An Old-Fashioned Girl HTML version

9. Lessons
THE first few weeks were hard ones, for Polly had not yet outgrown her natural shyness
and going among so many strangers caused her frequent panics. But her purpose gave
her courage, and when the ice was once broken, her little pupils quickly learned to love
her. The novelty soon wore off, and though she thought she was prepared for drudgery,
she found it very tedious to go on doing the same thing day after day. Then she was
lonely, for Will could only come once a week, her leisure hours were Fanny's busiest,
and the "bits of pleasure" were so few and far between that they only tantalized her.
Even her small housekeeping lost its charms, for Polly was a social creature, and the
solitary meals were often sad ones. Ashputtel and Nick did their best to cheer her, but
they too, seemed to pine for country freedom and home atmosphere. Poor Puttel, after
gazing wistfully out of the window at the gaunt city cats skulking about the yard, would
retire to the rug, and curl herself up as if all hope of finding congenial society had failed;
while little Nick would sing till he vibrated on his perch, without receiving any response
except an inquisitive chirp from the pert sparrows, who seemed to twit him with his
captivity. Yes, by the time the little teakettle had lost its brightness, Polly had decided
that getting one's living was no joke, and many of her brilliant hopes had shared the fate
of the little kettle.
If one could only make the sacrifice all at once, and done with it, then it would seem
easier; but to keep up a daily sacrifice of one's wishes, tastes, and pleasures, is rather a
hard task, especially when one is pretty, young, and gay. Lessons all day, a highly
instructive lecture, books over a solitary fire, or music with no audience but a sleepy cat
and a bird with his head tucked under his wing, for evening entertainment, was not
exactly what might be called festive; so, in spite of her brave resolutions, Polly did long
for a little fun sometimes, and after saying virtuously to herself at nine: "Yes, it is much
wiser and better for me to go to bed early, and be ready for work tomorrow," she would
lie awake hearing the carriages roll to and fro, and imagining the gay girls inside, going
to party, opera, or play, till Mrs. Dodd's hop pillow might as well have been stuffed with
nettles, for any sleep it brought, or any use it was, except to catch and hide the tears
that dropped on it when Polly's heart was very full.
Another thorn that wounded our Polly in her first attempt to make her way through the
thicket that always bars a woman's progress, was the discovery that working for a living
shuts a good many doors in one's face even in democratic America. As Fanny's guest
she had been, in spite of poverty, kindly received wherever her friend took her, both as
child and woman. Now, things were changed; the kindly people patronized, the careless
forgot all about her, and even Fanny, with all her affection, felt that Polly the music
teacher would not be welcome in many places where Polly the young lady had been
accepted as "Miss Shaw's friend."
Some of the girls still nodded amiably, but never invited her to visit them; others merely
dropped their eyelids, and went by without speaking, while a good many ignored her as
entirely as if she had been invisible. These things hurt Polly more than she would