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Chapter 12 – The Sunny Side

Louisa May AlcottNov 05, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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"I ‘VE won the wager, Tom."

"Did n’t know there was one."

"Don’t you remember you said Polly would be tired of her teaching
and give it up in three months, and I said she would n’t?"

"Well, is n’t she?"

"Not a bit of it. I thought she was at one time, and expected every
day to have her come in with a long face, and say she could n’t
stand it. But somehow, lately, she is always bright and happy,
seems to like her work, and don’t have the tired, worried look she
used to at first. The three months are out, so pay up, Tommy."

"All right, what will you have?"

"You may make it gloves. I always need them, and papa looks
sober when I want money."

There was a minute’s pause as Fan returned to her practising, and
Tom relapsed into the reverie he was enjoying seated astride of a
chair, with his chin on his folded arms.

"Seems to me Polly don’t come here as often as she used to," he
said, presently.

"No, she seems to be very busy; got some new friends, I believe,
old ladies, sewing-girls, and things of that sort. I miss her, but
know she ‘ll get tired of being goody, and will come back to me
before long."

"Don’t be too sure of that, ma’am." Something in Tom’s tone made
Fan turn round, and ask, "What do you mean?"

"Well, it strikes me that Sydney is one of Polly’s new friends. Have
n’t you observed that she is uncommonly jolly, and don’t that sort
of thing account for it?"

"Nonsense!" said Fanny, sharply.

"Hope it is," coolly returned Tom.

"What put it into your head?" demanded Fanny, twirling round
again so that her face was hidden.

"Oh, well, I keep meeting Syd and Polly circulating in the same
directions; she looks as if she had found something uncommonly
nice, and he looks as if all creation was getting Pollyfied pretty
rapidly. Wonder you have n’t observed it."

"I have."

It was Tom’s turn to look surprised now, for Fanny’s voice sounded
strange to him. He looked at her steadily for a minute, but saw
only a rosy ear and a bent head. A cloud passed over his face, and
he leaned his chin on his arm again with a despondent whistle, as
he said to himself, "Poor Fan! Both of us in a scrape at once."

"Don’t you think it would be a good thing?" asked Fanny, after
playing a bar or two, very badly.

"Yes, for Syd."

"Not for Polly? Why, he ‘s rich, and clever, and better than most of
you good-for-nothing fellows. What can the girl expect?"

"Can’t say, but I don’t fancy the match myself."

"Don’t be a dog in the manger, Tom." "Bless your little heart, I
only take a brotherly sort of interest in Polly. She ‘s a capital girl,
and she ought to marry a missionary, or one of your reformer
fellows, and be a shining light of some sort. I don’t think setting up
for a fine lady would suit her."

"I think it would, and I hope she ‘ll have the chance," said Fanny,
evidently making an effort to speak kindly.

"Good for you, Fan!" and Tom gave an emphatic nod, as if her
words meant more than she suspected "Mind you," he added, "I
don’t know anything, and only fancied there might be some little
flirtation going on. But I dare say it ‘s nothing."

"Time will show." Then Fan began to sing, and Tom’s horse came,
so he departed with the very unusual demonstration of a gentle pat
on the head, as he said kindly, "That ‘s right, my dear, keep jolly."
It was n’t an elegant way of expressing sympathy, but it was hearty,
and Fan thanked him for it, though she only said, "Don’t break
your neck, Tommy."

When he was gone, Fan’s song ended as suddenly as it began, and
she sat thinking, with varying expressions of doubt and trouble
passing rapidly across her face.

"Well, I can’t do anything but wait!" she said, at last, slamming the
music-book together with a desperate look. "Yes, I can," she
added, a minute after, "it ‘s Polly’s holiday. I can go and see her,
and if there is anything in it I shall find it out."

Fanny dropped her face into her hands, with a little shiver, as she
said that; then got up, looking as pale and resolute as if going to
meet some dreadful doom, and putting on her things, went away to
Polly’s as fast as her dignity would allow.

