Going into the Shaws one evening, Polly found Maud sitting on the stairs, with a troubled face.
Oh Polly, Im so glad youve come! cried the little girl, running to hug her.
Whats the matter, deary?
I dont know; something dreadful must have happened, for mamma and Fan are crying together upstairs, papa is shut up in the library, and Tom is raging round like a bear in the dining-room.
I guess it isnt anything very bad. Perhaps mamma is sicker than usual, or papa worried about business, or Tom in some new scrape. Dont look so frightened, Maudie, but come into the parlour and see what Ive got for you, said Polly, feeling that there was trouble of some sort in the air, but trying to cheer the child, for her little face was full of a sorrowful anxiety that went to Pollys heart.
I dont think I can like anything till I know what the matter is, answered Maud. Its something horrid, Im sure, for when Papa came home, he went up to Mamas room, and talked ever so long, and mamma cried very loud, and when I tried to go in, Fan wouldnt let me, and she looked scared and strange. I wanted to go to papa when he came down, but the door was locked, and he said, Not now, my little girl, and then I sat here waiting to see what would happen, and Tom came home. But when I ran to tell him, he said, Go away, and dont bother, and just took me by the shoulders and put me out. Oh, dear! everything is so queer and horrid, I dont know what to do.
Maud began to cry, and Polly sat down on the stairs beside her, trying to comfort her, while her own thoughts were full of a vague fear. All at once the dining-room door opened, and Toms head appeared. A single glance showed Polly that something was the matter, for the care and elegance which usually marked his appearance were entirely wanting. His tie was under one ear, his hair in a toss, the cherished moustache had a neglected air, and his face an expression both excited, ashamed, and distressed; even his voice betrayed disturbance, for instead of the affable greeting he usually bestowed upon the young lady, he seemed to have fallen back into the bluff tone of his boyish days and all he said was,
How do you do? answered Polly.
Im in a devil of a mess, thank you; send that chicken upstairs, and come in and hear about it, he said, as if he had been longing to tell someone, and welcomed prudent Polly as a special providence.
Go up, deary, and amuse yourself with this book and these ginger snaps that I made for you, theres a good child, whispered Polly, as Maud rubbed away her tears, and stared at Tom with round, inquisitive eyes.
Youll tell me all about it, by and by, wont you? she whispered, preparing to obey.
If I may, answered Polly.
Maud departed with unexpected docility, and Polly went into the dining-room, where Tom was wandering about in a restless way. If he had been raging like a bear, Polly wouldnt have cared, she was so pleased that he wanted her, and so glad to be a confidante, as she used to be in the happy old days, that she would joyfully have faced a much more formidable person than reckless Tom.
Now then, what is it? she said, coming straight to the point.
Youve killed your horse, racing.
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