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and Polly, as usual, was flitting about the room, followed by her
satellite Firefly. As usual, too, Polly was first to remark and quickest
to censure. She looked very much like the old Polly; no outward change
was in the least visible, although now she yielded a kind of obedience
to the most gentle and unexacting of sisters, and although she still
vowed daily to herself, that she, Polly, would certainly climb the
highest mountain, and for father's sake would be the best of all his
children.

"How slow you are, Nell," she now exclaimed, impatiently; "and look what
a crooked 'E' you have made to the end of 'WELCOME.' Oh, don't be so
slow, boys! Paul and Virginia will be here before we are half ready."

"They can't come before six o'clock," said Helen. "We have two hours yet
left to work in. Do, dear, pretty Polly, find something else to take up
your time, and let the twins and the boys help me to finish this
wreath."

"Oh, if you don't want me," said Polly, in a slightly offended voice.
"Come along, Fly, we'll go up and see if Virginia's room is ready, and
then we'll pay a visit to our baby. You and I won't stay where we are
not wanted. Come along."

Fly trotted off by her elder sister's side, a great light of contentment
filling her big eyes. The two scampered upstairs, saw that a cozy nest
was all ready for the Australian girl, while a smaller room at the other
side of the passage was in equal readiness for the boy.

"Oh, what darling flowers!" said Firefly, running up to the dressing
table in the principal bedroom, and sniffing at the contents of a dainty
blue jar. "Why, Polly, these buds must be from your own pet tea-rose."

"Yes," said Polly, in a careless voice, "they are; I picked them for
Virginia this morning. I'd do anything for Virginia. I'm greatly excited
about her coming."

"You never saw her," said Firefly, in an aggrieved voice. "You wouldn't
give me your tea-roses. I don't think it's nice of you to be fonder of
her than you are of me. And Nursie says her name isn't Virginia."

"Never mind, she's Virginia to me, and the boy is Paul. Why, Fly, what a
jealous little piece you are. Come here, and sit on my lap. Of course
I'm fond of you, Fly, but I'm not excited about you. I know just the
kind of nose you have, and the kind of mouth, and the kind of big,
scarecrow eyes, but you see I don't know anything at all about Virginia,
so I'm making up stories about her, and pictures, all day long. I expect
she's something of a barbarian, both she and her brother, and isn't it
delicious to think of having two real live barbarians in the house?"

"Yes," said Firefly, in a dubious voice. "I suppose if they are real
barbarians, they won't know a bit how to behave, and we'll have to teach
them. I'll rather like that."

"Oh, you'll have to be awfully good, Fly, for they'll copy you in every
way; no sulking or sitting crooked, or having untidy hair, or you'll
have a couple of barbarians just doing the very same thing. Now, jump
off my lap, I want to go to Nurse, and you may come with me as a great
treat. I'm going to undress baby. I do it every night; and you may see
how I manage. Nurse says I'm very clever about the way I manage babies."

"Oh, you're clever about everything," said Fly, with a prolonged,
deep-drawn breath. "Well, Polly, I do hope one thing."

"Yes?"

"I do hope that the barbarians will be very, very ugly, for after you've
seen them you won't be curious any more, and after you know them there
won't be any stories to make up, and then you won't love them better
than me."

"What a silly you are, Fly," responded Polly.

But she gave her little sister's hand an affectionate squeeze, which
satisfied the hungry and exacting heart of its small owner for the
present.

Meanwhile the enormous wreath progressed well, and presently took upon
important position over the house doorway. As the daylight was getting
dim, and as it would, in the estimation of the children, be the
cruellest thing possible if the full glories of the wreath were not
visible to the eyes of the strangers when they approached Sleepy Hollow,
lamps were cunningly placed in positions where their full light could
fall on the large "Welcome," which was almost the unaided work of the
twins and their small brothers.

But now six o'clock was drawing near, and Polly and Firefly joined the
rest of the children in the hall. The whole house was in perfect order;
an excellent supper would be ready at any moment, and there was little
doubt that when the strangers did appear they would receive a most
hearty welcome.

"Wheels at last!" said Bunny, turning a somersault in the air.

"Hurrah! Three cheers for the barbarians!" sang out Firefly.

"I do hope Virginia will be beautiful," whispered Polly, under her
breath.

