List Of Contents | Contents of A Summer in a Canyon, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
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on her neck and chin.  She felt then that camping out was a complete
failure, and that she would be taken home forthwith if it could be
managed, since she saw nothing before her but day after day of close
confinement and unattractive personal appearance.  'It's just my
luck!' she grumbled, as she twisted up her hair and made herself as
presentable as possible under the trying circumstances.  'I don't
think I ever had a becoming or an interesting illness.  The chicken-
pox, mumps, and sties on my eyes--that's the sort of thing I have!'

'I feel much worse, Mrs. Winship,' she said, going into the sitting-
room tent and waking Aunt Truth from a peaceful snooze.  'If you can
spare Pancho over night, I really think I must trouble you to send
Anne and me home at once.  I feel as if I wanted to go to bed in a
dark room, and I shall only be a bother if I stay.'

'Why, my child, I'm sorry to have you go off with your visit
unfinished.  You know we don't mind any amount of trouble, if we can
make you comfortable.'

'You are very kind, but indeed I'd rather go.'

'I hardly dare let you start in the hot sun--without consulting the
doctor, and everybody is away except Polly; they will feel badly not
to say good-bye.'

'It is nearly three o'clock now, so the worst of the sun is over, and
we shall be at the ranch by eight this evening.  I feel too ill to
say good-bye, any way, and we shall meet Bell and Margery somewhere
on the road, for they were going to the milk ranch.'

'Very well, my dear, if you've made up your mind I must yield,'
replied Mrs. Winship, getting up and smoothing her hair.  'I don't
dare wake Elsie, she has had such an exciting day; but I'll call
Polly to help you pack, and then tell Pancho to find Anne and harness
the team.  While he is doing that, I'll get you a little lunch to
take with you and write a note to your mother.  Perhaps you can come
again before we break camp, but I'm sorry to send you home in such a
sad plight.'


'From Hebrew wit the maxim sprung,
Though feet should slip, ne'er let the tongue.

Polly came at once to the tent, where she found Laura getting her
belongings together.

'Why, Laura, it seems too bad you should go off so suddenly.  What
can I do to help you?'

The very spirit of evil entered Laura's heart as she looked at Polly,
so fresh and pretty and radiant, with her dimples dancing in and out,
her hair ruffled with the effort of literary composition, and the
glow of the day's happiness still shining in her eyes.  She felt as
if Polly was 'glad inside' that she was poisoned; she felt sure she
was internally jumping for joy at her departure; and, above all, she
felt that Polly was entirely too conceited over the attention she had
received that day, and needed to be 'taken down a peg or two.'

'Red-haired, stuck-up, saucy thing,' she thought, 'how I should like
to give her a piece of my mind before I leave this place, if I only

'I don't need any help, thank you,' she said aloud, in her iciest

'But it will only make your head ache to bend over and tug away at
that valise, and I'll be only too glad to do it.'

'I've no doubt of that,' responded Laura, meaningly.  'It is useless
for you to make any show of regret over my going, for I know
perfectly well that you are glad to get me out of the way.'

'Why, Laura, what do you mean?' exclaimed Polly, completely dazed at
this bombshell of candour.

'I mean what I say; and I should have said it before if I could ever
have found a chance.  Because I didn't mention it at the time, you
needn't suppose I've forgotten your getting me into trouble with Mrs.
Winship, the day before the Howards came.'

'That was not my fault,' said Polly, hotly.  'I didn't speak any
louder than the other girls, and I didn't know Aunt Truth objected to
Mrs. Pinkerton, and I didn't know she was anywhere near.'

'You roared like the bull of Bashan--that's what you did.  Perhaps
you can't help your voice, but anybody in the canyon could have heard
you; and Mrs. Winship hasn't been the same to me since, and the boys
don't take the slightest notice of me lately.'

'You are entirely mistaken, Laura.  Dr. and Mrs. Winship are just as
lovely and cordial to you as they are to everybody else, and the boys
do not feel well enough acquainted with you to "frolic" with you as
they do with us.'

'It isn't so, but you are not sensitive enough to see it; and I
should never have been poisoned if it hadn't been for you!'

'Oh, go on, do!' said Polly, beginning to lose her self-control,
which was never very great.  'I didn't know I was a Lucrezia Borgia
in disguise.  How did I poison you, pray?'

