An Old-fashioned Girl
Louisa May Alcott
Part 3 out of 6
you, ma'am," and heartily returned the kiss; but the words did her
good, and her plain dress looked charming all of a sudden.
"Polly 's so pretty, it don't matter what she wears," observed Tom,
surveying her over his collar with an air of calm approval.
"She has n't got any bwetelles to her dwess, and I have," said
Maud, settling her ruffled bands over her shoulders, which looked
like cherry-colored wings on a stout little cherub.
"I did wish she 'd just wear my blue set, ribbon is so very plain;
but, as Tom says, it don't much matter;" and Fanny gave an
effective touch to the blue bow above Polly's left temple.
"She might wear flowers; they always suit young girls," said Mrs.
Shaw, privately thinking that her own daughters looked much the
best, yet conscious that blooming Polly had the most attractive
face. "Bless me! I forgot my posies in admiring the belles. Hand
them out, Tom;" and Mr. Shaw nodded toward an interesting
looking box that stood on the table.
Seizing them wrong side-up, Tom produced three little bouquets,
all different in color, size, and construction.
"Why, papa! how very kind of you," cried Fanny, who had not
dared to receive even a geranium leaf since the late scrape.
"Your father used to be a very gallant young gentleman, once upon
a time," said Mrs. Shaw, with a simper.
"Ah, Tom, it 's a good sign when you find time to think of giving
pleasure to your little girls!" And grandma patted her son's bald
head as if he was n't more than eighteen.
Thomas Jr. had given a somewhat scornful sniff at first; but when
grandma praised his father, the young man thought better of the
matter, and regarded the flowers with more respect, as he asked,
"Which is for which?"
"Guess," said Mr. Shaw, pleased that his unusual demonstration
had produced such an effect.
The largest was a regular hothouse bouquet, of tea-rosebuds,
scentless heath, and smilax; the second was just a handful of
sweet-peas and mignonette, with a few cheerful pansies, and one
fragrant little rose in the middle; the third, a small posy of scarlet
verbenas, white feverfew, and green leaves.
"Not hard to guess. The smart one for Fan, the sweet one for Polly,
and the gay one for Pug. Now, then, catch hold, girls." And Tom
proceeded to deliver the nosegays, with as much grace as could be
expected from a youth in a new suit of clothes and very tight boots.
"That finishes you off just right, and is a very pretty attention of
papa's. Now run down, for the bell has rung; and remember, not to
dance too often, Fan; be as quiet as you can, Tom; and. Maud,
don't eat too much supper. Grandma will attend to things, for my
poor nerves won't allow me to come down."
With that, Mrs. Shaw dismissed them, and the four descended to
receive the first batch of visitors, several little girls who had been
asked for the express purpose of keeping Maud out of her sister's
way. Tom had likewise been propitiated, by being allowed to bring
his three bosom friends, who went by the school-boy names of
Rumple, Sherry, and Spider.
"They will do to make up sets, as gentlemen are scarce; and the
party is for Polly, so I must have some young folks on her
account," said Fanny, when sending out her invitations.
Of course, the boys came early, and stood about in corners,
looking as if they had more arms and legs than they knew what to
do with. Tom did his best to be a good host; but ceremony
oppressed his spirits, and he was forced to struggle manfully with
the wild desire to propose a game of leap-frog, for the long
drawing-rooms, cleared for dancing, tempted him sorely.
Polly sat where she was told, and suffered bashful agonies as Fan
introduced very fine young ladies and very stiff young gentlemen,
who all said about the same civil things, and then appeared to
forget all about her. When the first dance was called, Fanny
cornered Tom, who had been dodging her, for he knew what she
wanted, and said, in an earnest whisper: "Now, Tom, you must
dance this with Polly. You are the young gentleman of the house,
and it 's only proper that you should ask your company first."
"Polly don't care for manners. I hate dancing; don't know how. Let
go my jacket, and don't bother, or I 'll cut away altogether,"
growled Tom, daunted by the awful prospect of opening the ball
"I 'll never forgive you if you do. Come, be clever, and help me,
there 's a dear. You know we both were dreadfully rude to Polly,
and agreed that we 'd be as kind and civil to her as ever we could. I
shall keep my word, and see that she is n't slighted at my party, for
I want her to love me, and go home feeling all right."
This artful speech made an impression on the rebellious Thomas,
who glanced at Polly's happy face, remembered his promise, and,
with a groan, resolved to do his duty.
"Well, I 'll take her; but I shall come to grief, for I don't know
anything about your old dances."
"Yes, you do. I 've taught you the steps a dozen times. I 'm going to
begin with a redowa, because the girls like it, and it 's better fun
than square dances. Now, put on your gloves, and go and ask Polly
like a gentleman."
"Oh, thunder!" muttered Tom. And having split the detested gloves
in dragging them on, he nerved himself for the effort, walked up to
Polly, made a stiff bow, stuck out his elbow, and said, solemnly,
"May I have the pleasure, Miss Milton?"
He did it as much like the big fellows as he could, and expected
that Polly would be impressed. But she was n't a bit; for after a
surprised look she laughed in his face, and took him by the hand,
saying, heartily, "Of course you may; but don't be a goose,
"Well, Fan told me to be elegant, so I tried to," whispered Tom,
adding, as he clutched his partner with a somewhat desperate air,
"Hold on tight, and we 'll get through somehow."
The music struck up, and away they went; Tom hopping one way
and Polly the other, in a most ungraceful manner.
"Keep time to the music," gasped Polly.
"Can't; never could," returned Tom.
"Keep step with me, then, and don't tread on my toes," pleaded
"Never mind; keep bobbing, and we 'll come right by and by,"
muttered Tom, giving his unfortunate partner a sudden whisk,
which nearly landed both on the floor.
But they did not "get right by and by"; for Tom, In his frantic
efforts to do his duty, nearly annihilated poor Polly. He tramped,
he bobbed, he skated, he twirled her to the right, dragged her to the
left, backed her up against people and furniture, trod on her feet,
rumpled her dress, and made a spectacle of himself generally.
Polly was much disturbed; but as everyone else was flying about
also, she bore it as long as she could, knowing that Tom had made
a martyr of himself, and feeling grateful to him for the sacrifice.
"Oh, do stop now; this is dreadful!" cried Polly, breathlessly, after
a few wild turns.
"Is n't it?" said Tom, wiping his red face with such an air of intense
relief, that Polly had not the heart to scold him, but said, "Thank
you," and dropped into a chair exhausted.
"I know I 've made a guy of myself; but Fan insisted on it, for fear
you 'd be offended if I did n't go the first dance with you," said
Tom, remorsefully, watching Polly as she settled the bow of her
crushed sash, which Tom had used as a sort of handle by which to
turn and twist her; "I can do the Lancers tip-top; but you won't ever
want to dance with me any more," he added, as he began to fan her
so violently, that her hair flew about as if in a gale of wind.
"Yes, I will. I 'd like to; and you shall put your name down here on
the sticks of my fan. That 's the way, Trix says, when you don't
have a ball-book."
Looking much gratified, Tom produced the stump of a lead-pencil,
and wrote his name with a flourish, saying, as he gave it back,
"Now I 'm going to get Sherry, or some of the fellows that do the
redowa well, so you can have a real good go before the music
Off went Tom; but before he could catch any eligible partner,
Polly was provided with the best dancer in the room. Mr. Sydney
had seen and heard the whole thing; and though he had laughed
quietly, he liked honest Tom and good-natured Polly all the better
for their simplicity. Polly's foot was keeping time to the lively
music, and her eyes were fixed wistfully on the smoothly-gliding
couples before her, when Mr. Sydney came to her, saying, in the
pleasant yet respectful way she liked so much, "Miss Polly, can
you give me a turn?"
"Oh, yes; I 'm dying for another." And Polly jumped up, with both
hands out, and such a grateful face, that Mr. Sydney resolved she
should have as many turns as she liked.
This time all went well; and Tom, returning from an unsuccessful
search, was amazed to behold Polly circling gracefully about the
room, guided by a most accomplished partner.
"Ah, that 's something like," he thought, as he watched the bronze
boots retreating and advancing in perfect time to the music. "Don't
see how Sydney does the steering so well; but it must be fun; and,
by Jupiter! I 'll learn it!" added Shaw, Jr., with an emphatic gesture
which burst the last button off his gloves.
Polly enjoyed herself till the music stopped; and before she had
time to thank Mr, Sydney as warmly as she wished, Tom came up
to say, with his most lordly air, "You dance splendidly, Polly.
Now, you just show me any one you like the looks of, and I 'll get
him for you, no matter who he is."
"I don't want any of the gentlemen; they are so stiff, and don't care
to dance with me; but I like those boys over there, and I 'll dance
with any of them if they are willing," said Polly, after a survey.
"I 'll trot out the whole lot." And Tom gladly brought up his
friends, who all admired Polly immensely, and were proud to be
chosen instead of the "big fellows."
There was no sitting still for Polly after that, for the lads kept her
going at a great pace; and she was so happy, she never saw or
suspected how many little manoeuvres, heart-burnings, displays of
vanity, affectation, and nonsense were going on all round her. She
loved dancing, and entered into the gayety of the scene with a
heartiness that was pleasant to see. Her eyes shone, her face
glowed, her lips smiled, and the brown curls waved in the air, as
she danced, with a heart as light as her feet.
"Are you enjoying yourself, Polly?" asked Mr. Shaw, who looked
in, now and then, to report to grandma that all was going well.
"Oh, such a splendid time!" cried Polly, with an enthusiastic little
gesture, as she chass,ed into the corner where he stood.
"She is a regular belle among the boys," said Fanny, as she
"They are so kind in asking me and I 'm not afraid of them,"
explained Polly, prancing, simply because she could n't keep still.
"So you are afraid of the young gentlemen, hey?" and Mr. Shaw
held her by one curl.
"All but Mr. Sydney. He don't put on airs and talk nonsense; and,
oh! he does 'dance like an angel,' as Trix says."
"Papa, I wish you 'd come and waltz with me. Fan told me not to
go near her, 'cause my wed dwess makes her pink one look ugly;
and Tom won't; and I want to dwedfully."
"I 've forgotten how, Maudie. Ask Polly; she 'll spin you round like
a teetotum." "Mr. Sydney's name is down for that," answered
Polly, looking at her fan with a pretty little air of importance." But
I guess he would n't mind my taking poor Maud instead. She has
n't danced hardly any, and I 've had more than my share. Would it
be very improper to change my mind?" And Polly looked up at her
tall partner with eye which plainly showed that the change was a
"Not a bit. Give the little dear a good waltz, and we will look on,"
answered Mr. Sydney, with a nod and smile.
