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Princess Polly's Playmates by Amy Brooks

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Polly stood on the little bridge and watched Lena until, at the opening
between the trees, she turned and waved her hand, and then ran out upon
the road.

"I'll find Sir Mortimer, and tell him Rose is coming to see us soon,"
she said.

She ran along the path, out onto the avenue, then up the broad driveway
of Sherwood Hall.

As she passed the holly-hocks, she saw the big cat lying in front of
them, basking in the sun.

"Oh, Mortimer darling, you'll tan in that hot sun," she said, "but she
sat down beside him, as if the sun would have no effect upon her.

"See this letter?" she said, as she showed him the little envelope. Of
course, Sir Mortimer promptly smelt of it.

"Oh, you don't need to see it so CLOSE, dear," said Polly, "you can
surely look at it without putting your nose on it."

He stretched out his soft paw, and caught at the envelope, as if to play
with it.

"Now, Mortimer, 't isn't any use for you to take the letter, because you
know, dear, you couldn't read it, but I'll tell you the best thing in
it, if you'll listen."

The big cat stared at her and blinked.

"Rose is coming to see us, and Mortimer, when I say US, that means you
and me, Of course she wants to see her Aunt Judith, and everyone in this
town, but MOST she really wants to see us, that TRULY is you and me.
Are'nt you glad?"

He arched his neck, and rubbed against her, purring as if to show his
delight with the news she had told him.

Polly took him in her arms, and carrying him to the hammock, seated
herself, and began to swing very gently.

At another time, Sir Mortimer might have objected, but just now he was
rather drowsy, and instead of jumping from the hammock, he curled up in
Polly's lap, and seemed to be preparing for a nap.

"I love little pussy," sang Princess Polly, gently patting his handsome

"Look at her, now," said the cook, peeping from the kitchen window, and
pointing at Polly, "ain't she the dearest child in the world?"

"Ye've no need ter ask," said the big butler, "fer ye know my answer.
Our little Miss Princess Polly is the finest child I ever saw."

"And did ye mind that wild little heathen that came up here the other
day, a prancin' all over the place, here one minute, an' there another?
Sure, I expected ter see her shin up the side of the stable, an' then
jump from the ridge-pole. She'd make nothin' of that!" said the maid.

"I think it must be that little Harcourt monkey," said the butler, "and
I'm told her ma likes her wild pranks. What is it she calls 'em? Oh,
yes, I remember. She says as how her darling is very VERVASHUS! What
that means I do'no, but one thing I'm SURE of. If her youngster is THAT,
our Miss Polly just AIN'T!"

And while Polly petted big Sir Mortimer, she thought of the dear letter,
and softly whispered to her pet:

"Lena is just as glad that Rose is coming as you, and I are, and she
said Rob would be glad, too."

There were other little people beside Polly and Lena who were thinking
of the first days of school, and of them all, not one was more
interested than wee Dollie Burton.

Indeed, she was both interested, and grieved. Interested to hear all
that her sister, Blanche, and the other children had to say, and grieved
because she could not understand why she could not at once begin to be a
little school girl.

In vain was she told that she was far too small to think of going to
school. She insisted that she was not so VERY little, and that she so
wished to go.

"Blanche did not go to school until she was much larger than you, dear,"
her mother had said, "and I think it would be far better for you to stay
at home this Winter. You can play school at home, and you can be the
teacher, and your two little kittens, and your dolls can be your

"But I could play it nicer if I had been to school just a little while,"
said Dollie, "'cause then I'd know just how."

The rustic bridge upon which Polly and Lena had stood spanned the brook
that ran through the grove.

The grove was a wee bit of woodland so near to dwellings that it was
quite safe for children to play there.

Dollie Burton was so very small, however, that she had always played in
the lovely grounds that surrounded her home.

Whenever she had ventured farther, she had been with Blanche, but to-day
she had left the garden, and for the first time in her little life she
had run away!

It was something that Harry Grafton had said that had caused her to do

"Why, Dollie, you'd feel lost if you went to school," he had said,
"'cause you've always played in your yard."

He had not meant it unkindly, but he had offended little Dollie.

"I WOULDN'T feel lost outside of our garden any more than you would,
Harry Grafton, so now!" she had cried,

"Don't you mind, Dollie," the boy had answered, but Dollie DID mind very

She had no thought as to where she was going when she ran from the
garden, and it was only chance that led her to the grove.

She ran to the bridge and stood watching the rippling brook, as it
rushed beneath it.

Softly she crooned a little tune, for wee Dollie was never long unhappy.
She had almost forgotten how vexed she had been, and she laughed as she
saw small bubbles sailing, sailing away to the meadow. Softly she
hummed, and then little words, describing what she saw, fitted quaintly
into the droll melody--

"See the pretty bubbles, bubbles,
Riding on the little brook;
See the spiders try to catch them,
And old Mr. Toady Frog sings
'Po-dunk!' and jumps down deep.
Oh, green old Mr. Toady Frog--

There's Blanche's teacher! I'll ask her, and p'raps she'll say 'yes.'"

