A Summer in a Canyon by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Chapter VIII. Polly's Birthday: Second Half in Which She Wishes She Had Never Been Born.
'From Hebrew wit the maxim sprung, Though feet should slip, ne'er let the tongue.
Polly came at once to the tent, where she found Laura getting her belongings together.
'Why, Laura, it seems too bad you should go off so suddenly. What can I do to help you?'
The very spirit of evil entered Laura's heart as she looked at Polly, so fresh and pretty and radiant, with her dimples dancing in and out, her hair ruffled with the effort of literary composition, and the glow of the day's happiness still shining in her eyes. She felt as if Polly was 'glad inside' that she was poisoned; she felt sure she was internally jumping for joy at her departure; and, above all, she felt that Polly was entirely too conceited over the attention she had received that day, and needed to be 'taken down a peg or two.'
'Red-haired, stuck-up, saucy thing,' she thought, 'how I should like to give her a piece of my mind before I leave this place, if I only dared!'
'I don't need any help, thank you,' she said aloud, in her iciest manner.
'But it will only make your head ache to bend over and tug away at that valise, and I'll be only too glad to do it.'
'I've no doubt of that,' responded Laura, meaningly. 'It is useless for you to make any show of regret over my going, for I know perfectly well that you are glad to get me out of the way.'
'Why, Laura, what do you mean?' exclaimed Polly, completely dazed at this bombshell of candour.
'I mean what I say; and I should have said it before if I could ever have found a chance. Because I didn't mention it at the time, you needn't suppose I've forgotten your getting me into trouble with Mrs. Winship, the day before the Howards came.'
'That was not my fault,' said Polly, hotly. 'I didn't speak any louder than the other girls, and I didn't know Aunt Truth objected to Mrs. Pinkerton, and I didn't know she was anywhere near.'
'You roared like the bull of Bashan--that's what you did. Perhaps you can't help your voice, but anybody in the canyon could have heard you; and Mrs. Winship hasn't been the same to me since, and the boys don't take the slightest notice of me lately.'
'You are entirely mistaken, Laura. Dr. and Mrs. Winship are just as lovely and cordial to you as they are to everybody else, and the boys do not feel well enough acquainted with you to "frolic" with you as they do with us.'
'It isn't so, but you are not sensitive enough to see it; and I should never have been poisoned if it hadn't been for you!'
'Oh, go on, do!' said Polly, beginning to lose her self-control, which was never very great. 'I didn't know I was a Lucrezia Borgia in disguise. How did I poison you, pray?'
'I didn't say you poisoned me; but you made me so uncomfortable that day, bringing down Mrs. Winship's lecture on my head and getting my best friend abused, that I was glad to get away from the camp, and went out with Jack for that reason when I was too tired and warm; and you are always trying to cut me out with Bell and the boys.'
'That's a perfectly--jet black--fib!' cried Polly, who was now thoroughly angry; 'and I don't think it is very polite of you to attack the whole party, and say they haven't been nice to you, when they've done everything in the world!'
'It isn't your party any more than mine, is it? And if I don't know how to be polite, I certainly shan't ask YOU for instruction; for I must know as much about the manners of good society as you do, inasmuch as I have certainly seen more of it!'
Polly sank into a camp-chair, too stunned for a moment to reply, while Laura, who had gone quite beyond the point where she knew or cared what she said, went on with a rush of words: 'I mean to tell you, now that I am started, that anybody who isn't blind can see why you toady to the Winships, who have money and social position, and why you are so anxious to keep everybody else from getting into their good graces; but they are so partial to you that they have given you an entirely false idea of yourself; and you might as well know that unless you keep yourself a little more in the background, and grow a little less bold and affected and independent, other people will not be quite as ready as the Winships to make a pet of a girl whose mother keeps a boarding-house.'
Poor Laura! It was no sooner said than she regretted it--a little, not much. But poor Polly! Where was her good angel then? Why could she not have treated this thrust with the silence and contempt it deserved? But how could Laura have detected and probed the most sensitive spot in the girl's nature? She lost all command of herself. Her rage absolutely frightened her, for it made her deaf and blind to all considerations of propriety and self-respect, and for a moment she was only conscious of the wild desire to strike-- yes, even to kill--the person who had so insulted all that was dearest to her.
