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weeks ago. When they get to the docks he himself is going to meet them,
and he will take them to another home which he has been inquiring about.
He says that we can't have them here now."

"But we must have them here," said Polly. "What nonsense! We must both
of us speak to our father at once."

"I have been thinking it over," said Helen, in her gentle voice, "and I
do really feel that it is a pity to lose this chance of helping father
and lightening his cares. You see, Polly, it depends on us. Father would
do it if he could trust us, you and me, I mean."

"Well, so he can trust us," replied Polly, glibly. "Everything will be
all right. There's no occasion to make a fuss, or to be frightened. We
have got to be firm, and rather old for our years, and if either of us
puts down her foot she has got to keep it down."

"I don't know that at all," said Helen. "Mother sometimes said it was
wise to yield. Oh, Polly, I don't feel at all wise enough for all that
is laid on me. We have to be examples in everything. I do want to help
father, but it would be worse to promise to help him and then to fail."

"I'm not the least afraid," said Polly. "The strangers must come, and
father's purse must be filled in that jolly manner. I don't believe the
story about his eyes, Nell, but it will do him good to feel that he has
got a couple of steady girls like us to see to him. Now I'm arranging a
list of puddings for next week, so you had better not talk any more.
We'll speak to father about Paul and Virginia after dinner."




CHAPTER IX.

LIMITS.


Even the wisest men know very little of household management, and never
did an excellent and well-intentioned individual put, to use a
well-known phrase, his foot more completely into it than Dr. Maybright
when he allowed Polly to learn experience by taking the reins of
household management for a week.

Except in matters that related to his own profession, Dr. Maybright was
apt to be slightly absent-minded; here he was always keenly alive. When
visiting a patient not a symptom escaped him, not a flicker of timid
eyelids passed unnoticed, not a passing shade of color on the invalid's
countenance but called for his acute observation. In household matters,
however, he was apt to overlook trifles, and very often completely to
forget what seemed to his family important arrangements. He was the kind
of man who was sure to be very much beloved at home, for he was neither
fretful nor fussy, but took large views of all things. Such people are
appreciated, and if his children thought him the best of all men, his
servants also spoke of him as the most perfect of masters.

"You might put anything before him," Mrs. Power would aver. "Bless his
'art, _he_ wouldn't see, nor _he_ wouldn't scold. Ef it were rinsings of
the tea-pot he would drink it instead of soup; and I say, and always
will say, that ef a cook don't jelly the soup for the like of a
gentleman like the doctor what have no mean ways and no fusses, she
ain't fit to call herself a cook."

So just because they loved him, Dr. Maybright's servants kept his table
fairly well, and his house tolerably clean, and the domestic machinery
went on wheels, not exactly oiled, but with no serious clog to their
progress.

These things of course happened since Mrs. Maybright's death. In her day
this gentlest and firmest of mistresses, this most tactful of women,
kept all things in their proper place, and her servants obeyed her with
both will and cheerfulness.

On the Saturday before Polly's novitiate poor Dr. Maybright's troubles
began. He had completely forgotten all about his promise to Polly, and
was surprised when the little girl skipped into his study after
breakfast, with her black frock put on more neatly than usual, her hair
well brushed and pushed off her face, and a wonderful brown holland
apron enveloping her from her throat to her ankles. The apron had
several pockets, and certainly gave Polly a quaint and original
appearance.

"Here I am, father," she said. "I have come for the money, please."

"The - the what, my dear?"

Dr. Maybright put up his eye-glass, and surveyed the little figure
critically.

"Are these pockets for your school-books?" he said. "It is not a bad
idea; only don't lose them, Polly. I don't like untidy books scattered
here and there."

Polly took the opportunity to dart a quick, anxious glance into her
father's eyes - they were bright, dark, clear. Of course Helen's horrid
story was untrue. Her spirits rose, she gave a little skip, and clasped
her hands on the Doctor's arm.

"These are housekeeping pockets, father," she said. "Nothing at all to
say to books. I'm domestic, not intellectual; my housekeeping begins on
Monday, you know, and I've come for the eighty shillings now. Can you
give it to me in silver, not in gold, for I want to divide it, and pop
it into the little box with divisions at once?"

"Bless me," said the Doctor, "I'd forgotten - I did not know that
indigestion week was so near. Well, here you are, Polly, two pounds in
gold and two pounds in silver. I can't manage more than two sovereigns'
worth of silver, I fear. Now my love, as you are strong, be
merciful - give us only small doses of poison at each meal. I beseech of
you, Polly, be temperate in your zeal."

