Read CHAPTER III - HOW POLLY SPENT HER MONEY of Little Pollie A Bunch of Violets , free online book, by Gertrude P. Dyer, on

The first two or three flights of stairs were thickly strewn with mud and dust from the feet of the different lodgers; but when Pollie reached the last landing she felt it was home indeed. The stairs were as clean and white as hands could scrub them-no dirt was to be seen here,-and outside her mother’s door was a little mat on which to rub the shoes before entering. It was quite a relief to reach this part of the house.

There were only two rooms at the top part of the tenement-one inhabited by good Mrs Flanagan, the other by Pollie and her mother; and though the apartments were small, and the narrow windows overlooked the chimney-pots and tiles, yet they felt it such an advantage to be up here, removed, as it were, from the noisy people who lived in the same dwelling; each room, in fact, was let out to separate families, some of them very rough and boisterous.

Pollie tapped at her mother’s door, and then peeped merrily in. There sat that good and gentle woman, busily working close by the narrow window, so as to get as much light as possible for her delicate needlework.

The tea-things were already on the table, which was spread with a clean white cloth, and the kettle sang a cheery welcome to little Pollie; for though it was only three o’clock, it was tea-time for them, since dinner was an almost unknown luxury to this poor mother and child.

“Here I am, mother dear!” she cried, putting in her bright face, which was as sunshine to the lonely widow’s heart.

“O Pollie, I am so glad you have come home; I was getting so anxious and afraid, and the time seemed so long without you, my child.”

Then the little girl ran in and threw her arms around her mother’s neck.

“Only look here!” she cried delightedly, when after a loving kiss she proceeded to display her riches; “see, mother,” she said, arranging the money all in a row on the table, the bright shilling flanked on either side by five brown pennies; “are we not rich now? sixpence must be paid to kind Mrs. Flanagan for the sweet violets she got for me, and then we shall have one shilling and fourpence left, and I shall buy lots of things for you, mother darling,” she concluded, clapping her hands in glee.

The widow smiled cheerfully as she folded up her work, and prepared to get their simple meal of tea and bread, listening the while as the child related the events of the morning.

“And now, mother,” she pursued, “I must divide these dear sweet violets between you and Mrs. Flanagan.”

“Then here are two little cups which will be just the thing for them,” said the happy mother, whose pale face grew brighter as she gazed on the delighted child.

With the greatest care Pollie divided the flowers equally, and when putting theirs in the window, so that they might still see some of the blue sky, as she expressed it, she looked across the Court towards Lizzie Stevens’ home. Yes, there she was, Pollie could see, busy plying her needle, and there were the violets also, in a broken jam jar close by her as she sat at work; and raising her pale face towards them, as though they were old friends returned to her, she caught sight of little Pollie arranging her bouquet in the window; so with a bright smile (unwonted visitor to those wan lips) kissed her hand in token of recognition, and then pointed to the flowers. Pollie quite understood this little pantomime, and nodded her curly head a great many times to her opposite neighbour in proof of her so doing.

“Come to tea, my child,” said the mother, who had cut some slices of bread for the frugal repast, but which she had no appetite to eat.

“Wait a bit, mammie dear, I must do some shopping first,” exclaimed Pollie; “I shall not be long.” And away she ran, gaily laughing at her mother’s look of surprise.

Down the stairs she went, then out into the Court; and just round the corner in Drury Lane was a greengrocer’s shop, in the window of which hung a label “New-laid Eggs.”

I fear that label told a fiction, but Pollie believed in it, and thought the eggs were laid by the identical hens she saw earning a scanty living by pecking in the gutters and among the cabs and carts; so with a feeling of being very womanly, and tightly grasping the precious shilling in her hand, she took courage to approach the shopkeeper, who stood with arms akimbo in the doorway, flanked on one side by potatoes in bins, and on the other by cabbages and turnips in huge baskets.

“Please, ma’am,” said Pollie, “will you let me have a new-laid egg for mother?”

The woman took an egg from a basket and gave it to her.

“If you please, is it quite fresh? because mother is so poorly, and I want it to do her good.”

The shopkeeper looked at the earnest little face, and somehow felt she could not tell an untruth to the child, the brown eyes were raised so trustingly.

“Well, my little gal, I can’t say as it be quite fresh, but it’s as good as any you’ll get about here.”

“Then I’d better not have it,” said the child, giving it back to the woman again; “only I did so want to get her something nice for her tea,-she can’t eat much.” And the lips quivered with suppressed sorrow at the disappointment.

“Why don’t you get her a bit of meat instead?” asked the woman; “that’ll do her good, I warrant!”

“Will this buy some?” questioned the child with brightened eyes, and opening her hand she showed the shilling. “To be sure it will. Here, give it to me; I’ll go and get you one pound of nice pieces at my brother’s next door, if you’ll just mind the shop till I come back; you can be trusted, I see,” replied the mistress of the place, whose woman’s heart was touched by the little girl’s distress.

Pollie stood where she was left, guarding the baskets with watchful eyes. Fortunately no mischievous people were about, so the vegetables were safe, though it was with no small relief she saw their owner return with such nice pieces of meat wrapped up in clean paper.

“There,” said the greengrocer’s wife (whose name was Mrs. Smith, by the way), “these are good and fresh; my brother let me choose them, and have them cheap too, only fourpence a pound!”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, ma’am!” cried Pollie, holding up her face to kiss the kind woman, who, totally unused to such affectionate gratitude in the poor little waifs about Drury Lane, bent down and returned the caress with a feeling of unwonted tenderness tugging at her heart.

“And now, please, I should like a bunch of water-cresses for Mrs. Flanagan,” said the child. “I know she is very fond of them with her tea.”

“What are you going to buy for yourself?” asked the shopkeeper, as, after handing Pollie the freshest bunch in the basket, she stood watching her tiny customer.

The little girl hesitated; at length she said-

“Well, if I don’t get something, mother will want me to eat this meat, and I mean her to have it all; so I’ll buy two little pies in Russell Court,-one for me, and one for poor little crippled Jimmy.”

“You’re a good gal,” exclaimed the woman. “Here, put these taters in your basket; maybe your mother would like ’em with the meat, they boil nice and mealy.”

Pollie was so grateful to Mrs. Smith for the kind thought, and held out her money to pay for this luxury; but to her surprise she told her to put it back into her pocket-the “taters” were a gift for her mother, and patting her cheek, bade her run home quickly, and always “be a good gal.”