'I didn't say you poisoned me; but you made me so uncomfortable that
day, bringing down Mrs. Winship's lecture on my head and getting my
best friend abused, that I was glad to get away from the camp, and
went out with Jack for that reason when I was too tired and warm; and
you are always trying to cut me out with Bell and the boys.'

'That's a perfectly--jet black--fib!' cried Polly, who was now
thoroughly angry; 'and I don't think it is very polite of you to
attack the whole party, and say they haven't been nice to you, when
they've done everything in the world!'

'It isn't your party any more than mine, is it?  And if I don't know
how to be polite, I certainly shan't ask YOU for instruction; for I
must know as much about the manners of good society as you do,
inasmuch as I have certainly seen more of it!'

Polly sank into a camp-chair, too stunned for a moment to reply,
while Laura, who had gone quite beyond the point where she knew or
cared what she said, went on with a rush of words:  'I mean to tell
you, now that I am started, that anybody who isn't blind can see why
you toady to the Winships, who have money and social position, and
why you are so anxious to keep everybody else from getting into their
good graces; but they are so partial to you that they have given you
an entirely false idea of yourself; and you might as well know that
unless you keep yourself a little more in the background, and grow a
little less bold and affected and independent, other people will not
be quite as ready as the Winships to make a pet of a girl whose
mother keeps a boarding-house.'

Poor Laura!  It was no sooner said than she regretted it--a little,
not much.  But poor Polly!  Where was her good angel then?  Why could
she not have treated this thrust with the silence and contempt it
deserved?  But how could Laura have detected and probed the most
sensitive spot in the girl's nature?  She lost all command of
herself.  Her rage absolutely frightened her, for it made her deaf
and blind to all considerations of propriety and self-respect, and
for a moment she was only conscious of the wild desire to strike--
yes, even to kill--the person who had so insulted all that was
dearest to her.

'Don't dare to say another word!' she panted, with such flaming
cheeks and such flashing eyes that Laura involuntarily retreated
towards the door, half afraid of the tempest her words had evoked.
'Don't dare to say another word, or I don't know what I may do!  Yes,
I am glad you are going, and everybody will be glad, and the sooner
you go the better!  You've made everybody miserable ever since you
came, with your jealousy and your gossip and your fine-lady airs; and
if Aunt Truth hadn't loved your mother, and if we were mean enough to
tell tales, we would have repeated some of your disagreeable speeches
long ago.  How can you dare to say I love the Winships for anything
but themselves?  And if you had ever seen my darling mother, you
never could have called her a boarding-house keeper, you cruel--'

Oh, but the dashing torrent of angry words stopped at the mere
mention of her mother.  The word recalled her to herself, but too
late.  It woke in her memory the clasp of her mother's arms, the
sound of the sweet, tired voice:  'Only two of us against the big
world, Polly--you and I.  Be brave, little daughter, brave and
patient.'  Oh, how impatient and cowardly she had been!  Would she
never learn to be good?  The better impulses rushed back into her
heart, and crowded out the bad ones so quickly that in another moment
she would have flung herself at Laura's feet, and implored her
forgiveness merely to gain again her own self-respect and her
mother's approval; but there was no time for repentance (there isn't
sometimes), for the clatter of wheels announced Pancho's approach
with the team, and Mrs. Winship and Anne Burton came into view,
walking rapidly towards the tent.

Laura was a good deal disconcerted at their ill-timed appearance, but
reflected rapidly that if Mrs. Winship had overheard anything, it was
probably Polly's last speech, in which case that young person would
seem to be more in fault than herself, so stepping out of the tent
she met Mrs. Winship and kissed her good-bye.

Little Anne ran on and jumped into the wagon, with all a child's joy
at the prospect of going anywhere.  Polly's back was turned, but she
could not disappear entirely within the tent without causing Mrs.
Winship surprise; and she went through a lifetime of misery and self-
reproach in that minute of shame and fear, when she dared neither to
advance nor retreat.

'I don't quite like to let you go alone, Laura, without consulting
the doctor, and I can't find him,' said Mrs. Winship.  'Why, you are
nervous and trembling!  Hadn't you better wait until to-morrow?'

'No, thank you, Mrs. Winship.  I am all ready now, and would prefer
to go.  I think perhaps I have stayed quite long enough, as Polly has
just told me that everybody is glad to see the last of me, and that
I've made you all miserable since I came.

This was the climax to Polly's misery; for she was already so
overcome by the thought of her rudeness that she was on the point of
begging Laura's pardon for that particular speech then and there, and
she had only to hear her exact words repeated to feel how they would
sound in Mrs. Winship's ears.