"That is a refreshing little piece of nature," said Mr. Shaw, as Polly
and Maud whirled away.
"She will make a charming little woman, if she is n't spoilt."
"No danger of that. She has got a sensible mother."
"I thought so." And Sydney sighed, for he had lately lost his own
When supper was announced, Polly happened to be talking, or
trying to talk, to one of the "poky" gentlemen whom Fan had
introduced. He took Miss Milton down, of course, put her in a
corner, and having served her to a dab of ice and one macaroon, he
devoted himself to his own supper with such interest, that Polly
would have fared badly, if Tom had not come and rescued her.
"I 've been looking everywhere for you. Come with me, and don't
sit starving here," said Tom, with a scornful look from her empty
plate to that of her recreant escort, which was piled with good
Following her guide, Polly was taken to the big china closet,
opening from the dining-room to the kitchen, and here she found a
jovial little party feasting at ease. Maud and her bosom friend,
"Gwace," were seated on tin cake-boxes; Sherry and Spider
adorned the refrigerator; while Tom and Rumple foraged for the
Here 's fun," said Polly, as she was received with a clash of spoons
and a waving of napkins.
"You just perch on that cracker-keg, and I 'll see that you get
enough," said Tom, putting a dumbwaiter before her, and issuing
his orders with a fine air of authority.
"We are a band of robbers in our cave, and I 'm the captain; and we
pitch into the folks passing by, and go out and bring home plunder.
Now, Rumple, you go and carry off a basket of cake, and I 'll
watch here till Katy comes by with a fresh lot of oysters; Polly
must have some. Sherry, cut into the kitchen, and bring a cup of
coffee. Spider, scrape up the salad, and poke the dish through the
slide for more. Eat away, Polly, and my men will be back with
supplies in a jiffy."
Such fun as they had in that closet; such daring robberies of
jelly-pots and cake-boxes; such successful raids into the
dining-room and kitchen; such base assaults upon poor Katy and
the colored waiter, who did his best, but was helpless in the hands
of the robber horde. A very harmless little revel; for no wine was
allowed, and the gallant band were so busy skirmishing to supply
the ladies, that they had not time to eat too much. No one missed
them; and when they emerged, the feast was over, except for a few
voracious young gentlemen, who still lingered among the ruins.
"That 's the way they always do; poke the girls in corners, give 'em
just one taste of something, and then go and stuff like pigs,"
whispered Tom, with a superior air, forgetting certain private
banquets of his own, after company had departed.
The rest of the evening was to be devoted to the German; and, as
Polly knew nothing about it, she established herself in a window
recess to watch the mysteries. For a time she enjoyed it, for it was
all new to her, and the various pretty devices were very charming;
but, by and by, that bitter weed, envy, cropped up again, and she
could not feel happy to be left out in the cold, while the other girls
were getting gay tissue-paper suits, droll bonbons, flowers,
ribbons, and all manner of tasteful trifles in which girlish souls
delight. Everyone was absorbed; Mr. Sydney was dancing; Tom
and his friends were discussing base-ball on the stairs; and Maud's
set had returned to the library to play.
Polly tried to conquer the bad feeling; but it worried her, till she
remembered something her mother once said to her, "When you
feel out of sorts, try to make some one else happy, and you will
soon be so yourself."
"I will try it," thought Polly, and looked round to see what she
could do. Sounds of strife in the library led her to enter. Maud and
the young ladies were sitting on the sofa, talking about each other's
clothes, as they had seen their mammas do.
"Was your dress imported?" asked Grace.
"No; was yours?" returned Blanche.
"Yes; and it cost oh, ever so much."
"I don't think it is as pretty as Maud's."
"Mine was made in New York," said Miss Shaw, smoothing her
"I can't dress much now, you know, 'cause mamma's in black for
somebody," observed Miss Alice Lovett, feeling the importance
which affliction conferred upon her when it took the form of a jet
"Well, I don't care if my dress is n't imported; my cousin had three
kinds of wine at her party; so, now," said Blanche.
"Did she?" And all the little girls looked deeply impressed, till
Maud observed, with a funny imitation of her father's manner,
"My papa said it was scan-dill-us; for some of the little boys got
tipsy, and had to be tooked home. He would n't let us have any
wine; and gwandma said it was vewy impwoper for childwen to do
"My mother says your mother's coup, is n't half so stylish as ours,"
put in Alice.
"Yes, it is, too. It 's all lined with gween silk, and that 's nicer than
old wed cloth," cried Maud, ruffling up like an insulted chicken.
"Well, my brother don't wear a horrid old cap, and he 's got nice
hair. I would n't have a brother like Tom. He 's horrid rude, my
sister says," retorted Alice.
"He is n't. Your brother is a pig."
"You 're a fib!"
"So are you!"
Here, I regret to say, Miss Shaw slapped Miss Lovett, who
promptly returned the compliment, and both began to cry.
Polly, who had paused to listen to the edifying chat, parted the
belligerents, and finding the poor things tired, cross, and sleepy,
yet unable to go home till sent for, proposed to play games. The
young ladies consented, and "Puss in the corner" proved a
peacemaker. Presently, in came the boys; and being exiles from
the German, gladly joined in the games, which soon were lively
enough to wake the sleepiest. "Blind-man's-buff" was in full swing
when Mr. Shaw peeped in, and seeing Polly flying about with
band-aged eyes, joined in the fun to puzzle her. He got caught
directly; and great merriment was caused by Polly's bewilderment,
for she could n't guess who he was, till she felt the bald spot on his
This frolic put every one in such spirits, that Polly forgot her
trouble, and the little girls kissed each other good-night as
affectionately as if such things as imported frocks, coup,s, and
rival brothers did n't exist "Well, Polly, do you like parties?" asked
Fan when the last guest was gone.
"Very much; but I don't think it would be good for me to go to
many," answered Polly, slowly.
"I should n't enjoy them if I did n't have a fine dress, and dance all
the time, and be admired, and all the rest of it."
"I did n't know you cared for such things," cried Fanny, surprised.
"Neither did I till to-night; but I do; and as I can't have 'em, it 's
lucky I 'm going home tomorrow."
"Oh, dear! So you are! What shall I do without my 'sweet P.,' as
Sydney calls you?" sighed Fanny, bearing Polly away to be
Every one echoed the exclamation next day; and many loving eyes
followed the little figure in the drab frock as it went quietly about,
doing for the last time the small services which would help to
make its absence keenly felt. Polly was to go directly after an early
dinner, and having packed her trunk, all but one tray, she was told
to go and take a run while grandma finished. Polly suspected that
some pleasant surprise was going to be put in; for Fan did n't offer
to go with her, Maud kept dodging about with something under her
apron, and Tom had just whisked into his mother's room in a
mysterious manner. So Polly took the hint and went away,
rejoicing in the thought of the unknown treasures she was to carry
Mr. Shaw had not said he should come home so early, but Polly
thought he might, and went to meet him. Mr. Shaw did n't expect
to see Polly, for he had left her very busy, and now a light snow
was falling; but, as he turned into the mall there was the round hat,
and under it the bright face, looking all the rosier for being
powdered with snow-flakes, as Polly came running to meet him.
"There won't be any one to help the old gentleman safely home
to-morrow," he said, as Polly took his hand in both hers with an
"Yes, there will; see if there is n't," cried Polly, nodding and
smiling, for Fan had confided to her that she meant to try it after
her friend had gone.
"I 'm glad of it. But, my dear, I want you to promise that you will
come and make us a visit every winter, a good long one," said Mr.
Shaw, patting the blue mittens folded round his hand.
"If they can spare me from home, I 'd love to come dearly."
"They must lend you for a little while, because you do us all good,
and we need you."
"Do I? I don't see how; but I 'm glad to hear you say so," cried
Polly, much touched.
"I can't tell you how, exactly; but you brought something into my
house that makes it warmer and pleasanter, and won't quite vanish,
I hope, when you go away, my child."
Polly had never heard Mr. Shaw speak like that before, and did n't
know what to say, she felt so proud and happy at this proof of the
truth of her mother's words, when she said that "even a little girl
could exert an influence, and do some good in this big, busy
world." She only gave her friend a grateful look sweeter than any
words, and they went on together, hand in hand, through the
If Polly could have seen what went into that top tray, she would
have been entirely overcome; for Fanny had told grandma about
the poor little presents she had once laughed at, and they had all
laid their heads together to provide something really fine and
appropriate for every member of the Milton family. Such a mine of
riches! and so much good-will, affection, and kindly forethought
was packed away in the tempting bundles, that no one could feel
offended, but would find an unusual charm about the pretty gifts
that made them doubly welcome. I only know that if Polly had
suspected that a little watch was ticking away in a little case, with
her name on it, inside that trunk, she never could have left it
locked as grandma advised, or have eaten her dinner so quietly. As
it was, her heart was very full, and the tears rose to her eyes more
than once, everyone was so kind, and so sorry to have her go.
Tom did n't need any urging to play escort now; and both Fan and
Maud insisted on going too. Mrs. Shaw forgot her nerves, and put
up some gingerbread with her own hands; Mr. Shaw kissed Polly
as if she had been his dearest daughter; and grandma held her
close, whispering in a tremulous tone, "My little comfort, come
again soon"; while Katy waved her apron from the nursery
window, crying, as they drove, away, "The saints bless ye, Miss
Polly, dear, and sind ye the best of lucks!"
But the crowning joke of all was Tom's good-by, for, when Polly
was fairly settled in the car, the last "All aboard!" uttered, and the
train in motion, Tom suddenly produced a knobby little bundle,
and thrusting it in at the window, while he hung on in some
breakneck fashion, said, with a droll mixture of fun and feeling in
his face, "It 's horrid; but you wanted it, so I put it in to make you
laugh. Good-by, Polly; good-by, good-by!"
The last adieu was a trifle husky, and Tom vanished as it was
uttered, leaving Polly to laugh over his parting souvenir till the
tears ran down her cheeks. It was a paper bag of peanuts, and
poked down at the very bottom a photograph of Tom. It was
"horrid," for he looked as if taken by a flash of lightning, so black,
wild, and staring was it; but Polly liked it, and whenever she felt a
little pensive at parting with her friends, she took a peanut, or a
peep at Tom's funny picture, which made her merry again.
So the short journey came blithely to an end, and in the twilight
she saw a group of loving faces at the door of a humble little
house, which was more beautiful than any palace in her eyes, for it
CHAPTER VIII SIX YEARS AFTERWARD
"WHAT do you think Polly is going to do this winter?" exclaimed
Fanny, looking up from the letter she had been eagerly reading.
