The first few weeks were hard ones, for Polly had not yet outgrown her natural shyness, and going among so many strangers caused her frequent panics. But her purpose gave her courage, and when the ice was once broken, her little pupils quickly learned to love her. The novelty soon wore off, and though she thought she was prepared for drudgery, she found it very tedious to go on doing the same thing day after day. Then she was lonely, for Will could only come once a week, her leisure hours were Fanny’s busiest, and the “bits of pleasure” were so few and far between that they only tantalized her. Even her small housekeeping lost its charms, for Polly was a social creature, and the solitary meals were often sad ones. Ashputtel and Nick did their best to cheer her, but they, too, seemed to pine for country freedom and home atmosphere. Poor Puttel, after gazing wistfully out of the window at the gaunt city cats skulking about the yard, would retire to the rug, and curl herself up as if all hope of finding congenial society had failed; while little Nick would sing till he vibrated on his perch, without receiving any response except an inquisitive chirp from the pert sparrows, who seemed to twit him with his captivity. Yes, by the time the little tea-kettle had lost its brightness, Polly had decided that getting one’s living was no joke, and many of her brilliant hopes had shared the fate of the little kettle.

If one could only make the sacrifice all at once, and done with it, then it would seem easier; but to keep up a daily sacrifice of one’s wishes, tastes, and pleasures, is rather a hard task, especially when one is pretty, young, and gay. Lessons all day, a highly-instructive lecture, books over a solitary fire, or music with no audience but a sleepy cat and a bird with his head tucked under his wing, for evening entertainment, was not exactly what might be called festive; so, in spite of her brave resolutions, Polly did long for a little fun sometimes, and after saying virtuously to herself at nine, “Yes, it is much wiser and better for me to go to bed early, and be ready for work to-morrow,” she would lie awake hearing the carriages roll to and fro, and imagining the gay girls inside, going to party, opera, or play, till Mrs. Dodd’s hop-pillow might as well have been stuffed with nettles, for any sleep it brought, or any use it was, except to catch and hide the tears that dropped on it when Polly’s heart was very full.

Another thorn that wounded our Polly in her first attempt to make her way through the thicket that always bars a woman’s progress, was the discovery that working for a living shuts a good many doors in one’s face even in democratic America. As Fanny’s guest she had been, in spite of poverty, kindly received wherever her friend took her, both as child and woman. Now things were changed; the kindly people patronized, the careless forgot all about her, and even Fanny, with all her affection, felt that Polly the music-teacher would not be welcome in many places where Polly the young lady had been accepted as “Miss Shaw’s friend”.

Some of the girls still nodded amiably, but never invited her to visit them; others merely dropped their eyelids, and went by without speaking, while a good many ignored her as entirely as if she had been invisible. These things hurt Polly more than she would confess, for at home everyone worked, and everyone was respected for it. She tried not to care, but girls feel little slights keenly and more than once Polly was severely tempted to give up her plan, and run away to the safe shelter at home.

Fanny never failed to ask her to every sort of festivity in the Shaw mansion; but after a few trials, Polly firmly declined everything but informal visits when the family were alone. She soon found that even the new black silk wasn’t fine enough for Fanny’s smallest party, and, after receiving a few of the expressive glances by which women convey their opinion of their neighbour’s toilette, and overhearing a joke or two about “that inevitable dress”, and “the little blackbird”, Polly folded away the once-treasured frock, saying, with a choke in her voice,—

“I’ll wear it for Will, he likes it, and clothes can’t change his love for me.”

I am afraid the wholesome sweetness of Polly’s nature was getting a little soured by these troubles; but before lasting harm was done, she received, from an unexpected source, some of the real help which teaches young people how to bear these small crosses, by showing them the heavier ones they have escaped, by giving them an idea of the higher pleasures one may earn in the good old-fashioned ways that keep hearts sweet, heads sane, hands busy.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.