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Polly of the Circus by Margaret Mayo

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equally by Mandy and Hasty, Polly and the pastor. But at last a
letter came from Jim only, and Douglas, who was asked to read it,
faltered and stopped after the first few words.

"It's no use my tryin' to keep it from you any longer, Poll," the
letter began, "we ain't got Toby with us no more. He didn't have
no accident, it wasn't that. He just seemed kinder sick and
ailin' like, ever since the night we had to leave you behind. I
used to get him warm drinks and things, and try to pull 'im
through, but he was always a-chillin' and a-achin'. If it wasn't
one thing the matter, it was another. I done all I knowed you'd
a-wanted me to, an' the rest of the folks was mighty white to
him, too. I guess they kinder felt how lonesome he was. He
couldn't get no more laughs in the show, so Barker had to put on
another man with him. That kinder hurt him too--I s'pose--an'
showed him the way that things was a-goin'. It was just after
that, he wrote the parson a-tellin' him to never let you come
back. He seemed to a' got an idee in his head that you was
happier where you was. He wouldn't let me tell ye 'bout his
feelin' so rocky, 'cause he thought it might mebbe make you come
back. 'She's diff'runt from us,' he was allus a-sayin'. 'I
never 'spected to keep 'er.' "

Douglas stopped. Polly was waiting, her face white and drawn.
He had not told her of Toby's letter, because with it had come a
request to "say nothin' to the kid."

He felt that Polly was controlling herself with an effort until
he should reach the end of Jim's letter, so he hurried on.

"The parson's promise didn't get to him none too quick," he read.
"That seemed to be what he was waitin' for. He give up the night
it come, and I got him a little room in a hotel after the show,
and let one of the other fellers get the stuff out o' town, so's
I could stay with him up to the finish. It come 'round mornin'.
There wasn't much to it--he just seemed tired and peaceful like.
'I'm glad he wrote what he did,' he said, meanin' the parson.
'She knows, she allus knows,' he whispered, meanin' you, Poll,
and then he was on his way. He'd already give me what was saved
up for you, and I'm sendin' it along with this--" A blue money
order for two hundred and fifty dollars had fluttered from the
envelope when Douglas opened it.

"I got everythin' ready afore I went on the next day, an' I went
up and saw the little spot on the hill where they was goin' to
stow him. It looked kinder nice and the digger's wife said she'd
put some flowers on to it now and then. It was YOU what made me
think o' that, Poll, 'cause it seemed to me what you would a'
done; you was always so daffy about flowers, you and him.

"I guess this letter's too long for me to be a-sayin' much about
the show, but the 'Leap- a-Death' girl got hern last week. She
wasn't strong enough for the job, nohow. I done what I could for
her outside the show, 'cause I knowed how you was always
a-feelin' 'bout her. I guess the 'Leap-a-Death's' husband is
goin' to jump his job soon, if he gets enough saved up, 'cause
him and Barker can't hit it off no more. We got a good deal o'
trouble among the animals, too. None o' the snakes is sheddin'
like they ought to, and Jumbo's a-carryin' a sixteen foot bandage
around that trunk a' hisn, 'cause he got too fresh with Trixy's
grub the other night, and the new giraffe's got the croup in that
seven-foot neck o' his'n. I guess you'll think I got the pip for
fair this time, so I'll just get onto myself now and cut this
short. I'll be writin' you agin when we hit Morgantown.
"Your old Muvver Jim."

Douglas laid the letter gently on the table, his hand still
resting upon it. He looked helplessly at the little, shrunken
figure in the opposite chair. Polly had made no sound, but her
head had slipped lower and lower and she now sat very quietly
with her face in her hands. She had been taught by Toby and Jim
never to whimper.

"What a plucky lot they are," thought Douglas, as he considered
these three lonely souls, each accepting whatever fate brought
with no rebellion or even surprise. It was a strange world of
stoics in which these children of the amusement arena fought and
lost. They came and went like phantoms, with as little
consciousness of their own best interests as of the great, moving
powers of the world about them. They felt no throes of envy, no
bitterness. They loved and worked and "went their way."

For once the pastor was powerless in the presence of grief. Both
he and Mandy left the room quietly, feeling that Polly wished to
be spared the outburst of tears that a sympathetic word might
bring upon her. They allowed her to remain alone for a time,
then Mandy entered softly with a tender good night and Douglas
followed her cheerily as though nothing at all had happened.

It was many weeks before Polly again became a companion to
Douglas and Mandy, but they did not intrude upon her grief. They
waited patiently for the time when youth should again assert
itself, and bring back their laughing mate to them.

Chapter VIII

When Polly understood that Toby was ACTUALLY GONE, it seemed to
her that she could never laugh again. She had been too young to
realise the inevitableness of death when it came to her mother,
and now she could scarcely believe that Toby would never, never
come back to her. She felt that she must be able to DRAG him
back, that she could not go on without him. She wanted to tell
him how grateful she was for all his care of her. She thought of
the thousand little things that she might have done for him. She
longed to recall every impatient word to him. His gentle
reproachful eyes were always haunting her. "You must come back,
Toby!" she cried. "You must!"

It was only when body and mind had worn themselves out with
yearning, that a numbness at last crept over her, and out of this
grew a gradual consciousness of things about her and a returning
sense of her obligation to others. She tried to answer in her
old, smiling way and to keep her mind upon what they were saying,
instead of letting it wander away to the past.

Douglas and Mandy were overjoyed to see the colour creeping back
to her cheeks.

She joined the pastor again in his visits to the poor. The women
of the town would often see them passing and would either whisper
to each other, shrug their shoulders, or lift their eyebrows with
smiling insinuations; but Polly and the pastor were too much
absorbed in each other to take much notice of what was going on
about them.

They had not gone for their walk to-day, because Mandy had needed
Polly to help make ready for the social to be held in the Sunday-
school-room to-night.

Early in the afternoon, Polly had seen Douglas shut himself up in
the study, and she was sure that he was writing; so when the
village children stopped in on the way from school for Mandy's
new-made cookies, she used her customary trick to get them away.
"Tag--you're it!" she cried, and then dashed out the back door,
pursued by the laughing, screaming youngsters. Mandy followed
the children to the porch and stood looking after them, as the
mad, little band scurried about the back yard, darted in and out
amongst the trees, then up the side of the wooded hill, just
beyond the church.

The leaves once more were red and yellow on the trees, but to-day
the air was warm, and the children were wearing their summer
dresses. Polly's lithe, girlish figure looked almost tall by
comparison with the children about her. She wore a plain, simple
gown of white, which Mandy had helped her to make. It had been
cut ankle- length, for Polly was now seventeen. Her quaint,
old-fashioned manner, her serious eyes, and her trick of knotting
her heavy, brown hair low on her neck, made her seem older.

Mandy waited until the children had disappeared over the hill,
then began bustling about looking for the step-ladder which Hasty
had left under the vines of the porch. It had been a busy day at
the parsonage. A social always meant perturbation for Mandy.
She called sharply to Hasty, as he came down the path which made
a short cut to the village:

"So's you'se back, is you?" she asked, sarcastically.

"Sure, I'se back," answered Hasty, good- naturedly, as he sank
upon an empty box that had held some things for the social, and
pretended to wipe the perspiration from his forehead.

"Masse John done send you to de post office two hours ago," said
Mandy, as she took the letters and papers from his hand. "Five
minutes is plenty ob time for any nigger to do dat job."

"I done been detained," Hasty drawled.

"You'se always 'tained when dar's any work a-goin' on," Mandy
snapped at him.

"Whar's Miss Polly?" Hasty asked, ignoring Mandy's reference to

"Nebber you mind 'bout Miss Polly. She don't want you. Jes' you
done fetch that step-ladder into de Sunday-school-room."

"But I wants her," Hasty insisted. "I'se been on very 'ticular
business what she ought to know 'bout."

"Business?" she repeated. "What kind ob business?"

"I got to fix de Sunday-school-room," said Hasty, as he perceived
her growing curiosity.

"You come heah, nigger!" Mandy called, determined that none of
the village doings should escape her. "Out wid it!"

"Well, it's 'bout de circus," Hasty answered? seating himself
again on the box. "Dey's showin' in Wakefield to-night, and next
month dey's comin' here."

"Dat same circus what Miss Polly used to be wid?" Mandy's eyes
grew large with curiosity.

"De very same," and Hasty nodded mysteriously.

"How you know dat?" Mandy was uncertain whether to believe him.

" 'Cause da's a big, red wagon downtown wid de name ob de show
painted on it. It's de advertisin' one what goes ahead wid all
de pictures what dey pastes up."

"And you been hangin' 'roun' dat wagon?"

"I done thought Miss Polly might want to know."

"See here, lazy nigger, don' you go puttin' no circus notions
into Miss Polly's head. She don' care no more 'bout dem things
since her Uncle Toby done die. She done been satisfied right
whar she am. Jes' you let her be."

