PRINCESS POLLY'S PLAYMATES
By AMY BROOKS
"Princess Polly," "Princess Polly at School," "Princess Polly by the Sea," "Princess Polly's Gay Winter," "Princess Polly at Play."
CHAPTER I. IN THE GARDEN
II. A LITTLE HERO
III. POLLY VISITS ROSE
IV. THE VILLAGE NUISANCE
V. THE LITTLE GREEN DOOR
VI. AT THE STUDIO
VII. AN UNEXPECTED GUEST
VIII. AT THE SHORE
IX. PRINCESS POLLY RETURNS
X. GWEN CALLS UPON POLLY
XI. GWEN TELLS A STORY
XII. GYP RUNS AWAY
PRINCESS POLLY'S PLAYMATES
IN THE GARDEN
"IF it was only true that castles COULD be enchanted, then I'd surely think Sherwood Hall was one," said the little girl with soft, dreamy eyes.
"You'd think Sherwood Hall was what?" questioned the other little girl, who had paused to rest her foot upon a stone, while she tied the ribbons of her shoe.
"An enchanted castle!"
"Why Vivian Osborne! You're always thinking of fairy tales," was the quick reply, and she laughed as if the idea were impossible.
"Now Leslie Grafton," Vivian replied, "you just come here, and look where Sherwood Hall shows between the trees. See the sun on the red roofs, and on those lovely windows! Can't you almost SEE the captive princess looking from her casement?"
"Well there she is!" cried Leslie laughing, "and we don't have to ALMOST see her. We can TRULY see her."
"Oh, wasn't it fine that just as we were talking, Princess Polly opened her window, and looked out," said Vivian, as together they ran up the avenue, and in at the gateway of Sherwood Hall.
"It was Lena Lindsey who first thought of calling her 'Princess Polly,' and she's always so sweet that the name seems to belong to her," said Leslie.
Polly had seen them, and when they reached the house, she was waiting to greet them.
"The postman is coming!" they cried, "the postman is coming, and we ran ahead to tell you!"
"Oh, perhaps there's a letter from Rose!" said Polly.
"That's what we thought," said Leslie, "and if there is, DO tell us some of it. We love Rose Atherton as much as you do."
Polly Sherwood shaded her eyes with her hand, and looked along the broad avenue.
"Oh, now I see him!" she cried, "and he's taking out a handful of letters as he comes along."
The postman laughed at Polly's eagerness.
"Three for you, Miss Polly," he said, as he placed them in her hands.
Polly looked at the envelopes. "That one is from my cousin," she said. "She always uses pink paper, and that one is from a little girl I used to play with before we came to live at Sherwood Hall. I know, because her paper is always pale green, but THIS one—" she held up the envelope with a little cry of delight, "THIS one is from Rose!"
With Leslie and Vivian looking over her shoulder, Polly opened the letter.
"Read it with me," she said.
"Oh, read it aloud while we listen," said Leslie.
Rose had been a dear little playmate when she had lived with her Aunt Judith in a little cottage, near Sherwood Hall. Now that she had gone to live with her Great-Aunt Rose, for whom she had been named, and some miles distant, her little friends remembered her, and wished that she were with them.
Now, as Polly read the letter, it seemed as if little Rose Atherton were talking to them.
"Dear Princess Polly:—" the letter began, and then followed loving assurance of her true affection for her "own Polly," very tender inquiries for Sir Mortimer, the beautiful cat, and tales of little happenings in the new home.
"Great-Aunt Rose is kind, and Aunt Lois is gentle and sweet, but I'm LONSUM.
"The rooms are large, and cool and dark, and sometimes when the garden is hot and sunny, I go to the parlor, and try to amuse myself, but oh, I wish I had someone to play with. When I try to pick out a tune on the piano, the notes sound so loud, I turn around to see if Aunt Rose is provokt, but she never folows me. There's a portrate of a funny old man that hangs at the end of the parlor, and I always think he's watching me. When I smile, he seems to smile, and when I'm lonsum, he doesn't look jolly at all. There's five people in this house beside me. There's my two aunts, and three servants, but no one makes any noise, and oh, sometimes I WISH they would.
"Aunt Rose says sometime she'll give a party for me, but she says there must be no romping, and that it must be dig-ni-fide. I don't believe I spelled that right, and I'm not sure what it means, but it doesn't sound nice. I don't believe the children that come to it, will like a party that's digni—, I can't write that long word again.
"Aunt Lois is to have her portrate painted, and I'm to go with her to the artist's studyo.
"Aunt Rose just came in, and said, 'That is a long letter. Shall I help you with the spelling?' I didn't let her. I know some of the words are funny, but I don't want her to see this letter.
"I haven't said anything norty in it, only about how quiet and lonsum it is, but she mite not like that. I just had to tell you. Aunt Rose is going to ask you to visit me, and I'll be so glad when you come.
Your loving little friend,
P.S.—Aunt Rose said this morning that I ort to sine my name, Rose Jerusha Atherton, because that's her name, and I was named for her. How can I? Isn't JERUSHA orful?"
Of course the three little friends sympathized with Rose.
They felt as if they had seen the quaint, beautiful old house, with its dark, cool rooms.
They seemed to see bright, merry little Rose, now quiet, and lonely, wandering through the great hall to the parlor, to find a companion in the piano, or looking up into the friendly face of the old gentleman whose portrait she had described.
"And she says she is to go with her aunt to the artist's studio," said Leslie, "and wouldn't I like to do that? Just think what fun it would be to see him painting."
"I wonder if he'll let Rose watch him?" said Polly.
"There'd be no fun in going if she couldn't see him paint," declared Leslie "and if I were Rose, I WOULD watch him, if I had to peep when he wasn't looking."
"Oh you WOULDN'T!" said Vivian.
"I WOULD," said Leslie firmly, and Vivian did not reply.
"I wonder what her Aunt Lois will wear?" said Polly. "All of the portraits in our drawing room are young ladies in lovely gowns, with flowers in their hair, and jewels, many, many jewels, and plumes, and fans. Her Aunt Lois wouldn't wear such things as that!"
They wondered much about the portrait, and decided to question Rose regarding it.
"And now," said Polly, "I'll lay these letters on the table in the hall. I can read them later. We'll play."
It was easy to choose a game. The first choice, when the little playmates were at Sherwood Hall, was always "Hide-and-Seek."
There were such fine places for hiding, so many odd nooks where no one would ever think of looking that the game seemed always new, and interesting.
They had been playing but a short time, when Inez Varney ran up the driveway.
"What are you playing?" she asked.
"Hide-and-Seek," said Polly, "and it's Lena's turn to blind. Come! I know a fine place, big enough for three."
Usually Inez objected to whatever game her friends chose, but she was in a pleasant mood, and said that she would rather play "Hide-and-Seek" than anything else.
She clasped Polly's hand, and while Lena counted, the three ran off to the place that should be large enough to keep them from sight.
One fact made Inez easy to please; Rose was not with them.
Rose Atherton had been a bright, merry little playmate, beloved by all save Inez, and yet the only fault that Inez could find in Rose was her popularity.
Naturally jealous, Inez did not like to see that everyone loved Rose, and to know that Polly Sherwood, or Princess Polly, as everyone called her, cared more for Rose than for any of her friends, seemed really too provoking.
"NOW, Princess Polly must choose another BEST friend, and I wish it might be ME!" thought Inez.
She knew that Rose was sweet tempered. She knew that her own temper was hasty.
Could she keep from saying the sharp things that so often came from her red lips? She MUST, if she would win Polly's love!
Inez was pleasing to look at, but she was wrong in thinking herself more attractive than the other playmates.
Vivian and Leslie were much prettier than Inez, and they were pleasant and good tempered, always ready for a merry time, while Blanche Burton, and her little sister, Dollie, were ever welcome at Sherwood Hall.
It surely would seem as if Inez were foolish to think Princess Polly might prefer her silly little self, to all the others.
Indeed, she would have been far happier to have been willing to be one of her many playmates. Inez was not at all content, however. She wished to be PREFERRED.
The game went on merrily, and Inez seemed gayer than usual.
"Tag" followed "Hide-and-Seek," and the music of their merry laughter echoed through the garden, as they chased each other around the clumps of shrubbery, across the brook, and through the grove.
It was Vivian, who innocently caused the first sharp word to be spoken.
They were resting in the shade of some flowering shrubs. Princess Polly had taken off her large hat, and wielding it as a fan, blew the bright curls back from her pink cheeks.
"If Rose were here, she'd say:
"'Now while we're resting, Princess Polly, tell us a fairy tale,'" said Vivian.
"That's just what she'd say," said Polly, "and one afternoon we sat beside the brook, near the fountain, and took turns telling them."
Inez looked at Polly's eyes, and saw the regret that they so plainly expressed.
She would have been pleased if her little playmates had never mentioned Rose.
"And once," continued Polly, "we played that we were fairy queens, and we made flower crowns. It was early morning, and we tried to pick the flowers with the dew on them, but the dewdrops fell off. Then we sprinkled them with water from the brook, and they sparkled like diamonds."
Inez moved uneasily.
"We have fine times together," said Vivian, "but it was still brighter when Rose was here."
"Anybody'd think we couldn't play without her!" snapped Inez, springing to her feet, and running across the lawn.
Then realizing that she had been rude, and not wishing to offend Polly, she turned, and looking over her shoulder, she said:
"I must go home now, so I'll just hurry."
"Why, a minute a go she was sitting as still as if she intended to stay here all night!" said Vivian.