'Don't dare to say another word!' she panted, with such flaming cheeks and such flashing eyes that Laura involuntarily retreated towards the door, half afraid of the tempest her words had evoked. 'Don't dare to say another word, or I don't know what I may do! Yes, I am glad you are going, and everybody will be glad, and the sooner you go the better! You've made everybody miserable ever since you came, with your jealousy and your gossip and your fine-lady airs; and if Aunt Truth hadn't loved your mother, and if we were mean enough to tell tales, we would have repeated some of your disagreeable speeches long ago. How can you dare to say I love the Winships for anything but themselves? And if you had ever seen my darling mother, you never could have called her a boarding-house keeper, you cruel--'
Oh, but the dashing torrent of angry words stopped at the mere mention of her mother. The word recalled her to herself, but too late. It woke in her memory the clasp of her mother's arms, the sound of the sweet, tired voice: 'Only two of us against the big world, Polly--you and I. Be brave, little daughter, brave and patient.' Oh, how impatient and cowardly she had been! Would she never learn to be good? The better impulses rushed back into her heart, and crowded out the bad ones so quickly that in another moment she would have flung herself at Laura's feet, and implored her forgiveness merely to gain again her own self-respect and her mother's approval; but there was no time for repentance (there isn't sometimes), for the clatter of wheels announced Pancho's approach with the team, and Mrs. Winship and Anne Burton came into view, walking rapidly towards the tent.
Laura was a good deal disconcerted at their ill-timed appearance, but reflected rapidly that if Mrs. Winship had overheard anything, it was probably Polly's last speech, in which case that young person would seem to be more in fault than herself, so stepping out of the tent she met Mrs. Winship and kissed her good-bye.
Little Anne ran on and jumped into the wagon, with all a child's joy at the prospect of going anywhere. Polly's back was turned, but she could not disappear entirely within the tent without causing Mrs. Winship surprise; and she went through a lifetime of misery and self- reproach in that minute of shame and fear, when she dared neither to advance nor retreat.
'I don't quite like to let you go alone, Laura, without consulting the doctor, and I can't find him,' said Mrs. Winship. 'Why, you are nervous and trembling! Hadn't you better wait until to-morrow?'
'No, thank you, Mrs. Winship. I am all ready now, and would prefer to go. I think perhaps I have stayed quite long enough, as Polly has just told me that everybody is glad to see the last of me, and that I've made you all miserable since I came.
This was the climax to Polly's misery; for she was already so overcome by the thought of her rudeness that she was on the point of begging Laura's pardon for that particular speech then and there, and she had only to hear her exact words repeated to feel how they would sound in Mrs. Winship's ears.
Mrs. Winship was so entirely taken aback by Laura's remark, that she could only ejaculate, 'Polly--said--that! What do you mean?'
'Oh, I am quite ready to think she said more than she intended, but those were her words.'
Polly turned. Alas! it was plain enough that this was no false accusation. Her downcast eyes, flushed, tear-stained cheeks, quivering lips, and the silent shame of her whole figure, spoke too clearly.
'Can it be possible, Polly, that you spoke in such a way to a guest who was about to leave my house?'
The word was wrung from Polly's trembling lips. What could she say but 'Yes,'--it was true,--and how could she repeat the taunts that had provoked her to retort? They were not a sufficient excuse; and for that matter, nothing could be a sufficient excuse for her language. Now that she was confronted with her own fault, Laura's seemed so small beside it that she would have been ashamed to offer it as any justification.
Mrs. Winship grew pale, and for a moment was quite at a loss as to the treatment of such a situation.
'Don't say any more about it, Mrs. Winship,' said Laura; 'we were both angry, or we should never have forgotten ourselves, and I shall think no more of it.' Laura spoke with such an air of modest virtue, and seemed so ready to forgive and forget, that Polly in her silence and confusion appeared worse than ever.
'But I want you to remember that you are my guest, not Pauline's; that I asked you to come and ask you to remain. I cannot allow you to go simply because you do not chance to be a favourite with another of my guests.' (Oh! the pang these words gave Polly's faulty, tender little heart!)
'I am only going because I feel so ill,--not a bit because of what Polly said; I was in the wrong, too, perhaps, but I promise not to let anybody nor anything make me quarrel when I visit you again. Good-bye!' and Laura stepped into the wagon.
'I trust you will not mention this to your mother, since I hope it is the only unpleasant incident of your visit; and it is no fault of mine that you go away with an unhappy impression of our hospitality.' Here Mrs. Winship reached up and kissed little Anne, and as the horses were restive, and no one seemed to have anything further to say, Pancho drove off.