Saturday morning was Polly’s clearing-up day, and Fan found her
with a handkerchief tied over her head, and a big apron on, just
putting the last touches to the tidy little room, which was as fresh
and bright as water, air, and a pair of hands could make it.

"All ready for company. I ‘ll just whisk off my regimentals, and
Polly, the maid, becomes Polly, the missis. It was lovely of you to
come early; take off your things. Another new bonnet? you
extravagant wretch! How is your mother and Maudie? It ‘s a nice
day, and we ‘ll have a walk, won’t we?"

By the time Polly’s welcome was uttered, she had got Fan on the
little sofa beside her, and was smiling at her in such an infectious
manner, that Fan could n’t help smiling back.

"I came to see what you have been doing with yourself lately. You
don’t come and report, and I got anxious about you," said Fanny,
looking into the clear eyes before her.

"I ‘ve been so busy; and I knew you would n’t care to hear about my
doings, for they are n’t the sort you like," answered Polly.

"Your lessons did n’t use to take up all your time. It ‘s my private
opinion that you are taking as well as giving lessons, miss," said
Fan, putting on a playfully stern air, to hide her real anxiety.

"Yes, I am," answered Polly, soberly.

"In what? Love?"

A quick color came to Polly’s cheeks, as she laughed, and said,
looking away, "No; friendship and good works."

"Oh, indeed! May I ask who is your teacher?"

"I ‘ve more than one; but Miss Mills is head teacher."

"She instructs in good works; who gives the friendship lessons?"

"Such pleasant girls! I wish you knew them, Fan. So clever, and
energetic, and kind, and happy, it always does me good to see
them," cried Polly, with a face full of enthusiasm.

"Is that all?" And Fan gave her a curious look of mingled
disappointment and relief.

"There, I told you my doings would not interest you, and they
don’t; they sound flat and prosy after your brilliant adventures. Let
‘s change the subject," said Polly, looking relieved herself.

"Dear me, which of our sweethearts sends us dainty bouquets of
violets so early in the morning?" asked Fanny, suddenly spying the
purple cluster in a graceful little vase on the piano.

"He sends me one every week; he knows I love them so," and
Polly’s eyes turned that way full of pride and pleasure.

"I ‘d no idea he was so devoted," said Fanny, stooping to smell the
flowers, and at the same time read a card that lay near them.

"You need n’t plague me about it, now you know it. I never speak
of our fondness for one another, because such things seem silly to
other people. Will is n’t all that Jimmy was to me; but he tries to
be, and I love him dearly for it."

"Will?" Fanny’s voice quite startled Polly, it was so sharp and
sudden, and her face grew red and pale all in a minute, as she
upset the little vase with the start she gave.

"Yes, of course; who did you think I meant?" asked Polly, sopping
up the water before it damaged her piano.

"Never mind; I thought you might be having a quiet little flirtation
with somebody. I feel responsible, you know, because I told your
mother I ‘d look after you. The flowers are all right. My head aches
so, I hardly know what I ‘m doing this morning."

Fanny spoke fast, and laughed uncomfortably, as she went back to
the sofa, wondering if Polly had told her a lie. Polly seemed to
guess at her thoughts as she saw the card, and turning toward her,
she held it up, saying, with a conscious look in her eyes, "You
thought Mr. Sydney sent them? Well, you are mistaken, and the
next time you want to know anything, please ask straight out. I like
it better than talking at cross purposes."

"Now, my dear, don’t be angry; I was only teasing you in fun. Tom
took it into his foolish head that something was going on, and I felt
a natural interest, you know."

"Tom! What does he know or care about my affairs?" demanded
Polly.

"He met you two in the street pretty often, and being in a
sentimental mood himself, got up a romance for you and Sydney."

"I ‘m much obliged to him for his interest, but it ‘s quite wasted,
thank you."

Fan’s next proceeding gave her friend another surprise, for, being
rather ashamed of herself, very much relieved, and quite at a loss
what to say, she took refuge in an hysterical fit of tears, which
changed Polly’s anger into tenderness at once.