Helen went and stood on the doorsteps. Polly suddenly raised a colored
lamp, and waved it above her head.

"Welcome" smiled down from the enormous wreath, and shone on the
features of each Maybright as the Doctor opened the door of the
carriage, and helped a tall, slender girl, and a little boy in a black
velvet suit, to get out.

"Our travelers are very hungry, Polly," he said, "and - and - very
tired. Yes, I see you have prepared things nicely for them. But first of
all they must have supper, and after that I shall prescribe bed.
Welcome, my dear children, to Sleepy Hollow! May it be a happy home to
you both."

"Thank you," said the girl.

She had a pale face, a quantity of long light hair, and dreamy, sleepy
eyes; the boy, on the contrary, had an alert and watchful expression; he
clung to his sister, and looked in her face when she spoke.

"Do tell us what you are called," said Polly. "We are all just dying to
know. Oh! I trust, I do trust that you are really Paul and Virginia. How
perfectly lovely it would be if those were your real names."

The tall girl looked full into Polly's eyes, a strange, sweet, wistful
light filled her own, her words came out musically.

"I am Flower," she said, "and this is David. I am thirteen years old,
and David is eight. Father sent us away because after mother died there
was no one to take care of us."

A sigh of intense interest and sympathy fell from the lips of all the
young Maybrights.

"Come upstairs, Flower; we know quite well how to be sorry for you,"
said Helen.

She took the strange girl's hand, and led her up the broad staircase.

"I'll stay below," said David. "I'm not the least tired, and my hands
don't want washing. Who's the jolliest here? Couldn't we have a game of
ball? I haven't played ball since I left Ballarat. Flower wouldn't let
me. She said I might when I came here. She spoke about coming here all
the time, and she always wanted to see your mother. She cried the whole
of last night because your mother was dead. Now has nobody got a ball,
and won't the jolliest begin?"

"I'll play with you, David," said Polly. "Now catch; there! once, twice,
thrice. Aren't you starving? I want my tea, if you don't."

"Flower said I wasn't to ask for anything to eat now that your mother is
dead," responded David. "She said it wasn't likely we'd stay, but that
while we did I was to be on my good behavior. I hate being on my good
behavior; but Flower's an awful mistress. Yes, of course, I'm starving."

"Well, come in to tea, then," said Polly, laughing. "Perhaps you will
stay, and anyhow we are glad to have you for a little. Children, please
don't stare so hard."

"I don't mind," said David. "They may stare if it pleases them; I rather
like it."

"Like being stared at!" repeated Firefly, whose own sensitive little
nature resented the most transient glance.

"Yes," responded David, calmly; "it shows that I'm admired; and I know
that I'm a very handsome boy."

So he was, with dark eyes like a gipsy, and a splendid upright figure
and bearing. Far from being the barbarian of Polly's imagination, he had
some of the airs and graces of a born aristocrat. His calm remarks and
utter coolness astonished the little Maybrights, who rather shrank away
from him, and left him altogether to Polly's patronage.

At this moment Helen and the young Australian girl came down together.
David instantly trotted up to his sister.

"She thinks that perhaps we'll stay, Flower," pointing with his finger
at Polly, "and in that case I needn't keep up my company manners, need
I?"

"But you must behave well, David," responded Flower, "or the English
nation will fancy we are not civilized."

She smiled in a lovely languid way at her brother, and looked round with
calm indifference at the boys and girls who pressed close to her.

"Come and have tea," said Helen.

She placed Flower at her right hand. The Doctor took the head of the
table, and the meal progressed more or less in silence. Flower was too
lazy or too delicate to eat much. David spent all his time in trying to
make Firefly laugh, and in avoiding the Doctor's penetrating glance. The
Maybrights were too astonished at the appearance of their guests to feel
thoroughly at ease. Polly had a sensation of things being somehow rather
flat, and the Doctor wondered much in his inward soul how this new
experiment would work.




CHAPTER II.

A YOUNG QUEEN.


It did not work well as far as Polly was concerned. Whatever she was at
home, whatever her faults and failings, whatever her wild vagaries, or
unreasonable moods, she somehow or other always managed to be first.
First in play, first in naughtiness, first at her lessons, the best
musician, the best artist, the best housekeeper, the best originator of
sports and frolics on all occasions, was Polly Maybright. From this
position, however, she was suddenly dethroned. It was quite impossible
for Polly to be first when Flower was in the room.