'I don't care to talk with you any more at present, Polly,' said Mrs. Winship. 'I am too hurt and too indignant to speak of your conduct quietly. I know the struggles you have with your temper, and I am quite willing to sympathise with you even when you do not come off victorious; but this is something quite different. I can't conceive how any amount of provocation or dislike could have led you into such disloyalty to me'; and with this she walked away.
Polly staggered into a little play-room tent of Dicky's, where she knew that she could be alone, pinned the curtains together so that no one could peep in, and threw herself down upon the long cushioned seat where Dicky was wont to take his afternoon nap. There, in grief and despair, she sobbed the afternoon through, dreading to be disturbed and dreading to be questioned.
'My beautiful birthday spoiled,' she moaned, 'and all my own fault! I was so happy this morning, but now was ever anybody so miserable as I? And even if I tell Aunt Truth what Laura said, she will think it no excuse, and it isn't!'
As it neared supper-time she made an opening in the back of the tent, and after long watching caught sight of Gin on his way to the brook for water, signalled him, and gave him this despairing little note for Mrs. Winship:-
Dear Aunt Truth,--I don't ask you to forgive me--I don't deserve to be forgiven--but I ask you to do me just one more of your dear little kindnesses. Let me stay alone in Dicky's tent till morning, and please don't let any one come near me. You can tell everybody the whole story to-night, if you think best, though I should be glad if only Dr. Paul and Bell need know; but I do not mind anything after displeasing you--nothing can be so bad as that. Perhaps you think I ought to come out and confess it to them myself, as a punishment; but oh, Aunt Truth, I am punishing myself in here alone worse than any one else can do it. I will go back to Santa Barbara any time that you can send me to the stage station, and I will never ask you to love me again until I have learned how to control my temper. Your wretched, wretched
P.S.--I remember that it is my birthday, and all that you have done for me, to-day and all the other days. It looks as if I were ungrateful, but in spite of what I did I am not. The words just blazed out, and I never knew that they were going to be said till I heard them falling from my mouth. It seems to me that if I ever atone for this I will have a slate and pencil hanging to my belt, and only write what I have to say. POLLY.
The moisture came to Mrs. Winship's eyes as she read this tear- stained little note. 'There's something here I don't quite understand,' she thought; 'and yet Polly confessed that Laura told the truth. Poor child!--but she has got to learn patience and self- control through suffering. However, I'll keep the matter a secret from everybody at present, and stand between her and my inquisitive brood of youngsters,' and she slipped the note into her pocket.
At six o'clock the members of the family came into camp from various directions, and gathered about the supper-table. All were surprised at Laura's sudden departure, but no one seemed especially grief- stricken. Dicky announced confidentially to Philip that Laura was a 'norful 'fraid-cat of frogs,' and Jack ventured the opinion that Miss Laura hadn't 'boy' enough in her for camp-life.
'But where is Polly?' asked Bell, looking round the table, as she pinned up her riding-skirt and sat down in her usual seat.
'She has a bad headache, and is lying down,' said Mrs. Winship, quietly; 'she'll be all right in the morning.'
'Headache!' ejaculated four or five people at once, dropping their napkins and looking at each other in dismay.
'I'll go and rub her head with Cologne,' said Margery.
'Let me go and sit with her,' said Elsie.
'Have you been teasing her, Jack?' asked Mrs. Howard.
'Too much birthday?' asked Dr. Paul. 'Tell her we can spare almost anybody else better.'
'Bless the child, she wants me if she is sick. Go on with your suppers, I'll see to her,' and Bell rose from the table.
'No, my dear, I want you all to leave her alone at present,' said Mrs. Winship, decidedly. 'I've put her to bed in Dicky's play-tent, and I want her to be quiet. Gin has taken her some supper, and she needs rest.'
Polly Oliver in need of rest! What an incomprehensible statement! Nobody was satisfied, but there was nothing more to be said, though Bell and Philip exchanged glances as much as to say, 'Something is wrong.'
Supper ended, and they gathered round the camp-fire, but nothing was quite as usual. It was all very well to crack jokes, but where was a certain merry laugh that was wont to ring out, at the smallest provocation, in such an infectious way that everybody else followed suit? And who was there, when Polly had the headache, to make a saucy speech and look down into the fire innocently, while her dimples did everything that was required in order to point the shaft? And pray what was the use of singing when there was no alto to Bell's treble, or of giving conundrums, since it was always Polly who thought of nonsensical answers better than the real ones? And as for Jack, why, it was folly to shoot arrows of wit into the air when there was no target. He simply stretched himself out beside Elsie, who was particularly quiet and snoozed peacefully, without taking any part in the conversation, avowing his intention to 'turn in' early. 'Turn in' early, forsooth! What was the matter with the boy?
