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POLLY
A NEW-FASHIONED GIRL

BY
L. T. MEADE

Author of "A World of Girls," "Daddy's Girl,"
"Light of the Morning," "Palace Beautiful,"
"A Girl in Ten Thousand," etc.

NEW YORK
THE NEW YORK BOOK COMPANY
1910

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[Illustration: Polly]

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"But if thou wilt be constant then,
And faithful of thy word,
I'll make thee glorious by my pen
And famous by my sword.
I'll serve thee in such noble ways
Was never heard before:
I'll crown and deck thee all with bays
And love thee evermore."

- James Graham.

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CONTENTS

PART I
CHAPTER I. A GREAT MISFORTUNE. 1
CHAPTER II. ALL ABOUT THE FAMILY. 4
CHAPTER III. "BE BRAVE, DEAR." 6
CHAPTER IV. QUITE A NEW SORT OF SCHEME. 10
CHAPTER V. A SAFETY-VALVE. 13
CHAPTER VI. POLLY'S RAID. 16
CHAPTER VII. THE GROWN-UPS. 19
CHAPTER VIII. SHOULD THE STRANGERS COME? 24
CHAPTER IX. LIMITS. 28
CHAPTER X. INDIGESTION WEEK. 32
CHAPTER XI. A - WAS AN APPLE PIE. 36
CHAPTER XII. POTATOES - MINUS POINT. 42
CHAPTER XIII. IN THE ATTIC. 45
CHAPTER XIV. AUNT MARIA. 50
CHAPTER XV. PUNISHMENT. 55
CHAPTER XVI. DR. MAYBRIGHT _versus_ SCORPION. 60
CHAPTER XVII. WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN? 64
CHAPTER XVIII. THE WIFE OF MICAH JONES. 68
CHAPTER XIX. DISTRESSED HEROINES. 73
CHAPTER XX. LIMITS. 75
CHAPTER XXI. THE HIGH MOUNTAINS. 78

PART II
CHAPTER I. A COUPLE OF BARBARIANS. 82
CHAPTER II. A YOUNG QUEEN. 86
CHAPTER III. NOT LIKE OTHERS. 94
CHAPTER IV. A YOUNG AUSTRALIAN. 98
CHAPTER V. FORSAKEN. 103
CHAPTER VI. WITHOUT HER TREASURE. 108
CHAPTER VII. MAGGIE TO THE RESCUE. 113
CHAPTER VIII. THE HERMIT'S HUT. 117
CHAPTER IX. AN OLD SONG. 121
CHAPTER X. LOOKING AT HERSELF. 126
CHAPTER XI. THE WORTH OF A DIAMOND. 131
CHAPTER XII. RELICS AND A WELCOME. 135
CHAPTER XIII. VERY ROUGH WEATHER. 139
CHAPTER XIV. A NOVEL HIDING-PLACE. 144
CHAPTER XV. A DILEMMA. 149
CHAPTER XVI. FIREFLY. 151
CHAPTER XVII. TO THE RESCUE. 155
CHAPTER XVIII. OH, FIE! POLLY. 159
CHAPTER XIX. ONE YEAR AFTER. 165

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POLLY:
A NEW-FASHIONED GIRL.

CHAPTER I.

A GREAT MISFORTUNE.


It was an intensely hot July day - not a cloud appeared in the high blue
vault of the sky; the trees, the flowers, the grasses, were all
motionless, for not even the gentlest zephyr of a breeze was abroad; the
whole world seemed lapped in a sort of drowsy, hot, languorous slumber.
Even the flowers bowed their heads a little weariedly, and the birds
after a time ceased singing, and got into the coolest and most shady
parts of the great forest trees. There they sat and talked to one
another of the glorious weather, for they liked the heat, although it
made them too lazy to sing.

It was an open plain of country, and although there were clumps of trees
here and there, great clumps with cool shade under them, there were also
acres and acres of common land on which the sun beat remorselessly. This
land was covered with heather, not yet in flower, and with bracken,
which was already putting on its autumn glory of yellow and red. Neither
the bracken nor the heather minded the July heat, but the butterflies
thought it a trifle uncomfortable, and made for the clumps of trees, and
looked longingly and regretfully at what had been a noisy, babbling
little brook, but was now a dry and stony channel, deserted even by the
dragon-flies.

