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- Princess Polly's Gay Winter - 2/21 -


street, as if pursuing Gyp.

It shouted lustily. "You Gyp! You _mean_ old,--oh, I don't know what!"

"Why, that's Gwen Harcourt!" said Polly, "and she's chasing Gyp!"

Like a small whirlwind composed of muslin, lace, and ribbons, Gwen tore down the avenue, shouting, and screaming as she ran.

She had snatched a handful of gravel just as she started to chase him, and she hurled the small, round stones after his flying figure.

Not one of them hit him, and as he ran, he looked over his shoulder to grin like an imp, as he shouted:

"Oh, what a shot! Ye couldn't hit the side of the house!"

That so maddened Gwen, that she forgot to run, and in the middle of the street, stood stamping her foot, and shrieking.

Of course Gyp was delighted! If he had not frightened her, he had, at least, the joy of seeing how angry Gwen could be. He vaulted over a low wall, and carelessly whistling, went at high speed across the lawn, toward the river, crossed the bridge, and, as usual, hid in the forest beyond.

Gwen stood, where he had left her, watching him as he hurried away, and finally disappeared.

"Horrid thing!" she cried. "How I wish I knew of something I could do to plague him!"

Gwen was quickly angered, but her anger was never long-lived.

She turned toward home.

"_Let_ him run, if he wants to. Who cares? I don't."

Already she was humming a merry tune.

"I read a story yesterday 'bout a house that had a secret closet in it. 'Twas a fine story, and I guess I'll tell it to the first girl I meet," she said.

It happened that Rose and Polly were walking down the avenue, on the way to Sherwood Hall, just as Gwen Harcourt gave up chasing Gyp.

"Hello!" she cried, "I wondered when you'd come to Avondale to live. How long have you been here?"

"Two weeks," said Rose.

"Why didn't you let me know? I'd have been over to see you long before this," Gwen replied.

Polly looked at Rose. She knew that Rose was not at all fond of Gwen, and wondered what reply she would make.

Rose did not have to answer, for Gwen continued:

"Sit down on this wall, and I'll tell you a story. I'll come over to your house some day this week, but now listen, while we sit here. It's a story I read yesterday, 'bout a house that had a secret closet, and ours has one, do you hear?" She leaned forward and pointed her ringer, first at Polly, then at Rose.

"_Our_ house has a secret closet. Don't you both wish yours had?"

"Why, Gwen Harcourt! What could we do with secret closets?" said Rose.

"The girl in the story I read was locked into the closet by mistake, and she couldn't get out!" said Gwen, looking quite as excited as if she were telling something pleasant. Rose moved uneasily, and Polly shivered.

"Didn't they _ever_ find her?" Polly asked.

"I guess not," said Gwen, "and the funny thing is that the story stopped right there, so you see I'll never have any idea whether she ever got out or not."

"Oh, I like _pleasant_ stories," Rose said, as she slipped from the wall. In an instant Polly stood beside her, and the two turned toward home, but Gwen had no idea of losing her audience so soon.

"Wait a minute," she cried, "and I'll tell you 'bout the girl that fell into the ditch, and had to be pulled out by her hair!"

"Oh, _don't_!" cried Polly, and clapping her hands over her ears, she turned, and ran at top speed, followed by Rose.

They soon outran Gwen, and were glad to rest.

"Did you ever hear such _horrid_ stories?" Polly asked.

"Never!" cried Rose, "unless it was other stories that she told at other times. There's the one that she made us listen to when we were over to Lena Lindsey's one day. The one about the ghost that rode down the main street every night at twelve."

"Oh, I remember," said Polly. "That was the time that Rob Lindsey said the shivers ran up and down his spine until his back was all _humps_! He said the shivers had become _chronic_! We laughed at Rob, but even the funny things he said couldn't drive away the thoughts of the story that Gwen Harcourt had told."

* * * * * * * *

The bright, sunny days sped as swiftly at Avondale, as they had at the shore.

Hints of pleasures that already were being planned for the coming Winter were floating as freely as if the wind carried them, and all over Avondale, wherever small girls and boys were at play, one might hear scraps of conversation that told of anticipated pleasures.

Some of the gossip reached Aunt Judith's cottage, and she resolved to do a bit of entertaining, if not on the grand scale in which her neighbors indulged, at least in a manner that her little friends would enjoy.

She laughed softly as she moved about the tiny rooms, and thought of the quaint, merry party that would at least be original.

"The cottage is small, and so it will have to be a little party, but we'll call it 'small and select,'" she said.

A light tap at the door, made her turn, and she hastened to open the screen door, that Rose might enter.

"The fine house, and fine friends don't make you forget your Aunt Judith, dear," she said.

"Oh, I'll never forget you," Rose said, "and I'll come to see you now I'm to live so near. To-day I'll sit beside you while you sew. I'll sit in the little chair that was always mine."

"It is yours now, dear, and, whenever you come, I'll 'play,' as you and Polly say, I'll 'play' that you are once more living here at the cottage."

There was news to be told. Uncle John was to have a fine conservatory built, and later it would be stocked with beautiful flowering plants.

Lena Lindsey was to give a fine party some time during the Winter, and Leslie Grafton, and her brother Harry had already hinted that there would be gaiety at their home.

Mrs. Sherwood always gave some sort of party for Princess Polly, and surely everyone remembered her beautiful party of the Winter before.

All these things she told Aunt Judith.

"And Uncle John says he will not permit his neighbors to do _all_ the entertaining, and when he says that he laughs," said Rose.

Aunt Judith stopped rocking and sat very straight.

"And _I_ shall entertain in a small way myself," she said.

"Oh, Aunt Judith!" cried Rose, her surprise making her eyes round, and bright.

"The wee party that I shall give will be in honor of my little niece, Rose."

Rose laid her warm hand on Aunt Judith's arm.

"How good you are," she said. "And I'll come over the day of the party, and help you get ready. I'll love to. 'Twill be half the fun. Oh, Aunt Judith, please tell me what the dear little party is to be like."

"Like a party that I once enjoyed when I was little," Aunt Judith said.

"I remember it as perfectly as if it had occurred yesterday. To repeat it now will be a quaint delight. I'll not tell you _all_ about it yet, but when my plans are made, you shall come over here to the cottage, and I'll tell you every detail. I believe the tiny party will do me good. I shall feel once more like the little lass that I was when I received the invitation, and then a week later, dressed in my best, went to my friend's house. There were twelve guests, and I shall have just twelve at _my_ party."

CHAPTER II

THE SEA NYMPH

Little Sprite Seaford sat in the first car of the long train, her eyes bright with excitement, a tear on her cheek, and her red lips quivering.

One little hand nervously clutched her handkerchief, while the other grasped the handles of her very new suitcase.

She had wound her pretty arms tightly around her mother's neck, kissed her, oh, so many times, and then, lest her courage fail her, had turned and fled from the house, where on the beach, she clung to her father's


Princess Polly's Gay Winter - 2/21

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