Flower Dalrymple had the ways and manners of a young queen. She was
imperious, often ungracious, seldom obliging, but she had a knack of
getting people to think first of her, of saying the sort of things which
drew attention, and of putting every other little girl with whom she
came into contact completely in the shade.

In reality, Polly was a prettier girl than Flower. Her eyes were
brighter, her features more regular. But just as much in reality Polly
could not hold a candle to Flower, for she had a sort of a languorous,
slumberous, grace, which exactly suited her name; there was a kind of
etherealness about her, an absolutely out-of-the-common look, which made
people glance at her again and again, each time to discover how very
lovely she was.

Flower was a perfect contrast to David, being as fair as he was dark.
Her face had a delicate, creamy shade, her eyes were large and light
blue, the lashes and eyebrows being only a shade or two darker than her
long, straight rather dull-looking, yellow hair. She always wore her
hair straight down her back; she was very willowy and pliant in figure,
and had something of the grace and coloring of a daffodil.

Flower had not been a week in the Maybright family before she contrived
that all the arrangements in the house should be more or less altered to
suit her convenience. She made no apparent complaint, and never put her
wishes into words, still she contrived to have things done to please
her. For instance, long before that week was out, Polly found herself
deprived of the seat she had always occupied at meals by her father's
side. Flower liked to sit near the Doctor, therefore she did so; she
liked to slip her hand into his between the courses, and to look into
his face with her wide-open, pathetic, sweet eyes. Flower could not
touch coffee at breakfast, therefore by common consent the whole family
adopted tea. In the morning-room Flower established herself in mother's
deep arm-chair, hitherto consecrated by all rights and usages to Helen.
As to Polly, she was simply dethroned from her pedestal, her wittiest
remarks fell flat, her raciest stories were received with languid
interest. What were they compared to the thrilling adventures which the
young Australian could tell when she pleased! Not, indeed, that Flower
often pleased, she was not given to many words, her nature was
thoroughly indolent and selfish, and only for one person would she ever
really rouse and exert herself. This person was David; he worshipped
her, and she loved him as deeply as it was in her nature to love any
one. To all appearance, however, it mattered very little who, or how
Flower loved. On all hands, every one fell in love with her. Even Polly
resigned her favorite seat for her, even Helen looked without pain at
mother's beloved chair when Flower's lissome figure filled it. The
younger children were forever offering flowers and fruit at her shrine.
Nurse declared her a bonny, winsome thing, and greatest honor of all,
allowed her to play with little Pearl, the baby, for a few minutes, when
the inclination seized her. Before she was a week in the house, not a
servant in the place but would have done anything for her, and even the
Doctor so far succumbed to her charms as to pronounce her a gracious and
lovable creature.

"Although I can't make her out," he often said to himself, "I have an
odd instinct which tells me that there is the sleeping lioness or the
wild-cat hidden somewhere beneath all that languid, gracious
carelessness. Poor little girl! she has managed to captivate us all, but
I should not be surprised if she turned out more difficult and
troublesome to manage than the whole of my seven daughters put
together."

As Flower and David had been sent from Australia especially to be under
the care and guidance of Mrs. Maybright, the Doctor felt more and more
uncertain as to the expediency of keeping the children.

"It is difficult enough to manage a girl like Polly," he said to
himself; "but when another girl comes to the house who is equally
audacious and untamed - for my Polly is an untamed creature when all's
said and done - how is a poor half-blind old doctor like myself to keep
these two turbulent spirits in order? I am dreadfully afraid the
experiment won't work; and yet - and yet £400 a year is sadly needed to
add to the family purse just now."

The Doctor was pacing up and down his library while he meditated. The
carpet in this part of the room was quite worn from the many times he
walked up and down it. Like many another man, when he was perplexed or
anxious he could not keep still. There came a light tap at the library
door.

"Come in!" said the Doctor; and to his surprise Flower, looking more
like a tall yellow daffodil than ever, in a soft dress of creamy Indian
silk, opened the door and took a step or two into the room.

She looked half-shy, half-bold - a word would have sent her flying, or a
word drawn her close to the kind Doctor's side.

"Come here, my little girl," he said, "and tell me what you want."