"Is that the trouble she has been hiding all winter? Poor dear, I
wish I ‘d known it sooner," thought Polly, as she tried to soothe her
with comfortable pats, sniffs of cologne and sympathizing remarks
upon the subject of headache, carefully ignoring that other
feminine affliction, the heartache.

"There, I feel better. I ‘ve been needing a good cry for some time,
and now I shall be all right. Never mind it, Polly, I ‘m nervous and
tired; I ‘ve danced too much lately, and dyspepsia makes me blue;"
and Fanny wiped her eyes and laughed.

"Of course it does; you need rest and petting, and here I ‘ve been
scolding you, when I ought to have been extra kind. Now tell me
what I can do for you," said Polly, with a remorseful face.

"Talk to me, and tell me all about yourself. You don’t seem to have
as many worries as other people. What’s the secret, Polly?" And
Fan looked up with wet eyes, and a wistful face at Polly, who was
putting little dabs of cologne all over her head.

"Well," said Polly, slowly, "I just try to look on the bright side of
things; that helps one amazingly. Why, you ‘ve no idea how much
goodness and sunshine you can get out of the most unpromising
things, if you make the best of them."

"I don’t know how," said Fan, despondently.

"You can learn; I did. I used to croak and fret dreadfully, and get
so unhappy, I was n’t fit for anything. I do it still more than I ought,
but I try not to, and it gets easier, I find. Get a-top of your troubles,
and then they are half cured, Miss Mills says."

"Everything is so contrary and provoking," said Fanny, petulantly.

"Now what in the world have you to fret about?" asked Polly,
rather anxiously.

"Quantities of things," began Fan, and then stopped, for somehow
she felt ashamed to own that she was afflicted because she could
n’t have a new set of furs, go to Paris in the spring, and make Mr.
Sydney love her. She hunted up something more presentable, and
said in a despairing tone, "Well, mother is very poorly, Tom and
Trix quarrel all the time, Maud gets more and more wilful every
day, and papa is worried about his affairs."

"A sad state of things, but nothing very desperate. Can’t you lend a
hand anywhere? That might do good all round."

"No; I have n’t the talent for managing people, but I see what ought
to be done."

"Well, don’t wail about it; keep yourself happy, if you can; it will
help other people to see you cheerful."

"Just what Tom said,’Keep jolly’; but, dear me, how can one, when
everything is so stupid and tiresome?"

"If ever a girl needed work, it ‘s you!" cried Polly. "You began to
be a young lady so early, that you are tired of everything at
twenty-two. I wish you ‘d go at something, then you ‘d find how
much talent and energy you really had."

"I know ever so many girls who are just like me, sick to death of
fashionable life but don’t know what to take in its place. I ‘d like to
travel; but papa says he can’t afford it, so I can only drag about and
get on as I may."

"I pity you rich girls so much, you have so many opportunities, and
don’t seem to know how to use them! I suppose I should do just the
same in your place, but it seems now as if I could be very happy
and useful with plenty of money."

"You are that without it. There, I won’t croak any more. Let us go
and take a good walk, and don’t you tell any one how I came and
cried like a baby."

"Never!" said Polly, putting on her bonnet.

"I ought to go and make calls," said Fanny, "but I don’t feel now as
if I ever wanted to see any of the girls again. Dreadful state of
mind, is n’t it?"

"Suppose you come and see some of my friends instead! They are
not fine or ceremonious, but lively, odd, and pleasant. Come, it
will amuse you."

"I will," cried Fanny, whose spirits seemed improved by the
shower. "Nice little old lady, is n’t she?" added Fan, as she caught
sight of Miss Mills, on their way out, sitting at a table piled with
work, and sewing away with an energy that made the gray curls
vibrate.

