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Produced by David Reed





AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL

By Louisa M. Alcott




Preface

AS a preface is the only place where an author can with propriety
explain a purpose or apologize for shortcomings, I venture to avail
myself of the privilege to make a statement for the benefit of my
readers.

As the first part of "An Old-Fashioned Girl" was written in 1869, the
demand for a sequel, in beseeching little letters that made refusal
impossible, rendered it necessary to carry my heroine boldly forward
some six or seven years into the future. The domestic nature of the
story makes this audacious proceeding possible; while the lively fancies
of my young readers will supply all deficiencies, and overlook all
discrepancies.

This explanation will, I trust, relieve those well-regulated minds,
who cannot conceive of such literary lawlessness, from the bewilderment
which they suffered when the same experiment was tried in a former book.

The "Old-Fashioned Girl" is not intended as a perfect model, but as
a possible improvement upon [Page] the Girl of the Period, who seems
sorrowfully ignorant or ashamed of the good old fashions which make
woman truly beautiful and honored, and, through her, render home what
it should be,-a happy place, where parents and children, brothers and
sisters, learn to love and know and help one another.

If the history of Polly's girlish experiences suggests a hint or
insinuates a lesson, I shall feel that, in spite of many obstacles, I
have not entirely neglected my duty toward the little men and women, for
whom it is an honor and a pleasure to write, since in them I have always
found my kindest patrons, gentlest critics, warmest friends.

L. M. A.




Contents

Chapter 1. Polly Arrives
Chapter 2. New Fashions
Chapter 3. Polly's Troubles
Chapter 4. Little Things
Chapter 5. Scrapes
Chapter 6. Grandma
Chapter 7. Good-by
Chapter 8. Six Years Afterward
Chapter 9. Lessons
Chapter 10. Brothers and Sisters
Chapter 11. Needles and Tongues
Chapter 12. Forbidden Fruit
Chapter 13. The Sunny Side
Chapter 14. Nipped in the Bud
Chapter 15. Breakers Ahead
Chapter 16. A Dress Parade
Chapter 17. Playing Grandmother
Chapter 18. The Woman Who Did Not Dare
Chapter 19. Tom's Success




An Old-fashioned Girl




CHAPTER I. POLLY ARRIVES


"IT'S time to go to the station, Tom."

"Come on, then."

"Oh, I'm not going; it's too wet. Should n't have a crimp left if I
went out such a day as this; and I want to look nice when Polly comes."

"You don't expect me to go and bring home a strange girl alone, do you?"
And Tom looked as much alarmed as if his sister had proposed to him to
escort the wild woman of Australia.

"Of course I do. It's your place to go and get her; and if you was n't
a bear, you'd like it."

"Well, I call that mean! I supposed I'd got to go; but you said you'd
go, too. Catch me bothering about your friends another time! No, sir!"
And Tom rose from the sofa with an air of indignant resolution, the
impressive effect of which was somewhat damaged by a tousled head, and
the hunched appearance of his garments generally.

"Now, don't be cross; and I'll get mamma to let you have that horrid
Ned Miller, that you are so fond of, come and make you a visit after
Polly's gone," said Fanny, hoping to soothe his ruffled feelings.

"How long is she going to stay?" demanded Tom, making his toilet by a
promiscuous shake.

"A month or two, maybe. She's ever so nice; and I shall keep her as
long as she's happy."

"She won't stay long then, if I can help it," muttered Tom, who regarded
girls as a very unnecessary portion of creation. Boys of fourteen are
apt to think so, and perhaps it is a wise arrangement; for, being fond
of turning somersaults, they have an opportunity of indulging in a good
one, metaphorically speaking, when, three or four years later, they
become the abject slaves of "those bothering girls."

"Look here! how am I going to know the creature? I never saw her, and
she never saw me. You'll have to come too, Fan," he added, pausing on
his way to the door, arrested by the awful idea that he might have to
address several strange girls before he got the right one.

"You'll find her easy enough; she'll probably be standing round
looking for us. I dare say she'll know you, though I'm not there,
because I've described you to her."

"Guess she won't, then;" and Tom gave a hasty smooth to his curly pate
and a glance at the mirror, feeling sure that his sister had n't done
him justice. Sisters never do, as "we fellows" know too well.

"Do go along, or you'll be too late; and then, what will Polly think
of me?" cried Fanny, with the impatient poke which is peculiarly
aggravating to masculine dignity.