"I ain't done nothin'," Hasty protested.

"Nebber do do nothin'," growled Mandy. "Go long now, and get
a-work. Mos' four o'clock and dat Sunday-school-room ain't ready

Hasty picked up the empty box and the step- ladder and went out
through the gate. He had barely disappeared when a peal of
laughter was heard from the hillside, and before Mandy could get
out of the way, the youngsters came tumbling down the path again.

"Lawsy, lawsy," she gasped, as Polly circled around her, dodging
the children. "You'se cheeks is red as pineys, honey."

"Tag! you're it!" Polly cried, as she touched the widow's
auburn-haired offspring on the sleeve. There was much wailing
when Willie passed the tag to little Jennie, the smallest girl in
the crowd.

"I won't play no more," she sobbed; " 'cause I's always it."

To comfort her, Polly began to sing an old circus song that the
children had learned to love; and the little ones huddled about
her in a circle to hear of the wonderful "Van Amberg" who used to
"walk right into the lion's cage and put his head in the lion's
mouth." The children were in a state of nerves that did credit
to Polly as an entertainer, when Hasty broke in upon the song.

"When you get a minute I want ter tell yer somethin'."

"I have one right now." And turning to the eager mites at her
side, Polly told them to run along into the grove, and that she'd
come pretty soon to teach them a new game.

The youngsters went screaming and laughing on their way, and she
breathed a sigh of relief as she threw herself down on the rustic
seat that encircled the elm tree.

"What is it, Hasty?" she asked, suspecting that he was in trouble
with Mandy.

"It's 'bout de circus," Hasty informed her bluntly.

"The circus?" She rose and crossed to him quickly.

"It's in Wakefield--en' nex' month it's a-comin' here."

"Here?" Polly gasped.

"I thought you'd want ter know," said Hasty, little surprised at
her lack of enthusiasm.

"Yes, of course." She turned away and pretended to look at the

"Don' yous tell Mandy I been talkin' 'bout dat circus," said
Hasty, uneasily. He was beginning to fear that he had made a
mistake; but before Polly could answer, Mandy came out of the
house, carrying baskets and food, which Hasty was to take to the
Sunday-school-room. She looked at the girl's troubled face and
drooping shoulders in surprise.

"What make you look so serious, Honey?"

"Just thinking," said Polly absently.

"My! Don' you look fine in your new dress!" She was anxious to
draw the girl out of her reverie.

"Do you like it?" Polly asked eagerly, forgetting her depression
of a moment before. "Do you think Mr. John will like it?"

"Masse John? Mercy me! He nebber takes no notice ob dem things.
I done got a bran', spankin' new allapaca, one time, an' do you
think HE ebber seed it? Lawsy, no! We might jes' well be goin'
roun' like Mudder Eve for all dat man know." Polly looked
disappointed. "But udder folks sees," Mandy continued,
comfortingly, "an' you certainly look mighty fine. Why, you's
just as good now as you was afore you got hurled!"

"Yes, I'm well now and able to work again." There was no
enthusiasm in her tone, for Hasty's news had made her realise how
unwelcome the old life would be to her.

"Work! You does work all de time. My stars! de help you is to
Massa John."

"Do you think so? Do I help him?-- Do I?"

"Of course you does. You tells him things to do in Sunday-school
what the chillun like, an' you learns him to laugh and 'joy
himself, an' a lot of things what nobody else could a-learned

"You mustn't say 'learned him,' " Polly corrected; "you must say
'taught him.' You can't 'learn' anybody anything. You can only
'teach' them."

"Lordy sakes! I didn't know dat." She rolled her large eyes at
her young instructress, and saw that Polly looked very serious.
"She's gwine ter have anudder one a dem 'ticlar spells" thought
Mandy, and she made ready to protest.

"See here, ain't you nebber----"

She was interrupted by a quick "Have you never" from Polly.

"It dun make no difference what you say," Mandy snapped, "so long
as folks understands you." She always grew restive under these
ordeals; but Polly's firm controlled manner generally conquered.

"Oh, yes, it does," answered Polly. "I used to think it didn't;
but it does. You have to say things in a certain way or folks
look down on you."

"I's satisfied de way I be," declared Mandy, as she plumped
herself down on the garden bench and began to fidget with

"The way I am," Polly persisted, sweetly.

"See here, chile, is day why you been a-settin' up nights an'
keepin de light burnin'?"

"You mustn't say 'setting up;' you must say 'sitting up.' Hens

"So do I," interrupted Mandy; "I's doin' it NOW." For a time she
preserved an injured silence, then turned upon Polly vehemently.
"If I had to think ob all dat ere foolishness eber' time I open
my mouth, I'd done been tongue-tied afore I was born."

"I could teach you in no time," volunteered Polly, eagerly.

"I don't want to be teached," protested Mandy, doggedly. "Hast
Jones says I's too smart anyhow. Men don't like women knowin'
too much-- it skeers 'em. I's good enough for my old man, and I
ain't a-tryin' to get nobody else's," Mandy wound up flatly.

"But he'd like you all the better," persisted Polly, laughing.

"I don' WANT to be liked no better by NO nigger," snapped Mandy.
"I's a busy woman, I is." She made for the house, then curiosity
conquered her and she came back to Polly's side. "See here,
honey, whose been l'arnin' you all dem nonsense?"

"I learn from Mr. Douglas. I remember all the things he tells
me, and at night I write them down and say them over. Do you see
this, Mandy?" She took a small red book from her belt and put it
into Mandy's black chubby fists.

"I see some writin', if dat's what you mean," Mandy answered,

"These are my don'ts," Polly confided, as she pointed
enthusiastically to worn pages of finely written notes.

"You'se WHAT, chile?"

"The things I mustn't do or say."

"An' you'se been losin' yoah beauty sleep for dem tings?" Mandy
looked incredulous.

"I don't want Mr. John to feel ashamed of me," she said with
growing pride.

"Well, you'd catch Mandy a-settin' up for----"

"Oh, oh! What did I tell you, Mandy?" Polly pointed reproachfully
to the reminder in the little red book. It was a fortunate thing
that Willie interrupted the lesson at this point, for Mandy's
temper was becoming very uncertain. The children had grown weary
waiting for Polly, and Willie had been sent to fetch her. Polly
offered to help Mandy with the decorations, but Willie won the
day, and she was running away hand in hand with him when Douglas
came out of the house.

"Wait a minute!" he called. "My, how fine you look!" He turned
Polly about and surveyed the new gown admiringly.

"He did see it! He did see it!" cried Polly, gleefully.

"Of course I did. I always notice everything, don't I, Mandy?"

"You suah am improvin' since Miss Polly come," Mandy grunted.

"Come, Willie!" called the girl, and ran out laughing through the

"What's this?" Douglas took the small book from Mandy's awkward
fingers, and began to read: 'Hens set--' " He frowned.

"Oh, dem's jes' Miss Polly's 'don'ts,' " interrupted Mandy,

"Her 'don'ts'?"

"She done been set--sit--settin' up nights tryin' to learn what
you done tole her," stuttered Mandy.

"Dear little Polly," he murmured, then closed the book and put it
into his pocket.

Chapter IX

DOUGLAS was turning toward the house when the Widow Willoughby
came through the wicker gate to the left of the parsonage,
carrying bunting for the social. She was followed by Miss
Perkins with a bucket of pickles, which Mandy promptly placed on
top of Mrs. Elverson's ice cream. The women explained that they
had come to put the finishing touches to the decorations. If
anything was needed to increase Mandy's dislike of the widow, it
was this announcement.

Mrs. Willoughby was greatly worried because her children had not
been home since the afternoon school session. Upon learning that
they were with Polly, she plainly showed her displeasure; and
Douglas dispatched Mandy for them. She saw that her implied
distrust of Polly had annoyed him, and she was about to
apologise, when two of the deacons arrived on the scene, also
carrying baskets and parcels for the social.

Strong led the way. He always led the way and always told
Elverson what to think. They had been talking excitedly as they
neared the parsonage, for Strong disapproved of the recent
changes which the pastor had made in the church service. He and
Douglas had clashed more than once since the baseball argument,
and the deacon had realised more and more that he had met a will
quite as strong as his own. His failure to bend the parson to
his way of thinking was making him irritable, and taking his mind
from his business.

"Can you beat that!" he would exclaim as he turned away from some
disagreement with Douglas, his temper ruffled for the day.

Polly was utterly unconscious of the unfriendly glances cast in
her direction as she came running into the garden, leading the
widow's two children.

She nodded gaily to Julia Strong, who was coming through the
gate, then hurried to Mrs. Willoughby, begging that the children
be allowed to remain a little longer. She was making up a new
game, she said, and needed Willie and Jennie for the set.