"Going to deliver lectures on Woman's Rights," said the young
gentleman who was carefully examining his luxuriant crop of
decidedly auburn hair, as he lounged with both elbows on the
"Going to set her cap for some young minister and marry him in
the spring," added Mrs. Shaw, whose mind ran a good deal upon
match-making just now.
"I think she is going to stay at home, and do all the work, 'cause
servants cost so much; it would be just like her," observed Maud,
who could pronounce the letter R now.
"It 's my opinion she is going to open a school, or something of
that sort, to help those brothers of hers along," said Mr. Shaw, who
had put down his paper at the sound of Polly's name.
"Every one of you wrong, though papa comes nearest the truth,"
cried Fanny; "she is going to give music lessons, and support
herself, so that Will may go to college. He is the studious one, and
Polly is very proud of him. Ned, the other brother, has a business
talent, and don't care for books, so he has gone out West, and will
make his own way anywhere. Polly says she is n't needed at home
now, the family is so small, and Kitty can take her place nicely; so
she is actually going to earn her own living, and hand over her
share of the family income to Will. What a martyr that girl does
make of herself," and Fanny looked as solemn as if Polly had
proposed some awful self-sacrifice.
"She is a sensible, brave-hearted girl, and I respect her for doing
it," said Mr. Shaw, emphatically. "One never knows what may
happen, and it does no harm for young people to learn to be
"If she is as pretty as she was last time I saw her, she 'll get pupils
fast enough. I would n't mind taking lessons myself," was the
gracious observation of Shaw, Jr., as he turned from the mirror,
with the soothing certainty that his objectionable hair actually was
"She would n't take you at any price," said Fanny, remembering
Polly's look of disappointment and disapproval when she came on
her last visit and found him an unmistakable dandy.
"You just wait and see," was the placid reply.
"If Polly does carry out her plan, I wish Maud to take lessons of
her; Fanny can do as she likes, but it would please me very much
to have one of my girls sing as Polly sings. It suits old people
better than your opera things, and mother used to enjoy it so
As he spoke, Mr. Shaw's eye turned toward the comer of the fire
where grandma used to sit. The easy-chair was empty now, the
kind old face was gone, and nothing but a very tender memory
"I 'd like to learn, papa, and Polly is a splendid teacher, I know; she
's always so patient, and makes everything so pleasant. I do hope
she will get scholars enough to begin right away," said Maud.
"When is she coming?" asked Mrs. Shaw, quite willing to help
Polly, but privately resolving that Maud should be finished off by
the most fashionable master in the city.
"She does n't say. She thanks me for asking her here, as usual, but
says she shall go right to work and had better begin with her own
little room at once. Won't it seem strange to have Polly in town,
and yet not with us?"
"We 'll get her somehow. The little room will cost something, and
she can stay with us just as well as not, even if she does teach. Tell
her I say so," said Mr. Shaw.
"She won't come, I know; for if she undertakes to be independent,
she 'll do it in the most thorough manner," answered Fanny, and
Mrs. Shaw sincerely hoped she would. It was all very well to
patronize the little music-teacher, but it was not so pleasant to
have her settled in the family.
"I shall do what I can for her among my friends, and I dare say she
will get on very well with young pupils to begin with. If she starts
right, puts her terms high enough, and gets a few good names to
give her the entr,e into our first families, I don't doubt she will do
nicely, for I must say Polly has the manners of a lady," observed
"She 's a mighty taking little body, and I 'm glad she 's to be in
town, though I 'd like it better if she did n't bother about teaching,
but just stayed here and enjoyed herself," said Tom, lazily.
"I 've no doubt she would feel highly honored to be allowed to
devote her time to your amusement; but she can't afford expensive
luxuries, and she don't approve of flirting, so you will have to let
her go her own way, and refresh herself with such glimpses of you
as her engagements permit," answered Fanny, in the sarcastic tone
which was be coming habitual to her.
"You are getting to be a regular old maid, Fan; as sharp as a lemon,
and twice as sour," returned Tom, looking down at her with an air
of calm superiority.
"Do be quiet, children; you know I can't bear anything like
contention. Maud, give me my Shetland shawl, and put a cushion
at my back."
As Maud obeyed her mother, with a reproving look at her erring
brother and sister, a pause followed, for which every one seemed
grateful. They were sitting about the fire after dinner, and all
looked as if a little sunshine would do them good. It had been a
dull November day, but all of a sudden the clouds lifted, and a
bright ray shot into the room. Every one turned involuntarily to
welcome it, and every one cried out, "Why, Polly!" for there on the
threshold stood a bright-faced girl, smiling as if there was no such
thing as November weather in the world.
"You dear thing, when did you come?" cried Fanny, kissing both
the blooming checks with real affection, while the rest hovered
near, waiting for a chance.
"I came yesterday, and have been getting my nest in order; but I
could n't keep away any longer, so I ran up to say 'How do you
do?'" answered Polly, in the cheery voice that did one's heart good
"My Polly always brings the sunshine with her," and Mr. Shaw
held out his hands to his little friend, for she was his favorite still.
It was good to see her put both arms about his neck, and give him a
tender kiss, that said a great deal, for grandma had died since Polly
met him last and she longed to comfort him, seeing how gray and
old he had grown.
If Tom had had any thoughts of following his father's example,
something in Polly's manner made him change his mind, and shake
hands with a hearty "I 'm very glad to see you, Polly," adding to
himself, as he looked at the face in the modest little bonnet:
"Prettier than ever, by Jove!"
There was something more than mere prettiness in Polly's face,
though Tom had not learned to see it yet. The blue eyes were clear
and steady, the fresh mouth frank and sweet, the white chin was a
very firm one in spite of the dimple, and the smooth forehead
under the little curls had a broad, benevolent arch; while all about
the face were those unmistakable lines and curves which can make
even a plain countenance comely, by breathing into it the beauty of
a lovely character. Polly had grown up, but she had no more style
now than in the days of the round hat and rough coat, for she was
all in gray, like a young Quakeress, with no ornament but a blue
bow at the throat and another in the hair. Yet the plain suit became
her excellently, and one never thought of the dress, looking at the
active figure that wore it, for the freedom of her childhood gave to
Polly that good gift, health, and every movement was full of the
vigor, grace, and ease, which nothing else can so surely bestow. A
happy soul in a healthy body is a rare sight in these days, when
doctors flourish and every one is ill, and this pleasant union was
the charm which Polly possessed without knowing it.
"It does seem so good to have you here again," said Maud,
cuddling Polly's cold hand, as she sat at her feet, when she was
fairly established between Fanny and Mr. Shaw, while Tom leaned
on the back of his mother's chair, and enjoyed the prospect.
"How do you get on? When do you begin? Where is your nest?
Now tell all about it," began Fanny, who was full of curiosity about
the new plan.
"I shall get on very well, I think, for I 've got twelve scholars to
begin with, all able to pay a good price, and I shall give my first
lesson on Monday."
"Don't you dread it?" asked Fanny.
"Not much; why should I?" answered Polly, stoutly.
"Well, I don't know; it 's a new thing, and must be a little bit hard
at first," stammered Fanny, not liking to say that working for one's
living seemed a dreadful hardship to her.
"It will be tiresome, of course, but I shall get used to it; I shall like
the exercise, and the new people and places I must see will amuse
me. Then the independence will be delightful, and if I can save a
little to help Kitty along with, that will be best of all."
Polly's face shone as if the prospect was full of pleasure instead of
work, and the hearty good will with which she undertook the new
task, seemed to dignify her humble hopes and plans, and make
them interesting in the sight of others.
"Who have you got for pupils?" asked Mrs. Shaw, forgetting her
nerves for a minute.
Polly named her list, and took a secret satisfaction in seeing the
impression which certain names made upon her hearers.
"How in the world did you get the Davenports and the Greys, my
dear?" said Mrs. Shaw, sitting erect in her surprise.
"Mrs. Davenport and mother are relations, you know."
"You never told us that before!" "The Davenports have been away
some years, and I forgot all about them. But when I was making
my plan, I knew I must have a good name or two to set me going,
so I just wrote and asked Mrs. D. if she would help me. She came
and saw us and was very kind, and has got these pupils for me, like
a dear, good woman as she is."
"Where did you learn so much worldly wisdom, Polly?" asked Mr.
Shaw, as his wife fell back in her chair, and took out her salts, as if
this discovery had been too much for her.
"I learnt it here, sir," answered Polly, laughing. "I used to think
patronage and things of that sort very disagreeable and not worth
having, but I 've got wiser, and to a certain extent I 'm glad to use
whatever advantages I have in my power, if they can be honestly
"Why did n't you let us help you in the beginning? We should have
been very glad to, I 'm sure," put in Mrs. Shaw, who quite burned
to be known as a joint patroness with Mrs. Davenport.
"I know you would, but you have all been so kind to me I did n't
want to trouble you with my little plans till the first steps were
taken. Besides, I did n't know as you would like to recommend me
as a teacher, though you like me well enough as plain Polly."
"My dear, of course I would, and we want you to take Maud at
once, and teach her your sweet songs. She has a fine voice, and is
really suffering for a teacher."
A slight smile passed over Polly's face as she returned her thanks
for the new pupil, for she remembered a time when Mrs. Shaw
considered her "sweet songs" quite unfit for a fashionable young
lady's repertoire. "Where is your room?" asked Maud.
"My old friend Miss Mills has taken me in, and I am nicely settled.
Mother did n't like the idea of my going to a strange
boarding-house, so Miss Mills kindly made a place for me. You
know she lets her rooms without board, but she is going to give me
my dinners, and I 'm to get my own breakfast and tea, quite
independently. I like that way, and it 's very little trouble, my
habits are so simple; a bowl of bread and milk night and morning,
with baked apples or something of that sort, is all I want, and I can
have it when I like."
"Is your room comfortably furnished? Can't we lend you anything,
my dear? An easy-chair now, or a little couch, so necessary when
one comes in tired," said Mrs. Shaw, taking unusual interest in the
"Thank you, but I don't need anything, for I brought all sorts of
home comforts with me. Oh, Fan, you ought to have seen my
triumphal entry into the city, sitting among my goods and chattels,
in a farmer's cart." Polly's laugh was so infectious that every one
smiled and forgot to be shocked at her performance. "Yes," she
added, "I kept wishing I could meet you, just to see your horrified
face when you saw me sitting on my little sofa, with boxes and
bundles all round me, a bird-cage on one side, a fishing basket,
with a kitten's head popping in and out of the hole, on the other
side, and jolly old Mr. Brown, in his blue frock, perched on a keg
of apples in front. It was a lovely bright day, and I enjoyed the ride
immensely, for we had all sorts of adventures."