"She'll think you cared more about your frizzles than your friends, and
she'll be about right, too."

Feeling that he said rather a neat and cutting thing, Tom sauntered
leisurely away, perfectly conscious that it was late, but bent on not
being hurried while in sight, though he ran himself off his legs to make
up for it afterward.

"If I was the President, I'd make a law to shut up all boys till they
were grown; for they certainly are the most provoking toads in the
world," said Fanny, as she watched the slouchy figure of her brother
strolling down the street. She might have changed her mind, however,
if she had followed him, for as soon as he turned the corner, his whole
aspect altered; his hands came out of his pockets, he stopped whistling,
buttoned his jacket, gave his cap a pull, and went off at a great pace.

The train was just in when he reached the station, panting like a
race-horse, and as red as a lobster with the wind and the run.

"Suppose she'll wear a top-knot and a thingumbob, like every one else;
and however shall I know her? Too bad of Fan to make me come alone!"
thought Tom, as he stood watching the crowd stream through the depot,
and feeling rather daunted at the array of young ladies who passed. As
none of them seemed looking for any one, he did not accost them, but
eyed each new batch with the air of a martyr. "That's her," he said
to himself, as he presently caught sight of a girl in gorgeous array,
standing with her hands folded, and a very small hat perched on the top
of a very large "chig-non," as Tom pronounced it. "I suppose I've got
to speak to her, so here goes;" and, nerving himself to the task, Tom
slowly approached the damsel, who looked as if the wind had blown her
clothes into rags, such a flapping of sashes, scallops, ruffles, curls,
and feathers was there.

"I say, if you please, is your name Polly Milton?" meekly asked Tom,
pausing before the breezy stranger.

"No, it is n't," answered the young lady, with a cool stare that utterly
quenched him.

"Where in thunder is she?" growled Tom, walking off in high dudgeon. The
quick tap of feet behind him made him turn in time to see a fresh-faced
little girl running down the long station, and looking as if she rather
liked it. As she smiled, and waved her bag at him, he stopped and waited
for her, saying to himself, "Hullo! I wonder if that's Polly?"

Up came the little girl, with her hand out, and a half-shy, half-merry
look in her blue eyes, as she said, inquiringly, "This is Tom, is n't
it?"

"Yes. How did you know?" and Tom got over the ordeal of hand-shaking
without thinking of it, he was so surprised.

"Oh, Fan told me you'd got curly hair, and a funny nose, and kept
whistling, and wore a gray cap pulled over your eyes; so I knew you
directly." And Polly nodded at him in the most friendly manner, having
politely refrained from calling the hair "red," the nose "a pug," and
the cap "old," all of which facts Fanny had carefully impressed upon her
memory.

"Where are your trunks?" asked Tom, as he was reminded of his duty by
her handing him the bag, which he had not offered to take.

"Father told me not to wait for any one, else I'd lose my chance of a
hack; so I gave my check to a man, and there he is with my trunk;" and
Polly walked off after her one modest piece of baggage, followed by Tom,
who felt a trifle depressed by his own remissness in polite attentions.
"She is n't a bit of a young lady, thank goodness! Fan did n't tell me
she was pretty. Don't look like city girls, nor act like'em, neither,"
he thought, trudging in the rear, and eyeing with favor the brown curls
bobbing along in front.

As the carriage drove off, Polly gave a little bounce on the springy
seat, and laughed like a delighted child. "I do like to ride in these
nice hacks, and see all the fine things, and have a good time, don't
you?" she said, composing herself the next minute, as if it suddenly
occurred to her that she was going a-visiting.

"Not much," said Tom, not minding what he said, for the fact that he was
shut up with the strange girl suddenly oppressed his soul.

"How's Fan? Why did n't she come, too?" asked Polly, trying to look
demure, while her eyes danced in spite of her.

"Afraid of spoiling her crinkles;" and Tom smiled, for this base
betrayal of confidence made him feel his own man again.

"You and I don't mind dampness. I'm much obliged to you for coming to
take care of me."

It was kind of Polly to say that, and Tom felt it; for his red crop was
a tender point, and to be associated with Polly's pretty brown curls
seemed to lessen its coppery glow. Then he had n't done anything for her
but carry the bag a few steps; yet, she thanked him. He felt grateful,
and in a burst of confidence, offered a handful of peanuts, for his
pockets were always supplied with this agreeable delicacy, and he might
be traced anywhere by the trail of shells he left behind him.