"My children do not play in promiscuous games," said the widow,

"Oh, but this isn't pro-pro-pro"--Polly stammered. "It's a new
game. You put two here, and two here, and----"

"I don't care to know." The widow turned away, and pretended to
talk to Julia.

"Oh!" gasped Polly, stunned by the widow's rebuff.

She stood with bowed head in the centre of the circle. The blood
flew from her cheeks, then she turned to go.

Douglas stepped quickly to her side. "Wait a minute," he said.
She paused, all eyes were turned upon them. "Is this a game that
grown- ups can play?"

"Why, yes, of course."

"Good! Then I'll make up your set. I need a little amusement
just now. Excuse me," he added, turning to the deacons. Then he
ran with her out through the trees.

The deacons and the women stared at each other, aghast.

"Well, what do you think of that?" said Mrs. Willoughby, as the
flying skirts of the girl and the black figure of the man
disappeared up the path.

"I think it's scandalous, if you are talking to me," said Miss
Perkins. "The idea of a full- grown parson a-runnin' off to play
children's games with a circus ridin' girl!"

"She isn't such a child," sneered Julia.

"It's ENOUGH to make folks talk," put in Mrs. Willoughby, with a
sly look at the deacons.

"And me a-waitin' to discuss the new church service," bellowed

"And me a-waiting to give him Mrs. Elverson's message," piped

"The church bore all this in silence so long as that girl was
sick," snapped Miss Perkins. "But now she's perfectly well, and
still a-hanging on. No wonder folks are talking."

"Who's talking?" thundered Strong.

"Didn't you know?" simpered Mrs. Willoughby, not knowing herself
nor caring, so long as the suspicion grew.

"Know what?" yelled the excited deacon. Mrs. Willoughby
floundered. Miss Perkins rushed into the breach.

"Well, if _I_ was deacon of this church, it seems to me I'd know
something about what's going on in it."

"What IS goin' on?" shrieked the now desperate deacon.

The women looked at him pityingly, exchanged knowing glances,
then shook their heads at his hopeless stupidity.

Strong was not accustomed to criticism. He prided himself upon
his acuteness, and was, above all, vain about his connection with
the church. He looked from one woman to the other. He was
seething with helpless rage. The little deacon at his side
coughed nervously. Strong's pent up wrath exploded. "Why didn't
YOU tell me, Elverson, that people was a-talkin'," he roared in
the frightened man's ear.

Elverson sputtered and stammered, but nothing definite came of
the sounds; so Strong again turned to Miss Perkins:

"What is going on?" he demanded.

The spinster shrugged her shoulders and lifted her eyes
heavenward, knowing that nothing could so madden the deacon as
this mysterious inference of things too terrible to mention. She
was right. Strong uttered a desperate "Bah!" and began pacing up
and down the garden with reckless strides.

Mrs. Willoughby watched him with secret delight, and when he
came to a halt, she wriggled to his side with simpering

"What COULD folks say?" she asked. "A minister and a young
circus riding girl living here like this with no one to--" She
found no words at this point and Strong, now thoroughly roused,
declared that the congregation should have no further cause for
gossip, and went out quickly in search of Douglas.

When Strong was gone, Elverson looked at the set faces of the
women, and attempted a weak apology for the pastor. "I dare say
the young man was very lonely--very--before she came."

"Lonely?" snapped Miss Perkins. "Well, if HE was LONELY, _I_
didn't know it."

The deacon excused himself nervously, and went to join Strong.

The women gathered up their buntings, and retired with bland
smiles to the Sunday-school- room, feeling that they had
accomplished enough for the time being.

Strong and Elverson crossed the yard, still in search of the
pastor. They turned at the sound of fluttering leaves and beheld
Douglas, hatless, tearing down the path. Strong called to him,
but Douglas darted quickly behind the hedge. The deacons looked
at one another in speechless astonishment. Presently the silence
was broken by the distant voice of Polly counting from one to one
hundred. The secret was out! The pastor, a leader of the church,
was playing hide-and-seek.

"Mr. Douglas!" shouted Strong, when his breath had returned.

"Hush, hush!" whispered Douglas, looking over the hedge. He
peeped cautiously about him, then came toward the men with a sigh
of relief. "It's all right. She has gone the other way."

"It'll be a good thing for you if she never comes back," said
Strong, and Douglas's quick ear caught an unpleasant meaning in
his tone.

"What's that?" the pastor asked, in a low, steady voice.

"We don't like some of the things that are going on here, and I
want to talk to you about 'em."

"Very well, but see if you can't talk in a lower key."

"Never mind about the key," shouted Strong, angrily.

"But I DO mind." Something in his eyes made the deacon lower his

"We want to know how much longer that girl is goin' to stay

"Indeed! And why?" The colour was leaving Douglas's face, and his
jaw was becoming very square.

"Because she's been here long enough."

"I don't agree with you there."

"Well, it don't make no difference whether you do or not. She's
got to go."

"Go?" echoed Douglas.

"Yes, sir-e-bob. We've made up our minds to that."

"And who do you mean by 'we'?"

"The members of this congregation," replied Strong, impatiently.

"Am I to understand that YOU are speaking for THEM?" There was a
deep frown between the young pastor's eyes. He was beginning to
be perplexed.

"Yes, and as deacon of this church."

"Then, as deacon of this church, you tell the congregation for me
that that is MY affair."

"Your affair!" shouted Strong. "When that girl is living under
the church's roof, eating the church's bread!"

"Just one moment! You don't quite understand. I am minister of
this church, and for that position I receive, or am supposed to
receive, a salary to live on, and this parsonage, rent free, to
live in. Any guests that I may have here are MY guests, and NOT
guests of the church. Remember that, please."

There was an embarrassing silence. The deacons recalled that the
pastor's salary WAS slightly in arrears. Elverson coughed
meekly. Strong started.

"You keep out of this, Elverson!" he cried. "I'm running this
affair and I ain't forgetting my duty nor the parson's."

"I shall endeavour to do MY duty as I see it," answered Douglas,
turning away and dismissing the matter.

"Your duty is to your church," thundered Strong.

"You're right about that, Deacon Strong'" answered Douglas,
wheeling about sharply, "and my duty to the church is reason
enough for my acting exactly as I am doing in this case."

"Is your duty to the church the ONLY reason you keep that girl

"No, there are other reasons."

"I thought so."

"You've heard her story--you MUST have heard. She was left with
me by an old clown who belonged in the circus where she worked.
Before he died he asked me to look after her. She has no one
else. I shall certainly do so."

"That was when she was hurt. She's well now, and able to go back
where she came from. Do you expect us to have our young folks
associatin' with a circus ridin' girl?"

"So, that's it!" cried the pastor, with a pitying look. "You
think this child is unfit for your homes because she was once in
a circus. For some reason, circus to you spells crime. You call
yourself a Christian, Deacon Strong, and yet you insist that I
send a good, innocent girl back to a life which you say is
sinful. I'm ashamed of you, Strong--I'm ashamed of you!"

"That talk don't do no good with me," roared Strong. He was
desperate at being accused of an unchristian attitude.

"I ain't askin' you to send her back to the circus. I don't care
WHERE you send her. Get her away from HERE, that's all."

"Not so long as she wishes to stay."

"You won't?" Strong saw that he must try a new attack. He came
close to Douglas and spoke with a marked insinuation. "If you
was a friend to the girl, you wouldn't want the whole
congregation a-pointin' fingers at her."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that you're living here alone with her and it looks
bad--bad for the girl, and bad for YOU--and folks is talkin'."

"Are you trying to tell me that my people are evil-minded enough
to think that I--" Douglas stopped. He could not frame the
question. "I don't believe it," he concluded shortly.

"You'll be MADE to believe it if you don't get rid of that girl."

"Do YOU believe it?" He turned upon the little man at his side!
"Do you believe it, Elverson?"

Elverson had been so accustomed to Strong monopolising the
conversation, that he had become hopelessly lost as the
discussion went on, and the sudden appeal to him all but
paralysed his power of speech. He was still gurgling and
sputtering when Strong interrupted, impatiently.

"It makes no difference whether we believe it or not. We're
going to do our duty by the church, and that girl must leave

"Or I must." Douglas pieced out Strong's phrase for himself.
"That threat doesn't frighten me at all, deacon. After what you
have said, I should refuse to remain in this church"-- the deacon
stepped forward eagerly--"were it not that I realise more than
ever before how much you need me, how much you ignorant, narrow-
minded creatures need to be taught the meaning of true
Christianity." The deacon was plainly disappointed.

"Is it possible?" gasped Elverson, weakly.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" asked Strong, when he
could trust himself to speak again.

"I shall do what is best for Miss Polly," said the pastor quietly
but firmly.

He turned away to show that the interview was at an end. Strong
followed him. Douglas pointed to the gate with a meaning not to
be mistaken. "Good afternoon, deacon."

