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- Princess Polly's Playmates - 20/23 -

it just the shape of the lady, that showed where she WAS, I guess you'll HAVE to b'lieve it," she said, and having said this to the boys that had teased her, she hurried down the avenue.

"Oh, what an awful story!" said Polly, "it made me feel like shivering, and I was glad the boys were with us."

"If Gwen Harcourt likes to tell such stories, she can," said Leslie, "but she needn't say they're true."

"Oh, but perhaps SOME of it---" Polly stopped. She had meant to speak kindly, but what part of so silly a story could be true?

"You've been in her parlor, Leslie," said Harry, "did YOU see the picture with the big hole in it, just where the fine lady stepped out from the frame? Leslie, HAVE you?"

"Yes," admitted Leslie, "I've been there."

"WAS the big picture with the big hole in it hanging there?" he asked.

"N--NO!" said Leslie, "and I'll tell you all something. A lady that mama knows heard some of Gwen's stories, and she told Mrs. Harcourt what perfectly awful things Gwen was telling, and Mrs. Harcourt said that she was very glad, and thankful that Gwen had such great imagination, and said she wouldn't, for the world do anything to check it, because it's a SURE sign she'll be something fine some day.

"Mrs. Harcourt said it was just wonderful what a strong imagination Gwen had, and she said she thought she would be either an author, or a play writer, or something great."

"And papa, when he heard that, said he'd want to be careful lest she grow up to be an awful liar!" said Harry.

"Oh, hush!" said Leslie, "papa said falsifier or some name like that."

"Well, that's the same thing," said Harry.

The little friends talked of Gwen, and the stories that she told.

The boys thought them ridiculous, and laughed at the idea that she expected her playmates to believe them, but neither Polly, Lena, nor Leslie could see it that way.

"I wouldn't mind the stories," Polly said, "because anyone can make up stories just for fun, but I do hate to have her say they're TRUE."

"And she sticks to it," said Harry.

"That's it," said Lena, "she says they're true, and she dared us to come down to her house, and see the picture!"

Gwen was safe in daring them, for not one of the little friends liked her well enough to go to her home, none save Inez, and Inez had not heard the story about the picture.

One sunny morning Polly ran along the avenue to overtake Lena Lindsey.

"Lena! Lena!" she cried, "wait for me! I've a letter from Rose," she said, as she walked along with Lena.

"Which way are you going?" Lena asked, "I want to hear what she says."

"I wasn't going anywhere 'til I saw you," said Polly.

"Then come along the path through the grove," said Lena, "and we'll stop on the bridge, and enjoy the letter there."

They ran along the path together, the sunbeams making Jack-o-lanterns at their feet. Light branches swayed in the wind, and through the dancing leaves the sunlight sifted, making Lena's hair a brighter brown, and Polly's flaxen ringlets like pale gold.

They reached the little bridge, and paused to watch the clear, rippling brook, as it ran beneath it, and out through the tiny grove.

Humming a melody all its own, it made its zigzag way between birches, and alders, maples, and elderblow, carrying on its shining surface stray leaves, and water spiders that struggled to see which first should reach the sunlit meadow land beyond.

"Now, read the letter," said Lena, "and does she say when she's coming here?"

"Oh, you hark, while I read," said Polly, taking from its envelope, the letter that she had, already, read three times.

Lena listened with delight. It would be an event to have little Rose Atherton come to Avondale! She told of Uncle John's frequent visits, and of long drives enjoyed with him.

"And here's something that made me laugh," said Polly.

"I told you about Evangeline Longfellow Jenks," she continued, "and she's written some more verses, and Rose copied this one. Just listen while I read it."

Polly took a slip of paper from the envelope, and read this absurd verse that was written upon it:

[Illustration with caption: "Lena listened with delight."]

"I'm to be a poet when I get big, And I'll write a book that's bigger'n me. My poems I make now are to practice on, But when I'm big they'll be fine to see."

"Does she think THAT'S poetry?" said Lena, laughing because the verse was so absurd that she could not help it.

"If you think that one is funny, just listen to this," said Polly, turning the slip over, and reading from the other side.

"The sea is wet, and so is the brook; The earth swings round and round. The cat's asleep, and so are my feet, So I'll write no more till anon."

"Why, what DOES she mean?" said Lena, when she could stop laughing long enough to ask.

"I don't know," said Polly, laughing as heartily as Lena did, "and the funny thing is that Evangeline says anyone could write poetry that folks understand. She says it's just TWICE as bright to make verses that NOBODY could understand!

"I wouldn't want to have to play with her, and Rose says she runs away whenever she sees Evangeline coming," said Polly.

"I should think she would run," said Lena, "I would."

After the sweet little letter had been read, and Lena had asked for a second reading, Polly put it back into its envelope, and they talked of what Rose had written.

"Only think," said Polly, "her Aunt Rose doesn't wish her to be away from the house to go to school, so she's to have a private tutor at home, a music teacher, and a dancing teacher, and they're all to come to her house. She won't be in school with other little girls at all."

"I wouldn't like that," said Lena, "we have fine times together when school commences, and I don't believe I'd like teachers that came to my house. Well, I don't mean I wouldn't like the teachers, but I think it's more fun to go to school."

"I don't see how she's ever to get acquainted with other little girls," said Polly, "I think it sounds very lonesome!"

"So do I," said Lena, "but perhaps she doesn't. We'll know when she comes to your house, because I'm most sure she'll tell us."

"And we'll go to school the third week of next month," said Polly, "and Rose isn't to begin her lessons until two weeks later than that. She's coming to stay with me and spend the two weeks. Oh, won't we have fun?"

"Fun?" said Lena, "we'll do every fine thing we can think of. I'll tell Rob, and he'll help us make it jolly. He always does, and he likes Rose as well as we do."

"And who's Lester Jenks?" Lena asked, "is he the poetry girl's brother?"

"Oh, no, he's her cousin, and he's full of fun, and fine to play with," said Polly, "and he thinks Evangeline is pokey, and he laughs at her poetry. I didn't laugh at it, and I don't think he was nice to. I told him so, and he only laughed harder."

"He told Rose to tell me that he's going to send me a Valentine this year, and he says he's found a new place to get ice cream just a little way from where Rose lives. He says when I'm at her house the next time, he'll buy ice cream almost every day."

"Isn't he generous? And he says: 'Tell Princess Polly to hurry up and come,' and Rose says she can hardly wait 'til she sees me."

"Oh, Polly!" cried Lena, as a happy thought occurred to her, "if she's to be here when school has commenced, you can bring her to school. Teacher'll let us have guests.

"I'm glad you read the letter to me, because it makes it seem as if Rose was right here."

"And almost before you know it, she WILL be!" cried Polly, with a gay little laugh.

"I'll have to run along now," said Lena, "because Rob gave me this note to take to Harry Grafton, and I said I'd rush over there to give it to him. I forgot all about it when I stopped to hear Rose's letter. I guess I'd have stopped just the same, if I'd remembered Rob's note!" she said, and her brown eyes twinkled, as she looked over her shoulder on her way down the path.



Princess Polly's Playmates - 20/23

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