Sisters never do, as "we fellows" know too well. She might have changed her mind, however, if she had followed him, for as soon as he turned the corner, his whole aspect altered; his hands came out of his pockets, he stopped whistling, buttoned his jacket, gave his cap a pull, and went off at a great pace.
The train was just in when he reached the station, panting like a race-horse, and as red as a lobster with the wind and the run. Too bad of Fan to make me come alone! As none of them seemed looking for any one, he did not accost them, but eyed each new batch with the air of a martyr. The quick tap of feet behind him made him turn in time to see a fresh-faced little girl running down the long station, and looking as if she rather liked it. As she smiled, and waved her bag at him, he stopped and waited for her, saying to himself, "Hullo! I wonder if that 's Polly? How did you know?
Fan did n't tell me she was pretty. Don't look like city girls, nor act like 'em, neither," he thought, trudging in the rear, and eyeing with favor the brown curls bobbing along in front. As the carriage drove off, Polly gave a little bounce on the springy seat, and laughed like a delighted child. Why did n't she come, too? I 'm much obliged to you for coming to take care of me. Then he had n't done anything for her but carry the bag a few steps; yet, she thanked him. He felt grateful, and in a burst of confidence, offered a handful of peanuts, for his pockets were always supplied with this agreeable delicacy, and he might be traced anywhere by the trail of shells he left behind him.
As soon as he had done it, he remembered that Fanny considered them vulgar, and felt that he had disgraced his family. So he stuck his head out of the window, and kept it there so long, that Polly asked if anything was the matter. Oh, dear!
Are the horses bad? It 's very steep here; do you think it 's safe? Mother would be so anxious if anything should happen to me, so far away! I 'll manage the old chap, and the horses too;" and opening the door, Tom vanished aloft, leaving poor victimized Polly to quake inside, while he placidly revelled in freedom and peanuts outside, with the staid old driver. Fanny came flying down to meet her "darling Polly," as Tom presented her, with the graceful remark, "I 've got her!
Polly was instantly whisked up stairs; and having danced a double-shuffle on the door-mat, Tom retired to the dining-room, to restore exhausted nature with half a dozen cookies. Don't you want to lie down? I had a nice time coming, and no trouble, except the tipsy coachman; but Tom got out and kept him in order, so I was n't much frightened," answered innocent Polly, taking off her rough-and-ready coat, and the plain hat without a bit of a feather. He can't bear girls," said Fanny, with a superior air. Why, I thought he was very pleasant and kind!
Boys are all horrid; but he 's the horridest one I ever saw. Feeling her confidence much shaken in the youth, Polly privately resolved to let him alone, and changed the conversation, by saying, as she looked admiringly about the large, handsome room, "How splendid it is! I never slept in a bed with curtains before, or had such a fine toilet-table as this.
So she shook out her little black silk apron with a thoughtful face, and resolved not to allude to her own home, if she could help it. You can go too, if you like; papa said so. Do, it 's such fun! I 'll take care of you, and fix you up, so you won't look odd.
There was a locket on her neck, earrings tinkling in her ears, watch and chain at her belt, and several rings on a pair of hands that would have been improved by soap and water.
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Polly's eye went from one little figure to the other, and she thought that Fanny looked the oddest of the two; for Polly lived in a quiet country town, and knew very little of city fashions. She was rather impressed by the elegance about her, never having seen Fanny's home before, as they got acquainted while Fanny paid a visit to a friend who lived near Polly. But she did n't let the contrast between herself and Fan trouble her; for in a minute she laughed and said, contentedly, "My mother likes me to dress simply, and I don't mind.
I should n't know what to do rigged up as you are. Don't you ever forget to lift your sash and fix those puffy things when you sit down? She stopped at sight of Polly, stared a minute, then took up her roar just where she left it, and cast herself into Fanny's lap, exclaiming wrathfully, "Tom 's laughing at me! Make him stop! Don't scream so, you 'll frighten Polly!
You 're as cross as a little bear to-day! Polly hoped the "dreadful boy" would not be present; but he was, and stared at her all dinner-time, in a most trying manner. Shaw, a busy-looking gentleman, said," How do you do, my dear? Hope you 'll enjoy yourself;" and then appeared to forget her entirely. Shaw, a pale, nervous woman, greeted her little guest kindly, and took care that she wanted for nothing.
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Madam Shaw, a quiet old lady, with an imposing cap, exclaimed on seeing Polly, "Bless my heart! Fanny chatted like a magpie, and Maud fidgeted, till Tom proposed to put her under the big dish-cover, which produced such an explosion, that the young lady was borne screaming away, by the much-enduring Katy. It was altogether an uncomfortable dinner, and Polly was very glad when it was over.
They all went about their own affairs; and after doing the honors of the house, Fan was called to the dressmaker, leaving Polly to amuse herself in the great drawing-room. Polly was glad to be alone for a few minutes; and, having examined all the pretty things about her, began to walk up and down over the soft, flowery carpet, humming to herself, as the daylight faded, and only the ruddy glow of the fire filled the room.