"Saint Mehitable, I call her. Now, there is a rich woman who knew
how to get happiness out of her money," said Polly, as they walked
away. "She was poor till she was nearly fifty; then a comfortable
fortune was left her, and she knew just how to use it. That house
was given her, but instead of living in it all alone, she filled it with
poor gentlefolks who needed neat, respectable homes, but could n’t
get anything comfortable for their little money. I ‘m one of them,
and I know the worth of what she does for me. Two old widow
ladies live below me, several students overhead, poor Mrs. Kean
and her lame boy have the back parlor, and Jenny the little
bedroom next Miss Mills. Each pays what they can; that ‘s
independent, and makes us feel better but that dear woman does a
thousand things that money can’t pay for, and we feel her influence
all through the house. I ‘d rather be married, and have a home of
my own; but next to that, I should like to be an old maid like Miss
Mills."

Polly’s sober face and emphatic tone made Fanny laugh, and at the
cheery sound a young girl pushing a baby-carriage looked round
and smiled.

What lovely eyes!" whispered Fanny.

Yes, that ‘s little Jane," returned Polly, adding, when she had
passed, with a nod and a friendly "Don’t get tired, Jenny," "we help
one another at our house, and every fine morning Jenny takes
Johnny Kean out when she goes for her own walk. That gives his
mother time to rest, does both the children good, and keeps things
neighborly. Miss Mills suggested it, and Jenny is so glad to do
anything for anybody, it ‘s a pleasure to let her."

"I ‘ve heard of Miss Mills before. But I should think she would get
tired to death, sitting there making hoods and petticoats day after
day," said Fanny, after thinking over Jenny’s story for a few
minutes, for seeing the girl seemed to bring it nearer, and make it
more real to her.

"But she don’t sit there all the time. People come to her with their
troubles, and she goes to them with all sorts of help, from soap and
soup, to shrouds for the dead and comfort for the living. I go with
her sometimes, and it is more exciting than any play, to see and
hear the lives and stories of the poor."

"How can you bear the dreadful sights and sounds, the bad air, and
the poverty that can’t be cured?"

"But it is n’t all dreadful. There are good and lovely things among
them, if one only has eyes to see them. It makes me grateful and
contented, shows me how rich I am, and keeps me ready to do all I
can for these poor souls."

"My good Polly!" and Fanny gave her friends arm an affectionate
squeeze, wondering if it was this alone that had worked the change
in Polly.

"You have seen two of my new friends, Miss Mills and Jenny, now
I ‘ll show you two more," said Polly, presently, as they reached a
door, and she led the way up several flights of public stairs.
"Rebecca Jeffrey is a regularly splendid girl, full of talent; she
won’t let us call it genius; she will be famous some day, I know,
she is so modest, and yet so intent on her work. Lizzie Small is an
engraver, and designs the most delightful little pictures. Becky and
she live together, and take care of one another in true Damon and
Pythias style. This studio is their home, they work, eat, sleep, and
live here, going halves in everything. They are all alone in the
world, but as happy and independent as birds; real friends, whom
nothing will part."

"Let a lover come between them, and their friendship won’t last
long," said Fanny.

"I think it will. Take a look at them, and you ‘ll change your mind,"
answered Polly, tapping at a door, on which two modest cards
were tacked.

"Come in!" said a voice, and obeying, Fanny found herself in a
large, queerly furnished room, lighted from above, and occupied
by two girls. One stood before a great clay figure, in a corner. This
one was tall, with a strong face, keen eyes, short, curly hair, and a
fine head. Fanny was struck at once by this face and figure, though
the one was not handsome, and the other half hidden by a great
pinafore covered with clay. At a table where the light was clearest,
sat a frail-looking girl, with a thin face, big eyes, and pale hair, a
dreamy, absorbed little person, who bent over a block, skillfully
wielding her tools.

"Becky and Bess, how do you do? This is my friend, Fanny Shaw.
We are out on a rampage; so go on with your work, and let us lazy
ones look on and admire."

As Polly spoke, both girls looked up and nodded, smilingly; Bess
gave Fan the one easy-chair; Becky took an artistic survey of the
new-comer, with eyes that seemed to see everything; then each
went on with her work, and all began to talk.