Strong hesitated. He looked at the pastor, then at the gate,
then at the pastor again. "I'll go," he shouted; "but it ain't
the end!" He slammed the gate behind him.

"Quite so, quite so," chirped Elverson, not having the slightest
idea of what he was saying. He saw the frigid expression on the
pastor's face, he coughed behind his hat, and followed Strong.

Chapter X

Douglas dropped wearily onto the rustic bench. He sat with
drooped head and unseeing eyes. He did not hear Polly as she
scurried down the path, her arms filled with autumn leaves. She
glanced at him, dropped the bright-coloured foliage, and slipped
quickly to the nearest tree. "One, two, three for Mr. John,"
she cried, as she patted the huge, brown trunk.

"Is that you, Polly?" he asked absently.

"Now, it's your turn to catch me," she said, lingering near the
tree. The pastor was again lost in thought. "Aren't you going
to play any more?" There was a shade of disappointment in her
voice. She came slowly to his side.

"Sit here, Polly," he answered gravely, pointing to a place on
the bench. "I want to talk to you."

"Now, I've done something wrong," she pouted. She gathered up
her garlands and brought them to a place near his feet, ignoring
the seat at his side. "You might just as well tell me and get it

"You couldn't do anything wrong," he answered, looking down at

"Oh, yes, I could--and I've done it--I can see it in your face.
What is it?"

"What have you there?" he asked, trying to gain time, and not
knowing how to broach the subject that in justice to her must be

"Some leaves to make garlands for the social," Polly answered
more cheerfully. "Would you mind holding this?" She gave him one
end of a string of leaves.

"Where are the children?"

"Gone home."

"You like the children very much, don't you, Polly?" Douglas was
striving for a path that might lead them to the subject that was
troubling him.

"Oh, no, I don't LIKE them, I LOVE them." She looked at him with
tender eyes.

"You're the greatest baby of all." A puzzled line came between
his eyes as he studied her more closely. "And yet, you're not
such a child, are you, Polly? You're quite grown up, almost a
young lady." He looked at her from a strange, unwelcome point of
view. She was all of that as she sat at his feet, yearning and
slender and fair, at the turning of her seventeenth year.

"I wonder how you would like to go way?" Her eyes met his in
terror. "Away to a great school," he added quickly, flinching
from the very first hurt that he had inflicted; "where there are
a lot of other young ladies."

"Is it a place where you would be?" She looked up at him
anxiously. She wondered if his "show" was about to "move on."

"I'm afraid not," Douglas answered, smiling in spite of his heavy

"I wouldn't like any place without you," she said decidedly, and
seemed to consider the subject dismissed.

"But if it was for your GOOD," Douglas persisted.

"It could never be for my good to leave you."

"But just for a little while," he pleaded. How was she ever to
understand? How could he take from her the sense of security that
he had purposely taught her to feel in his house?

"Not even for a moment," Polly answered, with a decided shake of
her head.

"But you must get ahead in your studies," he argued.

She looked at him anxiously. She was beginning to be alarmed at
his persistence.

"Maybe I've been playing too many periscous games."

"Not periscous, Polly, promiscuous."

"Pro-mis-cuous," she repeated, haltingly. "What does that mean?"

"Indiscriminate." He rubbed his forehead as he saw the puzzled
look on her face. "Mixed up," he explained, more simply.

"Our game wasn't mixed up." She was thinking of the one to which
the widow had objected. "Is it promiscuous to catch somebody?"

"It depends upon whom you catch," he answered with a dry,
whimsical smile.

"Well, I don't catch anybody but the children." She looked up at
him with serious, inquiring eyes.

"Never mind, Polly. Your games aren't promiscuous." She did not
hear him. She was searching for her book.

"Is this what you are looking for?" he asked, drawing the missing
article from his pocket.

"Oh!" cried Polly, with a flush of embarrassment. "Mandy told

"You've been working a long time on that."

"I thought I might help you if I learned everything you told me,"
she answered, timidly. "But I don't suppose I could."

"I can never tell you how much you help me, Polly."

"Do I?" she cried, eagerly.

"I can help more if you will only let me. I can teach a bigger
class in Sunday-school now. I got to the book of Ruth to-day."

"You did?" He pretended to be astonished. He was anxious to
encourage her enthusiasm.

"Um hum!" She answered solemnly. A dreamy look came into her
eyes. "Do you remember the part that you read to me the first
day I came?" He nodded. He was thinking how care-free they were
that day. How impossible such problems as the present one would
have seemed then. "I know every bit of what you read by heart.
It's our next Sunday-school lesson."

"So it is."

"Do you think now that it would be best for me to go away?" She
looked up into his troubled face.

"We'll see, we'll see," he murmured, then tried to turn her mind
toward other things. "Come now, let's find out whether you DO
know your Sunday-school lesson. How does it begin?" There was no
answer. She had turned away with trembling lips. "And Ruth
said"--he took her two small hands and drew her face toward him,
meaning to prompt her.

"Entreat me not to leave thee," she pleaded. Her eyes met his.
His face was close to hers. The small features before him were
quivering with emotion. She was so frail, so helpless, so easily
within his grasp. His muscles grew tense and his lips closed
firmly. He was battling with an impulse to draw her toward him
and comfort her in the shelter of his strong, brave arms. "They
shan't!" he cried, starting toward her.

Polly drew back, overawed. Her soul had heard and seen the
things revealed to each of us only once. She would never again
be a child.

Douglas braced himself against the back of the bench.

"What was the rest of the lesson?" he asked in a firm, hard

"I can't say it now," Polly murmured. Her face was averted; her
white lids fluttered and closed.

"Nonsense, of course you can. Come, come, I'll help you."
Douglas spoke sharply. He was almost vexed with her and with
himself for the weakness that was so near overcoming them. "And
Ruth said, 'Entreat me not to leave thee----' "

" 'Or to return from following after thee.' " She was struggling
to keep back the tears. " 'For whither thou goest, I will go,
and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my
people, and thy God my' "-- She stopped.

"That's right, go on," said Douglas, striving to control the
unsteadiness in his own voice.

"Where thou diest, will I die' "--her arms went out blindly.

"Oh, you won't send me away, will you?" she sobbed. "I don't
want to learn anything else just--except--from you." She covered
her face and slipped, a little, broken heap at his feet.

In an instant the pastor's strong arms were about her, his
stalwart body was supporting her. "You shan't go away. I won't
let you--I won't! Do you hear me, Polly? I won't!"

Her breath was warm against his cheek. He could feel her tears,
her arms about him, as she clung to him helplessly, sobbing and
quivering in the shelter of his strong embrace. You are never
going to leave me--never!"

A new purpose had come into his life, the realisation of a new
necessity, and he knew that the fight which he must henceforth
make for this child was the same that he must make for himself.

Chapter XI

"I'se goin' into de Sunday-school-room to take off dat ere
widow's finishin' touches," said Mandy, as she came down the

"All right!" called Douglas. "Take these with you, perhaps they
may help." He gathered up the garlands which Polly had left on
the ground. His eyes were shining, he looked younger than Mandy
had ever seen him.

Polly had turned her back at the sound of Mandy's voice and
crossed to the elm tree, drying her tears of happiness and trying
to control her newly awakened emotions. Douglas felt intuitively
that she needed this moment for recovery, so he piled the leaves
and garlands high in Mandy's arms, then ran into the house with
the light step of a boy.

"I got the set-sit-settin' room all tidied up," said Mandy as she
shot a sly glance at Polly.

"That's good," Polly answered, facing Mandy at last and dimpling
and blushing guiltily.

"Mos' de sociable folks will mos' likely be hangin' roun' de
parsonage to-night, 'stead ob stayin' in de Sunday-school-room,
whar dey belongs. Las' time dat ere Widow Willoughby done set
aroun' all ebenin' a-tellin' de parson as how folks could jes'
eat off'n her kitchen floor, an' I ups an' tells her as how folks
could pick up a good, squar' meal off'n MANDY'S floor, too.
Guess she'll be mighty careful what she says afore Mandy
to-night." She chuckled as she disappeared down the walk to the
Sunday-school- room.

Polly stood motionless where Mandy had left her. She hardly knew
which way to turn. She was happy, yet afraid. She felt like
sinking upon her knees and begging God to be good to her, to help
her. She who had once been so independent, so self-reliant, now
felt the need of direction from above. She was no longer master
of her own soul, something had gone from her, something that
would never, never come again. While she hesitated, Hasty came
through the gate looking anxiously over his shoulder.

"Well, Hasty?" she said, for it was apparent that Hasty had
something important on his mind.

"It's de big one from de circus," he whispered, excitedly.

"The big one?"

"You know-- De one what brung you."

"You don't mean--?" Polly's question was answered by Jim himself
who had followed Hasty quickly through the gate. Their arms were
instantly about each other. Jim forgot Hasty and every one in
the world except Polly, and neither of them noticed the horrified
Miss Perkins and the Widow Willoughby, who had been crossing the
yard on their way from the Sunday- school-room with Julia.