"It was what you said, Vivian, that made her run off," said Leslie.
"What did I say?" questioned Vivian.
"Oh, you said it was nicer to have Rose with us," explained Leslie.
"She's likely to hear us talk of Rose whenever she comes here," said Polly.
"Then she'll stay away," said Leslie.
Polly would not say what was in her mind, but Leslie was less careful.
"Let her just stay away then!" she said, stoutly, "we love Rose, and we're wondering how long it will be before we'll see her. She's sweeter than Inez."
Sweet Princess Polly! She would not say anything unpleasant even of Inez.
"Rose is just dear," she said, but of Inez she said nothing.
"Inez says mean things," said Vivian, "and it would be real hard to forgive her, so it's lucky she doesn't ever ask us to."
"Why Vivian!" cried Polly, "you would if she asked you to, wouldn't you?"
Vivian did not like to answer, so she only said:
"She wouldn't ask me."
Just at that moment Harry Grafton sprang over the wall, and joined the group.
"Inez Varney is waiting for you and Vivian," he said. "I was going over to call for Rob Lindsey, and just as I was passing, she asked me to tell you. I asked her why she didn't come in and wait for you here, but she only shook her head, and said; 'Oh, because.' That's a girl's reason, and it's a funny one."
Harry laughed, and then, having delivered his message, he ran down the driveway, and up the avenue to call for his chum, Rob.
He nodded to Inez as he passed her, whistling gaily as he hurried along.
"Girls are queer," he said, pausing in his whistling solo, to speak his thoughts.
"Even nice girls are queer SOMETIMES," he murmured. "Of course Princess Polly is always pleasant, and my sister Leslie isn't even odd, but Inez is freaky, and Vivian, well,—she's something like Inez."
In the garden the three little girls stood where Harry had left them.
"What shall we do?" said Leslie. "We came to play with you, Polly, what ought we to do?"
Polly's eyes had looked troubled, but now she smiled.
"Oh, go, please, and see Inez. Perhaps she truly wishes she'd been pleasant. You can come ANY time to play with me, but it's NOW that Inez feels good."
Polly's words were wise. She knew Inez to be hasty, and she thought that if, for the moment, she was sorry for her rudeness, she should have the chance to say so, before she could change her mind.
Leslie would not say so, but in truth, she did not care what Inez had to say.
Vivian was curious, and eager to know why Inez had waited so long to see them.
Inez stood at the gateway waiting for her two playmates.
Leslie said something about having to hurry home, but Vivian pausing beside Inez, waited for her to speak.
It was not pleasant to stand talking on the sunny sidewalk, and turning, they walked a little way up the driveway.
Polly questioned if Inez really might be sorry for her hasty words. Nothing could have tempted her to listen, nor was she near enough to have heard a word that they were saying, but from where she was standing, she could see Inez and Vivian. She wondered why Leslie had not remained. The shrubbery hid her, but she could see them plainly.
She saw Inez lay her hand upon Vivian's arm.
"Oh, I WISH they'd make up," whispered Princess Polly.
Then something soft rubbed against her ankles.
"Oh, darling Sir Mortimer!" she whispered, "they are ALMOST making up!"
She peeped again, daintily holding back her skirts.
"They're not smiling yet," she said softly.
"I guess we won't wait," she whispered, as she stooped to take the big cat in her arms.
"Keep still, Mortimer," she said, "I'm going to whisper right in your ear. I LIKE them all, but I LOVE Rose."
Sir Mortimer rubbed his soft head against Polly's pink cheek.
"That means that you do, too," said Polly.
A LITTLE HERO
"Tell us a story," said Lena Lindsey, and her brother echoed her words. "Oh, Rob, what shall I tell? Lena wants a fairy tale, and you wouldn't like that; boys never do," said Polly.
"Oh, yes he would," Lena said quickly, "if it's about knights, and princes, like the one you told the other day."
"That's it," agreed Rob, "tell us one about somebody who goes out to seek his fortune."
Princess Polly dearly loved fairy tales, and on stormy days, with Sir Mortimer purring in her lap, would sit for hours reading stories of elves, and dwarfs, of splendor and enchantment.
Then, on sunny days she would tell them to her playmates, and often she spun them from her own imaginings.
"Tell us one you made up!" the children often said.
Now, while with Rob, and Lena, she sat upon the grass, and watched their eager faces, she decided to tell a new, and charming tale that would delight them. "Once upon a time," said Polly—
"That's right!" cried Rob.
Polly shook her finger to silence him, and began again.
"Once upon a time there lived a prince who was very, VERY handsome, but very poor.
"One day he found that his money was almost gone, so he took his pet horse, and started out to seek his fortune.
"He rode, and rode 'til he came to a dark forest. He was a brave prince, so he was not afraid, and rode right into the woods, and when he reached a pool, he stopped to let his horse drink,—"
"Oh, this is the interesting part where something happens, but it's so warm, I'll have to run up to the house, and get my little sunshade," said Polly.
"Wait just a minute," cried Rob, "stay just where you are, and I'll bring you one."
"Why, Rob, where'll you get it?" said Lena.
"Just you wait, and you'll see!" cried Rob, turning as he ran to say, "don't tell any more 'til I come."
"What DID he mean?" Polly asked, but Lena could not guess, and they wondered if Rob had been joking.
They had not long to wait, however, for in a few moments he came running back to them, waving a huge leaf over his head.
It proved to be a rhubarb leaf, with a red stalk.
"There!" he cried, "I went over home on purpose to get this for you."
"Oh it's a big green sunshade, with a fine red handle," cried Polly, "how pretty! Now I can tell the story."
"Yes, and you can tell it all before your sunshade WILTS!" said Lena, with a laugh.
"That's a fine sunshade," said Rob, as he handed her the leaf.
"And Polly looks like a princess under it," said Lena.
"Now, tell the story," said Rob.
"And while his horse was drinking, a mist floated over the pool, and out of the mist sprang a little, old witch," continued Polly, leaning forward, and lowering her voice, to make the tale sound mysterious.
Lena and Rob bent toward her, that not a word might be lost.
"What happened?" whispered Rob.
Polly's eyes were bright.
She raised her forefinger, as she spoke.
"'Take the path to the right,' said the little, old witch, 'and KEEP to the right, no matter how thick the forest, and you'll come to a fountain. At the fountain you'll find a beautiful nymph, and SHE'LL tell you what to do next.'"
"And did he?" questioned Rob, eagerly.
"Be still, Rob. Let Polly tell it," whispered Lena, laying her hand on his arm.
"The Prince mounted his horse," continued Polly, "and just then he noticed the little path at the right of the pool. He'd not seen it before. He turned his horse into the path, and the horse acted as if he knew the way, and trotted along at a fine gait.
"At last he reached the fountain, but the nymph wasn't anywhere in sight.
"'What DID the witch tell me to say?' said the prince.
"Then a voice said:
"'Cymbrel! Cymbrel! By a fountain or a well, Whistle thrice, and you shall see, A lovely nymph will come to thee!'
"Then the prince called out: 'Cymbrel! Cymbrel!' and whistled three times, and out of the fountain rose a lovely nymph. There were pearls and diamonds in her hair, and her robe was of rainbow colored mist.
"She held out her hand, and the prince sprang from his horse, and bowed low before her.
"'There never was anyone so lovely as you,' said the prince, and he was—"
"Just WILD to win her," said Rob, who had been silent a long time.
"That's it," agreed Polly, "he was wild to win her, and he didn't say a word, for fear that the mist would melt, and she'd disappear.
"Then she spoke, and her voice sounded like music.
"'I am enchanted,'" she said.
"And the prince said 'So am I,'" said Rob.
"Oh, no he DIDN'T," laughed Polly.
"You mustn't interrupt," said Lena.
"I'm not interrupting," said Rob, "I'm only helping Princess Polly with the story, and telling how I'd have felt, if I'd been the prince."
"Well, you aren't the prince," Lena replied, "so you listen."
"When the prince looked up, and saw that the lovely nymph was smiling, he felt so strong and brave that he told her that he wanted to win her, and he asked what would—would undo, oh that ISN'T the word, but that's what he meant," said Polly, "so never mind, I'll use it. He wanted to know what would undo the enchantment.
"'You can not win me until I am disenchanted. Free me, and I am yours. My enchantment must last until the ogre who dwells in this forest is killed,' whispered the nymph.
"The prince drew his sword.
"'With this I will free you, and you shall be mine,' he said, and mounting his horse he rode through the forest, looking this way, and that, in search of the ogre.
"Every evening he rode back to the fountain, and there he wearily told the nymph that he had not yet found the ogre.
"She always told him to be brave, and continue the search.
"At last came a day when there was a fearful battle in the woods!" Polly's eyes were bright, and she leaned forward in her excitement.
Her rhubarb leaf parasol had wilted, and she cast it aside.
"There was a gale that broke the great branches of the trees, and pulled up shrubs by the roots, and when the wind was blowing hardest, the ogre rushed out from his cave, right into the pathway in front of the prince's horse.
"The horse pranced, and pawed the dirt, because he was scared, but the prince was brave.
"He thought only of the beautiful nymph, and he slashed at the big ogre, and with the third blow from his sword the ogre fell dead.
"Then the prince rode back to the fountain, and there stood the nymph, only she wasn't a nymph any more, but a real, truly princess.
"She ran to meet him, and he swung her up into his saddle, and they rode back to his castle.
