Polly flatly vetoed the proposition, but she seemed to feel much better after it had been made. She was like herself again for a short time, and then she turned to Kate and said suddenly: “Mother, if I don’t get over this, will you take my baby?”
Kate looked at Polly intently. What she saw stopped the ready answer that was on her lips. She stood thinking deeply. At last she said gently: “Why, Polly, would you want to trust a tiny baby with a woman you ran away from yourself?”
“Mother, I haven’t asked you to forgive me for the light I put you in before the neighbours,” said Polly, “because I knew you couldn’t honestly do it, and wouldn’t lie to say you did. I don’t know what made me do that. I was tired staying alone at the house so much, I was wild about Henry, I was bound I wouldn’t leave him and go away to school. I just thought it would settle everything easily and quickly. I never once thought of how it would make you look and feel. Honestly I didn’t, Mother. You believe me, don’t you?”
“Yes, I believe you,” said Kate.
“It was an awful thing for me to do,” said Polly. “I was foolish and crazy, and I suppose I shouldn’t say it, but I certainly did have a lot of encouragement from the Peters family. They all seemed to think it would be a great joke, that it wouldn’t make any difference, and all that, so I just did it. I knew I shouldn’t have done it; but, Mother, you’ll never know the fight I’ve had all my life to keep from telling stories and sneaking. I hated your everlasting: ‘Now be careful,’ but when I hated it most, I needed it worst; and I knew it, when I grew older. If only you had been here to say, ‘Now be careful,’ just once, I never would have done it; but of course I couldn’t have you to keep me straight all my life. All I can say is that I’d give my life and never whimper, if I could be back home as I was this time last year, and have a chance to do things your way. But that is past, and I can’t change it. What I came for to-day, and what I want to know now is, if I go, will you take my baby?”
“Polly, you know the Peters family wouldn’t let me have it,” said Kate.
“If it’s a boy, they wouldn’t want it,” said Polly. “Neither would you, for that matter. If it’s a girl, they’ll fight for it; but it won’t do them any good. All I want to know is, will you take it?”
“Of course I would, Polly,” said Kate.
“Since I have your word, I’ll feel better,” said Polly. “And Mother, you needn’t be afraid of it. It will be all right. I have thought about it so much I have it all figured out. It’s going to be a girl, and it’s going to be exactly like you, and its name is going to be Katherine Eleanor. I have thought about you every hour I was awake since I have been gone; so the baby will have to be exactly like you. There won’t be the taint of Grandmother in it that there is in me. You needn’t be afraid. I quit sneaking forever when Adam told me what I had done to you. I have gone straight as a dart, Mother, every single minute since, Mother; truly I have!”