1. The big drawing-room, with its shaded light and draped furniture, was nothing to Polly Pepper’s eyes. All she knew was that it was the room that contained the piano!
2. Every chance she could get, Polly would creep into the drawing-room and work hard at the tedious scales and exercises. She knew that they were stepping stones to so much that was glorious beyond them. Never had she sat still for so long a time in her active little life.
3. “She likes it!” said Percy, in absolute astonishment one day. Polly had refused to go with other children to the park. Instead, she went into the drawing-room and shut the door. “She likes those hateful old exercises, and she doesn’t like anything else.”
4. “Much you know about,” Jasper answered. “She’d love to go with us. It’s just that she’s determined to learn to play. Nothing can stop her now.”
5. And Polly kept at it steadily day after day. She got through with her lessons in the schoolroom as quickly as possible to rush to her music. Soon the little French music teacher became so enthusiastic that he would skip away on the tips of his toes.
6. “I think,” said Jasper one evening after dinner when all the children were assembled as usual in their favorite place on the big rug in front of the fire in the library, “that Polly’s getting on in music as I never saw anyone do, and that’s a fact!”
7. “I mean to begin,” said Van, ambitiously, sitting up straight and staring at the glowing coals. “I guess I will to-morrow,” which announcement was received with a perfect shout—Van not being very musical at all!
8. “If you do,” said Jasper, when the laughter subsided, “I shall go out of the house at every lesson; no one will stay here to listen, Van.”
9. “I can bang all I want to, then,” said Van, not disturbed by the reflection, and pulling one of Prince’s long ears, “you think you’re so big, Jasper, just because you’re thirteen.”
10. “He’s only three ahead of me, Van,” bristled Percy, who never could forgive Jasper for having been born three years earlier than himself.
11. “Three’s just as bad as four,” said Van.
12. “Let’s tell stories,” began Polly, who never could remember such arguments at home in the little brown house. “We must each tell one,” she added with the greatest enthusiasm. “We’ll see which is the biggest and the best.”
13. “Oh, no,” said Van, who loved Polly’s stories. “You tell, Polly—you tell alone.”
14. “Yes, do, Polly,” said Jasper; “we’d rather.”
15. So Polly launched out into one of her best stories. Soon they were in such a peal of laughter that Mr. King came in and took a seat in a big rocking-chair to hear the fun.
16. “Oh, dear,” said Van, leaning back with a long sigh and wiping his flushed face as Polly wound up with a triumphant flourish, “however do you think of such things, Polly Pepper?”
17. “Why, that’s nothing to what she has told time and again in the little brown house in Badgertown,” said Jasper, bringing his handsome face out into the light. And then he caught sight of Polly’s face, which turned a little pale as he spoke. The brown eyes had such a pathetic droop in them that it went to the boy’s very heart. And then he realized: Polly was homesick already!