At the other side of the brook was a hedge, composed principally of wild
roses and hawthorn bushes, and beyond the hedge was a wide dyke, and at
the top of the dyke a wire paling, and beyond that again, a good-sized
vegetable garden.

From the tops of the trees, had any one been energetic enough to climb
up there, or had any bird been sufficiently endowed with curiosity to
glance his bright eyes in that direction, might have been seen smoke,
ascending straight up into the air, and proceeding from the kitchen
chimneys of a square-built gray house.

The house was nearly covered with creepers, and had a trellis porch,
sheltering and protecting its open hall-door. Pigeons were cooing near,
and several dogs were lying flat out in the shade which the wide eaves
of the house afforded. There was a flower garden in front, and a wide
gravel sweep, and a tennis court and croquet lawn, and a rose arbor, and
even a great, wide, cool-looking tent. But as far as human life was
concerned the whole place looked absolutely deserted. The pigeons cooed
languidly, and the dogs yapped and yawned, and made ferocious snaps at
audacious and troublesome flies. But no one handled the tennis bats, nor
took up the croquet mallets; no one stopped to admire the roses, and no
one entered the cool, inviting tent. The whole place might have been
dead, as far as human life was concerned; and although the smoke did
ascend straight up from the kitchen chimney, a vagrant or a tramp might
have been tempted to enter the house by the open hall door, were it not
protected by the lazy dogs.

Up, however, by the hedge, at the other side of the kitchen garden,
could be heard just then the crackle of a bough, the rustle of a dress,
and a short, smothered, impatient exclamation. And had anyone peered
very close they would have seen lying flat in the long grasses a tall,
slender, half-grown girl, with dark eyes and rosy cheeks, and tangled
curly rebellious locks. She had one arm raised, and was drawing herself
deliberately an inch at a time along the smooth grass. Several birds had
taken refuge in this fragrant hedge of hawthorn and wild roses. They
were talking to one another, keeping up a perpetual chatter; but
whenever the girl stirred a twig, or disturbed a branch, they stopped,
looking around them in alarm, but none of them as yet seeing the prone,
slim figure, which was, indeed, almost covered by the grasses. Perfect
stillness once more - the birds resumed their conversation, and the girl
made another slight movement forward. This time she disturbed no twig,
and interrupted none of the bird gossip. She was near, very near, a
tempting green bough, and on the bough sat two full-grown lovely
thrushes; they were not singing, but were holding a very gentle and
affectionate conversation, sitting close together, and looking at one
another out of their bright eyes, and now and then kissing each other
with that loving little peck which means a great deal in bird life.

The girl felt her heart beating with excitement - the birds were within
a few inches of her - she could see their breasts heaving as they
talked. Her own eyes were as bright as theirs with excitement; she got
quite under them, made a sudden upward, dexterous movement, and laid a
warm, detaining hand on each thrush. The deed was done - the little
prisoners were secured. She gave a low laugh of ecstasy, and sitting
upright in the long grass, began gently to fondle her prey, cooing as
she talked to them, and trying to coax the terrified little prisoners to
accept some kisses from her dainty red lips.

"Poll! Where's Polly Parrot? - Poll - Poll - Poll!" came a chorus of
voices. "Poll, you're wanted at the house this minute. Where are you
hiding? - You're wanted at home this minute! Polly Parrot - where are
you, Polly?"

"Oh, bother!" exclaimed the girl under her breath; "then I must let you
go, darlings, and I never, never had two of you in my arms at the same
moment before. It's always so. I'm always interrupted when I'm enjoying
ecstasy. Well, good-by, sweets. Be happy - bless you, darlings!"

She blew a kiss to the released and delighted thrushes, and stood
upright, looking very lanky and cross and disreputable, with bits of
grass and twig sticking in her hair, and messing and staining her faded,
washed cotton frock.

"Now, what are you up to, you scamps? - can't you let a body be?"

"Oh, Polly!"

Two little figures came tumbling down the gravel walk at the other side
of the wire fence. They were hot and panting, and both destitute of
hats.

"Polly, you're wanted at the house. Helen says so; there's a b-b-baby
come. Polly Perkins - Poll Parrot, you'd better come home at once,
there's a new b-b-baby just come!"

"A _what_?" said Polly. She vaulted the dyke, cleared the fence, and
kneeling on the ground beside her two excited, panting little brothers,
flung a hot, detaining arm round each.

