When Polly was Eighteen
WHEN POLLY WAS EIGHTEEN
WHEN POLLY WAS
EMMA C. DOWD
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge
COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY EMMA C. DOWD
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
TO MY FRIEND
JULIA DARLING PECK
IN HAPPY MEMORY OF
|I.||“Why don’t you laugh?”||1|
|III.||David makes a Request||15|
|IV.||The Birthday Fête||21|
|V.||“I will take care of Paradise Ward”||32|
|VIII.||Couches of Clover||58|
|X.||The Top of the World||71|
|XII.||Patricia and a Few Others||85|
|XIII.||What Sardis said||93|
|XIV.||Paradise Ward on Wheels||100|
|XV.||The First Day||115|
|XVI.||Benedicta makes it go||124|
|XVII.||A Picture and a Message||129|
|XVIII.||An Attempt at Matchmaking||135|
|XIX.||An Uninvited Guest and a Mystery||146|
|XXI.||“Ten Little Girls” and Sardis Merrifield||164|
|[viii]XXII.||A Little Lame Duck||177|
|XXIII.||In the “Garden of Eden”||187|
|XXVI.||Clementina asks Questions||217|
|XXVII.||The Butterfly Lady stays||223|
|XXIX.||Trouble in the Kitchen||251|
|XXX.||The New Cook||259|
WHEN POLLY WAS EIGHTEEN
WHEN POLLY WAS EIGHTEEN
POLLY leaned back against the great oak, her eyes bent on David’sface. She wondered—and wondered hard. If she could only fathom thatinscrutable expression!
The young man, stretched on the grass among the waving shadows, wasgazing across the valley to the hills in their soft afternoon veiling.It was a June picture beautiful enough to hold the attention of anyone, yet it was plain that David’s thoughts were not on the landscape.
They had come out for a walk, which had led them miles to the south andfinally to the top of Chimney Hill, where they had stopped to rest.
At the start David had been talkative enough, in fact unusually merry;then, from no discernible cause, his lips had shut gravely and Pollyhad not been able to draw out more than monosyllables and short,matter-of-fact sentences. As she watched the unreadable face she triedto guess what the trouble might be. As in the old days before college,her lover had his occasional jealous moods, and although they wereless frequent they grew more and more bitter. Still, during the happyintervals Polly would coax herself to believe that they were pastforever. Now she thought over the route, bit by bit, trying to findsomething which could have disturbed him. At last, baffled in herendeavors, she ventured suddenly:—
“David, why don’t you laugh?”
He turned instantly. “At what?”
“Anything—nothing,” she answered lightly. “You seemed to be weighingsome heavy matter.”
“No, I was only—” He halted, then went on without completing hissentence. “I am going away to-morrow,” he announced.
Polly’s smile vanished in surprise.
“Where?” she asked with her usual eagerness. “Spitzbergen or the SouthPole?”
David did not appear to notice her pleasantry.
“To the Adirondacks,” he said simply.
“Oh!” Polly exclaimed. “Were you just making up your mind?”
David reddened. “N-no,” he denied; “but Converse invited me only a dayor two ago, and I didn’t decide at once.”
“Going with Child Converse?” queried Polly’s lips, while her thoughtsran along, “Why didn’t he tell me sooner? We were together allyesterday morning and this afternoon—never a word until now!”
“Yes,” David was saying, “he is going to take me up to their camp. Hisfather and mother are in Seattle, you know.”
“M-h’m,” she bowed. “How long you going to stay?”
“I don’t know. He hasn’t set any time.”
“It’ll be great, won’t it?” Polly smiled in her friendliest way.
He nodded gravely, slipping abruptly into complaint.
“You do not like Converse. You have never taken the trouble to knowhim.”
The girl’s eyes twinkled. “I certainly ought to adore him,” she said;“it is the first time you ever wanted me to look at any boy except YourRoyal Highness.”
“Oh, you don’t understand!” sighed David.
“I am always wondering,” Polly went on, a tiny scowl wrinkling hersmooth forehead, “how it is that Converse happens to attract you.”
“He is a good fellow,” said David positively. “But he has no stock ofprittle-prattle.”
“It isn’t his lack of nonsense,” Polly smiled. “He is too pretty. Thatcombined with his name—but he can’t help either, poor boy! Anyway, helooks like a nice baby—”
“Baby!” sniffed David.
“Well, he does. With his round face and rosy cheeks and curlyhair—honestly, I always want to take him on my knee and trot him.”
David laughed, though as if against his will.
“There’s nothing of the baby about him,” he asserted, “and a fellowcan’t help his looks.”
Polly shook her head. “No,” she agreed. “If only he and his sistercould exchange faces! Maybe, after all, it is she that flavors myopinion of him.”
“Yes.” She was making little jabs in the soft moss with her slenderforefinger, and a faint smile began to curve her lips.
“She is a brainy girl,” was the somewhat stiff response, “and she hasalways been very pleasant to me.”
“She is brainy enough,” replied Polly; “the trouble is, she knows itand she shows that she knows it.”
“If she did not know it, there would be nothing to know,” said Davidseverely.