"You are just what I want, Polly. Pull up your sleeve, and give me
an arm while you sit; the muscles here are n’t right, and you ‘ve got
just what I want," said Becky, slapping the round arm of the statue,
at which Fan was gazing with awe.

"How do you get on?" asked Polly, throwing off her cloak, and
rolling up her sleeves, as if going to washing.

"Slowly. The idea is working itself clear, and I follow as fast as my
hands can. Is the face better, do you think?" said Becky, taking off
a wet cloth, and showing the head of the statue.

"How beautiful it is!" cried Fanny, staring at it with increased
respect.

"What does it mean to you?" asked Rebecca, turning to her with a
sudden shine in her keen eyes.

"I don’t know whether it is meant for a saint or a muse, a goddess
or a fate; but to me it is only a beautiful woman, bigger, lovelier,
and more imposing than any woman I ever saw," answered Fanny,
slowly, trying to express the impression the statue made upon her.

Rebecca smiled brightly, and Bess looked round to nod
approvingly, but Polly clapped her hands, and said, "Well done,
Fan! I did n’t think you ‘d get the idea so well, but you have, and I
‘m proud of your insight. Now I ‘ll tell you, for Becky will let me,
since you have paid her the compliment of understanding her
work. Some time ago we got into a famous talk about what women
should be, and Becky said she ‘d show us her idea of the coming
woman. There she is, as you say, bigger, lovelier, and more
imposing than any we see nowadays; and at the same time, she is a
true woman. See what a fine forehead, yet the mouth is both firm
and tender, as if it could say strong, wise things, as well as teach
children and kiss babies. We could n’t decide what to put in the
hands as the most appropriate symbol. What do you say?"

"Give her a sceptre: she would make a fine queen," answered
Fanny.

"No, we have had enough of that; women have been called queens
a long time, but the kingdom given them is n’t worth ruling,"
answered Rebecca.

"I don’t think it is nowadays," said Fanny, with a tired sort of sigh.

"Put a man’s hand in hers to help her along, then," said Polly,
whose happy fortune it had been to find friends and helpers in
father and brothers.

"No; my woman is to stand alone, and help herself," said Rebecca,
decidedly.

"She ‘s to be strong-minded, is she?" and Fanny’s lip curled a little
as she uttered the misused words.

"Yes, strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-souled, and
strong-bodied; that is why I made her larger than the miserable,
pinched-up woman of our day. Strength and beauty must go
together. Don’t you think these broad shoulders can bear burdens
without breaking down, these hands work well, these eyes see
clearly, and these lips do something besides simper and gossip?"

Fanny was silent; but a voice from Bess’s corner said, "Put a child
in her arms, Becky."

"Not that even, for she is to be something more than a nurse."

"Give her a ballot-box," cried a new voice, and turning round, they
saw an odd-looking woman perched on a sofa behind them.

"Thank you for the suggestion, Kate. I ‘ll put that with the other
symbols at her feet; for I ‘m going to have needle, pen, palette, and
broom somewhere, to suggest the various talents she owns, and the
ballot-box will show that she has earned the right to use them.
How goes it?" and Rebecca offered a clay-daubed hand, which the
new-comer cordially shook.

"Great news, girls! Anna is going to Italy!" cried Kate, tossing up
her bonnet like a school-boy.

"Oh, how splendid! Who takes her? Has she had a fortune left her?
Tell all about it," exclaimed the girls, gathering round the speaker.

"Yes, it is splendid; just one of the beautiful things that does
everybody heaps of good, it is so generous and so deserved. You
know Anna has been longing to go; working and hoping for a
chance, and never getting it, till all of a sudden Miss Burton is
inspired to invite the girl to go with her for several years to Italy.
Think of the luck of that dear soul, the advantages she ‘ll have, the
good it will do her, and, best of all, the lovely way in which it
comes to her. Miss Burton wants, her as a friend, asks nothing of
her but her company, and Anna will go through fire and water for
her, of course. Now, is n’t that fine?"