"Oh, tell about it," begged Maud, when the general laugh at Polly's
picture had subsided.
"Well, in the first place, we forgot my ivy, and Kitty came running
after me, with it. Then we started again, but were soon stopped by
a great shouting, and there was Will racing down the hill, waving a
pillow in one hand and a squash pie in the other. How we did
laugh when he came up and explained that our neighbor, old Mrs.
Dodd, had sent in a hop-pillow for me, in case of headache, and a
pie to begin house-keeping with. She seemed so disappointed at
being too late that Will promised to get them to me, if he ran all
the way to town. The pillow was easily disposed of, but that pie! I
do believe it was stowed in every part of the wagon, and never
staid anywhere. I found it in my lap, then on the floor, next, upside
down among the books, then just on the point of coasting off a
trunk into the road, and at last it landed in my rocking-chair. Such
a remarkable pie as it was, too, for in spite of all its wanderings, it
never got spilt or broken, and we finally ate it for lunch, in order to
be left in peace. Next, my kitty got away, and I had a chase over
walls and brooks before I got her, while Mr. Brown sat shaking
with fun, to see me run. We finished off by having the
book-shelves tumble on our heads as we went down a hill, and
losing my chair off behind, as we went up a hill. A shout made us
pause, and, looking back, there was the poor little chair rocking all
by itself in the middle of the road, while a small boy sat on the
fence and whooped. It was great fun, I do assure you."
Polly had run on in her lively way, not because she thought her
adventures amounted to much, but from a wish to cheer up her
friends, who had struck her as looking rather dull and out of sorts,
especially Mr. Shaw; and when she saw him lean back in his chair
with the old hearty laugh, she was satisfied, and blessed the
unlucky pie for amusing him.
"Oh, Polly, you do tell such interesting things!" sighed Maud,
wiping her eyes.
"I wish I 'd met you, I 'd have given you three cheers and a tiger,
for it must have been an imposing spectacle," said Tom.
"No, you would n't; you 'd have whisked round the comer when
you saw me coming or have stared straight before you, utterly
unconscious of the young woman in the baggage wagon."
Polly laughed in his face just as she used to do, when she said that,
and, in spite of the doubt cast upon his courtesy, Tom rather liked
it, though he had nothing to say for himself but a reproachful,
"Now, Polly, that 's too bad."
"True, nevertheless. You must come and see my pets, Maud, for
my cat and bird live together as happily as brother and sister," said
Polly, turning to Maud, who devoured every word she said.
"That 's not saying much for them," muttered Tom, feeling that
Polly ought to address more of her conversation to him.
"Polly knows what she 's talking about; her brothers appreciate
their sisters," observed Fanny, in her sharp tone.
"And Polly appreciates her brothers, don't forget to add that,
ma'am," answered Tom.
"Did I tell you that Will was going to college?" broke in Polly, to
avert the rising storm.
"Hope he 'll enjoy himself," observed Tom, with the air of a man
who had passed through all the mysteries, and reached that state of
sublime indifference which juniors seem to pride themselves upon.
"I think he will, he is so fond of study, and is so anxious to
improve every opportunity. I only hope he won't overwork and get
sick, as so many boys do," said simple Polly, with such a respectful
belief in the eager thirst for knowledge of collegians as a class,
that Tom regarded the deluded girl with a smile of lofty pity, from
the heights of his vast and varied experience.
"Guess he won't hurt himself. I 'll see that he don't study too hard."
And Tom's eyes twinkled as they used to do, when he planned his
"I 'm afraid you can't be trusted as a guide, if various rumors I 've
heard are true," said Polly, looking up at him with a wistful
expression, that caused his face to assume the sobriety of an owl's.
"Base slanders; I 'm as steady as a clock, an ornament to my class,
and a model young man, ain't I, mother?" And Tom patted her thin
cheek with a caressing hand, sure of one firm friend in her; for
when he ceased to be a harum-scarum boy, Mrs. Shaw began to
take great pride in her son, and he, missing grandma, tried to fill
her place with his feeble mother.
"Yes, dear, you are all I could ask," and Mrs. Shaw looked up at
him with such affection and confidence in her eyes, that Polly gave
Tom the first approving look she had vouchsafed him since she
Why Tom should look troubled and turn grave all at once, she
could n't understand, but she liked to see him stroke his mother's
cheek so softly, as he stood with his head resting on the high back
of her chair, for Polly fancied that he felt a man's pity for her
weakness, and was learning a son's patient love for a mother who
had had much to bear with him.
"I 'm so glad you are going to be here all winter, for we are to be
very gay, and I shall enjoy taking you round with me," began
Fanny, forgetting Polly's plan for a moment.
Polly shook her head decidedly. "It sounds very nice, but it can't be
done, Fan, for I 've come to work, not play; to save, not spend; and
parties will be quite out of the question for me."
"You don't intend to work all the time, without a bit of fun, I
hope," cried Fanny, dismayed at the idea.
"I mean to do what I 've undertaken, and not to be tempted away
from my purpose by anything. I should n't be fit to give lessons if I
was up late, should I? And how far would my earnings go towards
dress, carriages, and all the little expenses which would come if I
set up for a young lady in society? I can't do both, and I 'm not
going to try, but I can pick up bits of fun as I go along, and be
contented with free concerts and lectures, seeing you pretty often,
and every Sunday Will is to spend with me, so I shall have quite as
much dissipation as is good for me."
"If you don't come to my parties, I 'll never forgive you," said
Fanny, as Polly paused, while Tom chuckled inwardly at the idea
of calling visits from a brother "dissipation."
"Any small party, where it will do to wear a plain black silk, I can
come to; but the big ones must n't be thought of, thank you."
It was charming to see the resolution of Polly's face when she said
that; for she knew her weakness, and beyond that black silk she
had determined not to go. Fanny said no more, for she felt quite
sure that Polly would relent when the time came, and she planned
to give her a pretty dress for a Christmas present, so that one
excuse should be removed.
"I say, Polly, won't you give some of us fellows music lessons?
Somebody wants me to play, and I 'd rather learn of you than any
Senor Twankydillo," said Tom, who did n't find the conversation
"Oh, yes; if any of you boys honestly want to learn, and will
behave yourselves, I 'll take you; but I shall charge extra,"
answered Polly, with a wicked sparkle of the eye, though her face
was quite sober, and her tone delightfully business-like.
"Why, Polly, Tom is n't a boy; he 's twenty, and he says I must treat
him with respect. Besides, he 's engaged, and does put on such
airs," broke in Maud who regarded her brother as a venerable
"Who is the little girl?" asked Polly taking the news as a joke.
"Trix; why, did n't you know it?" answered Maud, as if it had been
an event of national importance.
"No! is it true, Fan?" and Polly turned to her friend with a face full
of surprise, while Tom struck an imposing attitude, and affected
absence of mind.
"I forgot to tell you in my last letter; it 's just out, and we don't like
it very well," observed Fanny, who would have preferred to be
engaged first herself.
"It 's a very nice thing, and I am perfectly satisfied," announced
Mrs. Shaw, rousing from a slight doze.
"Polly looks as if she did n't believe it. Have n't I the appearance of
'the happiest man alive'?" asked Tom, wondering if it could be pity
which he saw in the steady eyes fixed on him.
"No, I don't think you have," she said, slowly.
"How the deuce should a man look, then?" cried Tom, rather
nettled at her sober reception of the grand news.
"As if he had learned to care for some one a great deal more than
for himself," answered Polly, with sudden color in her cheeks, and
a sudden softening of the voice, as her eyes turned away from
Tom, who was the picture of a complacent dandy, from the
topmost curl of his auburn head to the tips of his aristocratic boots.
"Tommy 's quenched; I agree with you, Polly; I never liked Trix,
and I hope it 's only a boy-and-girl fancy, that will soon die a
natural death," said Mr. Shaw, who seemed to find it difficult to
help falling into a brown study, in spite of the lively chatter going
on about him.
Shaw, Jr., being highly incensed at the disrespectful manner in
which his engagement was treated, tried to assume a superb air of
indifference, and finding that a decided failure, was about to stroll
out of the room with a comprehensive nod, when his mother called
after him: "Where are you going, dear?"
"To see Trix, of course. Good-by, Polly," and Mr. Thomas
departed, hoping that by the skillful change of tone, from ardent
impatience to condescending coolness, he had impressed one
hearer at least with the fact that he regarded Trix as the star of his
existence, and Polly as a presuming little chit.
If he could have heard her laugh, and Fanny's remarks, his wrath
would have boiled over; fortunately he was spared the trial, and
went away hoping that the coquetries of his Trix would make him
forget Polly's look when she answered his question.
"My dear, that boy is the most deluded creature you ever saw,"
began Fanny, as soon as the front door banged. "Belle and Trix
both tried to catch him, and the slyest got him; for, in spite of his
airs, he is as soft-hearted as a baby. You see Trix has broken off
two engagements already, and the third time she got jilted herself.
Such a fuss as she made! I declare, it really was absurd. But I do
think she felt it very much, for she would n't go out at all, and got
thin, and pale, and blue, and was really quite touching. I pitied her,
and had her here a good deal, and Tom took her part; he always
does stand up for the crushed ones, and that 's good of him, I
allow. Well, she did the forsaken very prettily; let Tom amuse her,
and led him on till the poor fellow lost his wits, and finding her
crying one day (about her hat, which was n't becoming), he thought
she was mourning for Mr. Banks, and so, to comfort her, the goose
proposed. That was all she wanted; she snapped him up at once,
and there he is in a nice scrape; for since her engagement she is as
gay as ever, flirts awfully with any one who comes along, and
keeps Tom in a fume all the time. I really don't think he cares for
her half as much as he makes believe, but he 'll stand by her
through thick and thin, rather than do as Banks did."
"Poor Tom!" was all Polly said, when Fan had poured the story
into her ear, as they sat whispering in the sofa corner.
"My only consolation is that Trix will break off the affair before
spring; she always does, so that she may be free for the summer
campaign. It won't hurt Tom, but I hate to have him make a fool of
himself out of pity, for he is more of a man than he seems, and I
don't want any one to plague him."
"No one but yourself," said Polly, smiling.