As soon as he had done it, he remembered that Fanny considered them
vulgar, and felt that he had disgraced his family. So he stuck his
head out of the window, and kept it there so long, that Polly asked if
anything was the matter. "Pooh! who cares for a countrified little thing
like her," said Tom manfully to himself; and then the spirit of mischief
entered in and took possession of him.

"He's pretty drunk; but I guess he can hold his horses," replied this
evil-minded boy, with an air of calm resignation.

"Is the man tipsy? Oh, dear! let's get out! Are the horses bad? It's
very steep here; do you think it's safe?" cried poor Polly, making a
cocked hat of her little beaver, by thrusting it out of the half-open
window on her side.

"There's plenty of folks to pick us up if anything happens; but perhaps
it would be safer if I got out and sat with the man;" and Tom quite
beamed with the brilliancy of this sudden mode of relief.

"Oh, do, if you ain't afraid! Mother would be so anxious if anything
should happen to me, so far away!" cried Polly, much distressed.

"Don't you be worried. I'll manage the old chap, and the horses too;"
and opening the door, Tom vanished aloft, leaving poor victimized Polly
to quake inside, while he placidly revelled in freedom and peanuts
outside, with the staid old driver.

Fanny came flying down to meet her "darling Polly," as Tom presented
her, with the graceful remark, "I've got her!" and the air of a
dauntless hunter, producing the trophies of his skill. Polly was
instantly whisked up stairs; and having danced a double-shuffle on the
door-mat, Tom retired to the dining-room, to restore exhausted nature
with half a dozen cookies.

"Ain't you tired to death? Don't you want to lie down?" said Fanny,
sitting on the side of the bed in Polly's room, and chattering hard,
while she examined everything her friend had on.

"Not a bit. I had a nice time coming, and no trouble, except the tipsy
coachman; but Tom got out and kept him in order, so I was n't much
frightened," answered innocent Polly, taking off her rough-and-ready
coat, and the plain hat without a bit of a feather.

"Fiddlestick! he was n't tipsy; and Tom only did it to get out of the
way. He can't bear girls," said Fanny, with a superior air.

"Can't he? Why, I thought he was very pleasant and kind!" and Polly
opened her eyes with a surprised expression.

"He's an awful boy, my dear; and if you have anything to do with
him, he'll torment you to death. Boys are all horrid; but he's the
horridest one I ever saw."

Fanny went to a fashionable school, where the young ladies were so busy
with their French, German, and Italian, that there was no time for
good English. Feeling her confidence much shaken in the youth, Polly
privately resolved to let him alone, and changed the conversation, by
saying, as she looked admiringly about the large, handsome room, "How
splendid it is! I never slept in a bed with curtains before, or had such
a fine toilet-table as this."

"I'm glad you like it; but don't, for mercy sake, say such things
before the other girls!" replied Fanny, wishing Polly would wear
ear-rings, as every one else did.

"Why not?" asked the country mouse of the city mouse, wondering what
harm there was in liking other people's pretty things, and saying
so. "Oh, they laugh at everything the least bit odd, and that is n't
pleasant." Fanny did n't say "countrified," but she meant it, and Polly
felt uncomfortable. So she shook out her little black silk apron with
a thoughtful face, and resolved not to allude to her own home, if she
could help it.

"I'm so poorly, mamma says I need n't go to school regularly, while you
are here, only two or three times a week, just to keep up my music and
French. You can go too, if you like; papa said so. Do, it's such fun!"
cried Fanny, quite surprising her friend by this unexpected fondness for
school.

"I should be afraid, if all the girls dress as finely as you do, and
know as much," said Polly, beginning to feel shy at the thought.

"La, child! you need n't mind that. I'll take care of you, and fix you
up, so you won't look odd."

"Am I odd?" asked Polly, struck by the word and hoping it did n't mean
anything very bad.

"You are a dear, and ever so much prettier than you were last summer,
only you've been brought up differently from us; so your ways ain't
like ours, you see," began Fanny, finding it rather hard to explain.

"How different?" asked Polly again, for she liked to understand things.

"Well, you dress like a little girl, for one thing."

"I am a little girl; so why should n't I?" and Polly looked at her
simple blue merino frock, stout boots, and short hair, with a puzzled
air.