"There she told him that he need never leave her to seek his fortune, because she had more gold than they could ever spend, and so they lived happy ever after."
"Oh, I love to have the fairy tales end like that," said Lena, with a happy sigh.
"And when a fellow hears of a prince who is daring, he wants to start right out, and do something just as brave," said Rob, his brown eyes looking out across to the distant hills. "There isn't the chance to save nymphs, and princesses, now!"
"Oh, Rob, it doesn't matter," said Polly, "for if there was a nymph to fight for, I just KNOW you'd be brave!"
"I'm SURE I would mean to be, but I haven't had the chance to try!" said Rob, with a sudden fit of shyness, "but if it was YOU, Polly, I'd—I'd do most anything!"
"I know you would," Polly answered gently.
"That was a lovely story," said Lena, "did you make it up?"
"Yes, and I got so excited when the ogre came out, and rushed at the prince, that I was all out of breath just TELLING it," said Polly.
"And when you told about the gale you frightened me," said Lena, "because I was SURE that the ogre was coming!"
Polly had a charming way of telling her stories, and those who listened, remembered them, and thought of them again and again.
Perhaps Rob thought oftener of them, than did any other of her friends. He was very fond of Polly, and never thought of her as Polly Sherwood, but always as Princess Polly.
He would not have told his thoughts to anyone, but in his heart he longed to do something brave that she might know that he had not boasted idly, when he had said that her fairy tales had made him long to do valiant deeds.
For days after the morning spent at Sherwood Hall, Rob dreamed of the story that Polly had told.
"Oh, pshaw! Those things don't happen nowadays," he muttered, in disgust. "Not that fairy things EVER happened," he added, "but knights really lived, and they did things that proved their courage."
While Rob dreamed, and pondered over the valiant knights of old, Polly, blowing huge soap bubbles, stood in the sunlight, making them larger and larger, and laughing when they floated away on the soft breeze.
She, too, was dreaming.
The scent of the garden flowers made the air sweet, the yellow butterflies, at play in the sunshine, fluttered too near a bubble.
It burst with the touch of their soft wings, and they flew away, frightened that a clear, beautiful globe had chased them, and then so mysteriously disappeared.
Vivian Osborne watched her, and so still had she been, that Polly had almost forgotten that she was there.
Again she dipped her pipe into the bowl of suds, and gently she blew, determined to make a larger bubble than she had yet made.
How beautiful it was! The trees, the blue sky mirrored on its glossy surface, and—yes, there were the holly-hocks reflected on it, and curving to fit its globe-like form.
"Oh!" cried Vivian, "see the colors on it, blue, and pink, and green, and your house, Polly. Don't it look like a tiny castle?'
"M—m," agreed Polly, for the pipe stem between her red lips would not permit her to talk. When the bubble was as large as she dared to make it, she swung it from the pipe and they saw it sail away.
Sir Mortimer, who had been watching Polly, scampered off after the bubble. He often chased a bright, colored ball, and this he thought was the finest ball he'd ever seen.
It dropped to the grass, and just as puss reached it, it burst. Sir Mortimer stared at the place where it had vanished.
Polly and Vivian laughed at his surprise. He touched the spot with his soft paw, then, turning, trotted away, as if to let them see that the matter was beneath noticing.
"Oh, he's the dearest kitty!" cried Vivian, "blow another bubble, Polly, and blow it right at him."
Laughing at the thought of surprising Sir Mortimer, Polly blew a fine bubble, and swung it toward him.
He blinked at it, as it came nearer, and then,—oh, how they laughed, he began to back away from it.
It overtook him, however, and landed squarely on his upturned nose.
He sneezed in disgust, and rubbed his nose violently with his paw.
"Oh, Mortimer darling, I won't do it again. If you don't like soap bubbles, you needn't have them," said Polly, picking him up, and caressing him.
It was evident that he forgave her, for he at once commenced to purr.
When Vivian said that she must go, Polly walked part of the way with her for company.
"Are you truly going to visit Rose Atherton, soon? Inez Varney said you were," said Vivian.
"Oh, yes," Polly replied, "I have the invitation, and I'm to go the first week mama will let me. I may go next week. When I KNOW what day I can go, I'm to write, and tell Rose, and Rose, with her Aunt, will call for me at the station."
"Aren't you wild to go?" asked Vivian.
"Wild?" repeated Polly, "why I can hardly wait for the day. I want to see the lovely, old house, and all the fine things, but most of all, I long to see Rose."
"Well, Inez said—no, I guess I won't tell you what Inez said," Vivian paused.
Did she dislike to repeat Inez' words, or was she waiting for Polly to coax her to tell them? No one could have guessed.
Polly, thinking that Inez often spoke unpleasantly, turned toward Vivian, and laying her little hand on her arm, said:
"I guess you'd better not tell what Inez said. I won't feel any different toward Rose, if you do. I love Rose, and I'm going to visit her, and I know I'll have a fine time."
"Oh, I'm sure you will," said Vivian, and she said it as if she meant it.
"And Rose is coming to visit me," said Polly, "and when she comes, most of the girls will be glad to see her. I wish they ALL would."
"I will," said Vivian, "and you'll see that I am. I'll help to make her glad that she came."
Some one came running swiftly behind them, and they turned to see who it might be.
It was Harry Grafton, breathless and excited.
"Oh, what do you think?" he cried. "Dollie Burton got almost run over, and would have, if it hadn't been for Rob Lindsey. I tell you, he's a splendid fellow, and my father saw it all, and he says it was the bravest thing he ever saw done, and he shook hands with Rob, and little Dollie is only frightened, but she's almost—"
"Why, Harry Grafton! What ARE you saying?" cried Polly.
"What has happened to Dollie?" said Vivian.
At that moment Leslie came running to tell the news.
"Only think!" she cried, "dear little Dollie Burton was almost—"
"That's what I just told them!" declared Harry, "and I'm proud just to be Rob's friend."
Polly and Vivian were as excited as Harry and his sister were, and for a few moments the four little playmates talked at the same time, and Polly at last realized that she was not getting a clear idea of what Rob had done, or what had happened to wee Dollie Burton.
At last Harry grew calmer, and, with Leslie's help, told the story.
Little Dollie had been playing in her own garden, where surely one might think that she was safe. A horse from a neighbor's stable had escaped, and went plunging down the street.
The tiny girl ran down the driveway to look after the flying horse, and just as Dollie reached the road, the horse turned, and ran wildly back in the direction whence he had come.
The little girl seemed too frightened to run, and stood still in the path of the madly racing horse.
Rob Lindsey seeing her danger, sprang out into the street, snatched her up when the animal was about to trample upon her, and bore her to safety setting her down once more in her own garden.
"My father was just coming along," said Harry, "and he saw Rob rush out into the street, and grab Dollie just in time to save her, and he says Rob stood an awful chance of being run over.
"Rob declares it wasn't much to do. He says he didn't have time to think, and be scared.
"Father took his hand, and just told him that that was the brave part of it. He told Rob that a coward would have thought only of himself.
"I tell you, he's a hero, as much as those we read of.
"Mrs. Burton says that she can not say enough to tell how she feels, when she thinks that little Dollie is alive, and unhurt, and all because of Rob!"
"There he is now," cried Leslie.
"Oh, everyone run along. I want to speak to him just a minute myself," said Polly, and, as usual, they obeyed.
Very shyly Rob approached. He felt that he was receiving too much praise from everyone, and yet—a word of approval from Princess Polly, ah, that would be worth much!
"Rob," she said, when the others had walked along, "Rob, don't ever say again that you'd LIKE to be brave. You ARE brave!"
"She wasn't a nymph, and I wasn't a prince," said the boy, blushing.
"You're as brave as any prince in any fairy tale I ever read," said Polly, and Rob wondered who would care for greater reward than that.
POLLY VISITS ROSE
At last the day came when Polly was to make the little trip that would begin at the station in her own town, and end at a place, some miles distant, where, when the train stopped, she would see Rose waiting for her.
She thought it would seem finer to go quite alone, but Mrs. Sherwood would not permit that.
"The maid must ride with you, and remain beside you until Rose and her aunt meet you. Then, she can return on the next train," she had said, and Polly knew it was useless to object.
And when, at last, the excitement of saying "good-bye" was over, and the train had already left the little town far behind, Polly settled back in her seat, and fell to dreaming.
The thought of little Dollie, frightened, but unhurt, of Rob who had so bravely saved her, of Lena's pride in Rob, flitted through her mind. It would be a pleasant bit of news to tell Rose.
Then she began to think of Great-Aunt Rose, and to wonder how she looked.
"Rose has told me in her letter that she's a handsome old lady, but that isn't like seeing her. How ever SHALL I know her? Oh, of course, I will. She'll be with Rose."
The maid, who had taken the seat behind Polly, reached forward, and touched her shoulder.
"You're not getting drowsy, are you, Miss Polly?" she asked, "we're almost there."
A gay little laugh answered her question.
"How COULD I go to sleep on the way to see Rose?" she asked, "and how near are we now?"
"The next station, but one," said the maid, "and I'll begin to gather up the bag, and suit case."
"The next but one!" cried Polly, and she sat up very straight, and looked from the window. Was the town where Rose lived as pretty as this?
There were great trees that cast long shadows, and here, and there a glimpse of a river that reflected the blue sky, and the floating clouds. There were fine houses with spacious lawns, and lovely gardens, and over all the sunlight playing, and Polly felt that she was riding into an enchanted country, over which Rose, and Great-Aunt Rose presided.
