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- Princess Polly's Gay Winter - 6/21 -
"Thank you for letting me see the portraits," she said. "I'm glad you showed them to me."
"Well, _I'm_ not," Gwen said, rudely. "I wish I _hadn't_, 'cause you don't b'lieve that pretty portrait is me."
Sprite looked at her with wondering eyes. She was thinking that it was strange that a little girl who wore lovely frocks, and lived in a handsome house was willing to be as rude as any little vagrant who roamed the beach at Cliffmore, gathering sea weed.
"Our house is just an old ship's hull turned upside down, and fixed up for a house, but mother never let me speak like that to anyone, and besides, I wouldn't want to," she thought.
She walked toward the avenue, Gwen close beside her.
"Good-bye," Sprite said, with a pleasant smile.
"I'll not say 'good-bye!'" cried Gwen. "All I'll say is: 'That portrait _is_ a picture of _me_!"
Her voice had risen to a shriek, and she stamped her foot.
Sprite, now wholly disgusted, turned and ran.
Mrs. Harcourt, from an upper window, saw Sprite running away from the house, just as Gwen's angry voice made itself heard.
"Oh, dear!" she sighed, "What a pity that of all the children that Gwen knows, not one really understands her."
The lady, to whom she spoke, looked up into her handsome face, and wondered how any intelligent woman could be so blind regarding her own child.
"She's so very high strung," continued Mrs. Harcourt, "that she is easily excited, and she's so _very_ sensitive that her playmates are constantly hurting her."
"Why do you not urge her to bear with her little friends patiently, and thus help matters to glide more smoothly?"
"Ah, you, dear friend, like all the rest, fail to understand how fine, how _extremely_ sensitive my little Gwen is," Mrs. Harcourt responded.
At this point Gwen rushed up the stairs, stamping on every stair, and dashed into the room.
"I'm glad she's gone!" she cried, flinging herself down on a chair near the window, a frown making her look as unpleasant as possible.
"Who was that child?" her mother asked, as she bent over her, kissing her flushed face, and brushing a yellow curl back from her forehead.
"She's come to Avondale to stay all Winter with Princess Polly, and with Rose Atherton. I wanted to know her, I mean I _thought_ I did, but now I don't. I brought her in to see the portraits in our hall, and just for fun I told her that the picture of the little brown eyed girl was me.
"She wouldn't believe it, and that made me mad. Of course it really wasn't a portrait of me, but if I _said_ it was, she ought to believe it?"
"My precious darling!" cried Mrs. Harcourt, "the children _never_ seem to be able to understand your wonderful imagination. The child was absurd to go off leaving you so unhappy. I'll ask Mrs. Sherwood what sort of child she is."
Gwen, having been petted and assured that her mother thought her perfect, ran from the room, and down to the garden where she sought something with which to amuse herself.
The cook, looking from the rear window, frowned darkly.
Gwen did not see her, because, with her back toward the house, she was trying to see if it would be possible to tie a knot in the cat's tail.
The old cat objected, and struck at her, missing however, because Gwen jumped back.
"Ah, ye little varmint!" cried the cook, "if they's no person handy fer yez ter pester, thin yez fall back on the owld cat, poor crayture."
A few moments she watched Gwen in silence, then again she spoke.
"There she goes tryin' to climb up onto the fountain basin. Sure I'll hov ter shpake ter her, and I don't want ter, but she risks anything."
Throwing up the window she shouted:
"Hi! Miss Gwen! Coom down off'n there, 'fore ye do be gittin' a big fall!"
Gwen turned and made an outrageous face, thus giving proof of her sweetness.
"Coom doon!" shouted the cook, but Gwen only giggled and remained exactly where she was.
WHAT HAPPENED AT SCHOOL
Little Sprite Seaford thought Avondale the brightest place that any child ever lived in, and if the sky was blue, or if clouds hid the sun, she smiled and still insisted that it was a cheery place.
She had not forgotten the charm of her home at the shore, but she remembered that she always felt very gay when the sunlight glistened on the waves.
She remembered that when the sky was overcast, the waves were dark and sullen, and the great gulls flew far over the sea, her laugh lost its gaiety, and she forgot to sing her merry songs.
Here at Avondale were trees bright with leaves of red and yellow, gardens glowing with gorgeous fall flowers, and Sprite thought Avondale looked as if it were one huge garden, through which avenues had been cut, and houses, surrounded by spacious lawns, had been built.
School had opened a week earlier than usual, and Sprite already felt "at home."
She was a favorite with the boys and girls, and, to her great delight, she found that she had progressed in her studies, under her mother's guidance, so that, although a trifle younger than Princess Polly, she would be a member of the same class.
Polly, and Rose, and Sprite made a lovely trio, and older people meeting them as they tripped along together, marvelled that three such beautiful children, happened to be intimate neighbors.
Gwen Harcourt had not entered school on the first day, but one morning she appeared with the news that she should attend school all the year if she chose, but that she could leave at any time if she wished.
"Oh, but won't your mamma _make_ you go to school?" a small girl asked.
"My mamma never _makes_ me do anything!" declared Gwen sharply. "I guess that's so!" Rob Lindsey said, softly.
"What did you say?" Gwen asked.
"I don't _dare_ to tell," declared Rob, in a teasing voice.
"You _needn't_!" cried Gwen, and she rudely turned her back toward Rob, and commenced to talk to Leslie Grafton.
She talked so fast that she hardly knew what she was saying, but she wished Rob Lindsey to think that she had quite forgotten that he was there.
The bell rang, and while the others turned to hasten toward the school house, Gwen walked along as if merely out for a stroll, and she entered the schoolroom after all the others were seated. The new teacher thought it a happening, but the pupils knew that Gwen had done it to learn if the teacher would rebuke her.
As her tardiness passed unnoticed, Gwen at once decided to do something more striking.
She was bright, and quick to learn, but she cared little for study, and she would have been placed in a much lower class, but for her mother's great influence.
Mrs. Harcourt had listened very patiently while it had been made clear to her that her small daughter was not fitted for the class in which her little friends were placed.
She was a charming woman, and she had begged, even insisted that Gwen be placed in the class with Princess Polly, Rose Atherton, and Sprite Seaford, and thus given the opportunity to prove that she could "keep up" with her class.
The new teacher was amused, and believing that Gwen's stay in the class would be of short duration, she yielded.
Gwen never studied, and on her first day, she decided that, as she thought herself _very_ smart, she could, by listening to what others were reciting, do very well without "bothering with books."
That was what she said, and the first question in Geography that she answered, made Rob Lindsey call her a "star pupil."
"What is the capital of Brazil?" Gwen stared for a moment, then she tossed her head as she said, pertly:
"Oh, anyone knows _that_!"
"_Next_!" said the teacher.
Gwen was surprised.
She had expected to be coaxed.
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