"You are fourteen; and we consider ourselves young ladies at that age,"
continued Fanny, surveying, with complacency, the pile of hair on the
top of her head, with a fringe of fuzz round her forehead, and a wavy
lock streaming down her back; likewise, her scarlet-and-black suit, with
its big sash, little pannier, bright buttons, points, rosettes, and,
heaven knows what. There was a locket on her neck, ear-rings tinkling
in her ears, watch and chain at her belt, and several rings on a pair of
hands that would have been improved by soap and water.

Polly's eye went from one little figure to the other, and she thought
that Fanny looked the oddest of the two; for Polly lived in a quiet
country town, and knew very little of city fashions. She was rather
impressed by the elegance about her, never having seen Fanny's home
before, as they got acquainted while Fanny paid a visit to a friend who
lived near Polly. But she did n't let the contrast between herself and
Fan trouble her; for in a minute she laughed and said, contentedly, "My
mother likes me to dress simply, and I don't mind. I should n't know
what to do rigged up as you are. Don't you ever forget to lift your sash
and fix those puffy things when you sit down?"

Before Fanny could answer, a scream from below made both listen. "It
's only Maud; she fusses all day long," began Fanny; and the words were
hardly out of her mouth, when the door was thrown open, and a little
girl, of six or seven, came roaring in. She stopped at sight of Polly,
stared a minute, then took up her roar just where she left it, and cast
herself into Fanny's lap, exclaiming wrathfully, "Tom's laughing at me!
Make him stop!"

"What did you do to set him going? Don't scream so, you'll frighten
Polly!" and Fan gave the cherub a shake, which produced an explanation.

"I only said we had cold cweam at the party, last night, and he
laughed!"

"Ice-cream, child!" and Fanny followed Tom's reprehensible example.

"I don't care! it was cold; and I warmed mine at the wegister, and then
it was nice; only, Willy Bliss spilt it on my new Gabwielle!" and Maud
wailed again over her accumulated woes.

"Do go to Katy! You're as cross as a little bear to-day!" said Fanny,
pushing her away.

"Katy don't amoose me; and I must be amoosed,'cause I'm fwactious;
mamma said I was!" sobbed Maud, evidently laboring under the delusion
that fractiousness was some interesting malady.

"Come down and have dinner; that will amuse you;" and Fanny got up,
pluming herself as a bird does before its flight.

Polly hoped the "dreadful boy" would not be present; but he was, and
stared at her all dinner-time, in a most trying manner. Mr. Shaw, a
busy-looking gentleman, said, "How do you do, my dear? Hope you'll
enjoy yourself;" and then appeared to forget her entirely. Mrs. Shaw, a
pale, nervous woman, greeted her little guest kindly, and took care that
she wanted for nothing. Madam Shaw, a quiet old lady, with an imposing
cap, exclaimed on seeing Polly, "Bless my heart! the image of her mother
a sweet woman how is she, dear?" and kept peering at the new-comer over
her glasses, till, between Madam and Tom, poor Polly lost her appetite.

Fanny chatted like a magpie, and Maud fidgeted, till Tom proposed to put
her under the big dish-cover, which produced such an explosion, that the
young lady was borne screaming away, by the much-enduring Katy. It was
altogether an uncomfortable dinner, and Polly was very glad when it was
over. They all went about their own affairs; and after doing the honors
of the house, Fan was called to the dressmaker, leaving Polly to amuse
herself in the great drawing-room.

Polly was glad to be alone for a few minutes; and, having examined all
the pretty things about her, began to walk up and down over the soft,
flowery carpet, humming to herself, as the daylight faded, and only the
ruddy glow of the fire filled the room. Presently Madam came slowly in,
and sat down in her arm-chair, saying, "That's a fine old tune; sing it
to me, my dear. I have n't heard it this many a day." Polly did n't like
to sing before strangers, for she had had no teaching but such as her
busy mother could give her; but she had been taught the utmost respect
for old people, and having no reason for refusing, she directly went to
the piano, and did as she was bid.

"That's the sort of music it's a pleasure to hear. Sing some more,
dear," said Madam, in her gentle way, when she had done.

Pleased with this praise, Polly sang away in a fresh little voice, that
went straight to the listener's heart and nestled there. The sweet
old tunes that one is never tired of were all Polly's store; and her
favorites were Scotch airs, such as, "Yellow-Haired Laddie," "Jock o'
Hazeldean," "Down among the Heather," and "Birks of Aberfeldie." The
more she sung, the better she did it; and when she wound up with "A
Health to King Charlie," the room quite rung with the stirring music
made by the big piano and the little maid.

