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- Princess Polly's Gay Winter - 10/21 -
"Yes, and no," Uncle John said.
"And that is all I'll tell you," he continued, "because I'd like you to recognize her at once, without any hint from me."
"And I'll enjoy the forenoon with Aunt Judith," she said as she opened the little gate.
Aunt Judith, sitting by the window saw her coming, and hastened to the door.
"I've been watching a half hour to see you push open the gate, and come in," she said.
"Oh, Aunt Judith! I'm not late," Rose said, "for look! I said I'd come over here at nine, and it's just nine by your clock."
"Dear child, you are very prompt, and the only reason that I sat watching is because I wanted to see you the moment you came in sight. Now take off your things," she said, "and then we'll sit down, and talk over the plans for our party."
Rose was delighted. What little girl wouldn't be?
"First of all, dear, I had a great surprise this morning. A very great surprise, and your Uncle John Atherton gave it to me."
"Oh, Uncle John is always doing something nice, for _somebody_!" cried Rose.
"I never knew how good, how kind he could be," Aunt Judith said, brushing away a happy tear. "He came here one evening, and said he'd come to cheer me, and he certainly succeeded. We talked a little while, and in his pleasant way he questioned me, trying to learn if I was feeling prosperous. I didn't like to tell him, but he _made_ me, and Rose, my cellar is stocked with all the wood and coal that I could use this Winter. There are winter vegetables, apples, two big hams, a barrel of flour,--Rose! I never felt so rich in all my life! Think of it! Winter coming, and my cellar full!"
"Oh, Aunt Judith! Do you wonder that I love him?"
"Who could help it?" was the eager question, "And that's not all, for with the idea that he hadn't done _enough_, this morning when I opened my back door a neat looking little maid stood there.
"I'm sent here, m'am, by your relative, Mr. Atherton, who says I'm to work for you until you get tired of me, which he says m'am, he hopes won't be soon."
"I was tired this morning and when I found a little maid engaged to do my work for me, I couldn't speak for a moment, because I was so full of thanks, that they _almost_ choked me."
"Now, you can stay in the dear little sitting-room, while the work in the kitchen is being done for you. No wonder you feel rich," cried Rose.
"And now," said Aunt Judith, "we'll talk about the party."
"Wait just a minute, 'til I get my little stool. There! _Now_ I'll listen, and I'm _wild_ to hear."
"I wish this party to be as nearly as possible like the one that I enjoyed when I was little. First of all, I shall make some draperies for these windows of flowered chintz. I found a whole piece up in my store room the other day, and its gay flowered pattern looked very like the curtains in the home I so well remember. There are fine old hand-made rugs in the store room. I've never cared for them, but now I know that they will look right with the flowered chintz curtains. Now come and see what I have here in this little cupboard."
"There! Won't these look bright and pretty on my mantel?" she asked.
"Oh, lovely! Lovely!" cried Rose. "Where did you get them, and what are they called?"
"They are called candelabra, and are really ornamental candlesticks. These clear, finely cut pendants of glass will catch and reflect light. We'll play old-fashioned games, we'll have an old-fashioned treat, and we'll wear real old-time costumes. It will not be a grand party, but I believe the children will enjoy it, for it will, at least, be different from any party that they have ever attended."
Aunt Judith worked all the morning, stitching the hems for the chintz curtains, and Rose pulled out the bastings, threaded needles, and in many ways helped to make the pretty things for the little front parlor.
"If it wasn't for school I could come again Monday and help you," Rose said.
"I shall easily do all that is needed," Aunt Judith replied, "for now I have a little maid, I have more time for myself, and she said she would be pleased to help me decorate for the party. I think she really wishes to have a part in the preparations."
"You have beautiful old china," said Rose, "and the boys and girls will like the nice things served on such pretty plates."
"Now, go into the next room, and see what I left hanging over a chair. You may try it on, and then come out here, and let me see you," Aunt Judith said.
"What fun!" cried Rose, and she laughed gaily as she ran to "try on" the quaint costume.
"Oh, the beautiful dress!" she said when she saw the dainty frock that Aunt Judith had chosen for her. She quickly removed her own dress, and soon she was looking at her reflection in the mirror. She took the hand mirror, that she might see the back of the costume.
The little maid peeped in. She, too, had been trying on the quaint dress that Aunt Judith intended her to wear.
And when at last the little clock chimed the hour at which she had promised to leave the cottage that she might be at home to lunch with Uncle John, she said "goodbye," and ran down the path, her mind filled with thoughts of the promised party, and of the delight of her playmates when they should be entertained by Aunt Judith, and for the first time, be a part of an old-fashioned party.
Uncle John was on the broad piazza waiting for her, and together they went in to lunch. Later, in the big automobile, they rode in a different direction from any that Rose had ever travelled over, and she looked up at Uncle John, as if she were wondering if he had forgotten that there was a call to be made before they turn homeward.
He turned to the right, and then, after a short ride, drove up a long private avenue bordered with odd, foreign-looking trees. Although the foliage was gone, one could see by the form of the trunk and branches that they were not the trees usually seen at Avondale. The house, a stately homestead, stood well back from the street, and the porch, with its colonial pillars, gave grandeur to the entrance. And when they were seated in the handsome parlor, Rose looked about her, and wondered who it might be that Uncle John had brought her to see.
A slight sound, a rustling of silken drapery, and a young woman, lovely as a vision, entered, offered her hand to Captain Atherton, and then turning, she looked at the little girl whose brown eyes told of admiration.
"And this, John, is Rose? Little Rose Atherton?"
"This truly is my little Rose. And now, Rose, this is Miss Iris Vandmere, and I wish you two to be the best of friends. Tell me, do you remember if you have ever met her, or seen her before to-day?"
"Oh, yes, _yes_!" cried Rose. "She is the lovely lady in the locket picture, I _know_ she is!"
"I am, indeed, the girl in the locket miniature, and now, as you have seen me before coming here, don't look upon me as a stranger. I want you to learn to like me, dear."
There was pleading in the sweet voice, and Rose took the slender white hand in hers.
"I won't have to learn to _like_ you, because I _love_ you now. Anyone would love you, you are so sweet, so bright to look at," Rose said, and Iris bent her lovely head, and kissed the upturned face.
* * * * * * * *
"Oh, Uncle John! There _never was_, there _never will be_ anyone so dear, so lovely," sighed Rose, when they were once more in the automobile. "See how sweet she looks, waving her hand to us! When will you take me to her again?"
"Rose, little girl, you have pleased me to-day, and you shall often go with me to the beautiful old house, to see the beautiful girl who lives there. As I said this afternoon, I wish you to be the best of friends."
* * * * * * * *
Of course the news of Aunt Judith's party flew through the neighborhood, and many were the questions that Rose was asked to answer.
To each, she shook her curly head, and made the same reply.
"Aunt Judith intends it to be quaint, and everything will be old-fashioned, and we are all to wear real old-time costumes, but that is all I will tell you, because Aunt Judith wishes it to seem quaint, and a bit of a surprise when you come. It won't be any surprise at all if I tell you all about it now."
"Don't you tell it, Rose, not even to me," said Princess Polly.
"Nor me!" cried Sprite.
"If she's kind enough to plan a party for us children, we ought to let her have it just as she wishes it to be."
Gyp sat upon the wall, listening to all that was being said. He was full of mischief, and often he had annoyed Aunt Judith with his pranks.
"She's agoin' ter make a party fer 'em!" he said to himself.
He still sat on the wall, swinging his skinny legs when those who had stood talking of the event had walked together down the street. Polly
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