Brave Work and the Reward
And on the very first morrow came Polly’s music teacher!
The big drawing-room, with its shaded light and draped furniture, with its thick soft carpet, on which no foot-fall could be heard, with all its beauty and loveliness on every side was nothing to Polly’s eyes, only the room that contained the piano!
That was all she saw! And when the teacher came he was simply the Fairy (an ugly little one, it is true, but still a most powerful being) who was to unlock its mysteries, and conduct her into Fairyland itself. He was a homely little Frenchman, with a long, curved nose, and an enormous black moustache, magnificently waxed, who bowed elaborately, and called her “Mademoiselle Pep-paire;” but he had music in his soul, and Polly couldn’t reverence him too much.
And now the big piano gave out new sounds; sounds that told of a strong purpose and steady patience. Every note was struck for mother and the home brood. Monsieur Tourtelotte, after watching her keenly out of his little black eyes, would nod to himself like a mandarin, and the nod would be followed by showers of extra politeness, as his appreciation of her patient energy and attention.
Every chance she could get, Polly would steal away into the drawing-room from Jappy and the three boys and all the attractions they could offer, and laboriously work away over and over at the tedious scales and exercises that were to be stepping-stones to so much that was glorious beyond. Never had she sat still for so long a time in her active little life; and now, with her arms at just such an angle, with the stiff, chubby fingers kept under training and restraint–well, Polly realized, years after, that only her love of the little brown house could ever have kept her from flying up and spinning around in perfect despair.
“She likes it!” said Percy, in absolute astonishment, one day, when Polly had refused to go out driving with all the other children in the park, and had gone resolutely, instead, into the drawing-room and shut the door. “She likes those hateful old exercises and she don’t like anything else.”
“Much you know about it,” said Jappy; “she’s perfectly aching to go, now Percy Whitney!”
“Well, why don’t she then?” said Percy, opening his eyes to their widest extent.
“Cause,” said Jasper, stopping on his way to the door to look him full in the face, “she’s commenced to learn to play, and there won’t anything stop her.”
“I’m going to try,” said Percy, gleefully. “I know lots of ways I can do to try, anyway.”
“See here, now,” said Jasper, turning back, “you let her alone! Do you hear?” he added, and there must have been something in his eye to command attention, for Percy instantly signified his intention not to tease this young music student in the least.
“Come on then, old fellow,” and Jasper swung his cap on his head, “Thomas will be like forty bears if we keep him waiting much longer.”
And Polly kept at it steadily day after day; getting through with the lessons in the schoolroom as quickly as possible to rush to her music, until presently the little Frenchman waxed enthusiastic to that degree that, as day after day progressed and swelled into weeks, and each lesson came to an end, he would skip away on the tips of his toes, his nose in the air, and the waxed ends of his moustache, fairly trembling with delight– “Ah, such patience as Mademoiselle Pep-paire has! I know no other such little Americane!”
“I think,” said Jasper one evening after dinner, when all the children were assembled as usual in their favorite place on the big rug in front of the fire in the library, Prince in the middle of the group, his head on his paws, watching everything in infinite satisfaction, “that Polly’s getting on in music as I never saw anyone do; and that’s a fact!”
“I mean to begin,” said Van, ambitiously, sitting up straight and staring at the glowing coals. “I guess I will to-morrow,” which announcement was received with a perfect shout–Van’s taste being anything rather than of a musical nature.
“If you do,” said Jappy, when the merriment had a little subsided, “I shall go out of the house at every lesson; there won’t anyone stay in it, Van.”
“I can bang all I want to, then,” said Van, in no way disturbed by the reflection, and pulling one of Prince’s long ears, “you think you’re so big, Jappy, just because you’re thirteen.”
“He’s only three ahead of me, Van,” bristled Percy, who never could forgive Jappy for being his uncle, much less the still greater sin of having been born three years earlier than himself.
“Three’s just as bad as four,” said Van.
“Let’s tell stories,” began Polly, who never could remember such goings on in the little brown house; “we must each tell one,” she added with the greatest enthusiasm, “and see which will be the biggest and the best.”
“Oh, no,” said Van, who perfectly reveled in Polly’s stories, und who now forgot his trials in the prospect of one, “You tell, Polly–you tell alone.”
“Yes, do, Polly,” said Jasper; “we’d rather.”
So Polly launched out into one of her gayest and finest; and soon they were in such a peal of laughter, and had reached such heights of enjoyment, that Mr. King popped his head in at the door, and then came in, and took a seat in a big rocking-chair in the corner to hear the fun go on.
“Oh, dear,” said Van, leaning back with a long sigh, and wiping his flushed face as Polly wound up with a triumphant flourish, “how ever do you think of such things, Polly Pepper?”
“That isn’t anything,” said Jappy, bringing his handsome face out into the strong light; “why, it’s just nothing to what she has told time and again in the little brown house in Badgertown;” and then he caught sight of Polly’s face, which turned a little pale in the firelight as he spoke; and the brown eyes had such a pathetic droop in them that it went to the boy’s very heart.
Was Polly homesick? and so soon!