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   Chapter 10 POLLYOOLY AND THE LUMP GO TO THE SEASIDE

Happy Pollyooly: The Rich Little Poor Girl By Edgar Jepson Characters: 13092

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The motor-bus which carried Pollyooly home crawled, to her impatient fancy, no faster than the old horse-bus, so eager was she to pour the news of her success into the ears of Millicent.

Millicent, however, after her first joy on hearing that the path which would ultimately lead her to the altar with an empire-builder was open to her, grew sad.

"It's a pity I couldn't stay on and on with you here," she said very plaintively. "I'm sure I shall never be so happy anywhere else."

"Oh, yes: you will," said Pollyooly firmly. "You'll find the home ever so nice."

Millicent shook her head doubtfully and said:

"And I shan't see anything of you and the Lump any more."

"Oh, yes: you will. You let us know when visiting day is-there's sure to be a visiting day to a home; and we'll come and see you."

Millicent's face grew a little brighter.

The Honourable John Ruffin congratulated Pollyooly warmly on her success; then he said:

"I trust you were not driven to use the weapon I suggested. Osterley's cantankerousness didn't go so far as that?"

"Oh, well, sir," said Pollyooly, hesitating a little-"I-I did have to pretend to cry."

The Honourable John Ruffin laughed gently.

"Poor Osterley!" he said.

The duke's letter plainly stirred the Bellingham Home to instant activity, for a letter came for Pollyooly by the first post to say that an official of the home would come for Millicent that very afternoon.

During the morning Millicent wept several times at the thought of leaving the Lump; and her final farewell was tearful indeed. But Pollyooly believed that her sadness would not last long: they had decided that the empire-builder would have fair hair and a large and flowing moustache.

After Millicent's departure their life settled down into its usual even tenour. Pollyooly missed her; and doubtless the Lump also missed his devoted and obedient slave, though he was of too placid a nature to raise an outcry about his loss. She wrote to Pollyooly on the day after her arrival at the home; and the letter made it clear that her first impressions of it were pleasing.

It was on the fifth morning after her going that the Honourable John Ruffin made the great announcement. It was his habit to chant in his bath what Pollyooly believed to be poetry; and it is improbable that an observant child of twelve, who had passed the seven standards at Muttle Deeping school, could have been mistaken in a matter of that kind. At any rate his chanting was rhythmical. The habit may have borne witness to the goodness of his conscience, or it may not (it may merely have been a by-product of an excellent digestion), but that morning it seemed to her that he chanted more loudly and with a finer gusto than usual.

She was not greatly surprised therefore, when she brought in his carefully grilled bacon, at his saying in a very cheerful tone:

"I have had a windfall, Mrs. Bride-a windfall of thirty-five pounds. It fell out of an auction-bridge tree-a game you do not understand-and it has made the heat-wave, which ought to be called the heat-flood, more unbearable than ever. Therefore I have resolved to go away for a while to the sea."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly in a tone of amiable congratulation.

But her face fell a little; for though the departure of the Honourable John Ruffin meant that she would have less work; it also meant that she would have to spend more on food for herself and her little brother the Lump, since the Honourable John Ruffin did not eat all his bread or drink all his milk; and there was often half a cake with which he refused to continue his afternoon tea on the ground that it was stale. Besides, life was a far more cheerful business when he was at home; his talk was Pollyooly's chief diversion, though she was hardly conscious of the fact; and it frequently gave her to think deeply.

"But the thing that has kept me so long in London submerged in the heat-flood has not been so much the want of money (I have had enough for my own escape) as the great bacon difficulty," he said and paused.

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly.

"But, thanks to this windfall, I can get over that difficulty by taking you to the sea to grill my bacon for me, and the Lump to keep you occupied while you are not grilling it, that Satan may not find some mischief still for idle hands to do," he said sententiously.

Pollyooly's large blue eyes opened very wide; and her mouth opened too.

"Oh, sir, me and the Lump, sir!" she said in a hushed, breathless voice of incredulous rapture.

"You and the Lump. The Lump and the sea were made for one another. I look to see him an admiral one of these days. It is time that England had a red-headed admiral; I'm tired of these refined, drab-haired ones. It is my patriotic duty to give him a taste for the sea early."

"Oh, thank you, sir!" said Pollyooly in a tone of profound gratitude.

"We will go to Pyechurch. There's an old family servant of ours who lets lodgings at Pyechurch. I made her life a burden to her when I was young; and consequently, with true womanliness, she has always entertained the strongest affection for me. It would be no use taking you to any other lodgings because you wouldn't be allowed to grill my bacon for me. But Mrs. Wilson knows that I must be humoured; and humoured I shall be. Also she will look after you while I am playing golf at Littlestone-not that I have ever known you to need looking after."

"Oh, sir, it will be nice!" said Pollyooly, still somewhat breathless.

The Honourable John Ruffin smiled at her amiably.

"This morning we will pack; this afternoon we will go," he said.

Pollyooly had to slip up to their attic at once to tell the Lump, who was playing there peacefully, the splendid news. He received it in placid silence; apparently it did not seem to him to be a matter on which he was called to comment either favourably or unfavourably. Pollyooly moved about the world on very light, dancing feet; and as soon as she had washed up the breakfast things she packed their small wardrobes in the brown tin box. Then the Honourable John Ruffin, having finished his cigar and Morning Post, summoned her to help him pack.

For a while she observed his fashion of doing so with pain and dismay. He put his clothes in the portmanteau anyhow and crushed them firmly down. Sometimes he stood on them, quietly.

