sound near the shed.
" 'There they are; but I won't rouse the house till the bell rings or
the pans fall. The rogues can't go far without a clatter of some sort,
and if we could only catch one of them we should get the reward
and a deal of glory,' I said to myself, grasping my hatchet firmly.
"A door closed softly below, and a step came creeping towards the
back-stairs. Sure now of my prey, I was just about to scream 'Jack!'
when something went splash into the tub at the foot of the
"In a minute every one was awake and up, for Jack fired his pistol
before he was half out of bed, and roared 'Fire!' so loud it roused
the house. Mother sprung her rattle, aunt rang her bell, Jip barked
like mad, and we all screamed, while from below came up a
regular Irish howl.
"Some one brought a lamp, and we peeped anxiously down, to see
our own stupid Biddy sitting in the tub wringing her hands and
" 'Och, murther, and it 's kilt I am! The saints be about us! how iver
did I come forninst this say iv wather, just crapin in quiet afther a
bit iv sthroll wid Mike Mahoney, me own b'y, that 's to marry me
intirely, come Saint Patrick's day nixt.' "We laughed so we could
hardly fish the poor thing up, or listen while she explained that she
had slipped out of her window for a word with Mike, and found it
fastened when she wanted to come back, so she had sat on the
roof, trying to discover the cause of this mysterious barring out, till
she was tired, when she prowled round the house till she found a
cellar window unfastened, after all our care, and got in quite
cleverly, she thought; but the tub was a new arrangement which
she knew nothing about; and when she fell into the 'say,' she was
bewildered and could only howl.
"This was not all the damage either, for aunt fainted with the
fright, mother cut her hand with a broken lamp, the children took
cold hopping about on the wet stairs, Jip barked himself sick, I
sprained my ankle, and Jack not only smashed a looking-glass with
his bullets, but spoilt his pistol by the heavy charge put in it. After
the damages were repaired and the flurry was well over, Jack
confessed that he had marked the door for fun, and shut Biddy out
as a punishment for 'gallivanting,' of which he did n't approve.
Such a rogue as that boy was!' "
"But did n't the robbers ever come?" cried Tom, enjoying the joke,
but feeling defrauded of the fight.
"Never, my dear; but we had our 'scare,' and tested our courage,
and that was a great satisfaction, of course," answered grandma,
"Well, I think you were the bravest of the lot. I 'd like to have seen
you flourishing round there with your hatchet," added Tom,
admiringly, and the old lady looked as much pleased with the
compliment as if she had been a girl.
"I choose this," said Polly, holding up a long white kid glove,
shrunken and yellow with time, but looking as if it had a history.
"Ah, that now has a story worth telling!" cried grandma; adding,
proudly, "Treat that old glove respectfully, my children, for
Lafayette's honored hand has touched it."
"Oh, grandma, did you wear it? Did you see him? Do tell us all
about it, and that will be the best of the whole," cried Polly, who
loved history, and knew a good deal about the gallant Frenchman
and his brave life.
Grandma loved to tell this story, and always assumed her most
imposing air to do honor to her theme. Drawing herself up,
therefore, she folded her hands, and after two or three little
"hems," began with an absent look, as if her eyes beheld a
far-away time, which brightened as she gazed.
"The first visit of Lafayette was before my time, of course, but I
heard so much about it from my grandfather that I really felt as if I
'd seen it all. Our Aunt Hancock lived in the Governor's house, on
Beacon Hill, at that time." Here the old lady bridled up still more,
for she was very proud of "our aunt." "Ah, my dears, those were
the good old times!" she continued, with a sigh. "Such dinners and
tea parties, such damask table cloths and fine plate, such solid,
handsome furniture and elegant carriages; aunt's was lined with
red silk velvet, and when the coach was taken away from her at the
Governor's death, she just ripped out the lining. and we girls had
spencers made of it. Dear heart, how well I remember playing in
aunt's great garden, and chasing Jack up and down those winding
stairs; and my blessed father, in his plum-colored coat and knee
buckles, and the queue I used to tie up for him every day, handing
aunt in to dinner, looking so dignified and splendid."