It was good to see how heartily these girls sympathized in their
comrade’s good fortune. Polly danced all over the room, Bess and
Becky hugged one another, and Kate laughed with her eyes full,
while even Fanny felt a glow of, pride and pleasure at the kind act.

"Who is that?" she whispered to Polly, who had subsided into a
corner.

"Why, it Is Kate King, the authoress. Bless me, how rude not to
introduce you! Here, my King, is an admirer of yours, Fanny Shaw,
and my well beloved friend," cried Polly, presenting Fan, who
regarded the shabby young woman with as much respect, as if she
had been arrayed in velvet and ermine; for Kate had written a
successful book by accident, and happened to be the fashion, just
then.

"It ‘s time for lunch, girls, and I brought mine along with me, it ‘s
so much jollier to eat in sisterhood. Let ‘s club together, and have a
revel," said Kate, producing a bag of oranges, and several big,
plummy buns.

"We ‘ve got sardines, crackers, and cheese," said Bess, clearing off
a table with all speed.

"Wait a bit, and I ‘ll add my share," cried Polly, and catching up
her cloak, she ran off to the grocery store near by.

"You ‘ll be shocked at our performances, Miss Shaw, but you can
call it a picnic, and never tell what dreadful things you saw us do,"
said Rebecca, polishing a paint knife by rubbing it up and down in
a pot of ivy, while Kate spread forth the feast in several odd plates,
and a flat shell or two.

"Let us have coffee to finish off with; put on the pot, Bess, and
skim the milk," added Becky, as she produced cups, mugs, and a
queer little vase, to supply drinking vessels for the party.

"Here ‘s nuts, a pot of jam, and some cake. Fan likes sweet things,
and we want to be elegant when we have company," said Polly,
flying in again, and depositing her share on the table.

"Now, then, fall to, ladies, and help yourselves. Never mind if the
china don’t hold out; take the sardines by their little tails, and wipe
your fingers on my brown-paper napkins," said Kate, setting the
example with such a relish, that the others followed it in a gale of
merriment.

Fanny had been to many elegant lunches, but never enjoyed one
more than that droll picnic in the studio; for there was a freedom
about it that was charming, an artistic flavor to everything, and
such a spirit of good-will and gayety, that she felt at home at once.
As they ate, the others talked and she listened, finding it as
interesting as any romance to hear these young women discuss
their plans, ambitions, successes, and defeats. It was a new world
to her, and they seemed a different race of creatures from the girls
whose lives were spent in dress, gossip, pleasure, or ennui. They
were girls still, full of spirits fun, and youth; but below the
light-heartedness each cherished a purpose, which seemed to
ennoble her womanhood, to give her a certain power, a sustaining
satisfaction, a daily stimulus, that led her on to daily effort, and in
time to some success in circumstance or character, which was
worth all the patience, hope, and labor of her life.

Fanny was just then in the mood to feel the beauty of this, for the
sincerest emotion she had ever known was beginning to make her
dissatisfied with herself, and the aimless life she led. "Men must
respect such girls as these," she thought; "yes, and love them too,
for in spite of their independence, they are womanly. I wish I had a
talent to live for, if it would do as much for me as it does for them.
It is this sort of thing that is improving Polly, that makes her
society interesting to Sydney, and herself so dear to every one.
Money can’t buy these things for me, and I want them very much."

As these thoughts were passing through her mind, Fanny was
hearing all sorts of topics discussed with feminine enthusiasm and
frankness. Art, morals, politics, society, books, religion,
housekeeping, dress, and economy, for the minds and tongues
roved from subject to subject with youthful rapidity, and seemed to
get something from the dryest and the dullest.

"How does the new book come on?" asked Polly, sucking her
orange in public with a composure which would have scandalized
the good ladies of "Cranford."