Presently Madam came slowly in, and sat down in her arm-chair, saying, "That 's a fine old tune; sing it to me, my dear. I have n't heard it this many a day. Sing some more, dear," said Madam, in her gentle way, when she had done. Pleased with this praise, Polly sang away in a fresh little voice, that went straight to the listener's heart and nestled there. The sweet old tunes that one is never tired of were all Polly's store; and her favorites were Scotch airs, such as, "Yellow-Haired Laddie," "Jock o' Hazeldean," "Down among the Heather," and "Birks of Aberfeldie.
Sing it again, please," cried Tom's voice; and there was Tom's red head bobbing up over the high back of the chair where he had hidden himself. It gave Polly quite a turn, for she thought no one was hearing her but the old lady dozing by the fire.
The red head vanished like a meteor, for Polly's tone had been decidedly cool. The old lady put out her hand, and drawing Polly to her knee, looked into her face with such kind eyes, that Polly forgot the impressive cap, and smiled at her confidingly; for she saw that her simple music had pleased her listener, and she felt glad to know it.
Fan has been a young lady this two years, and Maud is a spoiled baby. Your mother 's a very sensible woman, my child. We were little folks till eighteen or so; worked and studied, dressed and played, like children; honored our parents; and our days were much longer in the land than now, it seems to, me. I did up his frills to the day of his death; and the first money I ever earned was five dollars which he offered as a prize to whichever of his six girls would lay the handsomest darn in his silk stockings.
All lived to be grandmothers and fathers; and I 'm the last,—seventy, next birthday, my dear, and not worn out yet; though daughter Shaw is an invalid at forty. Tell more about your papa, please; I like it," said Polly. Before she could continue, in came Fanny with the joyful news that Clara Bird had invited them both to go to the theatre with her that very evening, and would call for them at seven o'clock.
Polly was so excited by this sudden plunge into the dissipations of city life, that she flew about like a distracted butterfly, and hardly knew what happened, till she found herself seated before the great green curtain in the brilliant theatre.
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Old Mr. Bird sat on one side, Fanny on the other, and both let her alone, for which she was very grateful, as her whole attention was so absorbed in the scene around her, that she could n't talk. Polly had never been much to the theatre; and the few plays she had seen were the good old fairy tales, dramatized to suit young beholders,—lively, bright, and full of the harmless nonsense which brings the laugh without the blush. That night she saw one of the new spectacles which have lately become the rage, and run for hundreds of nights, dazzling, exciting, and demoralizing the spectator by every allurement French ingenuity can invent, and American prodigality execute.
Never mind what its name was, it was very gorgeous, very vulgar, and very fashionable; so, of course, it was much admired, and every one went to see it. At first, Polly thought she had got into fairy-land, and saw only the sparkling creatures who danced and sung in a world of light and beauty; but, presently, she began to listen to the songs and conversation, and then the illusion vanished; for the lovely phantoms sang negro melodies, talked slang, and were a disgrace to the good old-fashioned elves whom she knew and loved so well.
Our little girl was too innocent to understand half the jokes, and often wondered what people were laughing at; but, as the first enchantment subsided, Polly began to feel uncomfortable, to be sure her mother would n't like to have her there, and to wish she had n't come. Somehow, things seemed to get worse and worse, as the play went on; for our small spectator was being rapidly enlightened by the gossip going on all about her, as well as by her own quick eyes and girlish instincts.
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When four-and-twenty girls, dressed as jockeys, came prancing on to the stage, cracking their whips, stamping the heels of their topboots, and winking at the audience, Polly did not think it at all funny, but looked disgusted, and was glad when they were gone; but when another set appeared in a costume consisting of gauze wings, and a bit of gold fringe round the waist, poor unfashionable Polly did n't know what to do; for she felt both frightened and indignant, and sat with her eyes on her play-bill, and her cheeks getting hotter and hotter every minute.
It seems queer at first; but you 'll get used to it, as I did. She did not know how easy it was to "get used to it," as Fanny did; and it was well for her that the temptation was not often offered. She could not explain the feeling; but she was glad when the play was done, and they were safe at home, where kind grandma was waiting to see them comfortably into bed. People seemed to like it, but I don't think it was proper. Her eyes were as big as saucers. Some of it was rather queer; but, of course, it was proper, or all our set would n't go. I heard Mrs.
Smythe Perkins say, 'It was charming; so like dear Paris;' and she has lived abroad; so, of course, she knows what is what. I know it was n't proper for little girls to see, or I should n't have been so ashamed! Smythe Perkins. I 'm going to walk, after my lessons, so I wish you 'd wear your best hat and sack," answered Fanny, trying to stick her own hat on at an angle which defied all the laws of gravitation.
I like the other best, because it has a feather; but this is warmer, so I wear it every day. Mamma won't have it cut up, and my ermine one must be kept for best;" and Fanny smoothed her Bismark kids with an injured air.