Grandma seemed to forget her story for a minute, and become a
little girl again, among the playmates dead and gone so many
years. Polly motioned the others to be quiet, and no one spoke till
the old lady, with a long sigh, came back to the present, and went
"Well, as I was saying, the Governor wanted to give a breakfast to
the French officers, and Madam, who was a hospitable soul, got up
a splendid one for them. But by some mistake, or accident, it was
discovered at the last minute that there was no milk.
"A great deal was needed, and very little could be bought or
borrowed, so despair fell upon the cooks and maids, and the great
breakfast would have been a failure, if Madam, with the presence
of mind of her sex, had not suddenly bethought herself of the cows
feeding on the Common.
"To be sure, they belonged to her neighbors, and there was no time
to ask leave, but it was a national affair; our allies must be fed; and
feeling sure that her patriotic friends would gladly lay their cows
on the altar of their country, Madam Hancock covered herself with
glory, by calmly issuing the command, 'Milk 'em!' "It was done, to
the great astonishment of the cows, and the entire satisfaction of
the guests, among whom was Lafayette.
"This milking feat was such a good joke, that no one seems to have
remembered much about the great man, though one of his officers,
a count, signalized himself by getting very tipsy, and going to bed
with his boots and spurs on, which caused the destruction of aunt's
best yellow damask coverlet, for the restless sleeper kicked it into
rags by morning.
"Aunt valued it very much, even in its tattered condition, and kept
it a long while, as a memorial of her distinguished guests.
"The time when I saw Lafayette was in 1825, and there were no
tipsy counts then. Uncle Hancock (a sweet man, my dears, though
some call him mean now-a-days) was dead, and aunt had married
"It was not at all the thing for her to do; however, that 's neither
here nor there. She was living in Federal Street at the time, a most
aristocratic street then, children, and we lived close by.
"Old Josiah Quincy was mayor of the city, and he sent aunt word
that the Marquis Lafayette wished to pay his respects to her.
"Of course she was delighted, and we all flew about to make ready
for him. Aunt was an old lady, but she made a grand toilet, and
was as anxious to look well as any girl."
"What did she wear?" asked Fan, with interest.
"She wore a steel-colored satin, trimmed with black lace, and on
her cap was pinned a Lafayette badge of white satin.
"I never shall forget how b-e-a-utifully she looked as she sat in
state on the front parlor sophy, right under a great portrait of her
first husband; and on either side of her sat Madam Storer and
Madam Williams, elegant to behold, in their stiff silks, rich lace,
and stately turbans. We don't see such splendid old ladies
"I think we do sometimes," said Polly, slyly.
Grandma shook her head, but it pleased her very much to be
admired, for she had been a beauty in her day.
"We girls had dressed the house with flowers; old Mr. Coolidge
sent in a clothes-basket full. Joe Joy provided the badges, and aunt
got out some of the Revolutionary wine from the old Beacon Street
"I wore my green and white palmyrine, my hair bowed high, the
beautiful leg-o'-mutton sleeves that were so becoming, and these
"Well, by-and-by the General, escorted by the Mayor, drove up.
Dear me, I see him now! a little old man in nankeen trousers and
vest, a long blue coat and ruffled shirt, leaning on his cane, for he
was lame, and smiling and bowing like a true Frenchman.
"As he approached, the three old ladies rose, and courtesied with
the utmost dignity. Lafayette bowed first to the Governor's picture,
then to the Governor's widow, and kissed her hand.
"That was droll; for on the back of her glove was stamped
Lafayette's likeness, and the gallant old gentleman kissed his own
"Then some of the young ladies were presented, and, as if to
escape any further self-salutations, the marquis kissed the pretty
girls on the cheek.
"Yes, my dears, here is just the spot where the dear old man
saluted me. I 'm quite as proud of it now as I was then, for he was a
brave, good man, and helped us in our trouble.
"He did not stay long, but we were very merry, drinking his health,
receiving his compliments, and enjoying the honor he did us.
