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- Half a Dozen Girls - 10/45 -


any difference in her feeling to you, but that she can love and care for you all, at the same time?"

"Sometimes I think she can, and sometimes I think she can't,'" said Polly slowly. "Once in a while, when we have had a 'scrap,' as Alan calls it, I think she doesn't care a bit about me."

"Whose fault is it, when you quarrel?" asked Mrs. Adams, smoothing the short curls. "I don't think it is all Molly's fault, any more than it is all yours. If my small daughter wants her friends to care for her, she must govern that temper and study self-control."

"I know that, mamma," broke in Polly impetuously; "but you don't have any idea how hard 'tis, nor how sorry I am after it is over."

"It is just because I do know it so well, my dear, that I keep saying this to you; for I hope I can save you from a part, at least, of the pain I have suffered in just this same way. I have been through it all, Polly, and I know that every time you give up to your temper, it is just so much easier to do it again; and if you were to go on long enough, in time you would get to where it would be impossible to stop yourself, and you would do something that might be a sorrow to you, through all your life. It is just so with every habit; the more you give way to it, the more it becomes a part of your nature. That is the reason I am trying to help you form the habit of a quiet, even temper. And now," added Mrs. Adams, changing the subject, "what else was there that we wanted to talk over?"

"'Twas Jean," said Polly, as she slipped down on the floor at her mother's feet. "Miss Bean was twitting her to-day because she wasn't rich." And Polly repeated the little conversation which had taken place under the trees.

Mrs. Adams listened thoughtfully. When Polly had finished, she said decidedly,--

"That was rather uncalled for, I think, Polly. Whatever Jean's parents may be, they are really refined people, and Jean is at heart a lady."

"What difference does it make, anyway?" asked Polly impatiently.

"Not so much as most people think," said Mrs. Adams. "If your parents are cultivated people, it helps you to make something of yourself; and whatever teaching you get from them is so much stock in trade, just as money would be, if you were starting in business. If, when you have this start, you don't make the most of it, it shows that you are unworthy of it; and if you become a grand woman without it, then you deserve ever so much more credit than the people who have had everything in their favor. Do you understand me, Polly?"

"Yes, I think I do," said Polly. "And it doesn't make any difference whether we are rich or poor, does it?"

Her mother paused for a moment, as if the question were a hard one to answer. Polly had a way of asking deeper questions than she realized. Mrs. Adams rocked back and forth in silence two or three times; then she said,--

"Yes and no, Polly. Money in itself doesn't make the least bit of difference; but people that have it can make more of themselves,-- I don't say that they do, remember. If Jean didn't have to wash so many dishes nor mend so many stockings, she could give more time to study and reading every year. But, after all, I don't believe she would be half so fine, unselfish a girl as she is now, when she has to give up doing what she likes, to help her mother. It is just the same whether it is money, or family, or a fine mind, or beauty; the more that is given you, the more you are expected to make of it, and the more the shame to you if you neglect it. But we're getting into very deep subjects for so near bed-time. What did Alan come for?"

"Just to tell me about the girls," said Polly. "He says they're going to have a pony, and everything."

"How well Alan has been, all summer," remarked her mother.

There was a sudden click of the gate-latch, and a tall figure came up the walk.

"Sitting here in the damp, Isabel, and catching your death of cold! I can't afford time to sit around in the dark doing nothing, when I think of all the good that can be done around us." And Aunt Jane stalked past them into the house, and sat down to cut the leaves of the last scientific magazine.

However, though Mrs. Adams did not reply, she had made up her mind that her usual goodnight talk with Polly was far more important than all the clubs in the world, and no words from Aunt Jane could induce her to give up her nightly habit.

CHAPTER V.

TWO MORE GIRLS.

"It does seem as if to-morrow afternoon never would come," Molly was saying, as she and Polly stood leaning on the fence in the early twilight.

"What time will they get here?" Polly asked her.

