Polly's Troubles

Polly soon found that she was in a new world, a world where the manners and customs were so different from the simple ways at home, that she felt like a stranger in a strange land, and often wished that she had not come. In the first place, she had nothing to do but lounge and gossip, read novels, parade the streets, and dress; and before a week was gone, she was as heartily sick of all this as a healthy person would be who attempted live on confectionery. Fanny liked it, because she was used to it, and had never known anything better; but Polly had, and often felt like a little wood-bird shut up in a gilded cage. Nevertheless, she was much impressed by the luxuries all about her, enjoyed them, wished she owned them, and wondered why the Shaws were not a happier family. She was not wise enough to know where the trouble lay; she did not attempt to say which of the two lives was the right one; she only knew which she liked best, and supposed it was merely another of her “old-fashioned” ways.

Fanny’s friends did not interest her much; she was rather afraid of them, they seemed so much older and wiser than herself, even those younger in years. They talked about things of which she knew nothing, and when Fanny tried to explain, she didn’t find them interesting; indeed, some of them rather shocked and puzzled her; so the girls let her alone, being civil when they met, but evidently feeling that she was too “odd” to belong to their set. Then she turned to Maud for companionship, for her own little sister was excellent company, and Polly loved her dearly. But Miss Maud was much absorbed in her own affairs, for she belonged to a “set” also; and these mites of five and six had their “musicals”, their parties, receptions, and promenades, as well as their elders; and the chief idea of their little lives seemed to be to ape the fashionable follies they should have been too innocent to understand. Maud had her tiny card-case, and paid calls, “like Mamma and Fan”; her box of dainty gloves, her jewel-drawer, her crimping- pins, as fine and fanciful a wardrobe as a Paris doll, and a French maid to dress her. Polly couldn’t get on with her at first, for Maud didn’t seem like a child, and often corrected Polly in her conversation and manners, though little made-moiselle’s own were anything but perfect. Now and then, when Maud felt poorly, or had a “fwactious” turn, for she had “nerves” as well as mamma, she would go to Polly to be “amoosed”, for her gentle ways and kind forbearance soothed the little fine lady better than anything else. Polly enjoyed these times, and told stories, played games, or went out walking, just as Maud liked, slowly and surely winning the child’s heart, and relieving the whole house of the young tyrant who ruled it.

Tom soon got over staring at Polly, and at first did not take much notice of her, for, in his opinion, “girls didn’t amount to much, anyway”; and, considering the style of girl he knew most about, Polly quite agreed with him. He occasionally refreshed himself by teasing her, to see how she’d stand it, and caused Polly much anguish of spirit, for she never knew where he would take her next. He bounced out at her from behind doors, booed at her in dark entries, clutched her feet as she went upstairs, startled her by shrill whistles right in her ear, or sudden tweaks of the hair as he passed her in the street; and as sure as there was company to dinner, he fixed his round eyes on her, and never took them off till she was reduced to a piteous state of confusion and distress. She used to beg him not to plague her; but he said he did it for her good; she was too shy, and needed toughening like the other girls. In vain she protested that she didn’t want to be like the other girls in that respect; he only laughed in her face, stuck his red hair straight up all over his head, and glared at her, till she fled in dismay.

Yet Polly rather liked Tom, for she soon saw that he was neglected, hustled out of the way, and left to get on pretty much by himself. She often wondered why his mother didn’t pet him as she did the girls; why his father ordered him about as if he was a born rebel, and took so little interest in his only son. Fanny considered him a bear, and was ashamed of him, but never tried to polish him up a bit; and Maud and he lived together like a cat and dog who did not belong to a “happy family”. Grandma was the only one who stood by poor old Tom; and Polly more than once discovered him doing something kind for Madam, and seeming very much ashamed when it was found out. He wasn’t respectful at all; he called her “the old lady”, and told her he “wouldn’t be fussed over”; but when anything was the matter, he always went to “the old lady”, and was very grateful for the “fussing”. Polly liked him for this, and often wanted to speak of it; but she had a feeling that it wouldn’t do, for in praising their affection, she was reproaching others with neglect; so she held her tongue, and thought about it all the more.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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