"Down in the street there was a crowd, of course, and when he left
they wanted to take out the horses and drag him home in triumph.
But he did n't wish it; and while that affair was being arranged, we
girls had been pelting him with the flowers which we tore from the
vases, the walls, and our own topknots, to scatter over him.
"He liked that, and laughed, and waved his hand to us, while we
ran, and pelted, and begged him to come again.
"We young folks quite lost our heads that night, and I have n't a
very clear idea of how I got home. The last thing I remember was
hanging out of the window with a flock of girls, watching the
carriage roll away, while the crowd cheered as if they were mad.
"Bless my heart, it seems as if I heard 'em now! 'Hurrah for
Lafayette and Mayor Quincy! Hurrah for Madam Hancock and the
pretty girls! Hurrah for Col. May!' 'Three cheers for Boston! Now,
then! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!' "
And here the old lady stopped, out of breath, with her cap askew,
her spectacles on the end of her nose, and her knitting much the
worse for being waved enthusiastically in the air, while she hung
over the arm of her chair, shrilly cheering an imaginary Lafayette.
The girls clapped their hands, and Tom hurrahed with all his
might, saying, when he got his breath, "Lafayette was a regular old
trump; I always liked him."
"My dear! what a disrespectful way to speak of that great man,"
said grandma, shocked at Young America's irreverence.
"Well, he was a trump, anyway, so why not call him one?" asked
Tom, feeling that the objectionable word was all that could be
"What queer gloves you wore then," interrupted Fanny, who had
been trying on the much-honored glove, and finding it a tight fit.
"Much better and cheaper than we have now," returned grandma,
ready to defend "the good old times" against every insinuation.
"You are an extravagant set now-a-days, and I really don't know
what you are coming to. By the way, I 've got somewhere two
letters written by two young ladies, one in 1517, and the other in
1868. The contrast between the two will amuse you, I think."
After a little search, grandma produced an old portfolio, and
selecting the papers, read the following letter, written by Anne
Boleyn before her marriage to Henry VIII, and now in the
possession of a celebrated antiquarian:
DEAR MARY, I have been in town almost a month, yet I cannot
say I have found anything in London extremely agreeable. We rise
so late in the morning, seldom before six o'clock, and sit up so late
at night, being scarcely in bed before ten, that I am quite sick of it;
and was it not for the abundance of fine things I am every day
getting I should be impatient of returning into the country.
My indulgent mother bought me, yesterday, at a merchant's in
Cheapside, three new shifts, that cost fourteen pence an ell, and I
am to have a pair of new stuff shoes, for my Lord of Norfolk's ball,
which will be three shillings.
The irregular life I have led since my coming to this place has
quite destroyed my appetite. You know I could manage a pound of
bacon and a tankard of good ale for my breakfast, in the country,
but in London I find it difficult to get through half the quantity,
though I must own I am generally eager enough for the dinner
hour, which is here delayed till twelve, in your polite society.
I played at hot cockles, last night, at my Lord of Leicester's. The
Lord of Surrey was there, a very elegant young man, who sung a
song of his own composition, on the "Lord of Kildare's Daughter."
It was much approved, and my brother whispered me that the fair
Geraldine, for so my Lord of Surrey calls his sweetheart, is the
finest woman of the age. I should be glad to see her, for I hear she
is good as she is beautiful.
Pray take care of the poultry during my absence. Poor things! I
always fed them myself; and if Margery has knitted me the
crimson worsted mittens, I should be glad if they were sent up the
Adieu, dear Mary. I am just going to mass, and you shall speedily
have the prayers, as you have now the kindest love of your own
"Up before six, and think it late to go to bed at ten! What a
countrified thing Anne must have been. Bacon and ale for
breakfast, and dinner at twelve; how very queer to live so!" cried
Fanny. "Lord Surrey and Lord Leicester sound fine, but hot
cockles, and red mittens, and shoes for three shillings, are horrid."
