The Woman Who Did Not Dare

Polly wrote enthusiastically, Ned answered satisfactorily, and after much corresponding, talking, and planning, it was decided that Tom should go West. Never mind what the business was; it suffices to say that it was a good beginning for a young man like Tom, who, having been born and bred in the most conservative class of the most conceited city in New England, needed just the healthy, hearty, social influences of the West to widen his views and make a man of him.

Of course there was much lamentation among the women, but everyone felt it was the best thing for him; so, while they sighed, they sewed, packed visions of a brilliant future away with his new pocket handkerchiefs, and rejoiced that the way was open before him even in the act of bedewing his boots with tears. Sydney stood by him to the last, “like a man and a brother” (which expression of Tom’s gave Fanny infinite satisfaction), and Will felt entirely consoled for Ned’s disappointment at his refusal to go and join him, since Tom was to take the place Ned had kept for him.

Fortunately everyone was so busy with the necessary preparations that there was no time for romance of any sort, and the four young people worked together as soberly and sensibly as if all sorts of emotions were not bottled up in their respective hearts. But in spite of the silence, the work, and the hurry, I think they came to know one another better in that busy little space of time than in all the years that had gone before, for the best and bravest in each was up and stirring, and the small house was as full of the magnetism of love and friendship, self-sacrifice and enthusiasm, as the world outside was full of spring sunshine and enchantment. Pity that the end should come so soon; but the hour did its work and went its way, leaving a clearer atmosphere behind, though the young folks did not see it then, for their eyes were dim because of the partings that must be.

Tom was off to the West; Polly went home for the summer; Maud was taken to the seaside with Belle; and Fanny left alone to wrestle with housekeeping, “help”, and heartache. If it had not been for two things, I fear she never would have stood a summer in town; but Sydney often called, till his vacation came, and a voluminous correspondence with Polly beguiled the long days. Tom wrote once a week to his mother, but the letters were short and not very satisfactory, for men never do tell the interesting little things that women best like to hear. Fanny forwarded her bits of news to Polly; Polly sent back all the extracts from Ned’s letters concerning Tom, and by putting the two reports together, they gained the comfortable assurance that Tom was well, in good spirits, hard at work, and intent on coming out strong in spite of all obstacles.

Polly had a quiet summer at home, resting and getting ready in mind and body for another winter’s work, for in the autumn she tried her plan again, to the satisfaction of her pupils, and the great joy of her friends. She never said much of herself in her letters, and Fanny’s first exclamation when they met again, was an anxious—

“Why, Polly, dear! have you been sick, and never told me?”

“No, I’m only tired; had a good deal to do lately, and the dull weather makes me just a trifle blue. I shall soon brighten up when I get to my work again,” answered Polly, bustling about to put away her things.

“You don’t look a bit natural; what have you been doing to your precious little self?” persisted Fanny, troubled by the change, yet finding it hard to say wherein it lay.

Polly did not look sick, though her cheeks were thinner, and her colour paler than formerly, but she seemed spiritless, and there was a tired look in her eyes that went to Fanny’s heart.

“I’m all right enough, as you’ll see when I’m in order. I’m proper glad to find you looking so well and happy. Does all go smoothly, Fan?” asked Polly, beginning to brush her hair industriously.

“Answer me one question first,” said Fanny, looking as if a sudden fear had come over her. “Tell me, truly, have you never repented of your hint to Sydney?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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