'It's no use,' said Bell, plaintively; 'we can't be anything but happy, now that we have Elsie here; but it needs only one small headache to show that Polly fills a long-felt want in this camp. You think of her as a modest spoke in the wheel till she disappears, and then you find she was the hub.'
'Yes,' said Margery, 'I think every one round this fire is simply angelic, unless I except Jack; but the fact is that Polly is--well, she is--Polly, and I dare any one to contradict me.'
'The judgment of the court is confirmed,' said Philip.
'And the shark said, "If you
'And if any one ever tells me again that she has red hair and hasn't good features, I should just like to show them a picture of her as she was to-day at the dinner-table!' exclaimed Bell.
'As if anybody needed features with those dimples,' added Elsie, 'or would mind red hair when it was such pretty hair!'
'I think a report of this conversation would go far towards curing Polly,' said Dr. Winship, with a smile.
'And you say we can't go in there before we go to bed, mamacita?' whispered Bell in her mother's ear, as the boys said good-night--and went towards their tent.
'My dear,' she answered decidedly, with a fond kiss for each of the girls, 'Polly herself asked me to keep everybody away.'
Polly herself wanted to be alone! Would wonders never cease?
Meanwhile Dicky, who had disappeared for a moment, came back to the fire, his bosom heaving with grief and rage.
'I went to my play-tent,' he sobbed, 'and putted my hand underneath the curtain and gave Polly a piece of my supper cake I saved for her- -not the frosted part, but the burnt part I couldn't eat--and she liked it and kissed my hand--and then I fought she was lonesome, and would like to see my littlest frog, and I told her to put out her hand again for a s'prise, and I squeezed him into it tight, so 't he wouldn't jump--and she fought it was more cake, and when she found it wasn't she frew my littlest frog clear away, and it got losted!'
This brought a howl of mirth from everybody, and Dicky was instructed, while being put to bed, not to squeeze little frogs into people's hands in the dark, as it sometimes affected them unpleasantly.
All this time Polly was lying in the tent, quite exhausted with crying, and made more wretched by every sound of voices wafted towards her. Presently Gin appeared with her night-wrapper and various things for comfort sent her by the girls; and as she wearily undressed herself and prepared for the night, she found three little messages of comfort pinned on the neck and sleeves of her flannel gown, written in such colossal letters that she could easily read them by the moonlight.
On the right sleeve:-
Cheer up! 'I will never desert Mr. Micawber!' BELL
On the left sleeve:-
Darling Polly,--Get well soon, or we shall all be sick in order to stay with you. Lovingly, MEG.
PS.--Jack said you were the LIFE OF THE CAMP! What do you think of that?? M.
On the neck:-
Dearest,--You have always called me the Fairy Godmother, and pretended I could see things that other people couldn't.
The boys (great stupids!) think you have the headache. We girls can all see that you are in trouble, but only the Fairy Godmother KNOWS WHY; and though she can't make a beautiful gold coach out of this pumpkin, because there's something wrong about the pumpkin, yet she will do her best for Cinderella, and pull her out of the ashes somehow.
Polly's tears fell fast on the dear little notes, which she kissed again and again, and tucked under her pillow to bring her sleep. 'Elsie knows something,' she thought, 'but how? she knows that I'm in trouble and that I've done wrong, or she wouldn't have said that about not being able to turn a bad pumpkin into a beautiful gold coach; but perhaps she can get Aunt Truth to forgive me and try me again. Unless she can do it, it will never come to pass, for I haven't the courage to ask her. I would rather run away early in the morning and go home than have her look at me again as she did to-day. Oh! what shall I do?' and Polly went down on her knees beside the rough couch, and sobbed her heart out in a childish prayer for help and comfort. It was just the prayer of a little child telling a sorrowful story; because it is when we are alone and in trouble that the unknown and mysterious God seems to us most like a Father, and we throw ourselves into the arms of His love like helpless children, and tell Him our secret thoughts and griefs.