"I like it," said Polly, thoughtfully, "and I 'm glad poor Anne had a
little fun before her troubles began. May I copy that letter some
"Yes, dear, and welcome. Now, here 's the other, by a modern girl
on her first visit to London. This will suit you better, Fan," and
grandma read what a friend had sent her as a pendant to Anne's
little picture of London life long ago:
MY DEAREST CONSTANCE, After three months of intense
excitement I snatch a leisure moment to tell you how much I enjoy
my first visit to London. Having been educated abroad, it really
seems like coming to a strange city. At first the smoke, dirt and
noise were very disagreeable, but I soon got used to these things,
and now find all I see perfectly charming.
We plunged at once into a whirl of gayety and I have had no time
to think of anything but pleasure. It is the height of the season, and
every hour is engaged either in going to balls, concerts, theatres,
f^tes and church, or in preparing for them. We often go to two or
three parties in an evening, and seldom get home till morning, so
of course we don't rise till noon next day. This leaves very little
time for our drives, shopping, and calls before dinner at eight, and
then the evening gayeties begin again.
At a ball at Lady Russell's last night, I saw the Prince of Wales,
and danced in the set with him. He is growing stout, and looks
dissipated. I was disappointed in him, for neither in appearance
nor conversation was he at all princely. I was introduced to a very
brilliant and delightful young gentleman from America. I was
charmed with him, and rather surprised to learn that he wrote the
poems which were so much admired last season, also that he is the
son of a rich tailor. How odd these Americans are, with their
money, and talent, and independence!
O my dear, I must not forget to tell you the great event of my first
season. I am to be presented at the next Drawing Room! Think
how absorbed I must be in preparation for this grand affair.
Mamma is resolved that I shall do her credit, and we have spent
the last two weeks driving about from milliners to mantua-makers,
from merchants to jewellers. I am to wear white satin and plumes,
pearls and roses. My dress will cost a hundred pounds or more, and
is very elegant.
My cousins and friends lavish lovely things upon me, and you will
open your unsophisticated eyes when I display my silks and laces,
trinkets and French hats, not to mention billet deux, photographs,
and other relics of a young belle's first season.
You ask if I ever think of home. I really have n't time, but I do
sometimes long a little for the quiet, the pure air and the girlish
amusements I used to enjoy so much. One gets pale, and old, and
sadly fagged out, with all this dissipation, pleasant as it is. I feel
quite blas, already.
If you could send me the rosy cheeks, bright eyes, and gay spirits I
always had at home, I 'd thank you. As you cannot do that, please
send me a bottle of June rain water, for my maid tells me it is
better than any cosmetic for the complexion, and mine is getting
ruined by late hours.
I fancy some fruit off our own trees would suit me, for I have no
appetite, and mamma is quite desol,e about me. One cannot live
on French cookery without dyspepsia, and one can get nothing
simple here, for food, like everything else, is regulated by the
Adieu, ma chSre, I must dress for church. I only wish you could
see my new hat and go with me, for Lord Rockingham promised to
Adieu, yours eternally, FLORENCE.
"Yes, I do like that better, and I wish I had been in this girl's place,
don't you, Polly?" said Fan, as grandma took off her glasses.
"I should love to go to London, and have a good time, but I don't
think I should care about spending ever so much money, or going
to Court. Maybe I might when I got there, for I do like fun and
splendor," added honest Polly, feeling that pleasure was a very
"Grandma looks tired; let 's go and play in the dwying-woom," said
Maud, who found the conversation getting beyond her depth.
"Let us all kiss and thank grandma, for amusing us so nicely,
before we go," whispered Polly. Maud and Fanny agreed, and
grandma looked so gratified by their thanks, that Tom followed
suit, merely waiting till "those girls" were out of sight, to give the
old lady a hearty hug, and a kiss on the very cheek Lafayette had
When he reached the play-room Polly was sitting in the swing,
saying, very earnestly, "I always told you it was nice up in
grandma's room, and now you see it is. I wish you 'd go oftener;
she admires to have you, and likes to tell stories and do pleasant
things, only she thinks you don't care for her quiet sort of fun. I do,
anyway, and I think she 's the kindest, best old lady that ever lived,
and I love her dearly!"