"You laugh at me," said Polly, "Well, never mind. I'm too happy to care.
I don't expect you'll talk about poisoning when you have eaten my
cheesecakes. And father, dear father, you _will_ let Paul and Virginia
come? Nell and I meant to speak to you yesterday about them, but you
were out all day. With me to housekeep, and Nell to look after
everybody, you needn't have the smallest fear about Paul and Virginia;
they can come and they can line your pockets, can't they?"

"My dear child, I have not an idea what you are talking about. Who _are_
Paul and Virginia - have I not a large enough family without taking in
the inhabitants of a desert island? There, I can't wait to hear
explanations now; that is my patients' bell - run away, my dear, run
away."

Dr. Maybright always saw his poorer patients gratis on Saturday morning
from ten to twelve. This part of his work pleased him, for he was the
sort of man who thought that the affectionate and grateful glance in the
eye, and the squeeze of the hand, and the "God bless you, doctor," paid
in many cases better than the guinea's worth. He had an interesting case
this morning, and again Polly and her housekeeping slipped from his
mind. He was surprised, therefore, in the interim between the departure
of one patient and the arrival of another, to hear a somewhat tremulous
tap at his study door, and on his saying "Come in," to see the pretty
but decidedly ruffled face of his housemaid Alice presenting herself.

"Ef you please, Doctor, I won't keep you a minute, but I thought I'd ask
you myself ef it's your wish as Miss Polly should go and give orders
that on Monday morning I'm to turn the linen-press out from top to
bottom, and to do it first of all before the rooms is put straight. And
if I'm to unpick the blue muslin curtains, and take them down from where
they was hung by my late blessed mistress's orders, in the spare room,
and to fit them into the primrose room over the porch - for she says
there's a Miss Virginy and a Master Paul coming, and the primrose room
with the blue curtains is for one of them, she says. And I want to know
from you, please, Doctor, if Miss Polly is to mistress it over me? And
to take away the keys of the linen-press from me, and to follow me
round, and to upset all my work, what I never stood, nor would stand. I
want to know if it's your wish, Doctor?"

"The fact is, Alice," began the Doctor - he put his hand to his brow,
and a dim look came over his eyes - "the fact is - ah, that is my
patients' bell, I must ask you to go, Alice, and to - to moderate your
feelings. I have been anxious to give Miss Polly a lesson in experience,
and it is only for a week. You will oblige me very much, Alice, by
helping me in this matter."

The Doctor walked to the door as he spoke, and opened it courteously.

"Come in, Johnson," he said, to a ruddy-faced farmer, who was
accompanied by a shy boy with a swelled face. "Come in; glad to see you,
my friend. Is Tommy's toothache better?"

Alice said afterwards that she never felt smaller in her life than when
Dr. Maybright opened the study door to show her out.

"Ef I'd been a queen he couldn't have done it more elegant," she
remarked. "Eh, but he's a blessed man, and one would put up with two
Miss Pollys for the sake of serving him."

The Doctor having conquered Alice, again forgot his second daughter's
vagaries, but a much sterner and more formidable interview was in store
for him; it was one thing to conquer Alice, who was impressionable, and
had a soft heart, and another to encounter the stony visage and rather
awful presence of Mrs. Power.

"It's to give notice I've come, Dr. Maybright," she said, dropping a
curtsey, and twisting a corner of her large white apron round with one
formidable red hand. "It's to give notice. This day month, please,
Doctor, and, though I says it as shouldn't, you won't get no one else to
jelly your soups, nor feather your potatoes, nor puff your pastry, as
Jane Power has done. But there's limits, Dr. Maybright; and I has come
to give you notice, though out of no disrespect to you, sir."

"Then why do you do it, Mrs. Power?" said the Doctor. "You are an honest
and conscientious servant, I know that from your late mistress's
testimony. You cook very good dinners too, and you make suitable
puddings for the children, and pastry not too rich. Why do you want to
leave? I don't like change; and, if it is a question of wages, perhaps I
may be able to meet you."

"I'm obligated to you, Doctor; but it ain't that. I has my twenty-two
pounds paid regular, and all found. I ain't grumbling on that score, and
Jane Power was never havaricious nor grasping. I'm obligated too by what
you says with respect to the pastry; but, Doctor, it ain't in mortal
woman to stand a chit of a child being put over her. So I'm going this
day month; and, with your leave, I'll turn the key in the kitchen-door
next week, or else I'll forfeit my wage and go at once."

