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- Princess Polly's Playmates - 10/23 -

we can't. Mr. Kirtland is painting, and he hasn't said a single word for ever so long. It's so still in there that it makes you feel as if you ALMOST mustn't breathe. I wouldn't dare to run right in and ask Aunt Lois!"

"Why, you don't have to. We'll just skip over to the ice cream parlor, and we'll be back long before he's done painting. Come along! If you don't, I'll think you don't want to, and that isn't nice when I've asked you," said Lester. "Oh, dear, it isn't polite to let him think that when I'm wild to go, and I just KNOW Polly is," thought Rose.

"Are you SURE it won't take us long to go, and get back?" Polly asked.

"Oh, it's just a step!" said Lester.

"There's a nice little old lady keeps the place, and she gives you awful big ice creams for five cents. You have 'em on a marble table in her little parlor. There's a green carpet on the floor, and the room is awful cool. Oh, come on! I wish you would."

The invitation was not elegantly expressed, but it certainly was CORDIAL.

"I guess we'll have to go," said Rose, "would you, Polly?"

"I'd like to," was the reply.

"Then come!" said Lester, "we'll be there and back here before anyone would guess you'd been even outside that door."

They waited for no more urging, and together the three little friends ran across the street, through a side street, and down a broad avenue.

"It's just a little farther down this way," said Lester.

"Why it's ever so far from the studio, Lester Jenks, and you SAID we'd just skip to it," said Rose, breathlessly.

"Well, aren't we skipping?" he said with a laugh, "we run a few steps, and then you and Polly skip along a little way, and then you run again."

Rose was just wondering if they ought to turn back without the little treat, when Lester caught her hand, saying:

"Here we are," and he boldly opened the door.

A tiny bell tinkled as the door closed behind them, and a little, white haired old lady came out to greet them.

"We want some ice cream, these ladies and me," said Lester, trying to look as tall as possible, and hoping that she did not notice that he was wearing knee breeches. He thought that no one would dream that he was a small boy if only they could not see those knee breeches that he so heartily despised.

The old lady served the cream in dainty glasses, and heaped it high in a tiny pile that really amounted to little, but looked great--for five cents.

"How cool and dark it is in here," said Rose.

"It is a lovely place to eat ice cream in," said Polly.

The strawberry ice cream was very, very pink, and they thought it delicious.

"Do you think we've been gone long, YET, Lester?" questioned Rose.

"Of course not," said Lester, but Rose wished that he would eat his cream a little faster.

When the tiny glasses were quite empty Lester bought a package of candy for his friends, and having paid for the treat, opened the door for them to pass out onto the sidewalk.

"Why it looks different," said Polly, "is it cloudy, since we went in there?" But the sky showed no clouds. Then where had the bright sunlight gone?

"Oh, I b'lieve it's late!" cried Rose, "do you s'pose it is? It was long after lunch when we started for the studio, oh, ever so long after. We staid there looking at the pictures for hours, I guess, and then we came with you, Lester."

"It CAN'T be late," the boy replied, although he truly believed that it was.

"We could go back a shorter way than the one we came. Shall we?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, yes!" cried Rose, "we must get there before Aunt Lois is ready to go. If Mr. Kirtland is still painting we can go in softly by the little side door, and wait until it is time to go."

Lester led the way, and the three children ran down one street, and up another, until at last they paused for breath.

"This short way seems longer than the way we came!" ventured Polly.

"We AREN'T lost, are we?" cried Rose.

"I turned into the wrong street when we started," admitted Lester, "but it's only a little way now."

"Then let's hurry just that little way," said Rose.

She clasped Polly's hand, and again they ran on, and after a few moments, Lester cried: "There it is!"

Sure enough! There was the clump of holly-hocks, and close beside it, the little green door.



"Good-bye, good-bye!" they cried to Lester, "and thank you, oh thank you, but we must hurry!"

Lester waved his cap to them, and then raced down the avenue.

Then, treading softly, they ran along the little path, past the holly- hocks, and--the little green door was closed.

"Oh, Rose!" gasped Polly, but Rose had grasped the knob, and found that while the door looked to be closed, it had only been swung to with the breeze.

She pushed it open, and noiselessly they entered.

Softly they crept across the floor, Polly clinging to Rose's hand, and when they had reached the little divan, they sat down, and for a moment, neither spoke.

They still clasped hands, and when Polly looked toward the doorway that led into the large studio, Rose looked that way too.

From where they sat, they could not see either the painter or his model.

Polly leaned toward Rose.

"Doesn't he EVER talk when he's painting?" she whispered.

Rose shook her head.

"I 'most always bring a book with me, and while Aunt Lois is posing, I read stories," she whispered in reply.

Then for a time neither spoke.

The old clock out in that other room ticked to prove that all was not silent, but it made the waiting children more lonely.

They could not see its face, but after what seemed a long time, it chimed a single note.

"Oh, dear! That's only a half hour. I thought it was going to strike," whispered Rose, "and then we'd have known what time it was."

"Don't you dare to go in there, just a little way, and peep at the clock? It's just around the corner," whispered Polly.

"I promised we wouldn't disturb him while he was painting," whispered Rose, "but I do b'lieve I'll have to soon. I'm just wild to see if he's beginning to put away his paints."

"There isn't the least sound as if he was putting away ANYTHING" said Polly.

"I'll just HAVE to look," said Rose, whispering as softly as before. "We're awfully tired waiting, and keeping so still. It will help some to know what time it is, and if he sees me looking at the clock, perhaps he'll say he's 'MOST ready to stop painting."

She slipped from the divan, and tip-toed to the doorway, pushed the heavy hanging aside just enough to permit her to pass through. The portiere dropped heavily behind her, and Polly listened--listened.

"Oh, I hope he won't be angry. He ought not to after we've waited so long, but he's a great artist, and I s'pose Rose is disturbing him. I hope he won't scold. I didn't really tell her to go in and look at the clock, but I didn't tell her NOT to," thought Polly

"Why DOESN'T she come back?" she whispered, a second after, when, as if in answer, the portiere was pushed aside, and Rose, a very frightened little Rose, hurried to Polly, her eyes startled, and her cheeks pale.

"He isn't there! Aunt Lois isn't there! We're alone in this studio, and I'd rather be alone ANYWHERE than here!" she cried, and they shuddered when the vacant rooms echoed her voice.

"But we don't have to STAY here!" cried Polly, "come! It's getting late, and we must hurry, or we'll be afraid to go down the streets alone."

"We CAN'T go!" cried Rose, "that's just the horrid part of it!"

Princess Polly's Playmates - 10/23

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