Polly’s smile broadened. “I was thinking,” she resumed, “of whatPatricia said the other day. Marietta has just been elected presidentof the Much Ado Club in place of Ruth Mansfield. You know theMansfields are going to live in California. Ruth has grown prettystout, and Marietta looks as if she would blow away. Somebody waswondering if she could fill Ruth’s place, and Patricia said verysoberly, ‘I think she’ll wabble about a little.’ Wasn’t that bright?”
“Unkind,” he answered forbiddingly.
“Oh, David!” she sighed, “you are so matter-of-fact. You don’t likePatty any better than ever.”
“There is not much of her to like,” he said quietly.
“It is true.”
“Every one but you thinks she is lovely,” asserted Polly.
“Probably they don’t require depth.”
“Patricia isn’t shallow,” she retorted.
“It appears so to an outsider. Look at her and her gang!”
He gave a short laugh.
“The truth is, Polly, seeing we are talking plainly, I don’t like thegirls with whom you are so popular—the girls that have made you theirqueen. They—”
“Queen! What are you talking about, David?” Polly broke in withoutceremony. Her voice was scornful.
“Yes, queen,” reiterated the young man. “Only they rule you, not youthem.”
“You don’t like it because I said yesterday I hadn’t time to have aflower garden,” accused Polly.
“No,” denied David, “I was thinking of something else. You have toomany clubs on your hands.”
“They don’t amount to much in the way of time,” returned Polly.
“They must be a great bore.”
“No; they keep me out of a rut, put me in touch with everything.”
“H’m!” scorned David. “I am glad I don’t need a posse of chatteringgirls to keep me up to date. Not a single club for me in vacation! Cutthem out, Polly, every one! Why not?”
The girl laughed. “What a queer fellow you are! I’ll write to you everyday if you wish,” she added with seeming irrelevance, remembering acertain request when they had separated at the beginning of the lastcollege year.
David brightened perceptibly—until a sparkle of fun in her brown eyesswiftly altered his expression.
“Yes, you will have as much as three minutes a day to give to me, won’tyou!” he flashed, a tinge of bitterness in his tone.
“No, truly, David, I am in earnest,” smiled Polly. “My clubs don’ttake up nearly as much of my time as you think. If you would join someof them—the College, for instance—you would change your mind. Youstand outside and criticize; you don’t get the right viewpoint. Try it,David! You won’t be sorry. I’ll propose your name at the next meeting.”
“No, you will not!” was the prompt reply. “Nice time to join, while Iam off in an Adirondack camp.”
“Oh, well, you are not going to stay all summer, are you?”
Polly looked straight into the blue eyes opposite. “Do you mean it?”
He bowed gravely. “It is more than possible.” He pulled out his watch.“Time we were on the march,” he said, springing to his feet.
The walk home was like many another walk. Polly tried to make talk,with poor results. There were long silences, while she, watching hercompanion’s face, longed with all her heart to read what was beingwritten behind those unreadable eyes. She felt a relief when thehospital was sighted.
“You’ll be up in the morning, shan’t you?” she asked.
“I think there will not be time,” David answered quietly. “Conversewishes to make an early start. I would better say good-bye now.” Hetook her hand in his strong grasp, held it a moment as if words werenot ready, then said calmly, “I hope you will have a pleasant summer.”
“Just as if I were some ordinary acquaintance he had met on thestreet,” Polly told herself in the seclusion of her own room. “Whatdoes ail him!”
THE City Hall clock struck twelve, and Polly Dudley was still awake.The circumstances of the afternoon were passing before her. What Davidhad said and what she had said, when he had laughed and when he hadbeen silent, what they had seen on the way—it was all there in theprocession that had no end. Just now they were at the corner of WebsterStreet, where it joined Clayton Avenue. An Italian boy with a push-cartwas on the cross-walk, and Polly and David waited to let him pass. Ayoung man was coming towards them, a handsome young man in a shiningcar. Now he was lifting his hat with his usual splendid smile, thesmile that showed his gleaming, perfect teeth—
“Oh!” Polly breathed suddenly, “that was it! Now I know! How could hebe so silly! But it was! It is always some such little thing.”
At last she had discovered the direct cause of her lover’s changedmood. She remembered how brilliantly Russell Ely had smiled to her ashe passed, and then until this moment she had forgotten him altogether.Didn’t David want her even to bow to any one! But Russell was a memberof the College Club! This explained everything. It seemed hours beforesleep came to halt the wearying thoughts.
Polly was called from breakfast to greet David.
“We are not going to start as early as I expected,” he said, “notbefore nine. So I thought I would—just run up and say good-morning.”He smiled in almost his own cordial way.
The girl beamed up at him. She never harbored a pique, and now shebegan to chat as gayly as usual, in seeming forgetfulness of yesterday.
David, however, could not so lightly throw off the past. Recollectionslingered to hamper his actions and retard his tongue. But he lethis eyes rest upon Polly in gratification, laughing at her littlepleasantries, and finally enjoying the present quite as if nothingin past or future could have any evil power for him. The parting wasvastly different from that of the day before.
After he had gone Polly ran upstairs humming a song. How glad she wasthat he had come!
The days seemed long without David. Since they returned from collegethey had been much together, and now she missed him. The Randolphswere away, and Patricia and the rest could not quite fill the gap.The ladies of June Holiday Home always welcomed