"You're just as big as ever," said Polly, when she could let go
of Jim long enough to look at him. "You haven't changed a bit."

"You've changed enough for both of us." He looked at the
unfamiliar long skirts and the new way of doing her hair.
"You're bigger, Poll; more grown up like."

"Oh, Jim!" She glanced admiringly at the new brown suit, the
rather startling tie, and the neat little posy in Jim's

"The fellows said I'd have to slick up a bit if I was a-comin' to
see you, so as not to make you ashamed of me. Do you like 'em?"
he asked, looking down approvingly at his new brown clothes.

"Very much." For the first time Jim noticed the unfamiliar
manner of her speech. He began to feel self-conscious. A year
ago she would have said, "You bet!" He looked at her awkwardly.
She hurried on: "Hasty told me you were showing in Wakefield. I
knew you'd come to see me. How's Barker and all the boys?" She
stopped with a catch in her throat, and added more slowly: "I
suppose everything's different, now that Toby is gone."

"He'd a-liked to a-seen you afore he cashed in," Jim answered;
"but maybe it was just as well he didn't. You'd hardly a-knowed
him toward the last, he got so thin an' peeked like. He wasn't
the same after we lost you, nobody was, not even Bingo."

"Have you still got Bingo?" she asked, through her tears.

"Yep, we got him," drawled Jim, "but he ain't much good no more.
None of the other riders can get used to his gait like you was.
There ain't nobody with the show what can touch you ridin', there
never will be. Say, mebbe you think Barker won't let out a yell
when he sees yer comin' back." Jim was jubilant now, and he let
out a little yell of his own at the mere thought of her return.
He was too excited to notice the look on Polly's face. "Toby had
a notion before he died that you was never a-comin' back, but I
told him I'd change all that once I seed yer, and when Barker
sent me over here to-day to look arter the advertisin', he said
he guessed you'd had all you wanted a' church folks. 'Jes' you
bring her along to Wakefield,' he said, 'an' tell her that her
place is waitin' for her,' and I will, too." He turned upon
Polly with sudden decision. "Why, I feel jes' like pickin' yer
up in my arms and carryin' you right off now."

"Wait, Jim!" She put one tiny hand on his arm to restrain him.

"I don't mean--not--to-day--mebbe"--he stammered, uncertainly,
"but we'll be back here a-showin' next month."

"Don't look at me now," Polly answered, as the dog-like eyes
searched her face, "because I have to say something that is going
to hurt you, Jim."

"You're comin', ain't yer, Poll?" The big face was wrinkled and
care-worn with trouble.

"No, Jim," she replied in a tone so low that he could scarcely
hear her.

"You mean that you ain't NEVER comin' back?" He tried to realise
what such a decision might mean to him.

"No, Jim." She answered tenderly, for she dreaded the pain that
she must cause the great, good-hearted fellow. "You mustn't care
like that," she pleaded, seeing the blank desolation that had
come into his face. "It isn't because I don't love you just the
same, and it was good of Barker to keep my place for me, but I
can't go back."

He turned away; she clung to the rough, brown sleeve. "Why, Jim,
when I lie in my little room up there at night"--she glanced
toward the window above them--"and everything is peaceful and
still, I think how it used to be in the old days, the awful noise
and the rush of it all, the cheerless wagons, the mob in the
tent, the ring with its blazing lights, the whirling round and
round on Bingo, and the hoops, always the hoops, till my head got
dizzy and my eyes all dim; and then the hurry after the show, and
the heat and the dust or the mud and the rain, and the rumble of
the wheels in the plains at night, and the shrieks of the
animals, and then the parade, the awful, awful parade, and I
riding through the streets in tights, Jim! Tights!" She covered
her face to shut out the memory. "I couldn't go back to it, Jim!
I just couldn't!" She turned away, her face still hidden in her
hands. He looked at her a long while in silence.

"I didn't know how you'd come to feel about it," he said

"You aren't ANGRY, Jim?" She turned to him anxiously, her eyes
pleading for his forgiveness.

"Angry?" he echoed, almost bitterly. "I guess it couldn't ever
come to that a-tween you an' me. I'll be all right." He
shrugged his great shoulders. "It's just kinder sudden, that's
all. You see, I never figured on givin' yer up, and when you
said you wasn't comin' back, it kinder seemed as though I
couldn't see nothin' all my life but long, dusty roads, and
nobody in 'em. But it's all right now, and I'll just be gettin'
along to the wagon."

"But, Jim, you haven't seen Mr. Douglas," Polly protested,
trying to keep him with her until she could think of some way to
comfort him.

"I'll look in on him comin' back," said Jim, anxious to be alone
with his disappointment. He was out of the gate before she could
stop him.

"Hurry back, won't you, Jim? I'll be waiting for you." She
watched him going quickly down the road, his fists thrust into
his brown coat pockets, and his hat pulled over his eyes. He did
not look back, as he used to do, to wave a parting farewell, and
she turned toward the house with a troubled heart. She had
reached the lower step when Strong and Elverson approached her
from the direction of the church.

"Was that feller here to take you back to the circus?" demanded

She opened her lips to reply, but before she could speak, Strong
assured her that the congregation wouldn't do anything to stop
her if she wished to go. He saw the blank look on her face. "We
ain't tryin' to pry into none of your private affairs," he
explained; "but my daughter saw you and that there feller a
makin' up to each other. If you're calculatin' to run away with
him, you'll save a heap of trouble for the parson by doin' it

"The parson!"

"YOU can't blame the congregation for not wantin' him to keep you
here. You got sense enough to see how it looks. HE'D see it,
too, if he wasn't just plain, bull-headed. Well he'd better get
over his stubbornness right now, if he don't we'll get another
minister, that's all."

"Another minister? You don't mean--?" It was clear enough now.
She recalled Douglas's troubled look of an hour ago. She
remembered how he had asked if she couldn't go away. It was this
that he meant when he promised not to give her up, no matter what
happened. In an instant she was at the deacon's side pleading
and terrified. "You wouldn't get another minister! Oh, please,
Deacon Strong, listen to me, listen! You were right about Jim, he
DID come to get me and I am going back to the circus--only you
won't send Mr. Douglas away, you won't! Say you won't!" She was
searching his eyes for mercy. "It wasn't HIS fault that I kept
staying on. He didn't know how to get rid of me. He DID try, he
tried only to-day."

"So he's comin' 'round," sneered Strong.

"Yes, yes, and you won't blame him any more, will you?" she
hurried on anxiously. "You'll let him stay, no matter what he
does, if I promise to go away and never, never come back again?"

"I ain't holdin' no grudge agin him," Strong grumbled. "He talks
pretty rough sometimes, but he's been a good enough minister. I
ain't forgettin' that."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Strong, thank you. I'll get my things; it
won't take a minute." She was running up the steps when a sudden
thought stopped her. She returned quickly to Strong. "We'd
better not let him know just yet. You can tell him afterward.
Tell him that I ran away-- Tell him that----"

She was interrupted by Douglas, who came from the house. "Hello,
Strong, back again?" he asked, in some surprise. Polly remained
with her eyes fixed upon the deacon, searching for some way of
escape. The pastor approached; she burst into nervous laughter.
"What's the joke?" Douglas asked.

"It's only a little surprise that the deacon and I are planning."
She tried to control the catch in her voice. "You'll know about
it soon, won't he, deacon? Good afternoon, Mr. Strong!" She flew
into the house, laughing hysterically.

Douglas followed her to the steps with a puzzled frown. It was
unlike Polly to give way to her moods before others. "Have you
gentlemen changed your minds about the little girl staying on?"
he asked, uneasily.

"It's all right now," said Strong, seating himself with a
complacent air.

"All right? How so?" questioned Douglas, more and more puzzled by
the deacon's evident satisfaction.

"Because," said Strong, rising and facing the pastor, "because
your circus-ridin' gal is goin' to leave you of her own accord."

"Have you been talking to that girl?" asked Douglas, sternly.

"I have," said Strong, holding his ground.

"See here, deacon, if you've been browbeating that child, I may
forget that I'm a minister." The knuckles on Douglas's large
fists grew whiter.

"She's goin', I tell yer, and it ain't because of what I said
either. She's goin' back to the circus."

"I don't believe you."

"You would a-believed me if you'd seen the fellow that was just
a-callin' on her, and her a-huggin' and a-kissin' of him and
a-promisin' that she'd be a-waitin' for him here when he come

"You lie!" cried Douglas, taking a step toward the retreating

"There's the fellow now," cried Strong, as he pointed to the
gate. "Suppose you ask him afore yer call me a liar."

Douglas turned quickly and saw Jim approaching. His face lighted
up with relief at the sight of the big, lumbering fellow.

