Education Ahead continued…
(start the audio where Part 1 left off)
And now, it was decided that Polly was really to go! and pretty soon all Badgertown knew that Polly Pepper was going to the big city. And there wasn’t a man, woman, or child but what greatly rejoiced that a sunny time was coming to one of the chicks in the little brown house. With many warm words, and some substantial gifts, kind friends helped forward the “outing.” Only one person doubted that this delightful chance should be grasped at once–and that one was Polly herself!
“I can’t,” she said, and stood quite pale and still, when the Hendersons advised her mother’s approval, and even Grandma Bascom said, “Go.” “I can’t go and leave mammy to do all the work.”
“But don’t you see, Polly,” said Mrs. Henderson, drawing her to her side, “that you will help your mother twice as much as you possibly could here, by getting a good education? Think what your music will be; only think, Polly!”
Polly drew a long breath at this and turned away.
“Oh, Polly!” cried Ben, though his voice choked, “if you give this up, there never’ll be another chance,” and the boy put his arm around her, and whispered something in her ear.
“I know,” said Polly quietly–and then she burst out, “oh, but I can’t! ’tisn’t right.”
“Polly,” said Mrs. Pepper–and never in all their lives had the children seen such a look in mamsie’s eyes as met them then; “it does seem as if my heart would be broken if you didn’t go!” And then she burst out crying, right before them all!
“Oh mammy,” cried Polly, breaking away from everybody, and flinging herself into her arms. “I’ll go–if you think I ought to. But it’s too good! don’t cry–don’t, mammy dear,” and Polly stroked the careworn face lovingly, and patted the smooth hair that was still so black.
“And, Polly,” said Mrs. Pepper, smiling through her tears, “just think what a comfort you’ll be to me, and us all,” she added, taking in the children who were crowding around Polly as the centre of attraction. “Why, you’ll be the making of us,” she added hopefully.
“I’ll do something,” said Polly, her brown eyes kindling, “or I shan’t be worthy of you, mammy.”
“O, you’ll do it,” said Mrs. Pepper, confidently, “now that you’re going.”
But when Polly stepped into the stage, with her little hair trunk strapped on behind, containing her one brown merino that Mrs. Henderson had made over for her out of one of her own, and her two new ginghams, her courage failed again, and she astonished everybody, and nearly upset a mild-faced old lady who was in the corner placidly eating doughnuts, by springing out and rushing up through the little brown gate, past all the family, drawn up to see her off. She flew over the old flat door-stone, and into the bedroom, where she flung herself down between the old bed and Phronsie’s crib, in a sudden torrent of tears. “I can’t go!” she sobbed–“oh I can’t!”
“Why, Polly!” cried Mrs. Pepper, hurrying in, followed by Joel and the rest of the troops at his heels. “What are you thinking of!”
“Think of by-and-by, Polly,” put in Ben, patting her on the back with an unsteady hand, while Joel varied the proceedings by running back and forth, screaming at the top of his lungs, “The stage’s going! your trunk’ll be taken!”
“Dear me!” exclaimed Mrs. Pepper, “do stop it somebody! there, Polly, come now! Do as mother says!”
“I’ll try again,” said poor Polly, choking back her sobs, and getting on her feet.
Then Polly’s tears were wiped away, her hat straightened, after which she was kissed all round again by the whole family, Phronsie waiting for the last two, and then was helped again into the stage, the bags and parcels, and a box for Jappy, which, as it wouldn’t go into the trunk, Joel had insisted Polly should carry in her hand, were again piled around her, and Mr. Tisbett mounted to his seat, and with a crack of the whip, bore her safely off this time.
The doughnut lady, viewing poor Polly with extreme sympathy, immediately forced upon her acceptance three of the largest and sugariest.
“Twill do you good,” she said, falling to, herself, on another with good zeal. “I always eat ’em, and then there ain’t any room for homesickness!”
And away, and away, and away they rumbled and jumbled to the cars.
Here Mr. Tisbett put Polly and her numerous bundles under the care of the conductor, with manifold charges and explicit directions, to see her safely into Mr. King’s own hands. He left her sitting straight up among her parcels, her sturdy little figure drawn up to its full height, and the clear brown eyes regaining a little of their dancing light; for although a dreadful feeling tugged at her heart, as she thought of the little brown house she was fast flying away from, there was something else; our Polly had begun to realize that now she was going to “help mother.”
And now they neared the big city, and everybody began to bustle around, and get ready to jump out, and the minute the train stopped, the crowd poured out from the cars, making way for the crowd pouring in, for this was a through train.
“All aboard!” sang the conductor. “Oh my senses!” springing to Polly; “I forgot you–here!”
But as quick as a flash he was pushed aside, and a bright, boyish figure dashed up.
“Oh, Polly!” he said in such a ringing voice! and in another second, Polly and her bag, and the bundle of cakes and apples that Grandma Bascom had put up for her, and Joel’s box, were one and all bundled out upon the platform, and the train whizzed on, and there Mr. King was fuming up and down, berating the departing conductor, and speaking his mind in regard to all the railroad officials he could think of. He pulled himself up long enough to give Polly a hearty welcome; and then away again he flew in righteous indignation, while Jasper rushed off into the baggage room with Polly’s check.
However, every now and then, turning to look down into the little rosy face beside him, the old gentleman would burst forth, “Bless me, child! I’m glad you’re here, Polly!–how could the fellow forget when”– “Oh well, you know,” said Polly, with a happy little wriggle under her brown coat, “I’m here now.”
“So you are! so you are!” laughed the old gentleman suddenly; “where can Jasper be so long.”
“They’re all in the carriage,” answered the boy skipping back. “Now, father! now Polly!”
He was fairly bubbling over with joy and Mr. King forgot his dudgeon and joined in the general glee, which soon became so great that travellers gave many a glance at the merry trio who bundled away to Thomas and the waiting grays.
“You’re sure you’ve got the right check?” asked Mr. King, nervously, getting into a handsome coach lined with dark green satin, and settling down among its ample cushions with a sigh of relief.
“Oh yes,” laughed Jasper; “Polly didn’t have any one else’s check, I guess.”
Over through the heart of the city, down narrow, noisy business streets, out into wide avenues, with handsome stately mansions on either side–they flew along.
“Oh,” said Polly; and then she stopped, and blushed very hard.
“What is it, my dear?” asked Mr. King, kindly.
Polly couldn’t speak at first, but when Jasper stopped his merry chat and begged to know what it was, she turned on him, and burst out, “You live here?”
“Why, yes,” laughed the boy; “why not?”
“Oh!” said Polly again, her cheeks as red as two roses, “it’s so lovely!”
And then the carriage turned in at a brown stone gateway, and winding up among some fine old trees, stopped before a large, stately residence that in Polly’s eyes seemed like one of the castles of Ben’s famous stories. And then Mr. King got out, and gallantly escorted Polly out, and up the steps, while Jasper followed with Polly’s bag which he couldn’t be persuaded to resign to Thomas. A stiff waiter held the door open–and then, the rest was only a pleasant, confused jumble of kind welcoming words, smiling faces, with a background of high spacious walls, bright pictures, and soft elegant hangings, everything and all inextricably mixed–till Polly herself seemed floating–away–away, fast to the Fairyland of her dreams; now, Mr. King was handing her around, like a precious parcel, from one to the other–now Jasper was bobbing in and out everywhere, introducing her on all sides, and then Prince was jumping up and trying to lick her face every minute–but best of all was, when a lovely face looked down into hers, and Jasper’s sister bent to kiss her.