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- Princess Polly's Gay Winter - 20/21 -
Sprite nodded her head wisely as she spoke, and the sunbeams danced on her rippling hair.
"And I'll tell you something I've thought of," she said. "It was Friday after school that I asked him about sending it, and he said we'd all take the trip to Cliffmore. And when Saturday came it was so stormy we couldn't go. I didn't say a thing, but I must have looked disappointed, for he said: 'Cheer up, little Sprite, for your prize shall reach Cliffmore to-day. I'm going over there, and I'll take it with me.'
"_Now_ I believe he wouldn't have gone so far on such a day for himself. I think he went for me."
"It would be just like Uncle John to do that," Rose said. "He's always doing something to make people happy."
As if to prove that his little niece spoke truly, he now appeared on the road in his big motor car, laughing when he espied the three playmates, and gaily calling:
"Has anyone seen a small girl straying around this part of Avondale? Girl with brown curls, and rosy cheeks, answers to the name of Rose?"
"You needn't laugh, Uncle John, for truly I was afraid Great Aunt Rose would try to make you say that I must spend, at least, a part of my time with her, and oh, I didn't want to."
"Do I look as if anyone could _make_ me give up what I considered mine?"
"No, _no_!" they cried in chorus.
"Then climb into my car, you three little tramps, and I'll take you for a ride."
AUNT ROSE'S CALL
A week's vacation!
All of the pupils were delighted, but Princess Polly was especially happy, because with Rose, and Sprite, the week would be a week of pleasure, no lessons, and all play.
"What shall we do on Monday?" she asked, as they skipped along the sidewalk.
It was Monday morning, and she did not wish to have a moment wasted.
"Come over to my house, and we'll sit in the big hammock and talk, and perhaps something will happen that will just tell us what to do."
The gay-colored hammock had been hung on the sunny side of the house, and the three little friends sat swinging and talking, and soon they had planned enough doings to occupy a month, instead of a week.
They were talking of Lena, and Leslie, when Sprite asked:
"When have you seen Gwen Harcourt?"
"They haven't seen me for ever so long!" cried an answering voice, and Gwen appeared around the corner, laughing saucily, because she had been listening, and had heard Sprite's question.
Of course she had some very large stories to tell regarding the private school that she was attending, and her classmates there.
"I wouldn't care to go to any other school," she said, "and I love to take the train every morning. I'd stay at home some days if I was near school and walked, but I like to ride on the trains so I never miss a day.
"Guess what I did just now," she said, laughing as if to imply that what she had done was an absolutely clever joke.
"What did you do?" Polly asked, not because she really cared, but rather from curiosity as to what especially abominable thing it had pleased Gwen to do.
Gwen never waited to be urged.
Seating herself on the piazza, railing, she swung her legs as she recounted the morning's happenings, making the list as long as possible.
"Just before I came over here I went into the room upstairs that mamma calls the 'Picture Gallery,' and I looked around for a while just to see which I liked the best.
"It seemed to me that the one that was on the first line, was looking right at me, and I _almost_ thought the pink feathers on her hat bobbed just a little.
"The longer I looked at her the more it seemed to me that she really was looking at me, and _once_ I thought she smiled. I had a lovely new knife that my cousin Jack had given me. I went close to the picture, and more than ever it seemed as if she smiled at me, and I thought if I had her out of the frame she'd be lovelier than any doll I own.
"It didn't take me more than ten minutes to whip out my little knife, and cut her right out from the background, but say! After I'd cut her out, she didn't look nearly as pretty as I had thought she would. Just look at her!
"The paint looks real dauby when you get close up to her."
"Why, Gwen Harcourt!" cried Princess Polly; "you truly did cut her from the picture!"
"Of course I did. Did you really s'pose I'd tell you I did if I didn't?"
"You might have been joking when you said it," said Polly.
"Well, I wasn't joking," Gwen replied, "and now I don't know where to put this, now I have it."
"What did you mean to do, when you first thought of cutting the picture out?" questioned Rose.
"Oh, I thought I'd keep her in the dolls' house, but she looks bigger in my hand than she did in the frame. I don't believe she'd go into the doll's house, and I don't b'lieve I want her to, for really I don't care for her. Do either of you want her?"
She extended her arm, holding the picture at arm's length, while she looked from one to the other.
"We don't want her," said Polly, "and oh, _this_ time, Gwen, your mamma will surely be angry!"
"Pooh! See 'f she is. I guess I'll run home and see what she says," chirped Gwen, and gaily humming, she ran down the walk, and hurried home.
* * * * * * * *
Mrs. Harcourt had been entertaining guests for a few days, and it happened that soon after Gwen had left the house, the mischief had been discovered.
"Oh, can it be possible that there have been thieves prowling about the house in the night?" cried Mrs. Harcourt. "It really makes me feel quite ill to think of it."
At that moment, Gwen came flying into the house, and up the stairway.
"Somebody take this old picture and stick it back in the hole it came from. I thought it would make a nice big doll, but I guess I don't want her!"
"Oh, what a naughty thing for a child to do!" cried one of the ladies. "That fine picture is absolutely ruined."
"_Naughty_!" cried Mrs. Harcourt, "no, indeed! As you say, the picture is ruined, but Gwen has proved her love for Art, and her artistic nature. She felt so attracted to the picture that she was actually obliged to take it with her when she went out. She surely loves Art. As I have always said: 'Gwen is a most _unusual_ child. She shows great force of character, and I can overlook the _mistake_ she made in cutting the canvas, because the act showed me another fine trait,--the love of Art. I _do_ wonder if she will be an artist?"
The guests were disgusted. They wondered how any mother could be so foolish as to think a piece of costly mischief showed either love of art or talent, instead of wilful wrong-doing.
"Gwen is a pretty child," said one woman, "and some one who had sense enough to correct her and make her behave, could train her to be a pleasing young girl, when she is a few years older, but her mother could never do that!"
"No, indeed," the other replied. "Mrs. Harcourt is spoiling her little daughter as fast as she can. I had promised to stay a week," she continued, "but I think I will make some excuse and leave here day after to-morrow. I am very fond of Mrs. Harcourt, but the child is so unpleasant that I can not remain."
The two friends were in the room that they had shared during their visit. In another room Mrs. Harcourt was changing Gwen's frock, and ribbons, to make her yet more attractive when she should appear at lunch. A less beautiful costume, and a bit of training in ordinary rules of courtesy, would have been far more beneficial. Mrs. Harcourt felt that Gwen must, at all times, be daintily dressed, but she permitted her to do or say whatever she chose, and at times when she was hopelessly rude, the silly mother thought her charming.
In the big hammock the three playmates still were swinging.
"Come!" said Polly, "let's walk around the garden, and when we come to the terrace, we'll sit down, and listen to the story that Rose promised to tell."
"No, the story that Sprite was to tell!" cried Rose.
"No, the story that Princess Polly found in the red book yesterday,"
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