"By George, that's a jolly tune! Sing it again, please," cried Tom's
voice; and there was Tom's red head bobbing up over the high back of the
chair where he had hidden himself.

It gave Polly quite a turn, for she thought no one was hearing her but
the old lady dozing by the fire. "I can't sing any more; I'm tired,"
she said, and walked away to Madam in the other room. The red head
vanished like a meteor, for Polly's tone had been decidedly cool.

The old lady put out her hand, and drawing Polly to her knee, looked
into her face with such kind eyes, that Polly forgot the impressive cap,
and smiled at her confidingly; for she saw that her simple music had
pleased her listener, and she felt glad to know it.

"You must n't mind my staring, dear," said Madam, softly pinching her
rosy cheek. "I have n't seen a little girl for so long, it does my old
eyes good to look at you."

Polly thought that a very odd speech, and could n't help saying, "Are
n't Fan and Maud little girls, too?"

"Oh, dear, no! not what I call little girls. Fan has been a young
lady this two years, and Maud is a spoiled baby. Your mother's a very
sensible woman, my child."

"What a very queer old lady!" thought Polly; but she said "Yes'm"
respectfully, and looked at the fire.

"You don't understand what I mean, do you?" asked Madam, still holding
her by the chin.

"No'm; not quite."

"Well, dear, I'll tell you. In my day, children of fourteen and fifteen
did n't dress in the height of the fashion; go to parties, as nearly
like those of grown people as it's possible to make them; lead idle,
giddy, unhealthy lives, and get blasé at twenty. We were little folks
till eighteen or so; worked and studied, dressed and played, like
children; honored our parents; and our days were much longer in the land
than now, it seems to, me."

The old lady appeared to forget Polly at the end of her speech; for she
sat patting the plump little hand that lay in her own, and looking up at
a faded picture of an old gentleman with a ruffled shirt and a queue.

"Was he your father, Madam?

"Yes, dear; my honored father. I did up his frills to the day of his
death; and the first money I ever earned was five dollars which
he offered as a prize to whichever of his six girls would lay the
handsomest darn in his silk stockings."

"How proud you must have been!" cried Polly, leaning on the old lady's
knee with an interested face.

"Yes, and we all learned to make bread, and cook, and wore little
chintz gowns, and were as gay and hearty as kittens. All lived to be
grandmothers and fathers; and I'm the last, seventy, next birthday,
my dear, and not worn out yet; though daughter Shaw is an invalid at
forty."

"That's the way I was brought up, and that's why Fan calls me
old-fashioned, I suppose. Tell more about your papa, please; I like it,"
said Polly.

"Say'father.' We never called him papa; and if one of my brothers had
addressed him as'governor,' as boys do now, I really think he'd have
him cut off with a shilling."

Madam raised her voice in saying this, and nodded significantly; but a
mild snore from the other room seemed to assure her that it was a waste
of shot to fire in that direction.

Before she could continue, in came Fanny with the joyful news that
Clara Bird had invited them both to go to the theatre with her that very
evening, and would call for them at seven o'clock. Polly was so excited
by this sudden plunge into the dissipations of city life, that she flew
about like a distracted butterfly, and hardly knew what happened, till
she found herself seated before the great green curtain in the brilliant
theatre. Old Mr. Bird sat on one side, Fanny on the other, and both let
her alone, for which she was very grateful, as her whole attention was
so absorbed in the scene around her, that she could n't talk.

Polly had never been much to the theatre; and the few plays she had
seen were the good old fairy tales, dramatized to suit young beholders,
lively, bright, and full of the harmless nonsense which brings the laugh
without the blush. That night she saw one of the new spectacles which
have lately become the rage, and run for hundreds of nights, dazzling,
exciting, and demoralizing the spectator by every allurement French
ingenuity can invent, and American prodigality execute. Never mind what
its name was, it was very gorgeous, very vulgar, and very fashionable;
so, of course, it was much admired, and every one went to see it. At
first, Polly thought she had got into fairy-land, and saw only the
sparkling creatures who danced and sung in a world of light and beauty;
but, presently, she began to listen to the songs and conversation, and
then the illusion vanished; for the lovely phantoms sang negro melodies,
talked slang, and were a disgrace to the good old-fashioned elves whom
she knew and loved so well.

Our little girl was too innocent to understand half the jokes, and often
wondered what people were laughing at; but, as the first enchantment
subsided, Polly began to feel uncomfortable, to be sure her mother
would n't like to have her there, and to wish she had n't come. Somehow,


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