"How are yer, Mr. Douglas?" said Jim, awkwardly.

"You've seen Polly?" asked Douglas, shaking Jim cordially by the

"Yes, I've seen her."

"The deacon here has an idea that Polly is going back to the
circus with you." He nodded toward Strong, almost laughing at
the surprise in store for him.

"Back to the circus?" asked Jim.

"Did she say anything to you about it?" He was worried by the
bewilderment in Jim's manner.

Before Jim could reply, Polly, who had reached the steps in time
to catch the last few words, slipped quickly between them. She
wore her coat and hat, and carried a small brown satchel.

"Of course I did, didn't I, Jim?" she said, turning her back upon
the pastor and motioning to Jim not to answer. Douglas gazed at
her in astonishment.

"What do you mean?" he asked in a hoarse, strained voice. He
glanced at the coat and hat. "Where are you going?"

Polly avoided his eyes and continued nervously to Jim.

"What made you come back? Why didn't you wait for me down the
street? Now, you've spoiled everything." She pretended to be
very vexed with him. The big fellow looked puzzled. He tried to
protest, but she put a warning finger to her lips and pressed the
little brown satchel into his hand. "It's no use," she went on
hurriedly. "We might as well tell them everything now." She
turned to Douglas and pretended to laugh. "You have found us

The deacons were slightly uneasy; the frown on Douglas's forehead
was deepening.

"Oh, see how serious he looks," she teased, with a toss of her
head toward the grim-visaged pastor.

"Is this some trick?" he demanded, sternly.

"Don't be angry," she pleaded. "Wish me luck."

She held out one small hand; he did not take it. She wavered,
then she felt the eyes of the deacons upon her. Courage returned
and she spoke in a firm, clear voice: "I am going to run away."

Douglas stepped before her and studied her keenly.

"Run away?" he exclaimed incredulously.

"Yes, to the circus with Jim."

"You couldn't DO such a thing," he answered, excitedly. "Why,
only a moment ago you told me you would never leave me."

"Oh, but that was a moment ago," she cried, in a strained, high
voice. "That was before Jim came. You see, I didn't know HOW I
felt until I saw Jim and heard all about my old friends, how
Barker is keeping my place for me, and how they all want to see
me. And I want to see them, and to hear the music and the
laughter and the clown songs-- Oh, the clown songs!" She waltzed
about, humming the snatch of melody that Mandy had heard the
morning that Polly first woke in the parsonage.

"Ting, ling. That's how the bells ring,
Ting, ling, pretty young thing

She paused, her hands clasped behind her head, and gazed at them
with a brave, little smile. "Oh, it's going to be fine! Fine!"

"You don't know what you're doing," said Douglas. He seized her
roughly by the arm. Pain was making him brutal. "I won't LET
you go! Do you hear me? I won't--not until you've thought it

"I have thought it over," Polly answered, meeting his eyes and
trying to speak lightly. Her lips trembled. She could not bear
for him to think her so ungrateful. She remembered his great
kindness; the many thoughtful acts that had made the past year so
precious to her.

"You've been awfully good to me, Mr. John." She tried to choke
back a sob. "I'll never forget it--never! I'll always feel the
same toward you. But you mustn't ask me to stay. I want to get
back to them that knew me first--to my OWN! Circus folks aren't
cut out for parsons' homes, and I was born in the circus. I love
it--I love it! She felt her strength going, and cried out wildly:
"I want Bingo! I want to go round and round the ring! I want the
lights and the music and the hoops! I want the shrieks of the
animals, and the rumble of the wheels in the plains at night! I
want to ride in the big parade! I want to live and die--just
die--as circus folks die! I want to go back! I want to go back!"

She put out one trembling hand to Jim and rushed quickly through
the gate laughing and sobbing hysterically and calling to him to

Chapter XII

LONELY days followed Polly's desertion of the parsonage. Mandy
went about her duties very quietly, feeling that the little
comments which once amused the pastor had now become an
interruption to thoughts in which she had no part. He would sit
for hours with his head in his hands, taking no notice of what
passed before him. She tried to think of new dishes to tempt his
appetite, and shook her head sadly as she bore the untasted food
back to the kitchen.

She sometimes found a portfolio of drawings lying open upon his
study table. She remembered the zeal with which he had planned
to remodel the church and parsonage, when he first came to them;
how his enthusiasm had gradually died for lack of encouragement;
and how he had at last put his books in a cupboard, where they
grew dusty from long neglect. She marvelled at their
reappearance now, but something in his set, far-away look made
her afraid to inquire. Thus she went on from day to day, growing
more impatient with Hasty and more silent with the pastor.

Mandy needed humor and companionship to oil the wheels of her
humdrum life; there was no more laughter in the house, and she
began to droop.

Polly had been away from the parsonage a month, when the
complacency of the village was again upset by the arrival of the
"Great American Circus."

There were many callers at the parsonage that day, for
speculation was now at fever heat about the pastor. "Would he
try to see her? had he forgotten her? and what had he ever found
in her?" were a few of the many questions that the women were
asking each other. Now, that the cause of their envy was
removed, they would gladly have reinstated the pastor as their
idol; for, like all truly feminine souls, they could not bear to
see a man unhappy without wishing to comfort him, nor happy
unless they were the direct cause of his state. "How dare any
man be happy without me?" has been the cry of each woman since
Eve was created to mate with Adam.

Douglas had held himself more and more aloof from the day of
Polly's disappearance. He expressed no opinion about the deacons
or their recent disapproval of him. He avoided meeting them
oftener than duty required; and Strong felt so uncomfortable and
tongue-tied in his presence that he, too, was glad to make their
talks as few as possible.

Nothing was said about the pastor's plans for the future, or
about his continued connection with the church, and the
inquisitive sisterhood was on the point of exploding from an
over- accumulation of unanswered questions.

He delivered his sermons conscientiously, called upon his poor,
listened to the sorrows, real and fancied, of his parishioners,
and shut himself up with his books or walked alone on the hill
behind the church.

He had been absent all day, when Mandy looked out on the circus
lot for the dozenth time, and saw that the afternoon performance
was closing. It had driven her to desperation to learn that Miss
Polly was not in the parade that morning, and to know that the
pastor had made no effort to find out about her. For weeks both
she and Hasty had hoped that the return of the circus might bring
Polly back to them; but now it was nearly night and there had
been no word from her. Why didn't she come running in to see
them, as Mandy had felt so sure she would? Why had the pastor
stayed away on the hills all day?

Unanswered questions were always an abomination to Mandy, so
finally she drew a quarter from the knotted gingham rag that held
her small wad of savings, and told Hasty "to go long to de show
and find out 'bout Miss Polly."

She was anxiously waiting for him, when Deacon Strong knocked at
the door for the second time that afternoon.

"Is Mr. Douglas back yet?' he asked.

"No, sah, he ain't," said Mandy, very shortly. She felt that
Strong and Elverson had been "a-tryin' to spy on de parson all
day," and she resented their visits more than she usually did.

"What time are you expectin' him?"

"I don't nebber spec' Massa Douglas till I sees him."

Strong grunted uncivilly, and went down the steps. She saw from
the window that he met Elverson in front of the church.

"Dey sure am a-meanin' trouble," she mumbled.

The band had stopped playing; the last of the audience had
straggled down the street. She opened the door and stood on the
porch; the house seemed to suffocate her. What was keeping

He came at last, but Mandy could tell from his gait that he
brought unwelcome news.

"Ain't she dar?"

"She's wid 'em, all right," said Hasty.

"Yuh seed her?"

"Naw, I didn't done SEED her."


"She want in de show."

"What you jes' tell me?"

"She's a-trabbelin' wid 'em, Mandy, but she didn't done ride."

"See heah, Hasty Jones, is dat ere chile sick?"

"I don' rightly know," said Hasty. "A great big man, what wored
clothes like a gemmen, comed out wid a whip in his hand and says
as how he's 'bliged to 'nounce anudder gal in Miss Polly's place.
An' den he says as how de udder gal was jes' as good, an' den
everybody look disappinted like, an' den out comes de udder gal
on a hoss an' do tricks, an' I ain't heard no more 'bout Miss

"Why didn't you done ask somebody?"

"Warn't nobody ter ask but de man what wuz hurryin' ever'body to
get out of de tent. I done ast him, but he say as 'didn't I git
ma money's worth?' an' den ebberbody laugh, an' he shove me 'long
wid de rest of de folks, an' here I is."

"She's sick, dat's what _I_ says," Mandy declared, excitedly;
"an' somebody's got to do somethin'!"

"I done all I knowed," drawled Hasty, fearing that Mandy was
regretting her twenty-five-cent investment.

"Go 'long out an' fix up dat ere kitchen fire," was Mandy's
impatient reply. "I got to keep dem vittels warm fer Massa

She wished to be alone, so that she could think of some way to
get hold of Polly. "Dat baby- faced mornin'-glory done got Mandy
all wobbly 'bout de heart," she declared to herself, as she
crossed to the window for a sight of the pastor.