'Dear Father in heaven,' she sobbed, 'don't forgive me if I ought not to be forgiven, but please make Aunt Truth feel how sorry I am, and show me whether I ought to tell what made me so angry, though it's no excuse. Bless and keep my darling patient little mother, and help me to grow more like her, and braver and stronger too, so that I can take care of her soon, and she needn't work hard any longer. Please forgive me for hating some things in my life as much as I do, and I will try and like them better; but I think--yes, I know--that I am full of wicked pride; and oh, it seems as if I could never, never get over wanting to live in a pretty house, and wear pretty dresses, and have my mother live like Bell's and Margery's. And oh, if Thou canst only forgive me for hating boarders so dreadfully, and being ashamed of them every minute, I will try and like them better and tell everybody that we take them--I will indeed; and if I can only once make Aunt Truth love and trust me again, I will make the boarders' beds and dust their rooms for ever without grumbling. Please, dear Father in heaven, remember that I haven't any father to love me or to teach me to be good; and though mamma does her best, please help her to make something out of me if it can be done. Amen.'
'Truth,' said Mrs. Howard, when all was quiet about the camp, 'Elsie wants to see you a moment before she goes to sleep. Will you go to her tent, while I play a game of cribbage with Dr. Paul?'
Elsie looked like a blossom in all the beautiful greenness of her tent, with her yellow head coming out from above the greens and browns of the cretonne bed-cover for all the world like a daffodil pushing its way up through the mould towards the spring sunshine.
'Aunt Truth,' she said softly, as Mrs. Winship sat down beside her, 'you remember that Dr. Paul hung my hammock in a new place to-day, just behind the girls' sleeping-tent. Now I know that Polly is in trouble, and that you are displeased with her. What I want to ask, if I may, is, how much you know; for I overheard a great deal myself- -enough to feel that Polly deserves a hearing.'
'I overheard nothing,' replied Mrs. Winship. 'All that I know Polly herself confessed in Laura's presence. Polly told Laura, just as she was going away, that everybody would be glad to see the last of her, and that she had made everybody miserable from the beginning of her visit. It was quite inexcusable, you know, dear, for one of my guests to waylay another, just as she was leaving, and make such a cruel speech. I would rather anything else had happened. I know how impetuous Polly is, and I can forgive the child almost anything, her heart is so full of love and generosity; but I cannot overlook such a breach of propriety as that. Of course I have seen that Laura is not a favourite with any of you. I confess she is not a very lovable person, and I think she has led a very unwholesome life lately and is sadly spoiled by it; still that is no excuse for Polly's conduct.'
'No, of course it isn't,' sighed Elsie, with a little quiver of the lip. 'I thought I could plead a better case for Polly, but I see exactly how thoughtless and impolite she was; yet, if you knew everything, auntie, dear, you would feel a little different. Do you think it was nice of Laura to repeat what Polly said right before her, and just as she was going away, when she knew it would make you uncomfortable and that you were not to blame for it?'
'No, hardly. It didn't show much tact; but girls of fifteen or sixteen are not always remarkable for social tact. I excused her partly because she was half-sick and nervous.'
'Well,' Elsie went on, 'I didn't hear the whole quarrel, so that I do not know how long it lasted nor who began it. I can't help thinking it was Laura, though, for she's been trying her best to provoke Polly for the last fortnight, and until to-day she has never really succeeded. I was half asleep, and heard at first only the faint murmur of voices, but when I was fully awake, Laura was telling Polly that she doted on you simply because you had money and position, while she had not; that you were all so partial to her that she had lost sight of her own deficiencies. Then she called her bold and affected, and I don't know what else, and finally wound up by saying that nobody but the Winships would be likely to make a pet of the daughter of a boarding-house keeper.'
'Elsie!' ejaculated Mrs. Winship; 'this grows worse and worse! Is it possible that Laura Burton could be guilty of such a thought?'
'I can't be mistaken. I was too excited not to hear very clearly; and the moment the words were spoken I knew my poor dear's fiery temper would never endure that. And it didn't; it blazed out in a second, but it didn't last long, for before I could get to the tent she had stopped herself right in the middle of a sentence; and in another minute I heard your voice, and crept back to the hammock, thinking that everything would be settled by Laura's going away. I'd no idea that she would pounce on Polly and get her in disgrace, the very last thing, when she knew that she was responsible for the whole matter. You see, auntie, that, impolite as Polly was, she only told Laura that we girls were glad she was going. She didn't bring you in, after all; and Laura knew perfectly well that she was a welcome visitor, and we all treated her with the greatest politeness, though it's no use to say we liked her much.'
'I am very sorry for the whole affair,' sighed Mrs. Winship, 'there is so much wrong on both sides. Laura's remark, it is true, would have angered almost anybody who was not old and wise enough to see that it deserved only contempt; but both the girls should have had too much respect for themselves and for me to descend to such an unladylike quarrel. However, I am only too glad to hear anything which makes Polly's fault less, for I love her too dearly not to suffer when I have to be severe with her.'