"Well, that 's all fair; he is a torment sometimes, but I 'm rather
fond of him in spite of it. I get so tired of the other fellows, they
are such absurd things and when Tom is in his good mood he is
very nice and quite refreshing."
"I 'm glad to hear it," said Polly, making a mental note of the fact.
"Yes, and when grandma was ill he was perfectly devoted. I did n't
know the boy had so much gentleness in him. He took her death
sadly to heart, for, though he did n't say much, he was very grave
and steady for a long time. I tried to comfort him, and we had two
or three real sweet little talks together, and seemed to get
acquainted for the first time. It was very nice, but it did n't last;
good times never do with us. We soon got back into the old way,
and now we hector one another just as before."
Fanny sighed, then yawned, and fell into her usual listless attitude,
as if the brief excitement of Polly's coming had begun to subside.
"Walk home with me and see my funny little room. It 's bright
now, and the air will do you good. Come, both of you, and have a
frolic as we used to," said Polly, for the red sunset now burning in
the west seemed to invite them out.
They agreed, and soon the three were walking briskly away to
Polly's new home, in a quiet street, where a few old trees rustled in
the summer, and the morning sun shone pleasantly in winter time.
"The way into my parlor Is up a winding stair."
sang Polly, running up two flights of broad, old-fashioned steps,
and opening the door of a back room, out of which streamed the
welcome glow of firelight.
"These are my pets, Maud," she added, pausing on the threshold,
and beckoning the girls to look in quietly.
On the rug, luxuriously basking in the warmth, lay a gray kitten,
and close by, meditatively roosting on one leg, stood a plump
canary, who cocked his bright eye at the new-comers, gave a loud
chirp as if to wake his comrade, and then flew straight to Polly's
shoulder, where he broke into a joyful song to welcome his
"Allow me to introduce my family," said Polly; "this noisy little
chap the boys named Nicodemus; and this dozy cat is called
Ashputtel, because the joy of her life is to get among the cinders.
Now, take off your things, and let me do the honors, for you are to
stop to tea, and the carriage is to come for you at eight. I arranged
it with your mother while you were up-stairs."
"I want to see everything," said Maud, when the hats were off, and
the hands warmed.
"So you shall; for I think my housekeeping arrangements will
Then Polly showed her kingdom, and the three had a merry time
over it. The big piano took up so much room there was no place
for a bed; but Polly proudly displayed the resources of her
chintz-covered couch, for the back let down, the seat lifted up, and
inside were all the pillows and blankets. "So convenient, you see,
and yet out of the way in the daytime, for two or three of my pupils
come to me," explained Polly.
Then there was a bright drugget over the faded carpet, the little
rocking-chair and sewing-table stood at one window, the ivy ran
all over the other, and hid the banqueting performances which
went on in that corner. Book-shelves hung over the sofa, a picture
or two on the walls, and a great vase of autumn leaves and grasses
beautified the low chimney-piece. It was a very humble little
room, but Polly had done her best to make it pleasant, and it
already had a home-like look, with the cheery fire, and the
household pets chirping and purring confidingly on the rug.
"How nice it is!" exclaimed Maud, as she emerged from the big
closet where Polly kept her stores. "Such a cunning teakettle and
saucepan, and a t^te-.-t^te set, and lots of good things to eat. Do
have toast for tea, Polly, and let me make it with the new toasting
fork; it 's such fun to play cook."
Fanny was not so enthusiastic as her sister, for her eyes saw many
traces of what seemed like poverty to her; but Polly was so gay, so
satisfied with her small establishment, so full of happy hopes and
plans, that her friend had not the heart to find a fault or suggest an
improvement, and sat where she was told, laughing and talking
while the others got tea.
"This will be a country supper, girls," said Polly, bustling about.
"Here is real cream, brown bread, home-made cake, and honey
from my own beehives. Mother fitted me out with such a supply, I
'm glad to have a party, for I can't eat it all quick enough. Butter
the toast, Maudie, and put that little cover over it. Tell me when
the kettle boils, and don't step on Nicodemus, whatever you do."
"What a capital house-keeper you will make some day," said
Fanny, as she watched Polly spread her table with a neatness and
despatch which was pleasant to behold.
"Yes, it 's good practice," laughed Polly, filling her tiny teapot, and
taking her place behind the tray, with a matronly air, which was
the best joke of the whole.
"This is the most delicious party I ever went to," observed Maud,
with her mouth full of honey, when the feast was well under way.
"I do wish I could have a nice room like this, and a cat and a bird
that would n't eat each other up, and a dear little teakettle, and
make just as much toast as I like."
Such a peal of laughter greeted Maud's pensive aspiration, that
Miss Mills smiled over her solitary cup of tea, and little Nick burst
into a perfect ecstasy of song, as he sat on the sugar-bowl helping
"I don't care for the toast and the kettle, but I do envy you your
good spirits, Polly," said Fanny, as the merriment subsided. "I 'm
so tired of everybody and everything, it seems sometimes as if I
should die of ennui. Don't you ever feel so?"
"Things worry me sometimes, but I just catch up a broom and
sweep, or wash hard, or walk, or go at something with all my
might, and I usually find that by the time I get through the worry is
gone, or I 've got courage enough to bear it without grumbling,"
answered Polly, cutting the brown loaf energetically.
"I can't do those things, you know; there 's no need of it, and I don't
think they 'd cure my worrying," said Fanny, languidly feeding
Ashputtel, who sat decorously beside her, at the table, winking at
the cream pot.
"A little poverty would do you good, Fan; just enough necessity to
keep you busy till you find how good work is; and when you once
learn that, you won't complain of ennui any more," returned Polly,
who had taken kindly the hard lesson which twenty years of
cheerful poverty had taught her.
"Mercy, no, I should hate that; but I wish some one would invent a
new amusement for rich people. I 'm dead sick of parties, and
flirtations, trying to out-dress my neighbors, and going the same
round year after year, like a squirrel in a cage."
Fanny's tone was bitter as well as discontented, her face sad as
well as listless, and Polly had an instinctive feeling that some
trouble, more real than any she had ever known before, was lying
heavy at her friend's heart. That was not the time to speak of it, but
Polly resolved to stand ready to offer sympathy, if nothing more,
whenever the confidential minute came; and her manner was so
kind, so comfortable, that Fanny felt its silent magic, grew more
cheerful in the quiet atmosphere of that little room, and when they
said good-night, after an old-time gossip by the fire, she kissed her
hostess warmly, saying, with a grateful look, "Polly, dear, I shall
come often, you do me so much good."
CHAPTER IX LESSONS
THE first few weeks were hard ones, for Polly had not yet
outgrown her natural shyness and going among so many strangers
caused her frequent panics. But her purpose gave her courage, and
when the ice was once broken, her little pupils quickly learned to
love her. The novelty soon wore off, and though she thought she
was prepared for drudgery, she found it very tedious to go on doing
the same thing day after day. Then she was lonely, for Will could
only come once a week, her leisure hours were Fanny's busiest, and
the "bits of pleasure" were so few and far between that they only
tantalized her. Even her small housekeeping lost its charms, for
Polly was a social creature, and the solitary meals were often sad
ones. Ashputtel and Nick did their best to cheer her, but they too,
seemed to pine for country freedom and home atmosphere. Poor
Puttel, after gazing wistfully out of the window at the gaunt city
cats skulking about the yard, would retire to the rug, and curl
herself up as if all hope of finding congenial society had failed;
while little Nick would sing till he vibrated on his perch, without
receiving any response except an inquisitive chirp from the pert
sparrows, who seemed to twit him with his captivity. Yes, by the
time the little teakettle had lost its brightness, Polly had decided
that getting one's living was no joke, and many of her brilliant
hopes had shared the fate of the little kettle.
If one could only make the sacrifice all at once, and done with it,
then it would seem easier; but to keep up a daily sacrifice of one's
wishes, tastes, and pleasures, is rather a hard task, especially when
one is pretty, young, and gay. Lessons all day, a highly instructive
lecture, books over a solitary fire, or music with no audience but a
sleepy cat and a bird with his head tucked under his wing, for
evening entertainment, was not exactly what might be called
festive; so, in spite of her brave resolutions, Polly did long for a
little fun sometimes, and after saying virtuously to herself at nine:
"Yes, it is much wiser and better for me to go to bed early, and be
ready for work tomorrow," she would lie awake hearing the
carriages roll to and fro, and imagining the gay girls inside, going
to party, opera, or play, till Mrs. Dodd's hop pillow might as well
have been stuffed with nettles, for any sleep it brought, or any use
it was, except to catch and hide the tears that dropped on it when
Polly's heart was very full.
Another thorn that wounded our Polly in her first attempt to make
her way through the thicket that always bars a woman's progress,
was the discovery that working for a living shuts a good many
doors in one's face even in democratic America. As Fanny's guest
she had been, in spite of poverty, kindly received wherever her
friend took her, both as child and woman. Now, things were
changed; the kindly people patronized, the careless forgot all about
her, and even Fanny, with all her affection, felt that Polly the
music teacher would not be welcome in many places where Polly
the young lady had been accepted as "Miss Shaw's friend."
Some of the girls still nodded amiably, but never invited her to
visit them; others merely dropped their eyelids, and went by
without speaking, while a good many ignored her as entirely as if
she had been invisible. These things hurt Polly more than she
would confess, for at home every one worked, and every one was
respected for it. She tried not to care, but girls feel little slights
keenly, and more than once Polly was severely tempted to give up
her plan, and run away to the safe shelter at home.
Fanny never failed to ask her to every sort of festivity in the Shaw
mansion; but after a few trials, Polly firmly declined everything
but informal visits when the family were alone. She soon found
that even the new black silk was n't fine enough for Fanny's
smallest party, and, after receiving a few of the expressive glances
by which women convey their opinion of their neighbor's toilet,
and overhearing a joke or two "about that inevitable dress," and
"the little blackbird," Polly folded away the once treasured frock,
saying, with a choke in her voice: "I 'll wear it for Will, he likes it,
and clothes can't change his love for me."
I am afraid the wholesome sweetness of Polly's nature was getting
a little soured by these troubles; but before lasting harm was done,
she received, from an unexpected source, some of the real help
which teaches young people how to bear these small crosses, by
showing them the heavier ones they have escaped, and by giving
them an idea of the higher pleasures one may earn in the good,
old-fashioned ways that keep hearts sweet, heads sane, hands busy.
