An Old-Fashioned Girl
19. Tomʹs Success
"Come, Philander, let us be a marching,
Every one his true love a searching,"
WOULD be the most appropriate motto for this chapter, because, intimidated by the
threats, denunciations, and complaints showered upon me in consequence of taking the
liberty to end a certain story as I liked, I now yield to the amiable desire of giving
satisfaction, and, at the risk of outraging all the unities, intend to pair off everybody I can
lay my hands on.
Occasionally a matrimonial epidemic appears, especially toward spring, devastating
society, thinning the ranks of bachelordom, and leaving mothers lamenting for their
fairest daughters. That spring the disease broke out with great violence in the Shaw
circle, causing paternal heads much bewilderment, as one case after another appeared
with alarming rapidity. Fanny, as we have seen, was stricken first, and hardly had she
been carried safely through the crisis, when Tom returned to swell the list of victims. As
Fanny was out a good deal with her Arthur, who was sure that exercise was necessary
for the convalescent, Polly went every day to see Mrs. Shaw, who found herself lonely,
though much better than usual, for the engagement had a finer effect upon her
constitution than any tonic she ever tried. Some three days after Fan's joyful call Polly
was startled on entering the Shaws' door, by Maud, who came tumbling down stairs,
sending an avalanche of words before her, "He 's come before he said he should to
surprise us! He 's up in mamma's room, and was just saying, 'How 's Polly?' when I
heard you come, in your creep-mouse way, and you must go right up. He looks so funny
with whiskers, but he 's ever so nice, real big and brown, and he swung me right up
when he kissed me. Never mind your bonnet, I can't wait."
And pouncing upon Polly, Maud dragged her away like a captured ship towed by a
noisy little steam-tug.
"The sooner it 's over the better for me," was the only thought Polly had time for before
she plunged into the room above, propelled by Maud, who cried triumphantly, "There he
is! Ain't he splendid?"
For a minute, everything danced before Polly's eyes, as a hand shook hers warmly, and
a gruffish voice said heartily, "How are you, Polly?" Then she slipped into a chair beside
Mrs. Shaw, hoping that her reply had been all right and proper, for she had not the least
idea what she said.
Things got steady again directly, and while Maud expatiated on the great surprise, Polly
ventured to look at Tom, feeling glad that her back was toward the light, and his was
not. It was not a large room, and Tom seemed to fill it entirely; not that he had grown so
very much, except broader in the shoulders, but there was a brisk, genial, free-and-easy