"A baby! it isn't true, Bunny? it isn't true, Bob? A real live baby? Not
a doll! a baby that will scream and wriggle up its face! But it can't
be. Oh, heavenly! oh, delicious! But it can't be true, it can't! You're
always making up stories, Bunny!"

"Not this time," said Bunny. "You tell her, Bob - she'll believe you. I
heard it yelling - oh, didn't it yell, just! And Helen came, and said to
send Polly in. Helen was crying, I don't know what about, and she said
you were to go in at once. Why, what is the matter, Poll Parrot?"

"Nothing," said Polly, "only you might have told me about Helen crying
before. Helen never cries unless there's something perfectly awful going
to happen. Stay out in the garden, you two boys - make yourselves sick
with gooseberries, if you like, only don't come near the house, and
don't make the tiniest bit of noise. A new baby - and Helen crying! But
mother - I'll find out what it means from mother!"

Polly had long legs, and they bore her quickly in a swift race or canter
to the house. When she approached the porch the dogs all got up in a
body to meet her; there were seven or eight dogs, and they surrounded
her, impeding her progress.

"Not a bark out of one of you," she said, sternly, "lie down - go to
sleep. If you even give a yelp I'll come out by and by and beat you. Oh,
Alice, what is it? What's the matter?"

A maid servant was standing in the wide, square hall.

"What is it, Alice? What is wrong? There's a new baby - I'm delighted at
that. But why is Helen crying, and - oh! - oh! - what does it mean - you
are crying, too, Alice."

"It's - Miss Polly, I can't tell you," began the girl. She threw her
apron over her head, and sobbed loudly. "We didn't know where you was,
miss - it's, it's - We have been looking for you everywhere, miss. Why,
Miss Polly, you're as white, as white - Don't take on now, miss, dear."

"You needn't say any more," gasped Polly, sinking down into a garden
chair. "I'm not going to faint, or do anything silly. And I'm not going
to cry either. Where's Helen? If there's anything bad she'll tell me.
Oh, do stop making that horrid noise, Alice, you irritate me so
dreadfully!"

Alice dashed out of the open door, and Polly heard her sobbing again,
and talking frantically to the dogs. There was no other sound of any
sort. The intense stillness of the house had a half-stunning,
half-calming effect on the startled child. She rose, and walked slowly
upstairs to the first landing.

"Polly," said her sister Helen, "you've come at last. Where were you
hiding? - oh, poor Polly!"

"Where's mother?" said Polly. "I want her - let me go to her - _let_ me
go to her at once, Nell."

"Oh, Polly - - "

Helen's sobs came now, loud, deep, and distressful. There was a new
baby - but no mother for Polly any more.




CHAPTER II.

ALL ABOUT THE FAMILY.


Dr. Maybright had eight children, and the sweetest and most attractive
wife of any man in the neighborhood. He had a considerable country
practice, was popular among his patients, and he and his were adored by
the villagers, for the Maybrights had lived in the neighborhood of the
little village of Tyrsley Dale for many generations. Dr. Maybright's
father had ministered to the temporal wants of the fathers and mothers
of these very same villagers; and his father before him had also been in
the profession, and had done his best for the inhabitants of Tyrsley
Dale. It was little wonder, therefore, that the simple folks who lived
in the little antiquated village on the borders of one of our great
southern moors should have thought that to the Maybrights alone of the
whole race of mankind had been given the art of healing.

For three or four generations the Maybright family had lived at Sleepy
Hollow, which was the name of the square gray house, with its large
vegetable garden, its sheltered clump of forest trees, and its
cultivated flower and pleasure grounds. Here, in the old nursery, Polly
had first opened her bright blue-black eyes; in this house Dr.
Maybright's eight children had lived happily, and enjoyed all the
sunshine of the happiest of happy childhoods to the full. They were all
high-spirited and fearless; each child had a certain amount of
individuality. Perhaps Polly was the naughtiest and the most peculiar;
but her little spurt of insubordination speedily came to nothing, for
mother, without ever being angry, or ever saying anything that could
hurt Polly's sensitive feelings, had always, with firm and gentle hand,
put an extinguisher on them.

Mother was really, then, the life of the house. She was young to have
such tall slips of daughters, and such little wild pickles of sons; and
she was so pretty and so merry, and in such ecstasies over a picnic, and
so childishly exultant when Helen, or Polly, or Katie, won a prize or
did anything the least bit extraordinary, that she was voted the best
playfellow in the world.