'She wouldn't ask you to overlook her fault,' continued Elsie, with tears in her eyes. 'I know just how wretched and penitent she must be--Polly is always so fierce against her own faults--but what must be making her suffer most is the thought that she has entirely lost your confidence and good opinion. Oh, I can't help thinking that God feels sorrier this very minute for Polly, who fights and fights against her temper, like a dear sunbeam trying to shine again and again when a cloud keeps covering it up, than He does for Laura, who has everything made smooth for her, and who is unhappy when her feathers are ruffled the least bit.'
'You are right, dear, in so far that a fiery little soul like Polly's can, if it finds the right channels, do God's work in the world better than a character like Laura's, which is not courageous, nor strong, nor sweet enough for great service, unless it grows into better things through bitter or rich experiences. Now, good-night, my blessed little peacemaker; sleep sweetly, for I am going into Polly's tent to have a good talk with her.'
As Mrs. Winship dropped the curtains of Elsie's tent behind her, and made her way quietly through the trees, the tinkling sound of a banjo fell upon the still night air; and presently, as she neared Polly's retreat, this facetious serenade, sung by Jack's well-known voice, was wafted to her ears:
'Prithee, Polly Oliver, why bide ye so still?
She was about to despatch Master Jack to his tent with a round scolding, when the last words of the song were frozen on his lips by the sound of a smothered sob, in place of the saucy retort he hoped to provoke. The unexpected sob frightened him more than any fusilade of hot words, and he stole away in the darkness more crestfallen than he had been for many a year.
Mrs. Winship, more troubled than ever, pulled apart the canvas curtains, and stood in the opening, silently. The sight of the forlorn little figure, huddled together on the straw bed, touched her heart, and, when Polly started up with an eloquent cry and flew into her extended arms, she granted willing forgiveness, and the history of the afternoon was sobbed out upon her motherly shoulder.
The next morning Mrs. Winship announced that Polly was better, sent breakfast to her tent, and by skilful generalship drove everybody away from the camp but Elsie, who brought Polly to the sitting-room, made her comfortable on the lounge, and, administering much good advice to Margery and Bell concerning topics to be avoided, admitted them one by one into her presence, so that she gradually regained her self-control. And at the dinner-table a very pale Polly was present again, with such a white face and heavy eyes that no one could doubt there had been a headache, while two people, at least, knew that there had been a heartache as well. The next day's mail carried the following letter to Laura Burton:
CAMP CHAPARRAL, August 16, 188-.
My dear Laura,--As I told you when you were leaving, I cannot well say how sorry I am that anything should have occurred to mar your pleasant remembrance of your stay with us. That your dear mother's daughter should have been treated with discourtesy while she was my guest was very disagreeable to me; but I have learned that you were yourself somewhat to blame in the affair, and therefore you should have borne the harsh treatment you received with considerable patience, and perhaps have kept it quite to yourself. ('That little cat told her, after all,' said Laura, when she read this. 'I didn't think she was that kind.') Polly would never have confessed the cause of the quarrel, because she knew nothing could justify her language; but Elsie was lying in the hammock behind the tent and overheard the remark which so roused Polly's anger. You were not aware, of course, how sore a spot you touched upon, or you could never have spoken as you did, though I well know that you were both too angry to reflect. Polly is a peculiarly proud and high-spirited girl--proud, I confess, to a fault; but she comes, on her mother's side, from a long line of people who have had much to be proud of in the way of unblemished honesty, nobility, fine attainments, and splendid achievements. Of her father's honourable services to his country, and his sad and untimely death, you may have heard; but you may not know that Mrs. Oliver's misfortunes have been very many and very bitter, and that the only possibility of supporting and educating Polly lies at present in her taking boarders, for her health will not admit just now of her living anywhere save in Southern California. I fail to see why this is not thoroughly praiseworthy and respectable; but if you do not consider it quite an elegant occupation, I can only say that Mrs. Oliver presides over the table at which her 'boarders' sit with a high-bred dignity and grace of manner that the highest lady in the land might imitate; and that, when health and circumstances permit her to diminish the distance between herself and the great world, she and her daughter Polly, by reason of their birth and their culture, will find doors swinging wide to admit them where you and I would find it difficult to enter. Polly apologises sincerely for her rudeness, and will write you to that effect, as of course she does not know of this letter.
Sincerely your friend,