Flower would have hated any one else to speak of her as a little girl,
but she pushed back her hair now, and looked with less hesitation and
more longing at the Doctor.

"I thought you'd be here - I ventured to come," she said.

"Yes, yes; there's no venturing in the matter. Take my arm, and walk up
and down with me."

"May I, really?"

"Of course you may, puss. Now I'll warrant anything you have walked many
a carpet bare with your own father. See! this is almost in holes; those
are Polly's steps, these are mine."

"Oh - yes - well, father isn't that sort of man. I'll take your arm if I
may, Doctor. Thank you. I didn't think - I don't exactly know how to say
what I want to say."

"Take time, my dear child; and it is no matter how you put the words."

"When I heard that there was no mother here, I did not want to stay
long. That was before I knew you. Now - I came to say it - I do want to
stay, and so does David."

"But you don't really know me at all, Flower."

"Perhaps not really; but still enough to want to stay. May I stay?"

Flower's charming face looked up inquiringly.

"May I stay?" she repeated, earnestly. "I do wish it! - very much
indeed."

Dr. Maybright was silent for a moment.

"I was thinking about this very point when you knocked at the door," he
said, presently. "I was wondering if you two children could stay. I want
to keep you, and yet I own I am rather fearful of the result. You see,
there are so many motherless girls and boys in this house."

"But we are motherless, too; you should be sorry for us; you should wish
to keep us."

"I am very sorry for you. I have grown to a certain extent already to
love you. You interest me much; still, I must be just to you and to my
own children. You are not a common, everyday sort of girl, Flower. I
don't wish to flatter you, and I am not going to say whether you are
nice or the reverse. But there is no harm in my telling you that you are
out of the common. It is probable that you may be extremely difficult to
manage, and it is possible that your disposition may - may clash with
those of some of the members of my own household. I don't say that this
will be the case, mind, only it is possible. In that case, what would
you expect me to do?"

"To keep me," said Flower, boldly, "and, if necessary, send away the
member of the household, for I am a motherless girl, and I have come
from a long way off to be with you."

"I don't quite think I can do that, Flower. There are many good mothers
in England who would train you and love you, and there are many homes
where you might do better than here. My own children are placed here by
God himself, and I cannot turn them out. Still - what is the matter, my
dear child?"

"I think you are unjust; I thought you would be so glad when I said I
wanted to stay."

"So I am glad; and for the present you are here. How long you remain
depends on yourself. I have no intention of sending you away at present.
I earnestly wish to keep you."

Another tap came to the study door.

"If you please, sir," said Alice, "blind Mrs. Jones is in the kitchen,
and wants to know most particular if she can see you."

"How ridiculous!" said Flower, laughing.

"Show Mrs. Jones in here, Alice," said the Doctor.

His own face had grown a shade or two paler.

"Blind people often speak in that way, Flower," he said, with a certain
intonation in his voice which made her regard him earnestly.

The memory of a rumor which had reached her ears with regard to the
Doctor's own sight flashed before her. She stooped suddenly, and with an
impulsive, passionate gesture kissed his hand.

Outside the room David was waiting.

"Well, Flower, well?" he asked, with intense eagerness.

"I spoke to him," said Flower. "We are here on sufferance, that's all.
He is the dearest man in all the world, but he is actually afraid of
me."

"You are rather fierce at times, you know, Flower. Did you tell him
about - about - - "

"About what, silly boy?"

"About the passions. You know, Flower, we agreed that he had better
know."

A queer steely light came into Flower's blue eyes.

"I didn't speak of them," she said. "If I said anything of that sort I'd
soon be packed away. I expect he's in an awful fright about that
precious Polly of his."

"But Polly is nice," interposed David.

"Oh, yes, just because she has a rather good-looking face you go over to
her side. I'm not at all sure that I like her. Anyhow, I'm not going to
play second fiddle to her. There now, Dave, go and play. We're here on
sufferance, so be on your good behavior. As to me, you need not be the
least uneasy. I wish to remain at Sleepy Hollow, so, of course, the
passions won't come. Go and play, Dave."

Firefly called across the lawn. David bounded out of the open window,
and Flower went slowly up to her own room.