It was nearly dark when she saw him coming slowly down the path
from the hill. She lighted the study-lamp, rearranged the
cushions, and tried to make the room look cheery for his
entrance. He stopped in the hall and hung up his hat. There was
momentary silence. Would he shut himself in his room for the
night, or would he come into the study? At last the door opened
and Mandy hastened to place a chair for him.

"Ah's 'fraid you'se mighty tired," she said.

"Oh, no," answered Douglas, absently.

"Mebbe you'd like Mandy to be sarvin' your supper in here
to-night. It's more cheerfuller."

The side-showman was already beginning his spiel in the lot
below. The lemonade venders{sic} and the popcorn sellers were
heard crying their wares. Douglas did not answer her. She
bustled from the room, declaring "she was jes' goin' ter bring
him a morsel."

He crossed to the window and looked out upon the circus lot. The
flare of the torches and the red fire came up to meet his pale,
tense face. "How like the picture of thirteen months ago," he
thought, and old Toby's words came back to him-- "The show has
got to go on."

Above the church steeple, the moon was battling its way through
the clouds. His eyes travelled from heaven to earth. There was
a spirit of unreality in it all. Something made him mistrust
himself, his very existence. He longed to have done with dreams
and speculation, to feel something tangible, warm, and real
within his grasp. "I can't go on like this!" he cried. "I
can't!" He turned from the window and walked hurriedly up and
down the room; indoors or out, he found no rest. He threw
himself in the armchair near the table, and sat buried in

Mandy came softly into the room. She was followed by Hasty, who
carried a tray, laden with things that ought to have tempted any
man. She motioned for Hasty to put the tray on the table, and
then began arranging the dishes. Hasty stole to the window, and
peeped out at the tempting flare of red fire.

When Douglas discovered the presence of his two "faithfuls" he
was touched with momentary contrition. He knew that he often
neglected to chat with them now, and he made an effort to say
something that might restore the old feeling of comradeship.

"Have you had a hard day with the new gravel walk?" he asked
Hasty, remembering that he had been laying a fresh path to the
Sunday-school- room.

Hasty glanced uneasily at Mandy, afraid either to lie or tell the
truth about the disposition she had made of his afternoon.

"Jes' you come eat yo' supper," Mandy called to Douglas. "Don'
yous worry your head 'bout dat lazy husban' ob mine. He ain'
goin' ter work 'nuff. to hurt hisself." For an instant she had
been tempted to let the pastor know how Hasty had gone to the
circus and seen nothing of Polly; but her motherly instinct won
the day and she urged him to eat before disturbing him with her
own anxieties. It was no use. He only toyed with his food; he
was clearly ill at ease and eager to be alone. She gave up
trying to tempt his appetite, and began to lead up in a
roundabout way to the things which she wished to ask.

"Dar's quite some racket out dar in de lot tonight," she said;
Douglas did not answer. After a moment, she went on: "Hasty
didn't work on no walk to-day." Douglas looked at her
quizzically, while Hasty, convinced that for reasons of her own
she was going to get him into trouble, was making frantic
motions. "He done gone to de circus," she blurted out.
Douglas's face became suddenly grave. Mandy saw that she had
touched an open wound.

"I jes' couldn't stan' it, Massa John. I HAD to find out 'bout
dat angel chile." There was a pause. She felt that he was
waiting for her to go on.

"She didn't done ride to-day."

He looked up with the eyes of a dumb, persecuted animal. "And de
gemmen in de show didn't tell nobody why--jes' speaked about de
udder gal takin' her place."

"Why DIDN'T she ride?" cried Douglas, in an agony of suspense.

"Dat's what I don' know, sah." Mandy began to cry. It was the
first time in his experience that Douglas had ever known her to
give way to any such weakness. He walked up and down the room,
uncertain what to do.

Hasty came down from the window and tried to put one arm about
Mandy's shoulders.

"Leab me alone, you nigga!" she exclaimed, trying to cover her
tears with a show of anger that she did not feel; then she rushed
from the room, followed by Hasty.

The band was playing loudly; the din of the night performance was
increasing. Douglas's nerves were strained to a point of
breaking. He would not let himself go near the window. He stood
by the side of the table, his fists clenched, and tried to beat
back the impulse that was pulling him toward the door. Again and
again he set his teeth.

It was uncertainty that gnawed at him so. Was she ill? Could she
need him? Was she sorry for having left him? Would she be glad if
he went for her and brought her back with him? He recalled the
hysterical note in her behaviour the day that she went away; how
she had pleaded, only a few moments before Jim came, never to be
separated from him. Had she really cared for Jim and for the old
life? Why had she never written? Was she ashamed? Was she sorry
for what she had done? What could it mean? He threw his hands
above his head with a gesture of despair. A moment later, he
passed out into the night.

Chapter XIII

JIM was slow to-night. The big show was nearly over, yet many of
the props used in the early part of the bill were still unloaded.

He was tinkering absent-mindedly with one of the wagons in the
back lot, and the men were standing about idly, waiting for
orders, when Barker came out of the main tent and called to him

"Hey, there, Jim! What's your excuse to- night?"

"Excuse for what?" Jim crossed slowly to Barker.

"The cook tent was started half an hour late, and the side show
top ain't loaded yet."

"Your wagons is on the bum, that's what! Number thirty-eight
carries the cook tent and the blacksmith has been tinkering with
it all day. Ask HIM what shape it's in."

"You're always stallin'," was Barker's sullen complaint. "It's
the wagons, or the black- smiths, or anything but the truth. _I_
know what's the matter, all right."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Jim, sharply.

"I mean that all your time's took up a-carryin' and a-fetchin'
for that girl what calls you 'Muvver Jim.' "

"What have yer got to say about her?" Jim eyed him with a
threatening look.

"I got a-plenty," said Barker, as he turned to snap his whip at
the small boys who had stolen into the back lot to peek under the
rear edge of the "big top." "She's been about as much good as a
sick cat since she come back. You saw her act last night."

"Yes," answered Jim, doggedly.

"Wasn't it punk? She didn't show at ALL this afternoon--said she
was sick. And me with all them people inside what knowed her,
waitin' ter see 'er."

"Give her a little time," Jim pleaded. "She ain't rode for a

"Time!" shouted Barker. "How much does she want? She's been back
a month and instead o' bracin' up, she's a-gettin' worse.
There's only one thing for me to do."

"What's that?" asked Jim, uneasily.

"I'm goin' ter call her, and call her hard."

"Look here, Barker," and Jim squared his shoulders as he looked
steadily at the other man; "you're boss here, and I takes orders
from you, but if I catches you abusin' Poll, your bein' boss
won't make no difference."

"You can't bluff me," shouted Barker.

"I ain't bluffin'; I'm only TELLIN' yer," said Jim, very quietly.

"Well, you TELL her to get onto her job. If she don't she quits,
that's all." He hurried into the ring.

Jim took one step to follow him, then stopped and gazed at the
ground with thoughtful eyes. He, too, had seen the change in
Polly. He had tried to rouse her; it was no use. She had looked
at him blankly. 'If she would only complain," he said to
himself. "If she would only get mad, anything, anything to wake
her." But she did not complain. She went through her daily
routine very humbly and quietly. She sometimes wondered how Jim
could talk so much about her work, but before she could answer
the question, her mind drifted back to other days, to a garden
and flowers, and Jim stole away unmissed, and left her with
folded hands and wide, staring eyes, gazing into the distance.

The memory of these times made Jim helpless to-night. He had
gone on hoping from day to day that Barker might not notice the
"let-down" in her work, and now the blow had fallen. How could
he tell her?

One of the acts came tumbling out of the main tent. There was a
moment's confusion, as clowns, acrobats and animals passed each
other on their way to and from the ring, then the lot cleared
again, and Polly came slowly from the dressing tent. She looked
very different from the little girl whom Jim had led away from
the parson's garden in a simple, white frock one month before.
Her thin, pensive face contrasted oddly with her glittering
attire. Her hair was knotted high on her head {a}nd intertwined
with flowers and jewels. Her slender neck seemed scarcely able
to support its burden. Her short, full skirt and low cut bodice
were ablaze with white and coloured stones.

"What's on, Jim?" she asked.

"The 'Leap o' Death.' " You got plenty a' time."

Polly's mind went back to the girl who answered that call a year
ago. Her spirit seemed very near to-night. The band stopped
playing. Barker made his grandiloquent announcement about the
wonderful act about to be seen, and her eyes wandered to the
distant church steeple. The moonlight seemed to shun it
to-night. It looked cold and grim and dark. She wondered
whether the solemn bell that once called its flock to worship had
become as mute as her own dead heart. She did not hear the whirr
of the great machine inside the tent, as it plunged through space
with its girl occupant. These things were a part of the daily
routine, part of the strange, vague dream through which she must
stumble for the rest of her life.