"Three o'clock, and I just feel as if I couldn't wait, when I think how every minute is bringing them along. It's going to be splendid to have them here. You must come over to see them the very first thing, Polly, for I want them to know my best friend right away."

"I do hope they'll be nice," said Polly thoughtfully.

"Nice!" echoed Molly. "Of course they are. I'll tell you what, Polly, Alan has been running them down to you. He is so queer about it; I should think he'd like to have them come. They're just as pretty as they can be, and boys always like pretty girls."

"Oh, dear," sighed Polly; "how nice it would be to be pretty!"

"Why, you aren't so bad, Polly." And Molly surveyed her with frank criticism. "If only your nose wasn't quite so puggy, and you didn't have quite so many freckles, you'd be real good-looking. Besides, Alan says he likes your looks better than he does Florence's."

"Does he?" And Polly flushed with pleasure.

"Yes, he told mamma so the other day; you know boys have queer tastes," answered Molly flatteringly.

"But I wish I did know of something to take off freckles and tan," said Polly, rubbing her cheeks with a vicious force. "Aunt Jane wants me to wear a veil and keep white; but I'd rather be black and speckled all over, than make a mummy of myself. I think fresh air and sunshine were made to be enjoyed, and not to be peeked out at through a rag."

"It must be horrid to freckle," said Molly sympathetically. "Did you ever try anything for it, Poll?"

"No, only lemon juice once, and it all ran into my eyes and made them smart; but it didn't touch the freckles any."

"They say buttermilk is good," suggested Molly. "Why not try that?"

"That's a good idea," said Polly. "We have some, and I don't believe it would hurt. How do you use it, Molly? I'll do it to- night, and then I could start white with your cousins, anyway; and so much depends on first impressions, you know."

"I'm not just sure about it," answered Molly; "but I think they put it on over night, and rub it in well. You'd better not do it, if you are afraid it can do any harm."

"Oh, it can't," said Polly, with assurance; "and even if it does, anything is better than looking like a fright."

"But you aren't a fright," said Molly loyally; then added, "What does keep Alan so? His errand wasn't going to take two minutes, and your mother will be tired of him."

"No, she won't," said Polly; "she likes Alan. Don't be in a hurry, Molly; this is the last chance we shall have to talk for a year."

In spite of herself, Polly's voice failed a little on the last words. She loved her friend dearly, and the coming of the cousins, with the probability of its causing a separation between them, had been her first real sorrow. For Molly's sake she tried to be eager and interested about them, but when she was alone with Jean or Alan, she was disconsolate enough over the prospect. The three or four weeks had flown past, every day bringing the change nearer, and the last evening had come. Arm in arm, the two girls had been pacing up and down the walk, while they waited for Alan, and that half-hour had made Polly realize more than ever how fond she was of this companion with whom she had spent so many contented hours. The memory of their frequent quarrels seemed to sink away into the past, and only the thought of their good times was before them then. But Alan's whistle was heard, as he came out of the house; and he and Molly went away down the street, leaving Polly standing alone at the gate. She looked after them until they disappeared in the gathering darkness; then her curly head dropped on her folded arms, and she began to sob with all the fervor of her impetuous, affectionate nature. It was over in a minute or two, and no one was the wiser for it but the birds in the tall elm trees above her head. Then she turned forlornly, and started to walk to the house; but, with Polly, the reaction always came quickly, and by the time she reached the steps, she was humming the air which Alan had just whistled, as she planned about the gown she would wear when she went to see the cousins, and pictured to herself the details of their first meeting. It was all so like Polly, to be in the depths of grief at one moment, and to be singing the next. Her sorrows were just as sincere as Molly's, while they lasted, but the very intensity of them made it impossible for them to continue long at a time. Polly's life was one of superlatives: when she was happy, she was radiant; when she was unhappy, she was miserable. There was no middle ground for her.


Half a Dozen Girls - 10/45

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