Polly did not notice what the brakeman said, but the maid did, and she spoke quickly.
"Come, Miss Polly, here we are, and we'll do well to get off right now before folks crowd toward the door. By the looks I think everyone means to stop here!"
It certainly looked as if the maid had spoken truly, for men reached for parcels that had been stowed in bundle racks, and women commenced to gather up hand bags, and wraps.
Polly wondered if anyone intended to remain in the car.
She slipped from the seat to the floor, and then, just as they stopped at the station, she turned and peeped from the window.
"Oh, there she is! There she is!" she cried, "and she's in a fine carriage with an old lady that looks like a portrait in our drawing room. Look! Look!"
"We can't stop to look," said the maid, "or we'll be left on the train."
"Oh, we CAN'T stay!" cried Polly, as she hurried toward the door.
She could not imagine anything more dreadful than to be detained on the train, and ride on, and on, while Rose would find no little friend to welcome.
She alarmed the maid by rushing down the steps, and across the platform, and she almost took Great-Aunt Rose's breath away, when she flew at Rose, and the two little girls embraced laughing, and yes, crying just a little at the same time.
A slender figure, a huge picturesque hat, and a mass of curling, flaxen hair, were all that Aunt Rose had seen, but now hand in hand, they were coming toward the carriage.
"A lovely face, surely," murmured Great-Aunt Rose, "a sweet, and lovely face."
"This is Princess Polly," said Rose, "and Polly, dear, this is my Great- Aunt Rose."
Aunt Rose, as she preferred to be called, offered her hand to Polly, who now stood beside the carriage. "I am so glad to see you, my dear," said the gentle old voice, and so cordially was it said, that Polly blushed, and smiled with delight.
She afterward told Lena Lindsey that she felt as if Aunt Rose were her own aunt, and that she had ALWAYS known her.
The ride to the house was along an avenue shaded with huge, old elm trees, and when they drew up at the house, Polly looked with round eyes at its grand, old portico, its great pillars, its terraces, and masses of lovely flowers.
Rose had said that the house was fine, but that had not told half the beauty of the grand, old mansion.
They sprang from the carriage, and Rose begged that she might run upstairs with Polly just a moment before lunch.
"I want to show her my room," she said, and Aunt Rose smiled, and nodded assent.
"Oh, Polly, Princess Polly!" she said, when they reached the pretty chamber, "it is so long since we've played together, and now—now I have you, all to myself. See the queer bed, with the canopy over it. The first night I came, I was afraid to sleep in it. Now, I like it, and to- night we'll cuddle close together in it, and draw the curtains."
"Oh, what fun!" cried Polly, "and we can play we're in a castle, and no one can enter, unless we let them!"
"Oh, yes, and we'll stay awake, oh, ever so long, just to talk," said Rose.
And when Polly had seen everything in the chamber that Rose wished to show, they ran down to the parlor to see the portraits.
"I'd like to see them all," said Polly, "but most of all I want to see the picture of the old gentleman that sometimes smiles at you."
Together they ran down the stairway to the parlor.
How cool it was! Vines that hung upon the piazza shaded the windows, and flickering sunbeams danced upon the polished floor, and brightened the color of the Persian rug.
The portraits seemed to look with interest at Polly, and she smiled back at them, and nodded as she passed them.
"They look like real people," she said, "and it doesn't seem polite to pass them without nodding."
"I know it," agreed Rose, "and I nod and smile at them, but the picture at the end of the room smiles more than the others do. Come, and see him."
Together they stood looking at the little old gentleman.
Polly admired his flowered satin waistcoat, his powdered wig, and rosy cheeks, but most of all she liked his merry, twinkling eyes.
"He DOES smile," said Polly.
"Yes, he does," agreed Rose, "but now, just for a moment, frown, and then he doesn't SEEM to smile."
It was an odd sight, the two merry little faces puckered into an attempt at a frown, and the old portrait looking down at them, as if in surprise that their smiles had vanished.
"Now, let's both smile together!" cried Rose.
Immediately two pairs of merry eyes looked up at him, and two red mouths smiled, and showed rows of pearly teeth.
"There!" said Polly, "he ALMOST laughed, and that dimple in his chin looked DIMPLER than before."
"That's what I told you," said Rose, "and sometimes, when I'm lonesome, he's a comfort."
At lunch Aunt Rose talked much with Polly, and gentle Aunt Lois seemed charmed with the little guest.
When lunch was over, Aunt Rose left the little playmates to amuse themselves, because she felt sure that Polly must have a budget of news to tell, and they certainly would enjoy their bit of gossip better, if no older person listened.
They spent the afternoon in the garden, walking along, their arms about each other's waists.
Later they would care for games, but this first day was delightful just to talk together.
They passed a little arbor, and Polly stopped to admire it.
Just as she looked up at the vine that blossomed on its roof, a strange little face peeped over the hedge, then dodged out of sight.
"Who was that?" Polly asked.
"Just behind the hedge," whispered Polly.
Rose looked, and in an opening at the lower part of the hedge she saw a bit of a dark gray frock.
"Oh, it's Evangeline Longfellow Jenks, the little girl that's going to be a poet," whispered Rose.
"But you said her poetry was funny," said Polly, as softly as Rose had spoken.
"It IS" declared Rose, "but she keeps writing it all the time."
Just then Evangeline's round, white face again appeared above the hedge, and at that moment Aunt Rose came out on the porch.
"Come over here, Evangeline," she said kindly, "and meet our little guest."
"I'm not dressed up," said the voice behind the hedge, "but I've just made a poem, and I can read it from here!"
Without waiting to be urged, and in a thin, high-pitched voice, she read these lines, which she earnestly believed were beautiful:
"Oh, the sun is shining, And the moon is near by; I can't see the moon, But it's in the sky- Somewhere.
"I need no sun or moon; I'll be a poet soon. I write every day Some kind of a lay- Somewhere."
"What DOES she mean?" whispered Polly.
"I don't think it means ANYTHING, but she enjoys making up verses whether they mean anything or not," Rose whispered in reply.
Polly was anxious to see what the little girl looked like who felt that she was to be a poet, but Evangeline Longfellow Jenks did not intend to be seen in an ordinary frock.
She felt that her position as a future poet demanded that she be finely dressed.
On this especial morning she had been doing a very unpoetic thing—she had been trying to drink from the hose!
Her skirts were completely soaked, and her shoes were covered with mud that the dripping hose had splashed up from the garden bed.
"A person like ME ought not to drink from a horrid old hose. My mama read about some one, I've forgotten who, who drank from a crystal chalice. I don't know what that is, but it sounds grand, and I wish I had one," murmured the small girl behind the hedge.
Aunt Rose repeated her invitation, but the poetic child seldom thought it necessary to be polite, and never replied unless she chose to. This time she remained silent, and Aunt Rose, with an odd little smile returned to the house.
Then a strange thing happened.
Another face peeped over the hedge, but this time it was a saucy one, with bright, brown eyes that fairly danced with merriment.
"Reg'lar ninny, ain't she?" he asked, with a chuckle.
"Oh, Lester, you MUSTN'T!" cried Rose.
"Yes, I must!" said the boy. "She sneaked off into the house when you weren't looking, so she can't hear me, and when she's too far off to hear, I have to call her some kind of a horrid name, 'cause it helps me some!"
"But she's your own cousin, and you oughtn't, you know. If it isn't wicked, it MUST be naughty to call her a ninny," said Rose.
"I wish she wasn't my cousin, I ain't fond of her," said the boy, with a frown on his handsome face.
"She did a mean thing this morning, and I'll get even with her," he continued, "and when she wrote one of her everlasting old poems about me, it was more than I could stand. Just read it and I guess you won't blame me."
He thrust a crumpled bit of paper over the hedge.
Rose ran to the hedge, and took the paper. She was curious to know what kind of a poem Lester had inspired.
Who could blame her that she laughed when she read the ridiculous lines?
"Lester's a boy, but he's not brave; The cat scratched him, and he cried. He's not the kind of a boy I like Although I've often tried.
His eyes are brown, but I don't care; His freckles are yellow, and so is his hair. He teases, so he has no heart, And he runs after the old ice-cart."
"Could a fellow stand THAT? said Lester, his cheeks very red.
"It wasn't nice," said Rose, "and Lester, wait a moment," as the boy turned to go.
"This is Polly Sherwood, my best friend. Polly, this is Lester Jenks. He's a nice boy, only he's provoked this morning."
Polly offered her little hand over the hedge, and Lester blushed, and took it.
"Are you the little princess?" he asked bluntly.
"Just a make-believe one," said Polly.
"We all call her 'Princess Polly' at home," Rose explained.
"You look right to be called that anywhere," said Lester, and it was Polly's turn to blush.
"I'd like to come over some day," he said.
"Come NOW," said Rose.
"I wish I could, but I can't," said the boy. "I've an errand to do for my aunt, and I ought to go now. I'll come some other day, perhaps to- morrow. I've some money, and I'd like to treat."
He looked admiringly at Polly, and Rose was delighted.
"He's ever so much fun," she said, when Lester had gone to do the errand that he had spoken of.
"He lives the next house to Evangeline," she continued, "and he's awfully tired of her poetry."
Polly did not wonder at that.
"And I DO hope, when he comes, Evangeline won't come with him," said Rose.
"So do I," agreed Polly, "only it may be that she's nice SOMETIMES."
Rose came closer, and looking straight into Polly's blue eyes, she said:
"She brings her old poetry book EVERY time!"