Mrs. Winship was so entirely taken aback by Laura's remark, that she
could only ejaculate, 'Polly--said--that!  What do you mean?'

'Oh, I am quite ready to think she said more than she intended, but
those were her words.'


Polly turned.  Alas! it was plain enough that this was no false
accusation.  Her downcast eyes, flushed, tear-stained cheeks,
quivering lips, and the silent shame of her whole figure, spoke too

'Can it be possible, Polly, that you spoke in such a way to a guest
who was about to leave my house?'


The word was wrung from Polly's trembling lips.  What could she say
but 'Yes,'--it was true,--and how could she repeat the taunts that
had provoked her to retort?  They were not a sufficient excuse; and
for that matter, nothing could be a sufficient excuse for her
language.  Now that she was confronted with her own fault, Laura's
seemed so small beside it that she would have been ashamed to offer
it as any justification.

Mrs. Winship grew pale, and for a moment was quite at a loss as to
the treatment of such a situation.

'Don't say any more about it, Mrs. Winship,' said Laura; 'we were
both angry, or we should never have forgotten ourselves, and I shall
think no more of it.'  Laura spoke with such an air of modest virtue,
and seemed so ready to forgive and forget, that Polly in her silence
and confusion appeared worse than ever.

'But I want you to remember that you are my guest, not Pauline's;
that I asked you to come and ask you to remain.  I cannot allow you
to go simply because you do not chance to be a favourite with another
of my guests.'  (Oh! the pang these words gave Polly's faulty, tender
little heart!)

'I am only going because I feel so ill,--not a bit because of what
Polly said; I was in the wrong, too, perhaps, but I promise not to
let anybody nor anything make me quarrel when I visit you again.
Good-bye!' and Laura stepped into the wagon.

'I trust you will not mention this to your mother, since I hope it is
the only unpleasant incident of your visit; and it is no fault of
mine that you go away with an unhappy impression of our hospitality.'
Here Mrs. Winship reached up and kissed little Anne, and as the
horses were restive, and no one seemed to have anything further to
say, Pancho drove off.

'I don't care to talk with you any more at present, Polly,' said Mrs.
Winship.  'I am too hurt and too indignant to speak of your conduct
quietly.  I know the struggles you have with your temper, and I am
quite willing to sympathise with you even when you do not come off
victorious; but this is something quite different.  I can't conceive
how any amount of provocation or dislike could have led you into such
disloyalty to me'; and with this she walked away.

Polly staggered into a little play-room tent of Dicky's, where she
knew that she could be alone, pinned the curtains together so that no
one could peep in, and threw herself down upon the long cushioned
seat where Dicky was wont to take his afternoon nap.  There, in grief
and despair, she sobbed the afternoon through, dreading to be
disturbed and dreading to be questioned.

'My beautiful birthday spoiled,' she moaned, 'and all my own fault!
I was so happy this morning, but now was ever anybody so miserable as
I?  And even if I tell Aunt Truth what Laura said, she will think it
no excuse, and it isn't!'

As it neared supper-time she made an opening in the back of the tent,
and after long watching caught sight of Gin on his way to the brook
for water, signalled him, and gave him this despairing little note
for Mrs. Winship:-

Dear Aunt Truth,--I don't ask you to forgive me--I don't deserve to
be forgiven--but I ask you to do me just one more of your dear little
kindnesses.  Let me stay alone in Dicky's tent till morning, and
please don't let any one come near me.  You can tell everybody the
whole story to-night, if you think best, though I should be glad if
only Dr. Paul and Bell need know; but I do not mind anything after
displeasing you--nothing can be so bad as that.  Perhaps you think I
ought to come out and confess it to them myself, as a punishment; but
oh, Aunt Truth, I am punishing myself in here alone worse than any
one else can do it.  I will go back to Santa Barbara any time that
you can send me to the stage station, and I will never ask you to
love me again until I have learned how to control my temper.  Your
wretched, wretched


P.S.--I remember that it is my birthday, and all that you have done
for me, to-day and all the other days.  It looks as if I were
ungrateful, but in spite of what I did I am not.  The words just
blazed out, and I never knew that they were going to be said till I
heard them falling from my mouth.  It seems to me that if I ever
atone for this I will have a slate and pencil hanging to my belt, and
only write what I have to say.  POLLY.

The moisture came to Mrs. Winship's eyes as she read this tear-
stained little note.  'There's something here I don't quite

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