Mother was never idle, and yet she was always at leisure, and so she
managed to obtain the confidences of all the children; she thoroughly
understood each individual character, and she led her small brood with
silken reins.

Dr. Maybright was a great deal older than his wife. He was a tall man,
still very erect in his figure, with square shoulders, and a keen,
bright, kindly face. He had a large practice, extending over many miles,
and although he had not the experience which life in a city would have
given him, he was a very clever physician, and many of his brothers in
the profession prophesied eminence for him whenever he chose to come
forward and take it. Dr. Maybright was often absent from home all day
long, sometimes also in the dead of night the children heard his
carriage wheels as they bowled away on some errand of mercy. Polly
always thought of her father as a sort of angel of healing, who came
here, there, and everywhere, and took illness and death away with him.

"Father won't let Josie Wilson die," Polly used to say; or, "What bad
toothache Peter Simpkins has to-day - but when father sees him he will
be all right."

Polly had a great reverence for her father, although she loved her
beautiful young mother best. The children never expected Dr. Maybright
to join in their games, or to be sympathetic over their joys or their
woes. They reverenced him much, they loved him well, but he was too busy
and too great to be troubled by their little concerns. Of course, mother
was different, for mother was part and parcel of their lives.

There were six tall, slim, rather straggling-looking Maybright
girls - all overgrown, and long of limb, and short of frock. Then there
came two podgy boys, greater pickles than the girls, more hopelessly
disreputable, more defiant of all authority, except mother's. Polly was
as bad as her brothers in this respect, but the other five girls were
docility itself compared to these black lambs, whose proper names were
Charley and John, but who never had been called anything, and never
would be called anything in that select circle, but Bunny and Bob.

This was the family; the more refined neighbors rather dreaded them, and
even the villagers spoke of most of them as "wondrous rampageous!" But
Mrs. Maybright always smiled when unfriendly comments reached her ears.

"Wait and see," she would say; "just quietly wait and see - they are
all, every one of them, the sweetest and most healthy-minded children in
the world. Let them alone, and don't interfere with them. I should not
like perfection, it would have nothing to grow to."

Mrs. Maybright taught the girls herself, and the boys had a rather
frightened-looking nursery-governess, who often was seen to rush from
the school-room dissolved in tears; but was generally overtaken half-way
up the avenue by two small figures, nearly throttled by two pairs of
repentant little arms, while eager lips vowed, declared, and
vociferated, that they would never, never be naughty again - that they
would never tease their own sweet, sweetest of Miss Wilsons any more.

Nor did they - until the next time.

Polly was fourteen on that hot July afternoon when she lay on the grass
and skillfully captured the living thrushes, and held them to her
smooth, glowing young cheeks. Her birthday had been over for a whole
fortnight; it had been a day full of delight, love, and happiness, and
mother had said a word or two to the exultant, radiant child at the
close. Something about her putting away some of the childish things, and
taking up the gentler and nobler ways of first young girlhood now. She
thought in an almost undefined way of mother's words as she held the
fluttering thrushes to her lips and kissed their downy breasts. Then had
come the unlooked-for interruption. Polly's life seemed cloudless, and
all of a sudden there appeared a speck in the firmament - a little cloud
which grew rapidly, until the whole heavens were covered with it. Mother
had gone away for ever, and there were now nine children in the old gray
house.




CHAPTER III.

"BE BRAVE, DEAR."


"Wasn't father with her?" Polly had said when she could find her voice
late that evening. "Wasn't father there? I thought father - I always
thought father could keep death away."

She was lying on her pretty white bed when she spoke. She had lain there
now for a couple of days - not crying nor moaning, but very still,
taking no notice of any one. She looked dull and heavy - her sisters
thought her very ill.

Dr. Maybright said to Helen -

"You must be very careful of Polly, she has had a shock, and she may
take some time recovering. I want you to nurse her yourself, Nell, and
to keep the others from the room. For the present, at least, she must be
kept absolutely quiet - the least excitement would be very bad for her."

"Polly never cries," said Helen, whose own blue eyes were swollen almost
past recognition; "she never cries, she does not even moan. I think,
father, what really upset Polly so was when she heard that you - you
were there. Polly thinks, she always did think that you could keep death
away."

Here poor Helen burst into fresh sobs herself.

"I think," she added, choking as she spoke, "that was what quite broke
Polly down - losing mother, and losing faith in your power at the same
time."

