An Old-Fashioned Girl
One other person enjoyed the humble pleasures of these Sundays quite as much as
Polly and Will. Maud used to beg to come to tea, and Polly, glad to do anything for
those who had done a good deal for her, made a point of calling for the little girl as they
came home from their walk, or sending Will to escort her in the carriage, which Maud
always managed to secure if bad weather threatened to quench her hopes. Tom and
Fanny laughed at her fancy, but she did not tire of it, for the child was lonely, and found
something in that little room which the great house could not give her.
Maud was twelve now; a pale, plain child, with sharp, intelligent eyes, and a busy little
mind, that did a good deal more thinking than anybody imagined. She was just at the
unattractive, fidgety age when no one knew what to do with her, and so let her fumble
her way up as she could, finding pleasure in odd things, and living much alone, for she
did not go to school, because her shoulders were growing round, and Mrs. Shaw would
not "allow her figure to be spoiled." That suited Maud excellently; and whenever her
father spoke of sending her again, or getting a governess, she was seized with bad
headaches, a pain in her back, or weakness of the eyes, at which Mr. Shaw laughed,
but let her holiday go on. Nobody seemed to care much for plain, pug-nosed little
Maudie; her father was busy, her mother nervous and sick, Fanny absorbed in her own
affairs, and Tom regarded her as most young men do their younger sisters, as a person
born for his amusement and convenience, nothing more. Maud admired Tom with all
her heart, and made a little slave of herself to him, feeling well repaid if he merely said,
"Thank you, chicken," or did n't pinch her nose, or nip her ear, as he had a way of doing,
"just as if I was a doll, or a dog, and had n't got any feelings," she sometimes said to
Fanny, when some service or sacrifice had been accepted without gratitude or respect.
It never occurred to Tom, when Maud sat watching him with her face full of wistfulness,
that she wanted to be petted as much as ever he did in his neglected boyhood, or that
when he called her "Pug" before people, her little feelings were as deeply wounded as
his used to be, when the boys called him "Carrots." He was fond of her in his fashion,
but he did n't take the trouble to show it, so Maud worshipped him afar off, afraid to
betray the affection that no rebuff could kill or cool.
One snowy Sunday afternoon Tom lay on the sofa in his favorite attitude, reading
"Pendennis" for the fourth time, and smoking like a chimney as he did so. Maud stood at
the window watching the falling flakes with an anxious countenance, and presently a
great sigh broke from her.
"Don't do that again, chicken, or you 'll blow me away. What's the matter?" asked Tom,
throwing down his book with a yawn that threatened dislocation.
"I 'm afraid I can't go to Polly's," answered Maud, disconsolately.
"Of course you can't; it 's snowing hard, and father won't be home with the carriage till
this evening. What are you always cutting off to Polly's for?"
"I like it; we have such nice times, and Will is there, and we bake little johnny-cakes in
the baker before the fire, and they sing, and it is so pleasant."