A slender young woman with a gentle, smiling face, came along the path,
and stepped upon the bridge.

She wondered who the tiny girl might be, until Dollie turned, and gave
her a sunny smile.

"Oh, I wanted to see you this very minute!" cried Dollie; "I want you to
tell mama I'm big 'nough to go to school. Will you, please, Miss
Sterling. I'll LOVE you, if you will!"

The young girl was tempted to laugh, until she saw the red lips quiver.
Then she knew how much her answer meant to the little girl, and kneeling
beside Dollie, she put her arm around her, drawing her close.

"Dear, can't you love me, whatever I say?" she asked.

"Yes," said Dollie, "because you're so handsome."

"Oh, you are truly an artful baby," the young teacher said, with a

"But WILL you?" urged Dollie, "I do know SOMETHING. I can spell 'c-a-t,
cat,' and I know that isn't kitten, and I can spell 'b-e, be,' and that
isn't the bumble kind, so can I come to school?"

"Dollie, dear, you couldn't be in my class if you started this year, so
I cannot give you permission. You would begin your schooldays in Miss
Primson's room," was the reply.

"Why, she's the cross-looking teacher, with black eyes that look like

Dollie touched the fore-finger of each hand with its thumb, thus making
rings through which she peeped, in imitation of spectacles, and frowned
as darkly as her baby face would permit.

Miss Sterling knew that she should not laugh at the grimace, but it was
so very funny that she could not help it.

"Miss Primson is to teach in another town next season, so if you wait
'til next year you will have a new teacher to commence with, and you can
work very hard, so as to get into my room as soon as possible," she

The child's face lighted with a happy smile.

"Oh, then, I don't want to go THIS year!" she cried, "I'll stay at home,
as mama said, and keep school with my dolls and the kittens, but will
you come sometimes, and see if I teach them right?"

"I certainly will," Miss Sterling said, kindly, "and I do hope your
little class will behave nicely."

"The dolls will," said Dollie, hopefully, "but the kittens' manners are-

"Then that shows how much they need a teacher," Miss Sterling said, and
Dollie felt sure that it must be right for her to remain at home, that
those kittens might not be neglected.

"They run away 'thout asking to be s'cused, and they walk right into the
saucer of milk. I don't s'pect them to use spoons, but they needn't sit
down in it. How'd I look, if I sat down in MY plate when I was eating?"

There was no one near to answer her question, and the little girl
hurried home, convinced that there must be no delay in educating the

There was one small person in the town who feared the opening of school,
and that was Gyp.

During vacation days he was care free, but as it neared the time when
all the children of Avondale would be, for the greater part of the day,
in school, he began to watch any person who passed the shanty that he
called "home," and to view with terror the blue coat of a policeman.

"They shan't ketch me!" he muttered, "I WON'T go to school!"

His mother, as ignorant as himself, enjoyed using him as a wood
gatherer, and thus insisted that he was not old enough to go to school,
when questioned by a member of the school committee.

"Not OLD enough!" cried the man in disgust, "why, woman, any child five
years old can go to school."

"Gyp ain't five yet!" the woman had answered, stolidly.

"It's no use talking that way," was the quick reply, "he's NINE if he's
a day. I think it's more likely that he's ten. Ye can't keep a child out
of school unless he's less'n five, or over fourteen."

"Then he's OVER fourteen!" cried the woman.

"Less'n five one minute, and over fourteen the next!" said the man in
disgust. "Grows kinder fast, don't he?"

"Well, he AIN'T goin' ter school!" the woman insisted, and the officer
went his way.

Gyp, however, did not believe that he would long remain away from the

He determined to take no chances, and it seemed to him that the safest
thing for him to do, was to keep well away from home.

At twilight he surprised his family by appearing with a huge bundle of
fagots that he had gathered in the woods. He gave them yet another
surprise by packing the wood upon the old wood pile behind the house,
and running off again for more.

He returned with a larger bundle than the first.

"Kind 'o busy, ain't yer?" questioned his mother, but Gyp made no reply.
She watched him, as he hastily piled the wood.

It certainly was unusual to see the boy work like that!

When asked to do a task, it was Gyp's habit to do it as slowly as
possible, and to do as little as he dared.

Now, without waiting to be asked, he was working as if he had not a
moment to spare!

Yet more amazing, on the next day, before any of his family was
stirring, he was again at work, and soon a huge heap of fagots rose in
the little back yard.

"What AILS ye, Gyp?" his mother asked, "Be ye sick?"

Gyp never answered unless he chose, and this was surely one of the times
when he did not choose.

"Ornary critter!" said the woman, as she picked up her broom, and went
in, closing the door behind her.

"NOW, I'll go!" said Gyp, and he ran off across the fields.

