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- Princess Polly's Playmates - 2/23 -
"And now," said Polly, "I'll lay these letters on the table in the hall. I can read them later. We'll play."
It was easy to choose a game. The first choice, when the little playmates were at Sherwood Hall, was always "Hide-and-Seek."
There were such fine places for hiding, so many odd nooks where no one would ever think of looking that the game seemed always new, and interesting.
They had been playing but a short time, when Inez Varney ran up the driveway.
"What are you playing?" she asked.
"Hide-and-Seek," said Polly, "and it's Lena's turn to blind. Come! I know a fine place, big enough for three."
Usually Inez objected to whatever game her friends chose, but she was in a pleasant mood, and said that she would rather play "Hide-and-Seek" than anything else.
She clasped Polly's hand, and while Lena counted, the three ran off to the place that should be large enough to keep them from sight.
One fact made Inez easy to please; Rose was not with them.
Rose Atherton had been a bright, merry little playmate, beloved by all save Inez, and yet the only fault that Inez could find in Rose was her popularity.
Naturally jealous, Inez did not like to see that everyone loved Rose, and to know that Polly Sherwood, or Princess Polly, as everyone called her, cared more for Rose than for any of her friends, seemed really too provoking.
"NOW, Princess Polly must choose another BEST friend, and I wish it might be ME!" thought Inez.
She knew that Rose was sweet tempered. She knew that her own temper was hasty.
Could she keep from saying the sharp things that so often came from her red lips? She MUST, if she would win Polly's love!
Inez was pleasing to look at, but she was wrong in thinking herself more attractive than the other playmates.
Vivian and Leslie were much prettier than Inez, and they were pleasant and good tempered, always ready for a merry time, while Blanche Burton, and her little sister, Dollie, were ever welcome at Sherwood Hall.
It surely would seem as if Inez were foolish to think Princess Polly might prefer her silly little self, to all the others.
Indeed, she would have been far happier to have been willing to be one of her many playmates. Inez was not at all content, however. She wished to be PREFERRED.
The game went on merrily, and Inez seemed gayer than usual.
"Tag" followed "Hide-and-Seek," and the music of their merry laughter echoed through the garden, as they chased each other around the clumps of shrubbery, across the brook, and through the grove.
It was Vivian, who innocently caused the first sharp word to be spoken.
They were resting in the shade of some flowering shrubs. Princess Polly had taken off her large hat, and wielding it as a fan, blew the bright curls back from her pink cheeks.
"If Rose were here, she'd say:
"'Now while we're resting, Princess Polly, tell us a fairy tale,'" said Vivian.
"That's just what she'd say," said Polly, "and one afternoon we sat beside the brook, near the fountain, and took turns telling them."
Inez looked at Polly's eyes, and saw the regret that they so plainly expressed.
She would have been pleased if her little playmates had never mentioned Rose.
"And once," continued Polly, "we played that we were fairy queens, and we made flower crowns. It was early morning, and we tried to pick the flowers with the dew on them, but the dewdrops fell off. Then we sprinkled them with water from the brook, and they sparkled like diamonds."
Inez moved uneasily.
"We have fine times together," said Vivian, "but it was still brighter when Rose was here."
"Anybody'd think we couldn't play without her!" snapped Inez, springing to her feet, and running across the lawn.
Then realizing that she had been rude, and not wishing to offend Polly, she turned, and looking over her shoulder, she said:
"I must go home now, so I'll just hurry."
"Why, a minute a go she was sitting as still as if she intended to stay here all night!" said Vivian.
"It was what you said, Vivian, that made her run off," said Leslie.
"What did I say?" questioned Vivian.
"Oh, you said it was nicer to have Rose with us," explained Leslie.
"She's likely to hear us talk of Rose whenever she comes here," said Polly.
"Then she'll stay away," said Leslie.
Polly would not say what was in her mind, but Leslie was less careful.
"Let her just stay away then!" she said, stoutly, "we love Rose, and we're wondering how long it will be before we'll see her. She's sweeter than Inez."
Sweet Princess Polly! She would not say anything unpleasant even of Inez.
"Rose is just dear," she said, but of Inez she said nothing.
"Inez says mean things," said Vivian, "and it would be real hard to forgive her, so it's lucky she doesn't ever ask us to."
"Why Vivian!" cried Polly, "you would if she asked you to, wouldn't you?"
Vivian did not like to answer, so she only said:
"She wouldn't ask me."
Just at that moment Harry Grafton sprang over the wall, and joined the group.
"Inez Varney is waiting for you and Vivian," he said. "I was going over to call for Rob Lindsey, and just as I was passing, she asked me to tell you. I asked her why she didn't come in and wait for you here, but she only shook her head, and said; 'Oh, because.' That's a girl's reason, and it's a funny one."
Harry laughed, and then, having delivered his message, he ran down the driveway, and up the avenue to call for his chum, Rob.
He nodded to Inez as he passed her, whistling gaily as he hurried along.
"Girls are queer," he said, pausing in his whistling solo, to speak his thoughts.
"Even nice girls are queer SOMETIMES," he murmured. "Of course Princess Polly is always pleasant, and my sister Leslie isn't even odd, but Inez is freaky, and Vivian, well,--she's something like Inez."
In the garden the three little girls stood where Harry had left them.
"What shall we do?" said Leslie. "We came to play with you, Polly, what ought we to do?"
Polly's eyes had looked troubled, but now she smiled.
"Oh, go, please, and see Inez. Perhaps she truly wishes she'd been pleasant. You can come ANY time to play with me, but it's NOW that Inez feels good."
Polly's words were wise. She knew Inez to be hasty, and she thought that if, for the moment, she was sorry for her rudeness, she should have the chance to say so, before she could change her mind.
Leslie would not say so, but in truth, she did not care what Inez had to say.
Vivian was curious, and eager to know why Inez had waited so long to see them.
Inez stood at the gateway waiting for her two playmates.
Leslie said something about having to hurry home, but Vivian pausing beside Inez, waited for her to speak.
It was not pleasant to stand talking on the sunny sidewalk, and turning, they walked a little way up the driveway.
Polly questioned if Inez really might be sorry for her hasty words. Nothing could have tempted her to listen, nor was she near enough to have heard a word that they were saying, but from where she was standing, she could see Inez and Vivian. She wondered why Leslie had not remained. The shrubbery hid her, but she could see them plainly.
She saw Inez lay her hand upon Vivian's arm.
"Oh, I WISH they'd make up," whispered Princess Polly.
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