Education Ahead continued…
(start the audio where part 2 left off)
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.
“I am very glad to have you here, little Polly.” The words were simple, but Polly, lifting up her clear brown eyes, looked straight into the heart of the speaker, and from that moment never ceased to love her.
“It was a good inspiration,” thought Mrs. Whitney to herself; “this little girl is going to be a comfort, I know.” And then she set herself to conduct successfully her three boys into friendliness and good fellowship with Polly, for each of them was following his own sweet will in the capacity of host, and besides staring at her with all his might, was determined to do the whole of the entertaining, a state of things which might become unpleasant. However, Polly stood it like a veteran.
“This little girl must be very tired,” said Mrs. Whitney, at last with a bright smile. “Besides I am going to have her to myself now.”
“Oh, no, no,” cried little Dick in alarm; “why, she’s just come; we want to see her.”
“For shame, Dick!” said Percy, the eldest, a boy of ten years, who took every opportunity to reprove Dick in public; “she’s come a great ways, so she ought to rest, you know.”
“You wanted her to come out to the greenhouse yourself, you know you did,” put in Van, the next to Percy, who never would be reproved or patronized, “only she wouldn’t go.”
“You’ll come down to dinner,” said Percy, politely, ignoring Van. “Then you won’t be tired, perhaps.”
“Oh, I’m not very tired now,” said Polly, brightly, with a merry little laugh, “only I’ve never been in the cars before, and”– “Never been in the cars before!” exclaimed Van, crowding up, while Percy made a big round O with his mouth, and little Dick’s eyes stretched to their widest extent.
“No,” said Polly simply, “never in all my life.”
“Come, dear,” said sister Marian, rising quickly, and taking Polly’s hand; while Jasper, showing unmistakable symptoms of pitching into all the three boys, followed with the bag.
Up the broad oak staircase they went, Polly holding by Mrs. Whitney’s soft hand, as if for dear life, and Jasper tripping up two steps at a time, in front of them. They turned after reaching the top, down a hall soft to the foot and brightly lighted.
“Now, Polly,” said sister Marian, “I’m going to have you here, right next to my dressing room; this is your nest, little bird, and I hope you’ll be very happy in it.”
And here Mrs. Whitney turned up the gas, and then, just because she couldn’t help it, gathered Polly up in her arms without another word. Jasper set down the bag on a chair, and came and stood by his sister’s side, looking down at her as she stroked the brown wavy hair on her bosom.
“It’s so nice to have Polly here, sister,” he said, and he put his hand on Mrs. Whitney’s neck; and then with the other hand took hold of both of Polly’s chubby ones, who looked up and smiled; and in that smile the little brown house seemed to hop right out, and bring back in a flash all the nice times those eight happy weeks had brought him.
“Oh, ’twas so perfectly splendid, sister Marian,” he cried, flinging himself down on the floor by her chair. “You don’t know what good times we had–does she, Polly?” and then he launched out into a perfect shower of “Don’t you remember this?” or “Oh, Polly! you surely haven’t forgotten that!” Mrs. Whitney good naturedly entering into it and enjoying it all with them, until, warned by the lateness of the hour, she laughingly reminded Jasper of dinner, and dismissed him to prepare for it.
When the three boys saw Polly coming in again, they welcomed her with a cordial shout, for one and all, after careful measurement of her, had succumbed entirely to Polly; and each was unwilling that the others should get ahead of him in her regard.
“This is your seat, Polly,” said sister Marian, touching the chair next to her own.
Thereupon a small fight ensued between the little Whitneys, while Jasper looked decidedly discomfited.
“Let Polly sit next to me,” said Van, as if a seat next to him was of all things most to be desired.
“Oh, no, I want her,” said little Dick.
“Pshaw, Dick! you’re too young,” put in Percy. “You’d spill the bread and butter all over her.”
“I wouldn’t either,” said little Dick, indignantly, and beginning to crawl into his seat; “I don’t spill bread and butter, now Percy, you know.”
“See here,” said Jasper, decidedly, “she’s coming up here by father and me; that is, sister Marian,” he finished more politely, “if you’re willing.”
All this while Polly had stood quietly watching the group, the big, handsome table, the bright lights, and the well-trained servants with a curious feeling at her heart–what were the little-brown- house-people doing?
“Polly shall decide it,” said sister Marian, laughing. “Now, where will you sit, dear?” she added, looking down on the little quiet figure beside her.
“Oh, by Jappy, please,” said Polly, quickly, as if there could be no doubt; “and kind Mr. King,” she added, smiling at him.
“That’s right; that’s right, my dear,” cried the old gentleman, pleased beyond measure at her honest choice. And he pulled out her chair, and waited upon her into it so handsomely that Polly was happy at once; while Jasper, with a proud toss of his dark, wavy hair, marched up delightedly, and took the chair on her other side.
And now, in two or three minutes it seemed as if Polly had always been there; it was the most natural thing in the world that sister Marian should smile down the table at the bright-faced narrator, who answered all their numerous questions, and entertained them all with accounts of Ben’s skill, of Phronsie’s cunning ways, of the boys who made fun for all, and above everything else of the dear mother whom they all longed to help, and of all the sayings and doings in the little brown house. No wonder that the little boys forgot to eat; and for once never thought of the attractions of the table. And when, as they left the table at last, little Dick rushed impulsively up to Polly, and flinging himself into her arms, declared– “I love you!–and you’re my sister!” Nothing more was needed to make Polly feel at home.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Whitney, and nodded to herself in the saying, “it was a good thing; and a comfort, I believe, has come to this house this day!”