"I did n't say she was n't, only old people are sort of tedious and
fussy, so I keep out of their way," said Fanny.
"Well, you ought not to, and you miss lots of pleasant times. My
mother says we ought to be kind and patient and respectful to all
old folks just because they are old, and I always mean to be."
"Your mother 's everlastingly preaching," muttered Fan, nettled by
the consciousness of her own shortcomings with regard to
"She don't preach!" cried Polly, firing up like a flash; "she only
explains things to us, and helps us be good, and never scolds, and I
'd rather have her than any other mother in the world, though she
don't wear velvet cloaks and splendid bonnets, so now!"
"Go it, Polly!" called Tom, who was gracefully hanging head
downward from the bar put up for his special benefit.
"Polly 's mad! Polly 's mad!" sung Maud, skipping rope round the
"If Mr. Sydney could see you now he would n't think you such an
angel any more," added Fanny, tossing a bean-bag and her head at
the same time.
Polly was mad, her face was very red, her eyes very bright and her
lips twitched, but she held her tongue and began to swing as hard
as she could, fearing to say something she would be sorry for
afterward. For a few minutes no one spoke, Tom whistled and
Maud hummed but Fan and Polly were each soberly thinking of
something, for they had reached an age when children, girls
especially, begin to observe, contrast, and speculate upon the
words, acts, manners, and looks of those about them. A good deal
of thinking goes on in the heads of these shrewd little folks, and
the elders should mind their ways, for they get criticised pretty
sharply and imitated very closely.
Two little things had happened that day, and the influence of a few
words, a careless action, was still working in the active minds of
Mr. Sydney had called, and while Fanny was talking with him she
saw his eye rest on Polly, who sat apart watching the faces round
her with the modest, intelligent look which many found so
attractive. At that minute Madam Shaw came in, and stopped to
speak to the little girl. Polly rose at once, and remained standing
till the old lady passed on.
"Are you laughing at Polly's prim ways?" Fanny had asked, as she
saw Mr. Sydney smile.
"No, I am admiring Miss Polly's fine manners," he answered in a
grave, respectful tone, which had impressed Fanny very much, for
Mr. Sydney was considered by all the girls as a model of good
breeding, and that indescribable something which they called
Fanny wished she had done that little thing, and won that
approving look, for she valued the young man's good opinion,
because it was so hard to win, by her set at least. So, when Polly
talked about old people, it recalled this scene and made Fan cross.
Polly was remembering how, when Mrs. Shaw came home that day
in her fine visiting costume, and Maud ran to welcome her with
unusual affection, she gathered up her lustrous silk and pushed the
little girl away saying, impatiently, "Don't touch me, child, your
hands are dirty." Then the thought had come to Polly that the
velvet cloak did n't cover a right motherly heart, that the fretful
face under the nodding purple plumes was not a tender motherly
face, and that the hands in the delicate primrose gloves had put
away something very sweet and precious. She thought of another
woman, whose dress never was too fine for little wet cheeks to lie
against, or loving little arms to press; whose face, in spite of many
lines and the gray hairs above it, was never sour or unsympathetic
when children's eyes turned towards it; and whose hands never
were too busy, too full or too nice to welcome and serve the little
sons and daughters who freely brought their small hopes and fears,
sins and sorrows, to her, who dealt out justice and mercy with such
wise love. "Ah, that 's a mother!" thought Polly, as the memory
came warm into her heart, making her feel very rich, and pity
Maud for being so poor.
This it was that caused such sudden indignation at Fanny's dreadful
speech, and this it was that made quick-tempered Polly try to calm
her wrath before she used toward Fanny's mother the disrespectful
tone she so resented toward her own. As the swing came down
after some dozen quick journeys to and fro, Polly seemed to have
found a smile somewhere up aloft, for she looked toward Fan,
saying pleasantly, as she paused a little in her airy exercise, "I 'm
not mad now, shall I come and toss with you?"