"Dear, dear," said the Doctor. "This is really embarrassing. I never
thought that Polly's experience would upset the household economy in so
marked a manner. I am really annoyed, for I certainly gave her leave to
housekeep for a week."

"It isn't as I minds youth, Dr. Maybright," continued Mrs. Power. "I
makes due allowances for the young, for I says to myself, 'Jane Power,
you was once, so to speak, like an unfledged chick yourself;' but
there's youth _and_ youth, Dr. Maybright; and Miss Polly's of the kind
as makes your 'air stand on hend."

"Poor Polly," said the Doctor.

"No, sir, begging your parding, if you was in the kitchen, it's 'poor
Mrs. Power' you'd be a-saying. Now I don't say nothing agin Miss
Nelly - she's the elder, and she have nice ways with her - she takes a
little bit after my poor dear mistress; oh, what a nature was hers,
blessed angel!"

Here Mrs. Power rolled her eyes skywards, and the Doctor, turning his
back, walked to the window.

"Be brief," he said, "I am pressed for time."

"Sir, I was never one for long words; agen' Miss Helen I haven't a word
to say. She comes down to the kitchen after breakfast as pretty as you
please, and she says, 'Power,' says she, 'you'll advise me about the
dinner to-day,' says she. 'Shall we have minced collops, or roast beef?
And shall we have fruit tart with custard?' Pretty dear, she don't know
nothink, and she owns it, and I counsel her, as who that wasn't the most
hard-hearted would. But Miss Polly, she's all on wires like, and she
bounds in and she says that I pepper the soup too strong, and that I
ought to go to cookery schools, and ef I'll go with her that blessed
minit she'll tell me what I wants in my own store-room. There's limits.
Dr. Maybright, and Miss Polly's my limits; so, ef you'll have no
objection, sir, I'll go this day month."

"But I have an objection," replied Dr. Maybright. "Even Polly's
experiment must not cost me a valuable servant. Mrs. Power, I have
promised my little girl, and I feel more than convinced that her week's
trial will ensure to you the freedom you desire and deserve in the
future. Listen, I have a plan. Suppose you go for a week's holiday on
Monday?"

"Oh, my word, sir! And are you to be poisoned hout and hout?"

"That is unlikely. Maggie, your kitchen-maid, is fond of cooking, and
she won't quarrel with Miss Polly. Let us consider it arranged, then. A
week's holiday won't do you any harm, cook, and your expenses I will
defray. Now, excuse me, I must go out at once. The carriage has been at
the door for some time."




CHAPTER X.

INDIGESTION WEEK.


It was quite early on the following Monday morning when a light tap was
heard outside the door of the room where Helen and Polly slept. It was a
very light, modest, and uncertain tap, and it has not the smallest
effect upon Helen, who lay in soft slumber, her pretty eyes closed, her
gentle face calm and rounded and child-like, and the softest breathing
coming from her rosy, parted lips.

Another little girl, however, was not asleep. At that modest tap up
sprang a curly head, two dark, bright eyes opened wide, two white feet
sprang quickly but noiselessly on to the floor, and Polly had opened the
bedroom door wide to admit the short, dumpy, but excited little person
of Maggie, the kitchen-maid.

"She's a-going, Miss Polly - she's a-packing her bandbox now, and
putting the strap on. She's in a hawful temper, but she'll be out of the
house in less than half an hour. There's a beautiful fire in the
kitchen, Miss, and the pan for frying bacon is polished up so as you
could 'most see yourself in it. And the egg-saucepan is there all 'andy,
and the kettle fizzing and sputtering. I took cook up her breakfast, but
she said she didn't want none of our poisonous messes, and she'd
breakfast with her cousin in the village if we'd no objection. She'll be
gone in no time now, Miss Polly, and I'm a-wanting to know when you'll
be a-coming down stairs."

"I'm going to dress immediately, Maggie," said Polly. "I've scarcely
slept all night, for this is an anxious moment for me. I'll join you in
half an hour at the latest, Maggie, and have lots of saucepans and
frying-pans and gridirons ready. Keep the fire well up too, and see that
the oven is hot. There, fly away, I'll join you soon."

Maggie, who was only sixteen herself, almost skipped down the passage.
After the iron reign of Mrs. Power, to work for Polly seemed like play
to her.

"She's a duck," she said to herself, "a real cozy duck of a young lady.
Oh, my word, won't we spin through the stores this week! Won't we just!"