"I am glad you told me this, Helen," said Dr. Maybright, quietly. "This
alters the case. In a measure I can now set Polly's heart at rest. I
will see her presently."

"Presently" did not mean that day, nor the next, nor the next, but one
beautiful summer's evening just when the sun was setting, and just when
its long low western rays were streaming into the lattice-window of the
pretty little bower bedroom where Polly lay on her white bed, Dr.
Maybright opened the door and came in. He was a very tall man, and he
had to stoop as he passed under the low, old-fashioned doorway, and as
he walked across the room to Polly's bedside the rays of the setting sun
fell on his face, and he looked more like a beautiful healing presence
than ever to the child. She was lying on her back, with her eyes very
wide open; her face, which had been bright and round and rosy, had grown
pale and small, and her tearless eyes had a pathetic expression. She
started up when she saw her father come in, gave a glad little cry, and
then, remembering something, hid her face in her hands with a moan.

Dr. Maybright sat down in the chair which Helen had occupied the greater
part of the day. He did not take any notice of Polly's moan, but sat
quite still, looking out at the beautiful, glowing July sunset.
Wondering at his stillness, Polly presently dropped her hands from her
face, and looked round at him. Her lips began to quiver, and her eyes to
fill.

"If I were you, Polly," said the doctor, in his most matter-of-fact and
professional manner, "I would get up and come down to tea. You are not
ill, you know. Trouble, even great trouble, is not illness. By staying
here in your room you are adding a little to the burden of all the
others. That is not necessary, and it is the last thing your mother
would wish."

"Is it?" said Polly. The tears were now brimming over in her eyes, but
she crushed back her emotion. "I didn't want to get up," she said, "or
to do anything right any more. She doesn't know - she doesn't hear - she
doesn't care."

"Hush, Polly - she both knows and cares. She would be much better
pleased if you came down to tea to-night. I want you, and so does Helen,
and so do the other girls and the little boys. See, I will stand by the
window and wait, if you dress yourself very quickly."

"Give me my pocket-handkerchief," said Polly. She dashed it to her eyes.
No more tears flowed, and by the time the doctor reached the window he
heard a bump on the floor; there was a hasty scrambling into clothes,
and in an incredibly short time an untidy, haggard-looking, but now
wide-awake, Polly stood by the doctor's side.

"That is right," he said, giving her one of his quick, rare smiles.

He took no notice of the tossed hair, nor the stained, crumpled, cotton
frock.

"Take my arm, Polly," he said, almost cheerfully. And they went down
together to the old parlor where mother would never again preside over
the tea-tray.

It was more than a week since Mrs. Maybright had died, and the others
were accustomed to Helen's taking her place, but the scene was new to
the poor, sore-hearted child who now come in. Dr. Maybright felt her
faltering steps, and knew what her sudden pause on the threshold meant.

"Be brave, dear," he whispered. "You will make it easier for me."

After that Polly would have fought with dragons rather than shed a ghost
of a tear. She slipped into a seat by her father, and crumbled her
bread-and-butter, and gulped down some weak tea, taking care to avoid
any one's eyes, and feeling her own cheeks growing redder and redder.

In mother's time Dr. Maybright had seldom spoken. On many occasions he
did not even put in an appearance at the family tea, for mother herself
and the group of girls kept up such a chatter that, as he said, his
voice would not be heard; now, on the contrary, he talked more than any
one, telling the children one or two most interesting stories on natural
history. Polly was devoted to natural history, and in spite of herself
she suspended her tea-cup in the air while she listened.

"It is almost impossible, I know," concluded Dr. Maybright as he rose
from the table. "But it can be done. Oh, yes, boys, I don't want either
of you to try it, but still it can be done. If the hand is very steady,
and poised in a particular way, then the bird can be caught, but you
must know how to hold him. Yes - what is the matter, Polly?"

"I did it!" burst from Polly, "I caught two of them - darlings - I was
kissing them when - oh, father!"

Polly's face was crimson. All the others were staring at her.

"I want you, my dear," said her father, suddenly and tenderly. "Come
with me."

Again he drew her hand protectingly through his arm, and led her out of
the room.

"You were a very good, brave child at tea-time," he said. "But I
particularly wish you to cry. Tears are natural, and you will feel much
better if you have a good cry. Come upstairs now to Nurse and baby."

"Oh, no, I can't - I really can't see baby!"

"Why not? - She is a dear little child, and when your mother went away
she left her to you all, to take care of, and cherish and love. I think


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