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- Princess Polly's Gay Winter - 21/21 -
Sprite said, laughing because the others did.
"We'll run a race!" cried Polly, "and the one that gets there last will be the one to tell the story."
The others agreed, and Polly counted:
"One! Two! _Three_!"
They were off like the wind, past the fountain, the gates, the big clump of rose bushes, and it happened that Rose and Sprite were the first to reach the terrace.
"All right!" cried Princess Polly, "I'll tell the story of the 'Big, Brave Knight.'"
"Does it begin with: 'Once upon a time'?" Sprite asked, eagerly.
"Oh, yes," Polly said. "Once upon a time there lived a knight who was big, and brave, and he loved a princess who was so beautiful that it was like looking at the sun to look at her face, because her beauty was so dazzling.
"She wasn't very happy, for who'd be happy when an old witch had enchanted her?"
"Oh, oo!" purred little Sprite, "I love a story that tells about folks that are enchanted."
"So do I," agreed Rose. "Now go on, Polly. How was she enchanted?"
"Oh, I wish I had the book right here, so I could read every word of it to you, but I let Leslie Grafton take it home to read, so I'll tell it as well as I can.
"Where did I stop? Oh, I know. I'd just told you that the lovely princess was enchanted. Lora was her name, and she lived in a fine castle way up on a great, high mountain. The picture showed the castle, and it looked as if the side of the mountain was all ledges.
"On sunny days, she wandered around the castle gardens, picking the flowers, or feeding her pets, and when storm clouds hung over the mountain, she strolled through the great halls, playing her guitar, and sweetly singing.
"Often she leaned on the wall that bordered the gardens, and for hours she would gaze at the far distant plains.
"'Across those plains will come the prince who will set you free,' the old witch had said, and then she had laughed, and under her breath had muttered: 'That is, if he has the bravery to ride his charger up this steep mountain side.'"
"Did a prince come?" questioned Sprite.
"And was he fine, and brave?" Rose asked.
Princess Polly laughed at their eager questions.
"The book says:
"'Many princes came, but when they saw the ledge going straight up to the castle, they turned back, saying:
"'"No man could keep in the saddle, and no horse could climb such a huge crag as that. Both would fall and be dashed to pieces."'
"One day, when the sun was bright and the air was very clear, the princess became restless, and tired of roaming through hall, and garden, and she ran to the wall, once more to look off across the plain.
"A long time she stood watching, when, far, far over where the sky and land seemed to meet, she saw something flashing in the sunlight.
"At first it appeared to stand still, but after a little while, she saw that it was coming nearer.
"Brighter and brighter flashed the spot that she had been watching, and a moment later, she saw that it was a spear held aloft, in the hand of a man in armor.
"On, on he came, and soon she saw that his armor was of silver, and that the plumes on his helmet were white.
"Nearer and nearer he rode, and now, as he reached the foot of the cliff, the Princess Lora saw that he was handsome, for his visor was up, and even from that height she could see that his eyes were dark, and fine. He had seen her portrait that a great artist had painted, and he had vowed that he would win her.
"Bravely he urged his white steed up the side of the cliff, and the charger, placing his hoofs in the crevices, climbed steadily higher until, at last, the brave knight stood at the castle gate, blowing his bugle to demand admittance.
"At the sound of the bugle, the iron gates flew open, he rode boldly into the courtyard, and up to the door. He had shown himself to be so brave that no one dared oppose him, and after staying a month at the castle, he rode away, carrying the lovely Princess Lora as his bride, and they lived happy ever after."
"There!" cried Polly, "I've told that almost word for word."
"That was a lovely story," said Rose, "and I always like them when they commence, 'Once upon a time,' and end with, 'They lived happy ever after.'"
"So do I," said Sprite, "and just think of the lovely times we'll have this Summer, when we're _all_ at the Cliffs, at Cliffmore, that is, if you're coming down to the shore. Oh, _are_ you?"
"Uncle John says we'll enjoy the earlier part of the Summer here, and then go over to his lovely house at Cliffmore for the rest of the Summer."
"Why, that's just what my papa said, last evening," said Princess Polly, "and I do believe they've planned it together."
"I'll go home just as soon as school closes," said Sprite, "and I'll be company for ma, I'll gather lovely shells for you to keep, I'll read to pa evenings, but most of all, I'll be watching the long white road that leads from the pier.
"Oh, let's play this hammock is the boat to Cliff more!" she cried, "and we'll call the different landings."
"All right!" cried Rose, "and do you hear that funny creak?" she asked. "Well, that is the steamer just starting off."
They swung a while, and then Sprite shouted the name of the first stopping-place.
"Seaman's Port!" she cried. "This is where they always roll off lots of barrels."
"What's in them?" Polly asked.
"Oh, salt pork, and vegetables, and, oh, all sorts of things that they can't buy on the island."
"Seafarm Ledge!" she next shouted.
"All of us get out here!" cried Sprite, "because this is the place where the gentlemen sit around and do nothing, while the ladies dress up, and walk, and walk, and walk up and down the board walk."
There must have been a very rough sea, for the hammock rolled and pitched, until it seemed as if the little voyagers would surely be thrown overboard, so violently did the steamer lurch.
The passengers were evidently but little frightened. In truth, they appeared to think the trip a huge joke, for they laughed gaily; at last Sprite cried:
"Cliffmore! Cliffmore! Every one get out, because this steamer goes no farther!"
"Is that true, Sprite, that the steamer _Queen of the Ocean_ stops at Cliffmore, and then turns and goes back?"
"Oh, yes," said Sprite. "Some of the boats go farther, but that vessel never does."
"Well, we had a fine trip in our hammock-steamer," said Princess Polly, "and if our vessel did pitch pretty badly, what did we care, while the sky was blue and cloudless overhead?"
"It has been bright and sunny here at Avondale," said Sprite, "and I've had a lovely time, and I only long to go home, just because it _is_ home."
"But soon after you go back to Cliffmore, Rose and I will come, and then we three will play together, and play all day, because it will be vacation, no lessons, and no school."
"Mamma is sure that this Summer at Cliffmore is to be delightful," said Polly.
"And Uncle John says that there will be lots of good times, but that he knows of one happening that will be a surprise for everyone!" said Rose.
Those who would like to meet Princess Polly again at Avondale, with her dearest friend Rose Atherton, to be with them again at Cliffmore, where they are constantly with little Sprite, may enjoy all their "good-times" in--
"Princess Polly at Play."
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