Meanwhile Polly was hastily getting into her clothes. She did not wish
to wake Helen, for she was most anxious that no one should know that on
the first morning of her housekeeping she had arisen soon after six
o'clock. Her plans were all laid beforehand, and a wonderfully
methodical and well arranged programme, considering her fourteen years,
was hers; she was all agog with eagerness to carry it out.

"Oh, won't they have a breakfast this morning," she said to herself.
"Won't they open their eyes, and won't Bob and Bunny look greedy. And
Firefly - I must watch Firefly over those hot cakes, or she may make
herself sick. Poor father and Nell - they'll both be afraid at first
that I'm a little too lavish and inclined to be extravagant, but they'll
see by-and-by, and they'll acknowledge deep down in their hearts that
there never was such a housekeeper as Polly."

As the little maid dreamed these pleasant thoughts she scrambled
somewhat untidily into her clothes, gave her hair a somewhat less
careful brush than usual, and finally knelt down to say her morning
prayer. Helen still slept, and Polly by a sudden impulse chose to kneel
by Helen's bed and not her own. She pressed her curly head against the
mattress, and eagerly whispered her petitions. She was excited and
sanguine, for this was to her a moment of triumph; but as she prayed a
feeling of rest and yet of longing overpowered her.

"Oh, I am happy to-day," she murmured - "but oh, mother, oh, mother, I'd
give everything in all the wide world to have you back again! I'd live
on bread and water - I'd spend years in a garret just for you to kiss me
once again, mother, mother!"

Helen stirred in her sleep, for Polly's last impulsive words were spoken
aloud.

"Has mother come back?" she asked.

Her eyes were closed, she was dreaming. Polly bent down and answered
her.

"No," she said. "It is only me - the most foolish of all her children,
who wants her so dreadfully."

Helen sighed, and turned her head uneasily, and Polly, wiping away some
moisture from her eyes, ran out of the room.

Her housekeeping apron was on, her precious money box was under her arm,
the keys of the linen-press jingled against a thimble and a couple of
pencils in the front pocket of the apron. Polly was going down stairs to
fulfill her great mission; it was impossible for her spirits long to be
downcast. The house was deliciously still, for only the servants were up
at present, but the sun sent in some rays of brightness at the large
lobby windows, and the little girl laughed aloud in her glee.

"Good morning, sun! it is nice of you to smile at me the first morning
of my great work. It is very good-natured of you to come instead of
sending that disagreeable friend of yours, Mr. Rain. Oh, how delicious
it is to be up early. Why, it is not half-past six yet - oh, what a
breakfast I shall prepare for father!"

In the kitchen, which was a large, cheerful apartment looking out on the
vegetable garden, Polly found her satellite, Maggie, on the very tiptoe
of expectation.

"I has laid the servants' breakfast in the 'all, Miss Polly; I thought
as you shouldn't be bothered with them, with so to speak such a lot on
your hands this morning. So I has laid it there, and lit a fire for
them, and all Jane has to do when she's ready is to put the kettle on,
for the tea's on the table in the small black caddy, so there'll be no
worriting over them. And ef you please, Miss Polly, I made bold to have
a cup of tea made and ready for you, Miss - here it is, if you please,
Miss, and a cut off the brown home-made loaf."

"Delicious," said Polly; "I really am as hungry as possible, although I
did not know it until I saw this nice brown bread-and-butter. Why, you
have splendid ideas in you, Maggie; you'll make a first-rate cook yet.
But now" - here the young housekeeper thought it well to put on a severe
manner - "I must know what breakfast you have arranged for the servants'
hall. It was good-natured of you to think of saving me trouble, Maggie,
but please understand that during this week you do nothing on your own
responsibility. _I_ am the housekeeper, and although I don't say I am
old, I am quite old enough to be obeyed."

"Very well, Miss," said Maggie, who had gone to open her oven, and poke
up the fire while Polly was speaking; "it's a weight off my shoulders,
Miss, for I wasn't never one to be bothered with thinking. Mother says
as I haven't brains as would go on the top of a sixpenny-bit, so what's
to be expected of me, Miss. There, the oven's all of a beautiful glow,
and 'ull bake lovely. You was asking what breakfast I has put in the
servants' 'all - well, cold bacon and plenty of bread, and a good pat of
the cooking butter. Why, Miss Polly, oh, lor, what is the matter, Miss?"

"Only that you have done very wrong, Maggie," said Polly. "You would not
like to have lots of good things going up to the dining-room, and have
no share yourself. I call it selfish of you, Maggie, for of course you
knew you would be in the kitchen with me, and would be sure to come in
for bits. Cold bacon, indeed! Poor servants, they're not likely to care
for my housekeeping if that is all I provide for them! No, Maggie, when
I made out my programme, I thought of the servants as well as the
family. I will just refer to my tablets, Maggie, and see what breakfast
I arranged for the hall for Monday morning."