He could take care of himself, and he always managed, when away from
home, to steal enough so that he was well fed. He knew that, if wood
were needed, his mother would hunt for him, but with the big pile of
firewood behind the shanty, she would not search for him. She would be
glad that for a time she need not feed him!

Gyp had been shrewd when he had made that woodpile!

He found, when he had crossed the fields, that he was on a country road,
and near a large farmhouse, whose big barn-door stood invitingly open.

In front of the house stood a baker's cart, and Gyp looked about to see
if the driver were in sight.

"He's in that house!" whispered Gyp, in great excitement.

In haste, lest the man return, and catch him, he pulled out a draw,
snatched some buns, and a pie, and darted with them into the barn, and
up on the hay in the loft, where he hugely enjoyed his treat.

He heard the man run out to the cart, push the draw to, and then drive

"I've had a fine treat, an' he ain't missed what I took, so that's all
right," he said, with a laugh, "an' I guess I'll see who's got some
fruit in his garden. That's what I want now!"

He went down the ladder like a monkey, ran from the barn, and a little
farther up the road, found a fine blackberry patch, just over the wall.

Of these he ate until he cared for no more, and then, like a full-
fledged tramp, strode down the dusty road.

"I ain't goin' ter be ketched 'fore their old school begins, fer if I AM
ketched, they'll make me begin with the others, an' I ain't a goin' ter,
but after its goin' on two weeks, then I'll be safe. They won't bother
me then, an' I'll hang around the schoolhouse an' make things lively!"

He smiled as he muttered this threat, and his black eyes twinkled. Oh,
yes, he would be delighted to play any outrageous trick that might
startle both teacher and pupils.

He did not know that during all the season, those who intended that
every child in town should be educated, strove with the same vigilance
as at the beginning of the year.

"Gyp's run away!"

"Why, Harry Grafton, he's always running away from somewhere, or from
someone," said Leslie.

"Oh, that's when he's been stealing things," said Harry, "but this time
it's different. He ran away from the shanty, and I know, because I heard
his mother asking a policeman to find him, and she said he'd been gone a

"Wherever he is, he won't stay long," said Leslie, "he'll come running

"Why will he?" questioned Harry. "If he's run away, it's because he's
tired of that old shanty, and I should think he would be!"

"WE'D be tired of it," said Leslie, "but he's used to it, and he'll come
back, just because it's his home."

"P'raps he will," agreed Harry, "but I wouldn't think that place would
seem like home even to Gyp!"

"I'm going up to play with Princess Polly," said Leslie, "and I'll tell
her about Gyp. She's afraid of him, and I know she wouldn't want him to
run away, but she may feel safer because he has."

"He wouldn't dare harm her," said Harry, with flashing eyes, "for he
knows we boys wouldn't stand that. We'd fight for Princess Polly!"

"And she's the only thing I'd want to see you fight for. Mama says that
boys who quarrel are vulgar, but it would be right to do ANYTHING for
Princess Polly. She's the dearest girl in the world," said Leslie, "and
Rose Atherton is next!"

"Yes," said Harry, "Rose is next."

Quite unaware that any of her playmates were near, Polly ran out into
the sunshine, and taking a long bit of trailing vine for a skipping
rope, tripped along the driveway.

"Oh, you're not a very nice rope," she said, "but you're a pretty make-
believe rope. Here, Mortimer! You can have this for a string."

She ran along, dragging the vine, and Sir Mortimer, glad of a playmate,
raced after it, as much excited as if he had been a kitten.

"We'll dance and play
The livelong day;
Ah, happy friends are we.
With summer flowers
And shady bowers
And young hearts light and free,"

sang Polly, and Leslie and Harry from their seat on the top of the stone
wall, near the gate-way, echoed the last line;

"And young hearts light and free."

"Oh, I was singing to Sir Mortimer, and I didn't know anyone was near to
hear me," said Polly, laughing gaily, as the two who had been her little
audience sprang from the wall, and ran up the driveway to the garden.

Polly tossed the vine upon the grass, where Sir Mortimer promptly
snatched it, and rolling over, became entangled in it.

"You'll want to take him to school with you," said Leslie, with a laugh,
"but Mortimer will have to stay at home."

"They won't let even Princess Polly bring a cat to school," said Harry,
"tho' I would if _I_ was the teacher."

"Then I wish you were the teacher, Harry," said Polly, "but I know I
shall like school here at Avondale, and I shall have fine times, even if
Sir Mortimer has to stay at home."

"Gwen Harcourt will be funny in whatever class they place her," said
Harry, "because she says she doesn't want to go to school, and she means
to act so that the teacher'll be GLAD to send her home!"

"And Rob Lindsey says there's ever so many new pupils coming this year,
so the classes will be full, and there'll be just CROWDS of children to
play with," declared Leslie.

Oh, there were merry days in store for the little playmates, and those
who have learned to love Princess Polly, and would like to meet her
again, to know what happened to Rose, and of the gay times at school,
and at Sherwood Hall, may read of all this in


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