Pauline dropped the napkin she was hemming and, leaning back in her chair, stared soberly down into the rain-swept garden.
Overhead, Patience was having a “clarin’ up scrape” in her particular corner of the big garret, to the tune of “There’s a Good Time Coming.”
Pauline drew a quick breath; probably, there was a good time coming—any number of them—only they were not coming her way; they would go right by on the main road, they always did.
“‘There’s a good time coming,’” Patience insisted shrilly, “’Help it on! Help it on!’”
Pauline drew another quick breath. She would help them on! If they would none of them stop on their own account, they must be flagged. And—yes, she would do it—right now.
Getting up, she brought her writing-portfolio from the closet, clearing a place for it on the little table before the window. Then her eyes went back to the dreary, rain-soaked garden. How did one begin a letter to an uncle one had never seen; and of whom one meant to ask a great favor?
But at last, after more than one false start, the letter got itself written, after a fashion.
Pauline read it over to herself, a little dissatisfied pucker between her brows:—
Mr. Paul Almy Shaw,
New York City, New York.
My dear uncle Paul: First, I should like you to understand that neither father nor mother know that I am writing this letter to you; and that if they did, I think they would forbid it; and I should like you to believe, too, that if it were not for Hilary I should not dream of writing it. You know so little about us, that perhaps you do not remember which of us Hilary is. She comes next to me, and is just thirteen. She hasn’t been well for a long time, not since she had to leave school last winter, and the doctor says that what she needs is a thorough change. Mother and I have talked it over and over, but we simply can’t manage it. I would try to earn some money, but I haven’t a single accomplishment; besides I don’t see how I could leave home, and anyway it would take so long, and Hilary needs a change now. And so I am writing to ask you to please help us out a little. I do hope you won’t be angry at my asking; and I hope very, very much, that you will answer favorably.
Pauline Almy Shaw.
Winton, Vt., May Sixteenth.
Pauline laughed rather nervously as she slipped her letter into an envelope and addressed it. It wasn’t a very big flag, but perhaps it would serve her purpose.
Tucking the letter into her blouse, Pauline ran down-stairs to the sitting-room, where her mother and Hilary were. “I’m going down to the post-office, mother,” she said; “any errands?”
“My dear, in this rain?”