While Polly was speaking Maggie opened her eyes and mouth wider and
wider and when the young lady read aloud from her tablets she could not
suppress an expostulatory "oh!"

"Monday - kitchen breakfast," read Polly - "Bacon, eggs, marmalade,
sardines. Hot coffee, fresh rolls, if possible."

"My word, but that is wasteful," said Maggie.

Polly's cheeks flushed. She glanced at her small handmaid, raised her
hand in a reproving manner, and continued to read -

"Dining-room breakfast: Hot scones, baked muffins, eggs and bacon,
deviled kidneys, scrambled eggs, a dish of kippered herrings, marmalade,
honey, jam, tea and coffee. Oh, and chocolate for Firefly."

"My word, Miss," again exclaimed Maggie. "It's seven o'clock now, and
the Doctor likes his breakfast sharp on the table at eight. If we has to
get all this ready in an hour we had better fly round and lose no more
time. I'll see to the 'all, bless your kind 'eart, Miss Polly, but we'd
better get on with the dining-room breakfast, or there'll be nothing
ready in anything like time. Will you mix up the cakes, Miss Polly,
while I sees to the kidneys, and to the bacon and eggs, and the
scrambled eggs, and the kippers. My word, but there'll be a power more
sent up than can be eaten. But whatever goes wrong we should have the
cakes in the oven, Miss Polly."

Polly did not altogether approve of Maggie's tone, but time did press;
the kitchen clock already pointed to five minutes past seven; it was
much easier to write out a programme upstairs at one's leisure in the
pleasant morning-room than to carry it out in a hurry, in the hot
kitchen, particularly when one's own knowledge was entirely theoretical,
not practical. Yes, the kitchen was very hot, and time never seemed to
fly so fast.

"First of all, open the window, Maggie; it is wrong to have rooms so hot
as this," said the young housekeeper, putting on her most authoritative
air.

"No, Miss, that I mustn't," said Maggie, firmly. "You'd cool down the
oven in less than five minutes. Now, shall I fetch you the flour and
things from the store-room, Miss? Why, dear me, your cheeks has peonyed
up wonderful. You're new to it yet, Miss, but you'll soon take it
quiet-like. Cold bacon is a very nice breakfast for the 'all, Miss, and
cooking butter's all that servants is expected to eat of. Now shall I
fetch you the flour and the roller, and the milk, Miss Polly?"

"Yes, get them," said Polly. She felt decidedly annoyed and cross. "I
wish you would not talk so much, Maggie," she said, "go and fetch the
materials for the hot cakes."

"But I don't know yet what I'm to get, Miss. Is it a dripping cake, or
is it a cream cake, or is it a butter-and-egg cake? I'll bring you
things according, Miss Polly, if you'll be so good as to instruct me."

"Oh dear, oh dear," said Polly, "you make my head go round, when you
mention so many kinds of cake, Maggie. I really thought you knew
something of cooking. I just want _hot cakes_. I don't care what kind
they are; oh, I suppose we had better have the richest to-day. Get the
material for the butter-and-egg cake, Maggie, and do be quick."

Thus admonished, Maggie did move off with a dubious look on her face in
the direction of the store-room.

"She don't know nothing, poor dear," she said to herself; "she aims
high - she's eat up with ambition, but she don't know nothing. It's
lucky we in the 'all is to have the cold bacon. _I_ don't know how to
make a butter-and-egg hot cake - oh, my word, a fine scolding Mrs. Power
will give us when she comes back."

Here Maggie approached the store-room door. Then she uttered a loud and
piercing exclamation and flew back to Polly.

"She's gone and done us, Miss Polly," she exclaimed. "She's gone and
done us! Cook's off, and the key of the store-room in her pocket.
There's nothing for breakfast, Miss Polly - no eggs, no butter, no
marmalade, no sugar, no nothing."

Poor Polly's rosy, little face turned white.

"It can't be true," she said. And she flew down the passage to the
store-room herself. Alas! only to peep through the key-hole, for the
inhospitable door was firmly locked, and nowhere could the key be
discovered.




CHAPTER XI.

A - WAS AN APPLE PIE.


The first day of Polly's housekeeping was long remembered in the
household. In the first place, the breakfast, though fairly abundant,
was plain. A large piece of cold bacon graced one end of the board, a


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