There came a lovely day toward the end of October; St. Martin's summer
was abroad, and the children, with the Doctor's permission, had arranged
to take a long expedition across one of the southern moors in search of
late blackberries. They took their dinner with them, and George, the
under-gardener, accompanied the little party for protection. Nurse
elected, as usual, to stay at home with baby, for nothing would induce
her to allow this treasured little mortal out of her own keeping; but
the Doctor promised, if possible, to join the children at Troublous
Times Castle at two o'clock for dinner. This old ruin was at the extreme
corner of one of the great commons, and was a very favorite resort for
picnics, as it still contained the remains of a fine old banqueting-hall,
where in stormy or uncertain weather a certain amount of shelter could
be secured.

The children started off early, in capital spirits. A light wind was
blowing; the sky was almost cloudless. The tints of late autumn were
still abroad in great glory, and the young faces looked fresh, careless,
and happy.

Just at the last moment, as they were leaving the house, an idea darted
through Polly's brain.

"Let's have Maggie," she said. "I'll go round by the village and fetch
her. She would enjoy coming with us so much, and it would take off her
terror of the moor. Do you know, Helen, she is such a silly thing that
she has been quite in a state of alarm ever since the day we went to the
hermit's hut. I won't be a moment running to fetch Mag; do let's have
her. Firefly, you can come with me."

Maggie, who now resided with her mother, not having yet found another
situation - for Mrs. Power had absolutely declined to have her back in
the kitchen - was a favorite with all the children. They were pleased
with Polly's proposal, and a chorus of "Yes, by all means, let's have
Maggie!" rose in the air.

Flower was standing a little apart; she wore a dark green close-fitting
cloth dress; on her graceful golden head was a small green velvet cap.
She was picking a late rose to pieces, and waiting for the others with a
look of languid indifference on her face. Now she roused herself, and
asked in a slightly weary voice:

"Who is Maggie?"

"Maggie?" responded Helen, "she was our kitchen-maid; we are all very
fond of her - Polly especially."

"Fond of a kitchen-maid? I don't suppose you mean that, Helen," said
Flower. "A kitchen-maid's only a servant."

"I certainly mean it," said Helen, with a little warmth. "I am more or
less fond of all our servants, and Maggie used to be a special
favorite."

"How extraordinary!" said Flower. "The English nation have very queer
and plebeian ways about them; it's very plebeian to take the least
notice of servants, except to order them to obey you."

"On the contrary," retorted Polly; "it's the sign of a true lady or
gentleman to be perfectly courteous to their dependents, and if they
deserve love, to give it to them. I'm fond of Maggie; she's a good
little girl, and she shall come to our picnic. Come along, Firefly."

"I certainly will have nothing to say to Polly while she associates with
a servant," said Flower, slowly, and with great apparent calmness. "I
don't suppose we need all wait for her here. She can follow with the
servant when she gets her. I suppose Polly's whims are not to upset the
whole party."

"Polly will very likely catch us up at the cross-roads," said Helen, in
a pleasant voice. "Come, Flower, you won't really be troubled with poor
little Maggie; she will spend her day probably with George, and will
help him to wash up our dinner-things after we have eaten. Come, don't
be vexed, Flower."

"_I_ vexed!" said Flower. "You are quite mistaken. I don't intend to
have anything to say to Polly while she chooses a kitchen-maid for her
friend, but I dare say the rest of you can entertain me. Now, Mabel and
Dolly, shall I tell you what we did that dark night when David and I
stole out through the pantry window?"

"Oh, yes, yes!" exclaimed the twins. The others all clustered round
eagerly.

Flower had a very distinct voice, and when she roused herself she could
really be eloquent. A daring little adventure which she and her brother
had experienced lost nothing in the telling, and when Polly, Firefly,
and Maggie, joined the group, they found themselves taken very little
notice of, for all the other children, even Helen, were hanging on
Flower's words.

"Oh, I say, that isn't fair!" exclaimed Polly, whose spirits were
excellent. "You're telling a story, Flower, and Firefly and I have
missed it. Maggie loves stories, too; don't you, Mag? Do begin again,
please, Flower, please do!"

Flower did not even pretend to hear Polly's words - she walked straight
on, gesticulating a little now and then, now and then raising her hand
in a slightly dramatic manner. Her clear voice floated back to Polly as
she walked forward, the center of an eager, worshipping, entranced
audience.

Polly's own temper was rather hasty, she felt her face flushing, angry


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