Standing painfully now on one leg and now on the other, she endured the sight for several minutes; then she said:

"Oh please, sir: you'd bet

ter let me do it."

"Why? What's wrong with my way of doing it?" said the Honourable John Ruffin, looking down at the confused mess with some surprise.

"Look how you're crumpling your shirts, sir," said Pollyooly.

"I thought that that was what trunks and portmanteaux were for. But have it your own way. Deal with it yourself," said the Honourable John Ruffin with airy indifference.

He lighted another cigar and watched Pollyooly take the clothes out of the portmanteau and replace them neatly with some regard to their shape and the space to be filled, finding room for a dozen things which he had been forced to leave out. Then, when she had filled half the portmanteau, he said:

"Always fresh accomplishments, Mrs. Bride. If you go on at this rate, you will certainly go down to posterity as the Admirable Pollyooly."

He sent down to the Inner Temple kitchen for his lunch; and Pollyooly gave the Lump his dinner. She ate little herself; she was too excited. They drove, proudly, in a taxicab to Cannon Street Station; and they travelled, proudly, first-class.

The Honourable John Ruffin had bought picture papers for the two children and a novel for himself, and now and again he paused in his reading to observe them. It was always a pleasure to a man of his aesthetic sensibility to gaze at Pollyooly's angel face in its frame of beautiful red hair and at that redder-headed but authentic cherub, the Lump. As they ran through London, curiously curled round the Lump, she was busy showing him the pictures in the papers and receiving his monosyllabic comments on them, with the ecstatic delight with which his disciples receive, or should receive, the pregnant utterances of a genius. When they came into the country she was busy pointing out to him, with an even more excited delight the common railside objects. It was more than a year since he had been in the country; and he had to be told earnestly and more than once that a cow was a cow and a sheep a baa-lamb, for he was inclined to class them all alike under the genus gee-gee. When at last he did correctly hail a sheep as a baa-lamb, the triumphant pleasure of Pollyooly passed all bounds.

The Honourable John Ruffin read and observed the children, and observed the children and read. But when they were nearing their journey's end, he shut up his book and said:

"I think it will be well for you to cease to be my housekeeper at Pyechurch, Mrs. Bride. People will ask you about our relations of course, because by the sea there is so much time for idle curiosity; and you had better tell them that you are a cousin of mine. That is nothing but the truth, for you are undoubtedly a red Deeping; and all the Deepings, red or neutral-tinted, are cousins, first, second, third, fourth, and so on, of mine."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly gravely.

"Also I think that you had better give yourself a few airs. You will have a better time that way, for airs procure you a welcome in the best circles. Be a red Deeping-not too truculent, you know, but firm."

Pollyooly's eyes sparkled a little; and she said:

"Yes, sir: I should like to. I like being a red Deeping, sir, rather. I liked it when I was at Ricksborough Court."

"Good. You have the right spirit. One of these days you will become what the newspapers call a society leader. I foresee it," he said in a tone of the most assured conviction.

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly.

"There's one difficulty though, and that's your hands. At present they're hardly the hands of a red Deeping," he said thoughtfully. "Not that they're not small and well-shaped!" he interjected hastily. "But I expect that a week's idleness will let your nails grow; and brushing will do the rest."

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly.

She had never considered her hands from the aesthetic standpoint. She had been content to keep them clean. She considered them now, ruefully. It is indeed hard to do the work of two sets of chambers in the Temple without the hands showing it. Her nails were very short and rather jagged; a thumbnail was broken; the skin about them was rough and broken. She looked from them to the white, carefully kept hands, with pink shining nails, of the Honourable John Ruffin, and sighed.

"I think that for the future you'd better work in gloves," he said in a sympathetic tone.

"I think I'd better try," said Pollyooly doubtfully. To her firm spirit the idea of working in gloves savoured of dilettantism.

"You see a lady-and all red Deepings are gentlefolk of course-a lady must have good hands," said the Honourable John Ruffin in a deprecating tone.

"Yes, sir," said Pollyooly solemnly.

It was the first time that the meaning of the fact that the Deeping blood ran in her veins had been brought home to her; and she flushed faintly with honourable pride at the thought that she was a lady, for all that she did the work of two sets of chambers in the Temple. She sat a little more upright.

"And there's another thing," he went on. "At Pyechurch I shall call you Pollyooly; and you will call me John, or cousin John."

"I-I'll try to remember, sir," said Pollyooly, again flushing with pride.

"You'll soon get into it," said the Honourable John Ruffin cheerfully. "And it will be very nice for me to have a cousin always to hand."

Pollyooly flushed again; and the gratitude in her eyes as they rested on him was beyond words.

The train, one of the South-Eastern best, sauntered leisurely through the pleasant, sunny landscape, stopping meditatively at stations and between stations, as the whim took it, but at last it reached Hythe.

They drove from there, proudly, in a wagonette to Pyechurch, along the edge of Romney Marsh, with the shining sea on their left hand. Pollyooly enjoyed the felicity of showing it to the Lump, who had never before seen it; but she was somewhat taken aback by his hailing a ship as a baa-lamb.

They found Mrs. Wilson eagerly awaiting them. There was no doubt of her affection for the Honourable John Ruffin. She had a sumptuous tea ready for them; and after the journey and its excitement they dealt with it heartily.

Any fear that the Honourable John Ruffin had felt of Mrs. Wilson's objecting to Pollyooly's grilling his bacon passed away when he saw how her heart went out to the two children. Indeed, before tea was over he was driven to say:

"I see what it is, Mrs. Wilson: the Lump is going to usurp my place in your regard."

"No one could do that, Master John; and well you know it," said Mrs. Wilson firmly.

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