Everybody has their days of misfortune like little Rosamond, and
Polly was beginning to think she had more than her share. One of
these ended in a way which influenced her whole life, and so we
will record it. It began early; for the hard-hearted little grate would
n't behave itself till she had used up a ruinous quantity of
kindlings. Then she scalded poor Puttel by upsetting her
coffee-pot; and instead of a leisurely, cosy meal, had to hurry away
uncomfortably, for everything went wrong even to the coming off
of both bonnet strings in the last dreadful scramble. Being late, she
of course forgot her music, and hurrying back for it, fell into a
puddle, which capped the climax of her despair.
Such a trying morning as that was! Polly felt out of tune herself,
and all the pianos seemed to need a tuner as much as she did. The
pupils were unusually stupid, and two of them announced that
their mamma was going to take them to the South, whither she was
suddenly called. This was a blow, for they had just begun, and
Polly had n't the face to send in a bill for a whole quarter, though
her plans and calculations were sadly disturbed by the failure of
Trudging home to dinner, tired and disappointed, poor Polly
received another blow, which hurt her more than the loss of all her
pupils. As she went hurrying along with a big music book in one
hand and a paper bag of rolls for tea in the other, she saw Tom and
Trix coming. As she watched them while they slowly approached,
looking so gay and handsome and happy, it seemed to Polly as if
all the sunshine and good walking was on their side of the street,
all the wintry wind and mud on hers. Longing to see a friendly face
and receive a kind word, she crossed over, meaning to nod and
smile at least. Trix saw her first, and suddenly became absorbed in
the distant horizon. Tom apparently did not see her, for his eyes
were fixed on a fine horse just prancing by. Polly thought that he
had seen her, and approached with a curious little flutter at her
heart, for if Tom cut her she felt that her cup would be full.
On they came, Trix intent on the view, Tom staring at the
handsome horse, and Polly, with red checks, expectant eyes, and
the brown bundle, in full sight. One dreadful minute as they came
parallel, and no one spoke or bowed, then it was all over, and Polly
went on, feeling as if some one had slapped her in the face. "She
would n't have believed it of Tom; it was all the doings of that
horrid Trix; well, she would n't trouble him any more, if he was
such a snob as to be ashamed of her just because she carried
bundles and worked for her bread." She clutched the paper bag
fiercely as she said this to herself, then her eyes filled, and her lips
trembled, as she added, "How could he do it, before her, too?"
Now Tom was quite guiltless of this offence, and had always
nodded to Polly when they met; but it so happened he had always
been alone till now, and that was why it cut so deeply, especially
as Polly never had approved of Trix. Before she could clear her
eyes or steady her face, a gentleman met her, lifted his hat, smiled,
and said pleasantly, "Good morning, Miss Polly, I 'm glad to meet
you." Then, with a sudden change of voice and manner, he added,
"I beg pardon is anything the matter can I be of service?"
It was very awkward, but it could n't be helped, and all Polly could
do was to tell the truth and make the best of it.
"It 's very silly, but it hurts me to be cut by my old friends. I shall
get used to it presently, I dare say."
Mr. Sydney glanced back, recognized the couple behind them, and
turned round with a disgusted expression. Polly was fumbling for
her handkerchief, and without a word he took both book and
bundle from her, a little bit of kindness that meant a good deal just
then. Polly felt it, and it did her good; hastily wiping the traitorous
eyes, she laughed and said cheerfully, "There, I 'm all right again;
thank you, don't trouble yourself with my parcels."
"No trouble, I assure you, and this book reminds me of what I was
about to say. Have you an hour to spare for my little niece? Her
mother wants her to begin, and desired me to make the inquiry."
"Did she, really?" and Polly looked up at him, as if she suspected
him of inventing the whole thing, out of kindness.
Mr. Sydney smiled, and taking a note from his pocket, presented it,
saying, with a reproachful look, "Behold the proof of my truth, and
never doubt again."
Polly begged pardon, read the note from the little girl's mother,
which was to have been left at her room if she was absent, and
gave the bearer a very grateful look as she accepted this welcome
addition to her pupils. Well pleased at the success of his mission,
Sydney artfully led the conversation to music, and for a time Polly
forgot her woes, talking enthusiastically on her favorite theme. As
she reclaimed her book and bag, at her own door, she said, in her
honest way, "Thank you very much for trying to make me forget
my foolish little troubles."
"Then let me say one thing more; though appearances are against
him, I don't believe Tom Shaw saw you. Miss Trix is equal to that
sort of thing, but it is n't like Tom, for with all his foppery he is a
good fellow at heart."
As Mr. Sydney said this, Polly held out her hand with a hearty
"Thank you for that." The young man shook the little hand in the
gray woollen glove, gave her exactly the same bow which he did
the Honorable Mrs. Davenport, and went away, leaving Polly to
walk up stairs and address Puttel with the peculiar remark, "You
are a true gentleman! so kind to say that about Tom. I 'll think it 's
so, anyway; and won't I teach Minnie in my very best style!"
Puttel purred, Nick chirped approvingly, and Polly ate her dinner
with a better appetite than she had expected. But at the bottom of
her heart there was a sore spot still, and the afternoon lessons
dragged dismally. It was dusk when she got home, and as she sat in
the firelight eating her bread and milk, several tears bedewed the
little rolls, and even the home honey had a bitter taste.
"Now this won't do," she broke out all at once; "this is silly and
wicked, and can't be allowed. I 'll try the old plan and put myself
right by doing some little kindness to somebody. Now what shall it
be? O, I know! Fan is going to a party to-night; I 'll run up and help
her dress; she likes to have me, and I enjoy seeing the pretty
things. Yes, and I 'll take her two or three clusters of my daphne, it
's so sweet."
Up got Polly, and taking her little posy, trotted away to the Shaws',
determined to be happy and contented in spite of Trix and hard
She found Fanny enduring torment under the hands of the
hair-dresser, who was doing his best to spoil her hair, and distort
her head with a mass of curls, braids, frizzles, and puffs; for
though I discreetly refrain from any particular description, still,
judging from the present fashions, I think one may venture to
predict that six years hence they would be something frightful.
"How kind of you, Polly; I was just wishing you were here to
arrange my flowers. These lovely daphnes will give odor to my
camellias, and you were a dear to bring them. There 's my dress;
how do you like it?" said Fanny, hardly daring to lift her eyes from
under the yellow tower on her head.
"It 's regularly splendid; but how do you ever get into it?" answered
Polly, surveying with girlish interest the cloud of pink and white
lace that lay upon the bed.
"It 's fearfully and wonderfully made, but distractingly becoming,
as you shall see. Trix thinks I 'm going to wear blue, so she has got
a green one, and told Belle it would spoil the effect of mine, as we
are much together, of course. Was n't that sweet of her? Belle
came and told me in, time, and I just got pink, so my amiable
sister, that is to be, won't succeed in her pretty little plot."
"I guess she has been reading the life of Josephine. You know she
made a pretty lady, of whom she was jealous, sit beside her on a
green sofa, which set off her own white dress and spoilt the blue
one of her guest," answered Polly, busy with the flowers.
"Trix never reads anything; you are the one to pick up clever little
stories. I 'll remember and use this one. Am I done? Yes, that is
charming, is n't it, Polly?" and Fan rose to inspect the success of
Monsieur's long labor.
"You know I don't appreciate a stylish coiffure as I ought, so I like
your hair in the old way best. But this is 'the thing,' I suppose, and
not a word must be said."
"Of course it is. Why, child, I have frizzed and burnt my hair so
that I look like an old maniac with it in its natural state, and have
to repair damages as well as I can. Now put the flowers just here,"
and Fanny laid a pink camellia in a nest of fuzz, and stuck a spray
of daphne straight up at the back of her head.
"O, Fan, don't, it looks horridly so!" cried Polly, longing to add a
little beauty to her friend's sallow face by a graceful adjustment of
"Can't help it, that 's the way, and so it must be," answered Fan,
planting another sprig half-way up the tower.
Polly groaned and offered no more suggestions as the work went
on; but when Fan was finished from top to toe, she admired all she
honestly could, and tried to keep her thoughts to herself. But her
frank face betrayed her, for Fanny turned on her suddenly, saying,
"You may as well free your mind, Polly, for I see by your eyes that
something don't suit."
"I was only thinking of what grandma once said, that modesty had
gone out of fashion," answered Polly, glancing at the waist of her
friend's dress, which consisted of a belt, a bit of lace, and a pair of
Fanny laughed good-naturedly, saying, as she clasped her necklace,
"If I had such shoulders as yours, I should n't care what the fashion
was. Now don't preach, but put my cloak on nicely, and come
along, for I 'm to meet Tom and Trix, and promised to be there
Polly was to be left at home after depositing Fan at Belle's.
"I feel as if I was going myself," she said, as they rolled along.
"I wish you were, and you would be, Polly, if you weren't such a
resolute thing. I 've teased, and begged, and offered anything I
have if you 'll only break your absurd vow, and come and enjoy
"Thank you; but I won't, so don't trouble your kind heart about me;
I 'm all right," said Polly, stoutly.
But when they drew up before the lighted house, and she found
herself in the midst of the pleasant stir of festivity, the coming and
going of carriages, the glimpses of bright colors, forms, and faces,
the bursts of music, and a general atmosphere of gayety, Polly felt
that she was n't all right, and as she drove away for a dull evening
in her lonely little room, she just cried as heartily as any child
denied a stick of candy.
"It 's dreadful wicked of me, but I can't help it," she sobbed to
herself, in the corner of the carriage. "That music sets me all in a
twitter, and I should have looked nice in Fan's blue tarlatan, and I
know I could behave as well as any one, and have lots of partners,
though I 'm not in that set. Oh, just one good gallop with Mr.
Sydney or Tom! No, Tom would n't ask me there, and I would n't
accept if he did. Oh, me! oh, me! I wish I was as old and homely,
and good and happy, as Miss Mills!"
So Polly made her moan, and by the time she got home, was just in
the mood to go to bed and cry herself to sleep, as girls have a way
of doing when their small affliction becomes unbearable.
But Polly did n't get a chance to be miserable very long, for as she
went up stairs feeling like the most injured girl in the world, she
caught a glimpse of Miss Mills, sewing away with such a bright
face that she could n't resist stopping for a word or two.
"Sit down, my dear, I 'm glad to see you, but excuse me if I go on
with my work, as I 'm in a driving hurry to get these things done
to-night," said the brisk little lady, with a smile and a nod, as she
took a new needleful of thread, and ran up a seam as if for a
"Let me help you, then; I 'm lazy and cross, and it will do me
good," said Polly, sitting down with the resigned feeling. "Well, if
I can't be happy, I can be useful, perhaps."
"Thank you, my dear; yes, you can just hem the skirt while I put in
the sleeves, and that will be a great lift."
