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- Sara, a Princess - 32/43 -
their modest establishment. But Molly was growing very pretty too, not with Sara's delicate, _spirituelle_ attractions, but with a saucy, piquant, bewitching charm of her own that the students were not slow to notice, and which Molly was not slow to appreciate, and make the most of.
Still, Sara did not for some time take any notice of this; for she could not understand that what to her was a nuisance, and to be gotten rid of at once, was to Molly the source of the greatest amusement and delight, --their street admiration and attentions. It came upon her with a shock, one day, to find herself on the sidewalk behind some tall-hatted young sprig, accompanied by her little sister, rattling on to him with smiles, dimples, and tosses, in her own peculiar way, as if she had known him all her life, and she could scarcely wait to get the child indoors, before she began,--
"Molly, who was that?"
"That? Why, I've forgotten his name," coolly. "He's a 'fresh' though, I believe."
"And you're one, too, I should think!" strongly indignant. "What in the world were you doing?"
"Oh, just talking and laughing."
"When you don't even know who he is? O Molly!"
"Well, what of it? All the girls talk to them, coming home from school, and nobody thinks anything of it but you!" pouting and frowning, in her growing anger.
Sara looked at her with suddenly-awakened eyes. Even in her petulance she was wonderfully pretty, with her great surprised eyes, saucy little nose, and exquisite coloring; and a sudden sense of her helplessness, if this little sister should also prove to be vain, and careless of her good name, came over her with such crushing force that she dropped into a chair, feeling almost faint for the moment. Molly, frightened at her sudden pallor, cried out,--
"What is it, Sara? What have I done? Is it such a sin to walk with a student on the street?"
Sara shook her head helplessly.
"If I could only make you understand, Molly: you _must_ understand! See here," with intense earnestness, "we are all alone in the world, Molly, you and Morton and I, all alone, except for a few friends, whose only interest in us depends upon our worthiness. Don't you see how careful we must be? We have no home, no money, no anything, except our good name: we must keep that! Nothing, nothing, must take it from us. The Bible says it is more precious than rubies, and it is, Molly, it is; indeed, with us it is everything! If you had a father and mother to back you, possibly you could make such acquaintances without harm, though it seems to me a hazardous thing, even then; but now it is absolutely dangerous! Promise me, Molly, that this shall end it."
"If I promise I shall break it," said the honest girl; "for they _will_ speak to me, and I shall forget when I'm away from you."
"Then, Molly," with sudden resolution, "I shall resign my position, and take you back to Killamet. I can make enough with my pen to keep us from starving."
Molly looked at her, and knowing she was in deadly earnest burst out,--
"Oh, don't do that, Sara; 'twould be too dreadful! I'll try, I really will; but you must remember I'm not like you. I don't care for books, and I do like people; and it's awfully lonesome with nobody but you and Morton! Other girls have parties and rides, and lots of nice times; and I don't even have girlfriends to come and visit me; it's lonesome, it is!"
Sara felt the force of this as she had never felt it before. Here was a nature as opposite to her own as the two poles. The books, thoughts, and work, which gave her such pleasure were all a weariness to this sunny, companionable creature, longing for life, merriment, and all youthful pleasures. Could she greatly blame the child? And her tones softened as she said,--
"Poor little girl! Have I kept you too close? Believe me it was for your good."
At this Molly weakened instantly, and two arms flew about Sara's neck, while a penitent voice cried,--
"I know I'm just as mean as I can be, and you're the best sister in the world; but oh! I do wish I could ride horse-back, and go to parties and picnics, and have stacks of girls all the time, then those silly students might go to gr--I mean to College, where they belong; for I wouldn't care a cent for the whole lot of them!"
Sara laughed. After all, there was something in this honest, transparent child, from which evil had always seemed to slide, as dust slips from a polished mirror; and she said with conviction,--
"Molly, we'll both do differently. I like people too little, you perhaps too much; but after this I'll cultivate a fondness for them. There is no reason why we shouldn't both go out more, in certain ways, and see something of the life about us. If you will give up these wretched street acquaintances you shall have a party next Saturday."
"A party? O Sara!" her eyes dazzling in their delight.
"What kind of one?"
"A tea-party. Let's see, you might have nine girls, besides yourself; that would about fill our table, and I'll wait on you. I presume Morton will be off, as usual, on a geological ramble, so we needn't count him."
"O Sara! and may I have the table trimmed, and flowers all around? and may I make the cake? And oh!" clasping her hands together, "may I have Mr. Hoffstott freeze some cream?"
"Yes," laughed Sara; "yes, every one, if you'll keep your part of the contract."
"Sara," with intense solemnity, "if a student speaks to me I'll look right through him, like this," with a stare of Gorgonian stoniness; "and if he isn't completely silenced, I'll wither him this way," and she swept her sister with a slow, lofty, contemptuous glance, that would have scathed an agent.
"O Molly! Molly!" was all Sara said, as she laughed in spite of herself; but she felt she could trust the child who, with all her faults, had not a grain of slyness or deception in her nature.
MOLLY GIVES A PARTY.
The party came off, "according to contract," as Molly observed, and for a few days kept the child in a flutter of delight. Sara purposely left the preparations to her, only giving advice as it was requested; and even she, though so well acquainted with Molly's housekeeping abilities, was astonished at the result. It gave her real respect for the girl to see the method with which she planned it all, from her list of invited guests to her list of grocer's stores, arranged with the probable cost at the side of each article, that Sara might understand just how much money would be needed.
Then the dishes she compounded, after intense calculations over the cook-book, and frequent racings down-stairs to consult with Mrs. Hoffstott, were really toothsome and delicate; besides being brought about with precision and forethought, so that all might not crowd together at the end.
"Now," she said, Friday night, consulting a much-worn bit of paper, and drawing a long, house-wifely sigh, "now I'm all ready, except the salad, and laying the table, and the decorating. If I only had a screen to put before the range, so that we needn't have the table in here! it will fill up so."
Sara looked up.
"There is one in our cloak-room at the museum. Perhaps the professor would let you take it for this grand occasion, if Morton will bring it home for you."
"Would you, Morton? would you?"
"Oh, I suppose so; anything for peace!" growled the latter, just glancing up from his Burroughs.
"That's a lovely boy! Well, and the flowers--how glad I am they're so cheap, now"--
"Oh, yes, Molly! I forgot to tell you: Mrs. Macon says she has a quantity of early blossoms in her hot-bed, and you can have a picking from them."
"Now, Sara, if you had forgotten that! How good she is! And I'm to have Mrs. Hoffstott's pretty old china, with the blue forget-me-nots, and-- well, isn't everybody kind, anyhow?"
Sara put down her book with a laugh.
"Go on, dear; what's the use in trying to read when there's a party going on? Talk to me about it; I want to know all the arrangements;" and happy Molly ran on like a thoroughly well-oiled windmill for at least twenty minutes without a stop.
When, at the end of that time, there was a pause for breath, Sara said,--
"And how about the students?"
Molly gave a merry little laugh.
"It's the greatest fun, Sara! They can't understand at all; they look at me as if I was a Barnum's fat woman, or something, and I sail right by, with my head up, and never see them. I think" (reflectively), "if anything, it's better fun than the other way. That was too much like every girl you see, and this is just me alone: I really enjoy it."
"Molly, you are incorrigible!"
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