"Oh, dear, can't she leave it at home?" said Polly.
"She WON'T," said Rose, "and she's either writing in it, or reading it all the time, so there's not a minute for play."
"Doesn't she care for 'Tag' or 'Hide-and-Seek?'" questioned Polly.
"She doesn't EVER like anything but that poetry," declared Rose.
"Oh, dear," sighed Polly, for she felt that if Evangeline were to come often, she would spoil much of the visit that, without her, would be so pleasant.
"We'll be out sometimes," said Rose, "for Aunt Rose will take us about, and we're to go to the studio some day when Aunt Lois goes. I've been there, and the pictures are lovely, and some days we shall drive, and then if she comes she won't find us."
"If she'll come on the days that we're OUT, and stay away the days that we're at home, it will be just FINE!"
"Oh, Rose, I believed it's naughty, but I would be glad if it happened, just HAPPENED that way," Polly said.
THE VILLAGE NUISANCE
At Sherwood Hall Polly was greatly missed, and her playmates felt less interest in their games now that she was not with them.
In all the village there was no one so lonely as Aunt Judith. She missed the merry chatter of happy, cheery Rose. Bright, and merry she had been, even although there were many things that she longed for, and could not have, most of all, some one to love her.
Now, as Aunt Judith busied herself about the cottage, or out in the tiny garden, she realized how much the child's hands had helped.
"She used to dust for me," she would say to herself, as she moved about the tiny sitting room, putting it in order.
"She always fed the chickens," she murmured, one morning, on her way out to the coop.
She stooped to open the door, when a shrill voice shouted at her.
"Look out! Look out! The ol' rooster's mad!"
Aunt Judith was startled, and Gyp was delighted.
"Why were you meddling with the hens?" she asked, in quick wrath.
"Don't hurt 'em to be watched, does it?" was the saucy answer.
Aunt Judith looked at the imp-like figure astride the fence.
"You're a nuisance!" she cried, "I wish the town was rid of you!" "Ding- te-ding-te-dingle-te-ding!" sang Gyp, in an almost ear-splitting solo.
"Ding-te-ding—I tell ye what, if ye put jest the tip of yer finger between them slats, that 'ere ol' rooster 'll bite it almost off'n yer!" he remarked, "I know, 'cause I TRIED it."
"You keep your fingers away from the coop, and yourself out of my yard," cried Aunt Judith, "or I'll have you arrested."
"Wow!" shrieked Gyp, and slipping from the fence, he ran to the woods, lest Aunt Judith should immediately put her threat into effect.
The one, and only thing that Gyp feared was a policeman.
A wild little ragamuffin, living in an old hut that was home only in name, with parents as ignorant as himself, he was viewed with contempt by every child in the town, and feared by them, as well.
There was nothing that he dared not do—if no policeman were in sight.
It was well known by everyone that when Gyp once became interested in anything, he would not let it alone until something occurred that he thought more attractive.
Aunt Judith, shading her eyes with her hand, waited until she felt sure that Gyp did not intend to return. Then locking the door, and closing the windows, she made her way down the avenue toward the parsonage.
She felt unusually lonely, and the parson's wife was always glad to see her.
The walk was a long one, and when Aunt Judith had reached the parsonage, she paused for a moment to enjoy the light breeze before opening the little gate. "I saw you coming," said a pleasant voice, "and I guess you felt the heat on the way. Come in, and sit down under the big maple trees. It's cooler than it is in the house."
As she spoke, the parson's wife took Aunt Judith's arm, and led her to a rustic seat, and seating herself beside her, commenced to talk of bits of parish news.
Aunt Judith's mind was far away with Rose, and her answers became more, and more wide of the mark.
"I think the boys of the choir sing BEAUTIFULLY," chirped the little woman, "but they really should have new cotta's, but the society feels that it really can't afford it."
"Yes'm," said Aunt Judith.
"And there are some that think we ought to have an organist. Mrs. Bingley volunteers to play until we're able to hire some one, but she isn't much of a player. She says she can't play any music unless it's written in ONE flat. She says it's the only key she knows. She says two flats make her uneasy, but THREE flats makes her simply WILD!"
"Well, if I DON'T let them out of the coop they'll be sick, and if I DO let them out, they're likely to get lost."
The parson's wife stared uneasily at Aunt Judith. Then thinking that she must have been needlessly startled, she again spoke.
"As I said before, what makes her WILD is three flats," she said.
"But the chicken-coop is ALL slats," said Aunt Judith, "what DO you mean by THREE?"
"Don't you feel well?" the little woman asked anxiously, leaning toward Aunt Judith, and looking up into her shrewd face.
"Why, yes," Aunt Judith replied, "only I'm lonesome without Rose, and some anxious about the hens."
A sigh of relief escaped the other woman's lips, but she did not explain.
"She's so worried about her own affairs that she simply didn't notice what I was talking about," she thought.
Realizing that Aunt Judith's mind was so full of her own interests that, for the time, she could think of nothing else, she dropped church matters, and asked when she had heard from Rose.
And while in the cool shade of the large trees, they talked of the tiny cottage, its garden, the chickens, and most of all, Rose, matters near the hen-coop were becoming rather lively.
Aunt Judith watching to see if Gyp intended to return, did not dream that he was watching her.
He saw her enter the cottage, and waited until she left the house to saunter down the avenue.
Then he ran across the little open field from the wood, and, crouching behind the back fence, near the coop, again waited until he felt sure that she was not simply in the house of some neighbor, but, instead, had gone to the "square."
Then springing over the fence like a monkey, he told a few facts to the old rooster.
"Ye're a mean ol' thing!" he cried, "jest a mean ol' critter ter bite a feller's finger like ye did mine. I'll pay yer fer what ye done! Look at this, an' see how ye like it!"
At that moment, and to the utter astonishment of the rooster, and his family, Gyp sprang up and down in a series of wild jumps, shouting, and yelling to the limit of his strength.
"Yow-ow! Hoope-high-jinks!" shrieked Gyp, his wiry arms, and legs flying in more directions than seemed possible, his shoes, that were many sizes too large for him, clattering on the hard-trodden earth of the hen-yard.
"How-re-ow-re-owl!" he roared, dodging this way, and that, in order to keep directly in front of the frightened rooster.
The rooster ducked, and dodged in vain, for Gyp managed to do his outrageous dance exactly in front of him, wherever he might be.
The hens kept up a perpetual squawking, and ran wildly about, while the downy chicks huddled in fear under the huge leaves of a burdock plant, and uttered little frightened peeps that, however, were unheard in the din that Gyp and the hens created.
Then suddenly something happened.
With a wild whoop, and an extra high jump, he lost his balance, and fell against the little gate.
He was not hurt, but he was surprised, and, for a moment, sat absolutely still, while the hens, led by the big rooster, ran over him, and out into the field beyond.
"I s'pose she'll say I let 'em out. I DID, an' I DIDN'T!" he said with a chuckle.
"Long's they're out, they might as well have a good run for once," he cried, and shouting "Shoo! Shoo!" and brandishing his arms, he rushed after them.
When he had tired of chasing the hens, he hurried away to the other end of the avenue, with the bright idea of learning if there might be a chance for mischief there.
A fine kite disappeared from Harry Grafton's lawn, a ball that Rob Lindsey had been playing with could not be found, while at Sherwood Hall the lawn mower was searched for, and discovered in the brook.
Old Martin dragged it forth, remarking as he did so:
"It looks like the work of old Nick, or that wild lad, Gyp."
No one had seen Gyp around the place, but, for the matter of that, no one had seen him flying a kite, or playing with a ball.
The articles had disappeared, however, and, as usual, everyone thought Gyp the culprit.
"It took work, and time to make that kite," said Harry, "I wouldn't think any one would be mean enough to take it."
"Unless it was Gyp," said Rob, "he's mean enough for anything, and I wouldn't wonder if the same chap that went off with your kite, took my ball along at the same time."
Both boys were urged to hunt carefully before accusing any one, but thorough search failed to bring forth either kite or ball.
Then Leslie missed a book that she had left on the piazza, and Dollie Burton lost her loviest doll.
Poor little Dollie! She could not be comforted, and promises of a new doll caused a fresh outburst of tears. It wouldn't be the same one that she had loved so, and she refused to have a new one until later, when her grief would be less fresh.
It was in vain that Blanche told her that a new doll would be as dear as the old one, the little girl refused to play, and her cherub face looked very sad, the dimples failing to show, because the smiles would not appear.
"That bad boy, Gyp, has took it," she wailed.
"Oh, Dollie, he might take a kite, or a ball from Harry, and Rob, but he wouldn't want a doll! Just think! What would HE do with a doll?"
"He's got little sisters, you said he had," Dollie replied, "p'raps he stole it for them. I wouldn't care if he'd just took my old one, but he was a bad boy to take my best one. I'll tell him so! You'll see!"
It was a baby's threat, and Blanche did not dream that her wee sister would do anything of the sort.
Dollie had a good memory, however, and Gyp sometimes passed the house.
She was as determined as any older child might have been, to give Gyp the scolding that she thought he deserved.
Oddly enough, he passed the house the next morning.
His restless black eyes were looking furtively about as if in search of something that he might snatch. Little Dollie, for the moment, had forgotten the lost doll.
With a long, flowering branch in her hand, she was walking up and down the driveway, looking more like a doll than anything else, in her dainty frock, her white socks, and bronze slippers.
"Sing a song o' sixpence, A pocket full of rye,—"
"Oh, YOU, YOU—wait for me!" In her wrath, the wee girl had forgotten his name.