Polly put on her thimble in silence, but as Miss Mills spread the
white flannel over her lap, she exclaimed, "Why, it looks like a
shroud! Is it one?"
"No, dear, thank God, it is n't, but it might have been, if we had n't
saved the poor little soul," cried Miss Mills, with a sudden
brightening of the face, which made it beautiful in spite of the stiff
gray curl that bobbed on each temple, the want of teeth, and a
"Will you tell me about it? I like to hear your adventures and good
works so much," said Polly, ready to be amused by anything that
made her forget herself.
"Ah, my dear, it 's a very common story, and that 's the saddest part
of it. I 'll tell you all about it, for I think you may be able to help
me. Last night I watched with poor Mary Floyd. She 's dying of
consumption, you know," began Miss Mills, as her nimble fingers
flew, and her kind old face beamed over the work, as if she put a
blessing in with every stitch. "Mary was very low, but about
midnight fell asleep, and I was trying to keep things quiet, when
Mrs. Finn she 's the woman of the house came and beckoned me
out, with a scared face. 'Little Jane has killed herself, and I don't
know what to do,' she said, leading me up to the attic."
"Who was little Jane?" broke in Polly, dropping her work.
"I only knew her as a pale, shy young girl who went in and out, and
seldom spoke to any one. Mrs. Finn told me she was poor, but a
busy, honest, little thing, who did n't mix with the other folks, but
lived and worked alone. 'She has looked so down-hearted and pale
for a week, that I thought she was sick, and asked her about it,' said
Mrs. Finn, 'but she thanked me in her bashful way, and said she
was pretty well, so I let her alone. But to-night, as I went up late to
bed, I was kind of impressed to look in and see how the poor thing
did, for she had n't left her room all day. I did look in, and here 's
what I found.' As Mrs. Finn ended she opened the door of the back
attic, and I saw about as sad a sight as these old eyes ever looked
"O, what?" cried Polly, pale now with interest.
"A bare room, cold as a barn, and on the bed a little dead, white
face that almost broke my heart, it was so thin, so patient, and so
young. On the table was a bottle half full of laudanum, an old
pocket-book, and a letter. Read that, my dear and don't think hard
of little Jane."
Polly took the bit of paper Miss Mills gave her, and read these
DEAR MRS. FINN, Please forgive me for the trouble I make you,
but I don't see any other way. I can't get work that pays enough to
keep me; the Dr. says I can't be well unless I rest. I hate to be a
burden, so I 'm going away not to trouble anybody anymore. I 've
sold my things to pay what I owe you. Please let me be as I am,
and don't let people come and look at me. I hope it is n't very
wicked, but there don't seem any room for me in the world, and I
'm not afraid to die now, though I should be if I stayed and got bad
because I had n't strength to keep right. Give my love to the baby,
and so good-by, good-by.
"O, Miss Mills, how dreadful!" cried Polly, with her eyes so full
she could hardly read the little letter.
"Not so dreadful as it might have been, but a bitter, sad thing to see
that child, only seventeen, lying there in her little clean, old
night-gown, waiting for death to come and take her, because 'there
did n't seem to be any room for her in the world.' Ah, well, we
saved her, for it was n't too late, thank heaven, and the first thing
she said was, 'Oh, why did you bring me back?' I 've been nursing
her all day, hearing her story, and trying to show her that there is
room and a welcome for her. Her mother died a year ago, and
since then she has been struggling along alone. She is one of the
timid, innocent, humble creatures who can't push their way, and so
get put aside and forgotten. She has tried all sorts of poorly paid
work, could n't live on it decently, got discouraged, sick,
frightened, and could see no refuge from the big, bad world but to
get out of it while she was n't afraid to die. A very old story, my
dear, new and dreadful as it seems to you, and I think it won't do
you any harm to see and help this little girl, who has gone through
dark places that you are never like to know."
"I will; indeed, I will do all I can! Where is she now?" asked Polly,
touched to the heart by the story, so simple yet so sad.
"There," and Miss Mills pointed to the door of her own little
bedroom. "She was well enough to be moved to-night, so I brought
her home and laid her safely in my bed. Poor little soul! she looked
about her for a minute, then the lost look went away, and she gave
a great sigh, and took my hand in both her thin bits of ones, and
said, 'O, ma'am, I feel as if I 'd been born into a new world. Help
me to begin again, and I 'll do better.' So I told her she was my
child now, and might rest here, sure of a home as long as I had
As Miss Mills spoke in her motherly tone, and cast a proud and
happy look toward the warm and quiet nest in which she had
sheltered this friendless little sparrow, feeling sure that God meant
her to keep it from falling to the ground, Polly put both arms about
her neck, and kissed her withered cheek with as much loving
reverence as if she had been a splendid saint, for in the likeness of
this plain old maid she saw the lovely charity that blesses and
saves the world.
"How good you are! Dear Miss Mills, tell me what to do, let me
help you, I 'm ready for anything," said Polly, very humbly, for her
own troubles looked so small and foolish beside the stern
hardships which had nearly had so tragical an end, that she felt
heartily ashamed of herself, and quite burned to atone for them.
Miss, Mills stopped to stroke the fresh cheek opposite, to smile,
and say, "Then, Polly, I think I 'll ask you to go in and say a
friendly word to my little girl. The sight of you will do her good;
and you have just the right way of comforting people, without
making a fuss."
"Have I?" said Polly, looking much gratified by the words.
"Yes, dear, you 've the gift of sympathy, and the rare art of
showing it without offending. I would n't let many girls in to see
my poor Jenny, because they 'd only flutter and worry her; but you
'll know what to do; so go, and take this wrapper with you; it 's
done now, thanks to your nimble fingers."
Polly threw the warm garment over her arm, feeling a thrill of
gratitude that it was to wrap a living girl in, and not to hide away a
young heart that had grown cold too soon. Pushing open the door,
she went quietly into the dimly lighted room, and on the pillow
saw a face that drew her to it with an irresistible power, for it was
touched by a solemn shadow that made its youth pathetic. As she
paused at the bedside, thinking the girl asleep, a pair of hollow,
dark eyes opened wide, and looked up at her; startled at first, then
softening with pleasure, at sight of the bonny face before them,
and then a humble, beseeching expression filled them, as if asking
pardon for the rash act nearly committed, and pity for the hard fate
that prompted it. Polly read the language of these eyes, and
answered their mute prayer with a simple eloquence that said more
than any words for she just stooped down and kissed the poor
child, with her own eyes full, and lips that trembled with the
sympathy she could not tell. Jenny put both arms about her neck,
and began to shed the quiet tears that so refresh and comfort heavy
hearts when a tender touch unseals the fountain where they lie.
"Everybody is so kind," she sobbed," and I was so wicked, I don't
"Oh, yes, you do; don't think of that, but rest and let us pet you.
The old life was too hard for such a little thing as you, and we are
going to try and make the new one ever so much easier and
happier," said Polly, forgetting everything except that this was a
girl like herself, who needed heartening up.
"Do you live here?" asked Jenny, when her tears were wiped away,
still clinging to the new-found friend.
"Yes, Miss Mills lets me have a little room up stairs, and there I
have my cat and bird, my piano and my posy pots, and live like a
queen. You must come up and see me to-morrow if you are able. I
'm often lonely, for there are no young people in the house to play
with me," answered Polly, smiling hospitably.
"Do you sew?" asked Jenny.
"No, I 'm a music teacher, and trot round giving lessons all day."
"How beautiful it sounds, and how happy you must be, so strong
and pretty, and able to go round making music all the time," sighed
Jenny, looking with respectful admiration at the plump, firm hand
held in both her thin and feeble ones.
It did sound pleasant even to Polly's ears, and she felt suddenly so
rich, and so contented, that she seemed a different creature from
the silly girl who cried because she could n't go to the party. It
passed through her mind like a flash, the contrast between her life,
and that of the wan creature lying before her, and she felt as if she
could not give enough out of her abundance to this needy little
sister, who had nothing in the wide world but the life just saved to
her. That minute did more for Polly than many sermons, or the
wisest books, for it brought her face to face with bitter truths,
showed her the dark side of life, and seemed to blow away her
little vanities, her frivolous desires, like a wintry wind, that left a
wholesome atmosphere behind. Sitting on the bedside, Polly
listened while Jane told the story, which was so new to her
listener, that every word sank deep into her heart, and never was
"Now you must go to sleep. Don't cry nor think, nor do anything
but rest. That will please Miss Mills best. I 'll leave the doors open,
and play you a lullaby that you can't resist. Good night, dear." And
with another kiss, Polly went away to sit in the darkness of her
own room, playing her softest airs till the tired eyes below were
shut, and little Jane seemed to float away on a sea of pleasant
sounds, into the happier life which had just dawned for her.
Polly had fully intended to be very miserable, and cry herself to
sleep; but when she lay down at last, her pillow seemed very soft,
her little room very lovely, with the fire-light flickering on all the
home-like objects, and her new-blown roses breathing her a sweet
good-night. She no longer felt an injured, hard-working, unhappy
Polly, but as if quite burdened with blessings, for which she was n't
half grateful enough. She had heard of poverty and suffering, in the
vague, far-off way, which is all that many girls, safe in happy
homes, ever know of it; but now she had seen it, in a shape which
she could feel and understand, and life grew more earnest to her
from that minute. So much to do in the great, busy world, and she
had done so little. Where should she begin? Then, like an answer
came little Jenny's words, now taking a,'new significance' to Polly's
mind, "To be strong, and beautiful, and go round making music all
the time." Yes, she could do that; and with a very earnest prayer,
Polly asked for the strength of an upright soul, the beauty of a
tender heart, the power to make her life a sweet and stirring song,
helpful while it lasted, remembered when it died.
Little Jane's last thought had been to wish with all her might, that
"God would bless the dear, kind girl up there, and give her all she
asked." I think both prayers, although too humble to be put in
words, went up together, for in the fulness of time they were
CHAPTER X BROTHERS AND SISTERS
POLLY'S happiest day was Sunday, for Will never failed to spend
it with her. Instead of sleeping later than usual that morning, she
was always up bright and early, flying round to get ready for her
guest, for Will came to breakfast, and they made a long day of it.
Will considered his sister the best and prettiest girl going, and
Polly, knowing well that a time would come when he would find a
better and a prettier, was grateful for his good opinion, and tried to
deserve it. So she made her room and herself as neat and inviting
as possible, and always ran to meet him with a bright face and a
motherly greeting, when he came tramping in, ruddy, brisk, and
beaming, with the brown loaf and the little pot of beans from the
bake-house near by.
