"I inquired in the shop where you lived, but could get no information. As I had heard you say that you were going back by the next train (but you did not say where), I resolved to visit the station at about that time of day, as often as I could, between my lessons, on the chance of seeing you again. I have been there very often, but saw you no more until to-day. You were meditating as you walked the street, but the calm expression of your face emboldened me to send my child to you. And when I saw you bend your head to speak tenderly to her, I prayed to GOD to forgive me for having ever brought a sorrow on it. I now pray to you to forgive me, and to forgive my husband. I was very young, he was young too, and, in the ignorant hardihood of such a time of life, we don't know what we do to those who have undergone more discipline. You generous man! You good man! So to raise me up and make nothing of my crime against you!"--for he would not see her on her knees, and soothed her as a kind father might have soothed an erring daughter--"thank you, bless you, thank you!"
When he next spoke, it was after having drawn aside the window curtain and looked out awhile. Then he only said:
"Is Polly asleep?"
"Yes. As I came in, I met her going away upstairs, and put her to bed myself."
"Leave her with me for to-morrow, Beatrice, and write me your address on this leaf of my pocket-book. In the evening I will bring her home to you--and to her father."
* * *
"Hallo!" cried Polly, putting her saucy sunny face in at the door next morning when breakfast was ready: "I thought I was fetched last night?"
"So you were, Polly, but I asked leave to keep you here for the day, and to take you home in the evening."
"Upon my word!" said Polly. "You are very cool, ain't you?"
However, Polly seemed to think it a good idea, and added: "I suppose I must give you a kiss, though you ARE cool."
The kiss given and taken, they sat down to breakfast in a highly conversational tone.
"Of course, you are going to amuse me?" said Polly.
"Oh, of course!" said Barbox Brothers.
In the pleasurable height of her anticipations, Polly found it indispensable to put down her piece of toast, cross one of her little fat knees over the other, and bring her little fat right hand down into her left hand with a business-like slap. After this gathering of herself together, Polly, by that time a mere heap of dimples, asked in a wheedling manner:
"What are we going to do, you dear old thing?"
"Why, I was thinking," said Barbox Brothers, "--but are you fond of horses, Polly?"
"Ponies, I am," said Polly, "especially when their tails are long. But horses--n-no--too big, you know."
"Well," pursued Barbox Brothers, in a spirit of grave mysterious confidence adapted to the importance of the consultation, "I did see yesterday, Polly, on the walls, pictures of two long-tailed ponies, speckled all over--"
"No, no, NO!" cried Polly, in an ecstatic desire to linger on the charming details. "Not speckled all over!"
"Speckled all over. Which ponies jump through hoops--"
"No, no, NO!" cried Polly as before. "They never jump through hoops!"
"Yes, they do. Oh, I assure you they do! And eat pie in pinafores- -"
"Ponies eating pie in pinafores!" said Polly. "What a story-teller you are, ain't you?"
"Upon my honour.--And fire off guns."
(Polly hardly seemed to see the force of the ponies resorting to fire-arms.)
"And I was thinking," pursued the exemplary Barbox, "that if you and I were to go to the Circus where these ponies are, it would do our constitutions good."
"Does that mean amuse us?" inquired Polly. "What long words you do use, don't you?"
Apologetic for having wandered out of his depth, he replied:
"That means amuse us. That is exactly what it means. There are many other wonders besides the ponies, and we shall see them all. Ladies and gentlemen in spangled dresses, and elephants and lions and tigers."
Polly became observant of the teapot, with a curled-up nose indicating some uneasiness of mind.