Gyp stood still, and waited, open mouthed, while Dollie ran toward him.
He thought her the loveliest thing he had ever seen, and wondered that she wished to speak to him.
"You naughty, BAD boy!" she cried, striking at him with the flowering branch. "Naughty, BAD boy! You bring it back to me!"
Again the flowers hit him, but they gave nothing worse than a love pat.
"What'll I bring ye?" he asked awkwardly, "I ain't got anything you'd want. Ye look like them fairies I've read 'bout."
"DIDN'T you take my best doll?" she asked, her anger gone, and her red lips trembling.
Two big tears ran down the pink cheeks.
Then the strangest thing happened. Gyp, the imp, the one who apparently had no feeling, stooped, and peeping into the lovely little face, spoke very gently:
"Ye've lost yer dolly, hev ye? I ain't seen it, but I'll try ter find it for yer."
"Oh, WILL you?" she cried, smiling through her tears, "then I'm sorry I whipped you with this branch, and come! Let's bofe of us hunt together."
She offered him her little hand, and very carefully he took it.
He walked as if on air. Who else had ever offered him a hand? Who had ever spoken kindly? This lovely little girl had smiled at him, and had wished to be with him while he searched.
How he worked!
Like a little wild creature he crawled under shrubs, and, using his fingers like claws, tugged at grass, and twigs, as if his only interest were to find the doll.
"Was yer near the brook when ye was playin' with it?" asked Gyp.
"Oh, oh, I WAS, but I'd forgotten it. Didn't anyone hunt there! Let's go, quick, maybe we'll find her!"
She gave him a sunny smile, and in delight, he again took the wee hand she offered him, and together the ragged boy, and the wee, dainty girl hurried away to the brook.
It was a bit of the same brook that ran through the garden at Sherwood Hall.
Just as they reached the brook something backed up from the water's edge.
"Oh, Beauty! Beauty! What ARE you doing?" cried Dollie.
The puppy growled, and continued dragging something up the little bank.
"Here Mr. Puppy! Gim me that!" cried Gyp.
"Why, it's my lovely Aurora!" cried Dollie, dancing wildly about.
Gyp, fearless because the little dog was only a pup, tugged at the body of the doll, while Beauty held firmly to its pink skirt.
The muslin frock gave way under the strain, and the puppy, with a bit of the muslin in his mouth, rolled over on the grass, while Gyp, doubting if the bedraggled doll would be accepted, held it out, dripping, for Dollie to look at.
"IS it the doll what ye lost?" he asked.
"Oh, yes; yes it is," cried Dollie, "and I love her just as much as I did before she was drownded!"
Regardless of her own dainty frock, she hugged the dripping doll to her breast.
"You're a GOOD boy to help me," she said, "I said I was sorry I hit you, and I am. I just WISH I hadn't."
"I'd rather ye'd hit me, than any other person touch me," Gyp muttered, and then, for fear that someone at the house might SEND him off, he turned, and ran away. Little Dollie looked after him.
"I wonder if he heard me SAY he was good," she whispered.
Then with soft eyes she looked at the vanishing figure.
"He 'most always ISN'T good, but this time he was," she said.
Beauty, like most little dogs, had a habit of running off with any article that he could snatch, and hiding it.
Tiring of the doll he had dropped it in the brook, and then, when he happened to remember it, had dragged it forth, intending, doubtless, to give it another good shaking.
THE LITTLE GREEN DOOR
Dear little Dollie Burton's warm, loving heart had been touched, and she eagerly told everyone how Gyp had helped to find her dear Aurora.
"You see, Rob," she said, one day, "he's SOME naughty, but he ISN'T all naughty. Mama always says: 'Wait 'fore you 'cuse anyone,' but I didn't wait. I just 'cused him as hard as I could, and NOW I'm sorry."
"Oh, you're a trump, Dollie," said Rob.
"Is a 'trump' a nice thing to be?" questioned the wee girl.
"The best thing in the world," Rob declared laughing.
"Well, I didn't know," the little girl replied, "'cause when Nora's cleaning closets, and finds old things, mama says: 'Take that trumpery out to the waste barrel,' and you say trump isn't same as trumpery."
"Guess not! Dollie, you're the best little girl I know," said Rob, to which Dollie replied: "And you're the bestest boy I know."
The news flew through the neighborhood that Gyp had found the doll.
"Well, that's one decent thing he did," said Rob Lindsey, "and I s'pose there's just a chance that he didn't take my ball, or your kite, but who else would do it?"
"Sure enough," said Harry Grafton, "who else would?"
Vivian and Blanche, with Lena Lindsey, were walking with their arms about each other's waists. It was really too warm to play, but it was never too warm to talk.
"Just think," said Vivian, "when Polly is here, we play no matter how hot it is."
"Yes, except when we coax her to tell us some stories," said Lena. "She's fun to play with, because when we're tired of the old games, she can always make up a new one," said Vivian.
And while Polly's friends were talking lovingly of her, she had been telling Rose many pleasant things of the playmates that both so well knew.
It was only for a moment that they talked of their little friends, however, because both were anticipating a trip to an artist's studio, where they would see beautiful pictures, and where Aunt Lois was to sit for her portrait.
Aunt Rose had gone to spend the day with a friend, and Aunt Lois, thinking it hardly kind to leave the two little girls at home, had decided to take them with her.
"He's a fine artist, and one who has painted portraits of many distinguished people. I hardly know if he is greatly interested in children, but he surely will be willing that you should enjoy his pictures, if you make no noise, and do not talk to disturb him," she had said.
"Oh, if we may see the pictures, we'll promise not to make the least bit of noise," said Rose, speaking very loudly that Aunt Lois, who was quite deaf, might hear.
"Guess what he looks like," said Rose, as they walked along beside Aunt Lois.
"Oh, I think he will be tall, and slender, with dark eyes, and wavy hair, and he'll bow like this, when he lets us in," Polly said, pausing on the sidewalk to make a very low bow.
"I don't believe he'll bow like that," said Rose, "because he's such a GREAT artist. He'll feel pretty big. I guess he's not very light, or very dark, but I think he'll be tall and SOME stout. Don't you know how the lawyer that lives on our street looks? Just as if he owned all the houses on the avenue. I think he'll give us a teenty little bow like this," and she gave a jerky little nod, "but I think he'll be quite nice to us after we are in."
"This way," said Aunt Lois, and they crossed the street, and stopped before a quaint looking building. The massive oak door boasted a huge knocker, in the form of a frowning lion's head that held a huge brass ring.
Aunt Lois lifted the ring, and let it fall clattering against the door.
The little girls wondered if the artist would be angry. COULD that knocker have made less noise?
Aunt Lois was so very deaf that she did not realize what a din she had made, and smiled serenely as she stood waiting.
Polly was just wondering if the artist were too offended to respond, when the door opened, and a tall, sturdy man, with his palette and brushes in his hand, welcomed them.
"Ah, you have come for your sitting, and you are prompt," he said.
"I endeavored to be on time," said Aunt Lois, "and, because my sister is away I've brought Rose and our little guest with me. I can promise that they will not in any way disturb you. Rose has often been here with me, but this is her little friend, Polly Sherwood."
Mr. Arthur Kirtland welcomed her very graciously, and urged her to enjoy, with Rose, the pictures that hung upon the studio walls, stood upon easels, and around the room.
"We'll walk about very softly, and may we go into the little room where the lovely children are, Mr. Kirtland?" Rose asked.
"Oh, surely," he answered quickly, "you may like the child studies best."
He meant what he said, and he also thought that if they were pleased with the pictures in the little room that led from the main studio, it would be quite as well.
True, a large screen kept both artist and sitter apart from the rest of the studio, but Arthur Kirtland liked to be wholly alone, and undisturbed while painting a portrait, and he was very glad when the children tired of the pictures in the large studio, and went out into the small room.
"He didn't look like what you guessed, did he?" said Rose, when together they seated themselves in the little room.
"No, not a bit, and the reason you could guess what he was like was because you'd seen him," said Polly, "and when he made the funny little bow just as you did, I almost laughed."
"I don't wonder he struts when he walks. Just think who he's painted! Two dukes, one is that man with the red hair, and the eyes that laugh at you. It's out in the big room," said Rose, "don't you remember it?"
"Yes, but I like the big lady in velvet, and lace, that hangs next to him," said Polly.
"That's his wife, Mr. Kirtland said so," said Rose.
"Oh, would you think a lovely lady like that would marry a man with red hair?" said Polly.
"P'raps she liked red hair," Rose said, "and Polly, did you ever see anything so cunning as that picture of a little girl with her hands full of roses?"
Polly thought the picture charming, and together they walked around the little room enjoying flower studies, sketches, and finished pictures of children, until Polly espied a small door.
"Oh, see that funny little door!" she whispered, "where does that lead to? Is it a closet door, do you suppose?"
"Oh, no, that's not a closet," Rose replied, "I've often seen it open. Just outside it is a wee little garden just big enough to hold some fine holly-hocks. I'll show you. 'Most always the door is open."
"Open it softly. He wouldn't like it if we made a noise," whispered Polly.
Rose turned the latch very gently, and opened the door a few inches. A flood of golden sunlight swept in, and just outside the tall holly-hocks in gorgeous coloring swayed in the soft breeze.
"Hear them rustle just as if they were paper flowers," whispered Polly. "Oh, it's lovely out there."
"Let's go out just a little way."