"No, I 'll come and swing with you," answered Fanny, quick to feel
the generous spirit of her friend.
"You are an angel, and I 'll never be so rude again," she added, as
Polly's arm came round her, and half the seat was gladly offered.
"No, I ain't; but if I ever get at all like one, it will be 'mother's
preaching' that did it," said Polly, with a happy laugh.
"Good for you, Polly Peacemaker," cried Tom, quoting his father,
and giving them a grand push as the most appropriate way of
expressing his approbation of the sentiment.
Nothing more was said; but from that day there slowly crept into
the family more respect for grandma, more forbearance with her
infirmities, more interest in her little stories, and many a pleasant
gossip did the dear old lady enjoy with the children as they
gathered round her fire, solitary so long.
CHAPTER VII GOOD-BY
"OH, dear! Must you really go home Saturday?" said Fan, some
days after what Tom called the "grand scrimmage."
"I really must; for I only came to stay a month and here I 've been
nearly six weeks," answered Polly, feeling as if she had been
absent a year.
"Make it two months and stay over Christmas. Come, do, now,"
urged Tom, heartily.
"You are very kind; but I would n't miss Christmas at home for
anything. Besides, mother says they can't possibly do without me."
"Neither can we. Can't you tease your mother, and make up your
mind to stay?" began Fan.
"Polly never teases. She says it 's selfish; and I don't do it now
much," put in Maud, with a virtuous air.
"Don't you bother Polly. She 'd rather go, and I don't wonder. Let 's
be just as jolly as we can while she stays, and finish up with your
party, Fan," said Tom, in a tone that settled the matter.
Polly had expected to be very happy in getting ready for the party;
but when the time came, she was disappointed; for somehow that
naughty thing called envy took possession of her, and spoiled her
pleasure. Before she left home, she thought her new white muslin
dress, with its fresh blue ribbons, the most elegant and proper
costume she could have; but now, when she saw Fanny's pink silk,
with a white tarlatan tunic, and innumerable puffings, bows, and
streamers, her own simple little toilet lost all its charms in her
eyes, and looked very babyish and old-fashioned.
Even Maud was much better dressed than herself, and looked very
splendid in her cherry-colored and white suit, with a sash so big
she could hardly carry it, and little white boots with red buttons.
They both had necklaces and bracelets, ear-rings and brooches; but
Polly had no ornament, except the plain locket on a bit of blue
velvet. Her sash was only a wide ribbon, tied in a simple bow, and
nothing but a blue snood in the pretty curls. Her only comfort was
the knowledge that the modest tucker drawn up round the plump
shoulders was real lace, and that her bronze boots cost nine
Poor Polly, with all her efforts to be contented, and not to mind
looking unlike other people, found it hard work to keep her face
bright and her voice happy that night. No one dreamed what was
going an under the muslin frock, till grandma's wise old eyes spied
out the little shadow on Polly's spirits, and guessed the cause of it.
When dressed, the three girls went up to show themselves to the
elders, who were in grandma's room, where Tom was being helped
into an agonizingly stiff collar.
Maud pranced like a small peacock, and Fan made a splendid
courtesy as every one turned to survey them; but Polly stood still,
and her eyes went from face to face, with an anxious, wistful air,
which seemed to say, "I know I 'm not right; but I hope I don't look
Grandma read the look in a minute; and when Fanny said, with a
satisfied smile, "How do we look?" she answered, drawing Polly
toward her so kindly.
"Very like the fashion-plates you got the patterns of your dresses
from. But this little costume suits me best."
"Do you really think I look nice?" and Polly's face brightened, for
she valued the old lady's opinion very much.
"Yes, my dear; you look just as I like to see a child of your age
look. What particularly pleases me is that you have kept your
promise to your mother, and have n't let anyone persuade you to
wear borrowed finery. Young things like you don't need any
ornaments but those you wear to-night, youth, health, intelligence,
As she spoke, grandma gave a tender kiss that made Polly glow
like a rose, and for a minute she forgot that there were such things
as pink silk and coral ear-rings in the world. She only said, "Thank
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