"Better than it deserves. My children, beware of popularity; it is a
delusion and a snare; it puffeth up the heart of man, and especially
of woman; it blindeth the eyes to faults; it exalteth unduly the
humble powers of the victim; it is apt to be capricious, and just as
one gets to liking the taste of this intoxicating draught, it suddenly
faileth, and one is left gasping, like a fish out of water," and Kate
emphasized her speech by spearing a sardine with a penknife, and
eating it with a groan.

"It won’t hurt you much, I guess; you have worked and waited so
long, a large dose will do you good," said Rebecca, giving her a
generous spoonful of jam, as if eager to add as much sweetness as
possible to a life that had not been an easy one.

"When are you and Becky going to dissolve partnership?" asked
Polly, eager for news of all.

"Never! George knows he can’t have one without the other, and has
not suggested such a thing as parting us. There is always room in
my house for Becky, and she lets me do as she would if she was in
my place," answered Bess, with a look which her friend answered
by a smile.

"The lover won’t separate this pair of friends, you see," whispered
Polly to Fan. "Bess is to be married in the spring, and Becky is to
live with her."

"By the way, Polly, I ‘ve got some tickets for you. People are
always sending me such things, and as I don’t care for them, I ‘m
glad to make them over to you young and giddy infants. There are
passes for the statuary exhibition, Becky shall have those, here are
the concert tickets for you, my musical girl; and that is for a course
of lectures on literature, which I ‘ll keep for myself."

As Kate dealt out the colored cards to the grateful girls, Fanny took
a good look at her, wondering if the time would ever come when
women could earn a little money and success, without paying such
a heavy price for them; for Kate looked sick, tired, and too early
old. Then her eye went to the unfinished statue, and she said,
impulsively, "I hope you ‘ll put that in marble, and show us what
we ought to be."

"I wish I could!" And an intense desire shone in Rebecca’s face, as
she saw her faulty work, and felt how fair her model was.

For a minute, the five young women sat silent looking up at the
beautiful, strong figure before them, each longing to see it done,
and each unconscious that she was helping, by her individual effort
and experience, to bring the day when their noblest ideal of
womanhood should be embodied in flesh and blood, not clay.

The city bells rung one, and Polly started up.

"I must go, for I promised a neighbor of mine a lesson at two."

"I thought this was a holiday," said Fanny.

"So it is, but this is a little labor of love, and does n’t spoil the day
at all. The child has talent, loves music, and needs help. I can’t
give her money, but I can teach her; so I do, and she is the most
promising pupil I have. Help one another, is part of the religion of
our sisterhood, Fan."

"I must put you in a story, Polly. I want a heroine, and you will
do," said Kate.

"Me! why, there never was such a humdrum, unromantic thing as I
am," cried Polly, amazed.

"I ‘ve booked you, nevertheless, so in you go; but you may add as
much romance as you like, it ‘s time you did."

"I ‘m ready for it when it comes, but it can’t be forced, you know,"
and Polly blushed and smiled as if some little spice of that
delightful thing had stolen into her life, for all its prosaic seeming.

Fanny was amused to see that the girls did not kiss at parting, but
shook hands in a quiet, friendly fashion, looking at one another
with eyes that said more than the most "gushing" words.

"I like your friends very much, Polly. I was afraid I should find
them mannish and rough, or sentimental and conceited. But they
are simple, sensible creatures, full of talent, and all sorts of fine
things. I admire and respect them, and want to go again, if I may."

"Oh, Fan, I am so glad! I hoped you ‘d like them, I knew they ‘d do
you good, and I ‘ll take you any time, for you stood the test better
than I expected. Becky asked me to bring you again, and she
seldom does that for fashionable young ladies, let me tell you."

"I want to be ever so much better, and I think you and they might
show me how," said Fanny, with a traitorous tremble in her voice.

"We ‘ll show you the sunny side of poverty and work, and that is a
useful lesson for any one, Miss Mills says," answered Polly,
hoping that Fan would learn how much the poor can teach the rich,
and what helpful friends girls may be to one another.

 

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