"All right," agreed Rose, "come out, and I'll shut the door," and Polly followed her out into the sunlight.
"Oh, you didn't latch the door," said Polly.
"Oh, dear! I meant to," said Rose, "but it isn't MUCH open. If I go back, and pull it real hard to make it latch it'll make a noise, and Mr. Kirtland won't like it. We won't stay out long, so it doesn't matter."
"When we DO go back, let's sit on that little sofa in the corner. That's a cosy place."
"All right," agreed Rose, and together they walked up and down the little path that led from the tiny, side door to the street.
"The studio is grand, and the people he's painted look as if they could speak, if they chose," said Polly, "but somehow it made me feel queer to see them all looking at me."
"And once I peeped over my shoulder and that man in the hunting costume had his eyes right on me," said Rose, "and I turned my head away. When I turned again, he looked as if he'd speak, and if he DID, I just know he'd say: 'I'm still looking at you, Rose Atherton; you can't dodge ME!'"
"I do truly love the pictures," Polly said, "but I never saw so many all at once, and I didn't feel queer about them, until we'd been with them quite a while. I guess we'd feel different if somebody had been talking. It was still and cool in there, and did you notice? The corners in the little room were shady and almost dark."
"He doesn't speak, after he really begins to paint," said Rose. "He says: 'Turn a bit this way Miss Lois. No, not quite so much, that's it. Now hold that pose, please,' and then he doesn't speak again until he stops painting.
"At first he said Aunt Lois could rest often, but she doesn't care to. She says it's easy to sit in the big carved chair. I'd be wild to sit still so long!"
"Hello!" a merry voice shouted, and they turned toward the street.
It was Lester Jenks. He was beckoning to them, and they ran out to the sidewalk.
"What ye' doing here?" he asked.
"Aunt Lois is having her portrait painted, and we came with her, and we're just waiting 'til she's ready to go home."
"Oh, then I'll tell you what let's do. Let's have some ice cream! I said I'd treat some day, and I know a nice place. Come!" urged the boy, but they hesitated.
"Don't you want to?" he asked.
"Oh, yes!" they cried, "but we ought to ask Aunt Lois," said Rose, "and we can't. Mr. Kirtland is painting, and he hasn't said a single word for ever so long. It's so still in there that it makes you feel as if you ALMOST mustn't breathe. I wouldn't dare to run right in and ask Aunt Lois!"
"Why, you don't have to. We'll just skip over to the ice cream parlor, and we'll be back long before he's done painting. Come along! If you don't, I'll think you don't want to, and that isn't nice when I've asked you," said Lester. "Oh, dear, it isn't polite to let him think that when I'm wild to go, and I just KNOW Polly is," thought Rose.
"Are you SURE it won't take us long to go, and get back?" Polly asked.
"Oh, it's just a step!" said Lester.
"There's a nice little old lady keeps the place, and she gives you awful big ice creams for five cents. You have 'em on a marble table in her little parlor. There's a green carpet on the floor, and the room is awful cool. Oh, come on! I wish you would."
The invitation was not elegantly expressed, but it certainly was CORDIAL.
"I guess we'll have to go," said Rose, "would you, Polly?"
"I'd like to," was the reply.
"Then come!" said Lester, "we'll be there and back here before anyone would guess you'd been even outside that door."
They waited for no more urging, and together the three little friends ran across the street, through a side street, and down a broad avenue.
"It's just a little farther down this way," said Lester.
"Why it's ever so far from the studio, Lester Jenks, and you SAID we'd just skip to it," said Rose, breathlessly.
"Well, aren't we skipping?" he said with a laugh, "we run a few steps, and then you and Polly skip along a little way, and then you run again."
Rose was just wondering if they ought to turn back without the little treat, when Lester caught her hand, saying:
"Here we are," and he boldly opened the door.
A tiny bell tinkled as the door closed behind them, and a little, white haired old lady came out to greet them.
"We want some ice cream, these ladies and me," said Lester, trying to look as tall as possible, and hoping that she did not notice that he was wearing knee breeches. He thought that no one would dream that he was a small boy if only they could not see those knee breeches that he so heartily despised.
The old lady served the cream in dainty glasses, and heaped it high in a tiny pile that really amounted to little, but looked great—for five cents.
"How cool and dark it is in here," said Rose.
"It is a lovely place to eat ice cream in," said Polly.
The strawberry ice cream was very, very pink, and they thought it delicious.
"Do you think we've been gone long, YET, Lester?" questioned Rose.
"Of course not," said Lester, but Rose wished that he would eat his cream a little faster.
When the tiny glasses were quite empty Lester bought a package of candy for his friends, and having paid for the treat, opened the door for them to pass out onto the sidewalk.
"Why it looks different," said Polly, "is it cloudy, since we went in there?" But the sky showed no clouds. Then where had the bright sunlight gone?
"Oh, I b'lieve it's late!" cried Rose, "do you s'pose it is? It was long after lunch when we started for the studio, oh, ever so long after. We staid there looking at the pictures for hours, I guess, and then we came with you, Lester."
"It CAN'T be late," the boy replied, although he truly believed that it was.
"We could go back a shorter way than the one we came. Shall we?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, yes!" cried Rose, "we must get there before Aunt Lois is ready to go. If Mr. Kirtland is still painting we can go in softly by the little side door, and wait until it is time to go."
Lester led the way, and the three children ran down one street, and up another, until at last they paused for breath.
"This short way seems longer than the way we came!" ventured Polly.
"We AREN'T lost, are we?" cried Rose.
"I turned into the wrong street when we started," admitted Lester, "but it's only a little way now."
"Then let's hurry just that little way," said Rose.
She clasped Polly's hand, and again they ran on, and after a few moments, Lester cried: "There it is!"
Sure enough! There was the clump of holly-hocks, and close beside it, the little green door.
AT THE STUDIO
"Good-bye, good-bye!" they cried to Lester, "and thank you, oh thank you, but we must hurry!"
Lester waved his cap to them, and then raced down the avenue.
Then, treading softly, they ran along the little path, past the holly- hocks, and—the little green door was closed.
"Oh, Rose!" gasped Polly, but Rose had grasped the knob, and found that while the door looked to be closed, it had only been swung to with the breeze.
She pushed it open, and noiselessly they entered.
Softly they crept across the floor, Polly clinging to Rose's hand, and when they had reached the little divan, they sat down, and for a moment, neither spoke.
They still clasped hands, and when Polly looked toward the doorway that led into the large studio, Rose looked that way too.
From where they sat, they could not see either the painter or his model.
Polly leaned toward Rose.
"Doesn't he EVER talk when he's painting?" she whispered.
Rose shook her head.
"I 'most always bring a book with me, and while Aunt Lois is posing, I read stories," she whispered in reply.
Then for a time neither spoke.
The old clock out in that other room ticked to prove that all was not silent, but it made the waiting children more lonely.
They could not see its face, but after what seemed a long time, it chimed a single note.
"Oh, dear! That's only a half hour. I thought it was going to strike," whispered Rose, "and then we'd have known what time it was."
"Don't you dare to go in there, just a little way, and peep at the clock? It's just around the corner," whispered Polly.
"I promised we wouldn't disturb him while he was painting," whispered Rose, "but I do b'lieve I'll have to soon. I'm just wild to see if he's beginning to put away his paints."
"There isn't the least sound as if he was putting away ANYTHING" said Polly.
"I'll just HAVE to look," said Rose, whispering as softly as before. "We're awfully tired waiting, and keeping so still. It will help some to know what time it is, and if he sees me looking at the clock, perhaps he'll say he's 'MOST ready to stop painting."
She slipped from the divan, and tip-toed to the doorway, pushed the heavy hanging aside just enough to permit her to pass through. The portiere dropped heavily behind her, and Polly listened—listened.
"Oh, I hope he won't be angry. He ought not to after we've waited so long, but he's a great artist, and I s'pose Rose is disturbing him. I hope he won't scold. I didn't really tell her to go in and look at the clock, but I didn't tell her NOT to," thought Polly.
"Why DOESN'T she come back?" she whispered, a second after, when, as if in answer, the portiere was pushed aside, and Rose, a very frightened little Rose, hurried to Polly, her eyes startled, and her cheeks pale.
"He isn't there! Aunt Lois isn't there! We're alone in this studio, and I'd rather be alone ANYWHERE than here!" she cried, and they shuddered when the vacant rooms echoed her voice.
"But we don't have to STAY here!" cried Polly, "come! It's getting late, and we must hurry, or we'll be afraid to go down the streets alone."
"We CAN'T go!" cried Rose, "that's just the horrid part of it!"
"WHY can't we?"
As she asked the question Polly sprang to her feet, and clasping Rose's hand, drew her toward the door.
"It's no use, Polly," said Rose, "We CAN'T go home, because I don't know the way!"
Polly stared at her for a second in surprise.
"Why you've been here before with your Aunt Lois," she said.
"I know I have," Rose replied, "but I haven't noticed just how we came. It's a long walk, and don't you remember how many different streets we turned into, before we got here? I tell you truly, Polly, I don't know the FIRST THING about going home!"
"Then we must wait here 'til they come for us," said Polly, "Oh hark! What was that?"
Together they sank upon the little divan, and now they spoke only in whispers.
"I don't know what the noise was, but it was in that other room. When I had looked at the clock, and I turned to come back, I HAD to pass the big suit of armor. Polly, I knew there wasn't anyone in it, but all the same I thought its eyeholes looked at me!"