They liked a good country breakfast, and nothing gave Polly more
satisfaction than to see her big boy clear the dishes, empty the little
coffee-pot, and then sit and laugh at her across the ravaged table.
Another pleasure was to let him help clear away, as they used to do
at home, while the peals of laughter that always accompanied this
performance did Miss Mills' heart good to hear, for the room was
so small and Will so big that he seemed to be everywhere at once,
and Polly and Puttel were continually dodging his long arms and
legs. Then they used to inspect the flower pots, pay Nick a visit,
and have a little music as a good beginning for the day, after which
they went to church and dined with Miss Mills, who considered
Will "an excellent young man." If the afternoon was fair, they took
a long walk together over the bridges into the country, or about the
city streets full of Sabbath quietude. Most people meeting them
would have seen only an awkward young man, with a boy's face
atop of his tall body, and a quietly dressed, fresh faced little
woman hanging on his arm; but a few people, with eyes to read
romances and pleasant histories everywhere, found something very
attractive in this couple, and smiled as they passed, wondering if
they were young, lovers, or country cousins "looking round."
If the day was stormy, they stayed at home, reading, writing letters,
talking over their affairs, and giving each other good advice; for,
though Will was nearly three years younger than Polly, he could n't
for the life of him help assuming amusingly venerable airs, when
he became a Freshman. In the twilight he had a good lounge on the
sofa, and Polly sung to him, which arrangement he particularly
enjoyed, it was so "cosy and homey." At nine o'clock, Polly packed
his bag with clean clothes, nicely mended, such remnants of the
festive tea as were transportable, and kissed him "good-night,"
with many injunctions to muffle up his throat going over the
bridge, and be sure that his feet were dry and warm when he went
to bed. All of which Will laughed at, accepted graciously, and did
n't obey; but he liked it, and trudged away for another week's work,
rested, cheered, and strengthened by that quiet, happy day with
Polly, for he had been brought up to believe in home influences,
and this brother and sister loved one another dearly, and were not
ashamed to own it.
One other person enjoyed the humble pleasures of these Sundays
quite as much as Polly and Will. Maud used to beg to come to tea,
and Polly, glad to do anything for those who had done a good deal
for her, made a point of calling for the little girl as they came
home from their walk, or sending Will to escort her in the carriage,
which Maud always managed to secure if bad weather threatened
to quench her hopes. Tom and Fanny laughed at her fancy, but she
did not tire of it, for the child was lonely, and found something in
that little room which the great house could not give her.
Maud was twelve now; a pale, plain child, with sharp, intelligent
eyes, and a busy little mind, that did a good deal more thinking
than anybody imagined. She was just at the unattractive, fidgety
age when no one knew what to do with her, and so let her fumble
her way up as she could, finding pleasure in odd things, and living
much alone, for she did not go to school, because her shoulders
were growing round, and Mrs. Shaw would not "allow her figure to
be spoiled." That suited Maud excellently; and whenever her father
spoke of sending her again, or getting a governess, she was seized
with bad headaches, a pain in her back, or weakness of the eyes, at
which Mr. Shaw laughed, but let her holiday go on. Nobody
seemed to care much for plain, pug-nosed little Maudie; her father
was busy, her mother nervous and sick, Fanny absorbed in her own
affairs, and Tom regarded her as most young men do their younger
sisters, as a person born for his amusement and convenience,
nothing more. Maud admired Tom with all her heart, and made a
little slave of herself to him, feeling well repaid if he merely said,
"Thank you, chicken," or did n't pinch her nose, or nip her ear, as
he had a way of doing, "just as if I was a doll, or a dog, and had n't
got any feelings," she sometimes said to Fanny, when some service
or sacrifice had been accepted without gratitude or respect. It
never occurred to Tom, when Maud sat watching him with her
face full of wistfulness, that she wanted to be petted as much as
ever he did in his neglected boyhood, or that when he called her
"Pug" before people, her little feelings were as deeply wounded as
his used to be, when the boys called him "Carrots." He was fond of
her in his fashion, but he did n't take the trouble to show it, so
Maud worshipped him afar off, afraid to betray the affection that
no rebuff could kill or cool.
One snowy Sunday afternoon Tom lay on the sofa in his favorite
attitude, reading "Pendennis" for the fourth time, and smoking like
a chimney as he did so. Maud stood at the window watching the
falling flakes with an anxious countenance, and presently a great
sigh broke from her.
"Don't do that again, chicken, or you 'll blow me away. What's the
matter?" asked Tom, throwing down his book with a yawn that
"I 'm afraid I can't go to Polly's," answered Maud, disconsolately.
"Of course you can't; it 's snowing hard, and father won't be home
with the carriage till this evening. What are you always cutting off
to Polly's for?"
"I like it; we have such nice times, and Will is there, and we bake
little johnny-cakes in the baker before the fire, and they sing, and it
is so pleasant."
"Warbling johnny-cakes must be interesting. Come and tell me all
"No, you 'll only laugh at me."
"I give you my word I won't, if I can help it; but I really am dying
of curiosity to know what you do down there. You like to hear
secrets, so tell me yours, and I 'll be as dumb as an oyster."
"It is n't a secret, and you would n't care for it. Do you want
another pillow?" she added, as Tom gave his a thump.
"This will do; but why you women always stick tassels and fringe
all over a sofa-cushion, to tease and tickle a fellow, is what I don't
"One thing that Polly does Sunday nights, is to take Will's head in
her lap, and smooth his forehead. It rests him after studying so
hard, she says. If you don't like the pillow, I could do that for you,
'cause you look as if you were more tired of studying than Will,"
said Maud, with some hesitation, but an evident desire to be useful
"Well, I don't care if you do try it, for I am confoundedly tired."
And Tom laughed, as he recalled the frolic he had been on the
Maud established herself with great satisfaction, and Tom owned
that a silk apron was nicer than a fuzzy cushion.
"Do you like it?" she asked, after a few strokes over the hot
forehead, which she thought was fevered by intense application to
Greek and Latin.
"Not bad; play away," was the gracious reply, as Tom shut his
eyes, and lay so still that Maud was charmed at the success of her
attempt. Presently, she said, softly, "Tom, are you asleep?"
"Just turning the comer."
"Before you get quite round would you please tell me what a
Public Admonition is?"
"What do you want to know for?" demanded Tom, opening his
eyes very wide.
"I heard Will talking about Publics and Privates, and I meant to ask
him, but I forgot."
"What did he say?"
"I don't remember; it was about somebody who cut prayers, and
got a Private, and had done all sorts of bad things, and had one or
two Publics. I did n't hear the name and did n't care; I only wanted
to know what the words meant."
"So Will tells tales, does he?" and Tom's forehead wrinkled with a
"No, he did n't; Polly knew about it and asked him."
"Will's a 'dig,'" growled Tom, shutting his eyes again, as if nothing
more could be said of the delinquent William.
"I don't care if he is; I like him very much, and so does Polly."
"Happy Fresh!" said Tom, with a comical groan.
"You need n't sniff at him, for he is nice, and treats me with
respect," cried Maud, with an energy that made Tom laugh in her
"He 's good to Polly always, and puts on her cloak for her, and says
'my dear,' and kisses her 'goodnight,' and don't think it 's silly, and I
wish I had a brother just like him, yes, I do!" And Maud showed
signs of woe, for her disappointment about going was very great.
"Bless my boots! what's the chicken ruffling up her little feathers
and pecking at me for? Is that the way Polly soothes the best of
brothers?" said Tom, still laughing.
"Oh, I forgot! there, I won't cry; but I do want to go," and Maud
swallowed her tears, and began to stroke again.
Now Tom's horse and sleigh were in the stable, for he meant to
drive out to College that evening, but he did n't take Maud's hint. It
was less trouble to lie still, and say in a conciliatory tone, "Tell
me some more about this good boy, it 's very interesting."
"No, I shan't, but I 'll tell about Puttel's playing on the piano," said
Maud, anxious to efface the memory of her momentary weakness.
"Polly points to the right key with a little stick, and Puttel sits on
the stool and pats each key as it 's touched, and it makes a tune. It
's so funny to see her, and Nick perches on the rack and sings as if
he 'd kill himself."
"Very thrilling," said Tom, in a sleepy tone.
Maud felt that her conversation was not as interesting as she
hoped, and tried again.
"Polly thinks you are handsomer than Mr. Sydney."
"I asked which she thought had the nicest face, and she said yours
was the handsomest, and his the best."
"Does he ever go there?" asked a sharp voice behind them; and
looking round Maud saw Fanny in the big chair, cooking her feet
over the register.
"I never saw him there; he sent up some books one day, and Will
teased her about it."
"What did she do?" demanded Fanny. "Oh, she shook him."
"What a spectacle!" and Tom looked as if he would have enjoyed
seeing it, but Fanny's face grew so forbidding, that Tom's little dog,
who was approaching to welcome her, put his tail between his legs
and fled under the table.
"Then there is n't any 'Sparking Sunday night'?" sung Tom, who
appeared to have waked up again.
"Of course not. Polly is n't going to marry anybody; she 's going to
keep house for Will when he 's a minister, I heard her say so,"
cried Maud, with importance.
"What a fate for pretty Polly!" ejaculated Tom.
"She likes it, and I 'm sure I should think she would; it 's beautiful
to hear 'em plan it all out."
"Any more gossip to retail, Pug?" asked Tom a minute after, as
Maud seemed absorbed in visions of the, future.
"He told a funny story about blowing up one of the professors. You
never told us, so I suppose you did n't know it. Some bad fellow
put a torpedo, or some sort of powder thing, under the chair, and it
went off in the midst of the lesson, and the poor man flew up,
frightened most to pieces, and the boys ran with pails of water to
put the fire out. But the thing that made Will laugh most was, that
the very fellow who did it got his trousers burnt trying to put out
the fire, and he asked the is it Faculty or President? "
"Either will do," murmured Tom, who was shaking with
"Well, he asked 'em to give him some new ones, and they did give
him money enough, for a nice pair; but he got some cheap ones,
with horrid great stripes on 'em, and always wore 'em to that
particular class, 'which was one too many for the fellows,' Will
said, and with the rest of the money he had a punch party. Was n't
"Awful!" And Tom exploded into a great laugh, that made Fanny
cover her ears, and the little dog bark wildly.
"Did you know that bad boy?" asked innocent Maud.
"Slightly," gasped Tom, in whose wardrobe at college those
identical trousers were hanging at that moment.
"Don't make such a noise, my head aches dreadfully," said Fanny,
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