Jim watched her in silence. Her face was turned from him. She
had forgotten his presence.

"Star gazin', Poll?" he asked at length, dreading to disturb her

"I guess I was, Jim." She turned to him with a little, forced
smile. He longed to save her from Barker's threatened rebuke.

"How yer feelin' to-night?"

"I'm all right," she answered, cheerfully

"Anythin' yer want?"

"Want?" she turned upon him with startled eyes. There was so
much that she wanted, that the mere mention of the word had
opened a well of pain in her heart.

"I mean, can I do anythin' for you?"

"Oh, of course not." She remembered how little ANY ONE could do.

"What is it, Poll?" he begged; but she only turned away and shook
her head with a sigh. He followed her with anxious eyes. "What
made yer cut out the show to-day? Was it because you didn't want
ter ride afore folks what knowed yer? Ride afore HIM, mebbe?"

"HIM?" Her face was white. Jim feared she might swoon. "You
don't mean that he was----"

"Oh, no," he answered, quickly, "of course not. Parsons don't
come to places like this one. I was only figurin' that yer
didn't want OTHER folks to see yer and to tell him how you was
ridin'." She did not answer.

"Was that it, Poll?" he urged.

"I don't know." She stared into space.

"Was it?"

"I guess it was," she said, after a long time.

"I knowed it," he cried. "I was a fool to a-brung you back. Yer
don't belong with us no more."

"Oh, don't, Jim! don't! Don't make me feel I'm in the way here,

"Here, too?" He looked at her in astonishment. "Yer wasn't in
HIS way, was yer, Poll?"

"Yes, Jim." She saw his look of unbelief and continued
hurriedly. "Oh, I tried not to be. I tried so hard. He used to
read me verses out of a Bible about my way being his way and my
people his people, but it isn't so, Jim. Your way is the way you
are born, and your people are the people you are born with, and
you can't change it, Jim, no matter how hard you try."

"YOU was changin' it," he answered, savagely. "You was gettin'
jes' like them people. It was me what took yer away and spoiled
it all. You oughtn't to a come. What made yer, after yer said
yer wouldn't?"

She did not answer. Strange things were going through the mind
of the slow-witted Jim. He braced himself for a difficult

"Will yer answer me somethin' straight?" he asked.

"Why, of course," she said as she met his gaze.

"Do you love the parson, Poll?"

She started.

"Is that it?"

Her lids fluttered and closed, she caught her breath quickly, her
lips apart, then looked far into the distance.

"Yes, Jim, I'm afraid--that's it." The little figure drooped,
and she stood before him with lowered eyes, unarmed. Jim looked
at her helplessly, then shook his big, stupid head.

"Ain't that hell?"

It seemed such a short time to Jim since he had picked her up, a
cooing babe, at her dead mother's side. He watched the tender,
averted face. Things had turned out so differently from what he
had planned.

"And he didn't care about you--like that?" he asked, after a

"No, not in that way." She was anxious to defend the pastor from
even the thought of such a thing. "He was good and kind always,
but he didn't care THAT WAY. He's not like that."

"I guess I'll have a talk with him," said Jim, and he turned to

"Talk!" she cried.

He stopped and looked at her in astonishment. It was the first
time that he had ever heard that sharp note in her voice. Her
tiny figure was stiffened with decision. Her eyes were blazing.

"If you ever DARE to speak to him--about me, you'll never see me

Jim was perplexed.

"I mean it, Jim. I've made my choice, and I've come back to you.
If you ever try to fix up things between him and me, I'll run
away--really and truly away--and you'll never, never get me

He shuffled awkwardly to her side and reached apologetically for
the little, clenched fist. He held it in his big, rough hand,
toying nervously with the tiny fingers.

"I wouldn't do nothin' that you wasn't a-wantin', Poll. I was
just a tryin' to help yer, only I--I never seem to know how."

She turned to him with tear-dimmed eyes, and rested her hands on
his great, broad shoulders, and he saw the place where he dwelt
in her heart.

Chapter XIV

THE "Leap of Death" implements were being carried from the ring,
and Jim turned away to superintend their loading.

Performers again rushed by each other on their way to and from
the main tent.

Polly stood in the centre of the lot, frowning and anxious. The
mere mention of the pastor's name had made it seem impossible for
her to ride to-night. For hours she had been whipping herself up
to the point of doing it, and now her courage failed her. She
followed Barker as he came from the ring.

"Mr. Barker, please!"

He turned upon her sharply.

"Well, what is it NOW?"

"I want to ask you to let me off again to-night." She spoke in a
short, jerky, desperate way.

"What?" he shrieked. "Not go into the ring, with all them people
inside what's paid their money a-cause they knowed yer?"

"That's it," she cried. "I can't! I can't!"

"YER gettin' too tony!" Barker sneered. "That's the trouble with
you. You ain't been good for nothin' since you was at that
parson's house. Yer didn't stay there, and yer no use here.
First thing yer know yer'll be out all 'round."


"Sure. Yer don't think I'm goin' ter head my bill with a 'dead
one,' do you?"

"I am not a 'dead one,' " she answered, excitedly. "I'm the best
rider you've had since mother died. You've said so yourself."

'That was afore yer got in with them church cranks. You talk
about yer mother! Why, she'd be ashamed ter own yer."

"She wouldn't," cried Polly. Her eyes were flashing, her face
was scarlet. The pride of hundreds of years of ancestry was
quivering with indignation. "I can ride as well as I EVER could,
and I'll do it, too. I'll do it to-morrow."

"To-morrow?" echoed Barker. "What do you mean by that?"

"I mean that I CAN'T go into that ring TO-NIGHT," she declared,
"and I won't."

She was desperate now, and trading upon a strength beyond her

He looked at her with momentary indecision. She WAS a good
rider--the best since her mother, as he had often told her. He
could see this meant an issue. He felt she would be on her
mettle to-morrow, as far as her work was concerned, if he left
her alone to-night.

"All right," he said, sullenly. "Yer can stay off to-night. I
got the crowd in there, anyway, and I got their money. I'll let
Eloise do a turn on Barbarian, but TO-MORROW you'd better show me
your old act."

"I'll show you!" she cried. "I'll show you!"

"Well, see that you do." He crossed into the ring.

Polly stood where Barker had left her, white and tense. Jim came
toward her from the direction of the wagons. He glanced at her
uneasily. "What's he been a-sayin' ter you?"

"He says I can't ride any more." Her lips closed tightly. She
stared straight ahead of her. "He says I was no good to the
people that took me in, and I'm no use here."

"It's not so!" thundered Jim.

"No; it's not!" she cried. "I'll show him, Jim! I'll show
him--to-morrow!" She turned toward the dressing tent; Jim caught
her firmly by the wrist.

"Wait, Poll! You ain't ever goin' into the ring a-feelin' THAT
WAY." Her eyes met his, defiantly.

"What's the difference? What's the difference?" She wrenched her
wrist quickly from him, and ran into the dressing tent laughing

"And I brung her back to it," mumbled Jim as he turned to give
orders to the property men.

Most of the "first-half props" were loaded, and some of the men
were asleep under the wagons. The lot was clear. Suddenly he
felt some one approaching from the back of the enclosure. He
turned and found himself face to face with the stern, solitary
figure of the pastor, wrapped in his long, black cloak. The
moonlight slipped through a rift in the clouds, and fell in a
circle around them.

"What made you come here?" was all Jim said.

"I heard that Miss Polly didn't ride to-day. I was afraid she
might be ill."

"What's that to you?"

"She ISN'T ill?" Douglas demanded anxiously, oblivious to the
gruffness in the big fellow's voice.

"She's all right," Jim answered shortly as he shifted uneasily
from one foot to the other, and avoided the pastor's burning

"And she's happy? she's content?"


"I'm glad," said Douglas, dully. He tried to think of some way
to prolong their talk. "I've never heard from her, you know."

"Us folks don't get much time to write." Jim turned away and
began tinkering with one of the wagons.

Douglas had walked up and down in front of the tents again and
again, fighting against a desire to do the very thing that he was
doing, but to no purpose, and now that he was here, it seemed
impossible that he should go away so unsatisfied. He crossed to
Jim and came determinedly to the point.

"Can't I see her, Jim?"

"It's agin the rules." He did not turn.

There was another pause, then Douglas started slowly out of the

"Wait a minute," called Jim, as though the words had been wrung
from him. The pastor came back with a question in his eyes.

"I lied to you."

"She's NOT well, then?"

"Oh, yes, she's well enough. It ain't that; it's about her being

"She isn't?" There was a note of unconscious exultation in his

"No. She AIN'T happy here, and she WAS happy WITH YOU."

"Then, why did she leave me?"

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