"Oh—o—o! Didn't that sound as if his iron glove rattled against his shield?" was Polly's startled whisper.
"It's that, or—he's—WALKING!" gasped Rose.
The two terrified children clung to each other. They stared toward the large doorway, and their breath came faster.
Did the portiere sway?
No, it hung straight from its pole, but beyond, in that other room; was anyone moving about in there?
They hardly dared breathe.
At last Rose whispered, turning that her words might reach Polly's ear.
"It's still in there now," she said, "and don't you think—"
She did not finish the question, for, at that moment, something creaked, and slipped to the floor, rolling evidently until it must have met another object that stopped it.
"There wasn't a single sound here when it was bright daylight, and Mr. Kirtland was busy painting. Why DO the things in his studio ACT so when he's away?" said Polly.
"It's as if they knew we were here, and just wanted to scare us," whispered Rose.
Frightened, hungry, weary, and nervously staring into that shadowy doorway, they waited—waited hoping that someone might come before anything happened to make their terror greater.
At the great house on the avenue, there was wild excitement. At the end of the sitting, Aunt Lois had gone to the little room, expecting to find two tired children who would be eager to go home. The sitting had been longer than usual, and she would reward them for their patience by stopping at the confectioner's on the way home and purchasing some fine candy for them.
"I am to come to you again on Thursday," she said. "Very well, I will try to be prompt. The children must be tired of waiting. If you are willing, I'll bid you 'Good afternoon' here, and go out by the side door with them."
Without waiting for him to reply, she had hastened to the smaller room, only to find that it was empty.
She was not at all frightened.
Her first thought was that the long afternoon had been tedious, and they had gone home.
"I shall find them on the piazza waiting for me," she said. "Rose would have asked if she might go, but I had told her not to interrupt while he was painting."
Gentle Aunt Lois had no thought of being angry. Instead, she was sorry that the hours had dragged so heavily for Rose and Polly.
She purchased two fine boxes of candy, smiling as she walked along with her parcel, that was to be a surprise.
She walked slowly because she was very tired. She wondered that Rose did not run to greet her.
"Where are the children?" she asked, as the maid opened the door.
"Sure, they've not been home since they went out with you," said the maid.
Aunt Lois sank on the great hall chair, and the frightened maid thought that she was ill.
"Are ye faint, mum?" she asked, "an' will I be gettin' ye a glass o' water?"
"Call the coachman," said Aunt Lois.
"Sure, I don't want to be bold with advice, but I'd not like ter see ye goin' out fer a ride feelin' like ye do now. I'd think—"
"GET the coachman!" said Aunt Lois, and the girl, now thoroughly frightened, did as she was bid.
Nora ran at top speed to the stable, crying, as she reached the door:
"Oh, John, John! Miss Lois is come home, an' she's talkin' o' goin' right out ter ride, an' her sick, an' she wants ye ter come to her in the hall now, an' me not knowin' what ter do, at all!"
"Hi! Now calm down like a good lass, and tell a man what you need. I can't make sense out of what you said. Now, then?"
"Oh, come in, come in!" cried Nora, and turning, she ran toward the house, the coachman following, muttering something about girls never having their wits about them.
But when he reached the house, and heard that Rose and charming little Princess Polly were missing, his kindly face looked very serious, and he promised to get help and make a thorough search of the town.
He called the gardener and a boy who had been helping him, and then came the question as to where to look first.
In the street some boys were playing ball, among them, Lester Jenks.
"It might be that they were around the neighborhood, but haven't yet come home," ventured the gardener.
"That's not likely," said the coachman, "but we might ask a few questions of those boys.
"Hi, there, boys! Have you seen Rose, or her friend Polly around here this afternoon?'
"They went down town with Rose's aunt to Mr. Kirtland's studio," shouted Lester. "Here, Jack, pitch decently, will you?"
"Look here, young feller! This ain't no joke. Quit playin' ball long 'nough ter hear what I say. They're lost, those two little girls are. They haven't come home!"
"I saw 'em down there, when I was there, and I left them there, in the little yard when I came home."
"When was that?" said John.
"Oh, 'bout six, I guess," said Lester. "I don't know exactly."
The coachman hurried to the house.
"If ye please, 'm, the Jenks boy says he saw them out in the little garden that joins the studio at about six. It's about half past six, or so, now, 'm, an' ye've just reached home. I can't make out how ye missed them, but I think I'll go over ter Mr. Kirtland's house, and if he isn't out ter some reception, like he often is, I'll ask the loan of his key, and with the gardener, I'll hunt there first. I believe they're there."
Aunt Lois, now really wild with anxiety, could only say: "Go, at once. Go somewhere, do something, to find them. See! It is getting dusky. Wherever they are, they are frightened, I know, and surely I am almost sick with fear for their safety."
Mr. Kirtland was at home, and while he could not believe the children were in his studio, he felt that no place should be neglected in the effort to find them, and he insisted upon joining the searching party.
Meanwhile, in the studio the dusky shadows had grown deeper. The two terrified little girls had begun to wonder if anyone would ever come for them.
They still clung to each other, and for some time not a sound had broken the stillness. Naught save the ticking of the clock, and that did not startle them, but, rather, by its monotonous tune, seemed like a friend that sought to cheer them.
Not even a team passed, and no footstep upon the sidewalk told of a pedestrian who walked by the building.
"If you heard someone walk past this place would you wish he'd stop, or would you wish he wouldn't?" whispered Rose.
"I'd hate to hear him go right by without stopping, because I'd know he wasn't coming to take us home, but if he stopped I'd be scared!" whispered Polly.
Rose grasped Polly's arm.
"It's in THERE! It's in THERE!" they shrieked, as if with one voice, then in a frightened little heap they slipped to the floor and tried to draw the rug over them to hide and shield them from they knew not what!
Suddenly both rooms were flooded with light, and a familiar voice spoke.
"They're not here, you see; I felt sure that they could not be in the studio. We must search elsewhere, and lose no time about it."
It was Arthur Kirtland's voice, and scrambling to their feet, they ran to greet him, all fear left behind.
"Oh, Mr. Kirtland, we ARE here," cried Rose.
"And we've been here just almost FOREVER," Polly added.
"And, oh, here's John!" cried Rose. "Now we can go home!"
"I think ye can, bein's yer Aunt Lois thinks ye're both lost, and no knowin' whether we'll find ye or not. Ye better be tellin' Mr. Kirtland how it is ye are here after he'd thought the place empty, and he'd locked it up, an' gone home."
Quickly they told the story of their trip to the ice cream parlor, and of their late return, finding entrance by the little green door.
Of the lonely waiting, of the noises that had frightened them.
"Oh, Mr. Kirtland! That armor is standing just as it did when it was daylight here, but truly we heard his sword rattle against his shield, and once—" Rose's voice faltered.
"Once," said Polly, taking up the story, "we thought he walked across the floor!"
"I have heard the same thing," was the quick reply, "and I am not at all surprised that you were terrified."
Rose and Polly were grateful that he did not laugh or even look amused.
"But he COULDN'T walk," said Rose; "it's only an iron suit."
"Oh, he surely doesn't move," Arthur Kirtland said, and he smiled kindly at the children, "but sometimes I think a tiny mouse mistakes it for a huge cage and runs around in it, and as to his walking, the cars on the railroad that runs back of the studio jar the building and shake the suit of armor. I think that may be what you heard."
"Well, it sounds harmless enough when ye know what made the noise," John said, with a laugh, "and now I guess ye'll be some willin' ter go home ter Aunt Lois. The carriage is at the door."
"Oh, yes, yes!" they cried.
"A studio is a lovely place in the day-time," said Polly, "and the pictures are beautiful then, but when it begins to be dark it's DIFFERENT."
"Different! I guess that's so," said the coachman; "and now, come! We'll drive home at a lively pace."
"Oh, doesn't it seem good to be safe!" cried Polly when, snugly seated in the carriage, they saw that they were on their own familiar avenue.
"Yes, and we always like to be GOING somewhere, and now we're glad that we're almost home," said Rose.
"I guess anybody would be glad to get away from that studio, if they'd ever been in there alone when it gets darker and darker every minute," said Polly.
"Do you b'lieve Mr. Kirtland would dare to be there at night?" questioned Rose.
"Why, he came there after us!" cried Polly, in surprise.
"Well, he had our coachman with him," Rose replied; "he didn't come alone!"
"That's so," agreed Polly; "he couldn't be afraid with the coachman for company!"
Aunt Lois was just beginning to think that she could not bear waiting to hear from the searching party, when she heard little feet upon the piazza, the music of merry voices, and when the maid opened the door, Rose ran in, followed by Polly.
"Oh, please may I stay, 'm, to hear what happened to the two dears?" pleaded Nora.
Aunt Lois smiled assent, and then Rose, with Polly's help, told the story of the afternoon, of their return to the studio, of the terror that seemed to fill shadowy corners when twilight came.
"And the noises! Oh, Aunt Lois, you don't know what strange sounds there were in that studio! I love the pictures, and it's beautiful there in the daylight, but I can't forget the fright we had, and I won't want to go there again for, oh, a LONG time!" said Rose.
"We've told you how dark and lonely it was," added Polly, "but you'd have to HEAR that armor clank to know how it sounded."
"I'm so deaf that some of the lesser noises would not have reached me, and really that is the only mercy I know of in being deaf," Aunt Lois said. "You've both been so completely frightened there, that I, too, think you would better not go there for some time. Indeed, I wish something very bright and cheery might occur that would turn your thoughts from the studio."