Read CHAPTER V of Polly and the Princess, free online book, by Emma C. Dowd, on


The long line of choir boys issued decorously from the side door of St. Bartholomew’s. The running, pushing, scuffling, and laughter were reserved for the next street. Sly nudges and subdued chuckles were all that the most reckless indulged in under the shadows of the church.

At the foot of the steps stood a slender, whitehaired woman with stooping shoulders. She scanned each face as it emerged from the dim passageway, and her own grew a bit anxious as the boys passed. Then it suddenly brightened with recognition. Doodles had appeared.

The woman stepped forward to meet him. “Excuse me,” she hesitated, “but are you the one who sang that solo, ’Take heart, ye weary’?”

The boy smiled his modest answer.

“Oh, I want to thank you for it! I’ve been waiting till you came, and I was so afraid I’d missed you after all, for I probably shan’t have another chance. I wanted you to know how much good it has done me.”

“Has it?” Doodles looked his pleasure.

“Oh, it was beautiful!” she said tremulously. “I never heard anything like it! I always enjoy your singing, and am so disappointed when you don’t sing alone; but seems to me this piece was sweetest of all!”

“I guess you’ll like the one for next Sunday,” Doodles told her, “‘And God shall wipe away all tears.’”

“Oh!” It was mingled longing and regret. “That must be beautiful! I wish I could hear it seems as if I must!” Her voice broke a little. “But I’m afraid I can’t. I shan’t be here next Sunday.”

“That’s too bad! I’m sorry!”

“It can’t be helped. I am glad I could come to-day and hear you it does me more good than sermons!” Tears made the blue eyes shine.

“Perhaps I shall sing it some other time when you are here,” Doodles suggested hopefully.

The woman shook her head. Her reply was soft and broken. “I shan’t ever be here again.”

“Oh!” Doodles was instantly sympathetic. Then a gleam lighted his sorrowing face. “I’ll tell you what,” he began hurriedly, “I’ll come to your house and sing for you this afternoon that is, if you’d like me to,” he added.

Such joy flooded the tearful eyes! “Oh, you dear boy! if you would! I don’t know how to thank you!”

“That’s all right! I’d love to do it. Shall I come early, right after dinner, or

“Oh, come early! It is so good of you!” The tears threatened to overflow their bounds.

Doodles glanced down the street. “What is your address, please? I have to take the next car.”

“Why, yes! I forgot! I live at 304 North Charles Street.”

“Thank you.” He lifted his cap with a bright smile. “I’ll be there!” he promised and was off.

The woman watched him as he hailed the passing car. He saw her from a window and waved his hand. She returned the salute, and then walked slowly away.

“I hope he won’t forget the number,” she said to herself, “he didn’t take it down. And I never thought to give him my name!”

Doodles easily found the place the woman had designated. The house was small and dingy, and two grimy babies were playing on the doorstep.

“Miss Lily’s upstairs, in back,” answered the girl to whom the inquiry had been referred. “I guess it’s her you want. Ther’ ain’t nobody else, ‘cept Miss Goby, an’ she’s a big un.”

The top of the dim flight was nearly reached when a door opened and threw a stream of light on the stairway. The boy saw his new friend waiting for him.

“Walk right in!” she said cordially. “It’s awfully good of you to come!”

The room was in noticeable contrast with the rest of the house. Here everything was neat and homelike, although there was little attempt at ornament. Doodles was soon seated in a cushioned rocker and listening to the little old lady’s grateful talk.

“When you spoke of that new song, ‘God shall wipe away all tears,’ it did seem as if I just couldn’t miss hearing you sing it! But I never dreamed that you could do such a thing as to come and sing it to me here. I wish I had a better place for you to sing in, but I’ve had to take up with ’most anything these days.”

The lad hastened to assure her that he was accustomed to sing in a small room, and that it made no difference to him where he was.

“Then you don’t mind not having an organ or piano or anything?” The tone was anxious.

“Not a bit,” he smiled. “I never used to have accompaniment I can sing anywhere.”

After the first note Miss Lily sat motionless, bending forward a little, her hands clasped in her lap, her eyes on the singer. Whether she saw him was doubtful, for her tears fell fast as Doodles sang the comforting words.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;...and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying,...neither shall there be any more pain:...for the former things are passed away.”

With silence the listener suddenly dropped her face in her hands and began to sob.

In a moment Doodles was singing again, and soon she grew calmer. When he stopped she was ready to talk.

“I don’t see what makes me cry so!” she broke out, with a great effort fighting back the tears. “I’m all upset anyway. It is so lovely having you sing right here! You don’t know! I’m afraid I shan’t ever want you to stop.” She laughed quiveringly.

“More now?” he asked.

“If you aren’t tired,” she hesitated.


He sang again.

In the doorways upstairs and down people were listening. The little house on North Charles Street had never heard such music within its walls. As the song ceased, applause came, uncertainly at first, then louder and steady.

The two in the back room looked at each other and smiled.

“I guess they like it as well as I do,” Miss Lily said.

In response Doodles sang “Only an armor-bearer,” still one of his favorites, and at its close the approval of those outside was prompt and long.

Many other songs followed; apparently the audience grew.

“They’ll tire you out,” the little lady fretted.

The boy shook his head decidedly, beginning for the second time, “And God shall wipe away all tears.”

“Oh, it is like heaven itself!” Miss Lily breathed. Then she sighed softly. “What if I had missed it!”

“I think I shall have to go now,” at last Doodles said; “but I will come and sing for you again any time, if you like, any time when you are here.” He rose and picked up his cap.

“Oh, my dear boy, I’m not ever coming back! I’m” she began to sob, and Doodles could scarcely make out the words “I’m going to the poorhouse!” She broke down, and her slight shoulders shook pitifully.

The boy stood as if stunned. Then he stepped near. “Don’t cry!” he said softly, “don’t cry!”

“Oh I can’t help it!” she mourned. “I’ve kept up I thought maybe I shouldn’t have to go; but my eyes have given out, and I can’t earn anything only by sewing and I can’t sew now! To think of me in the poorhouse!”

“I’ll come and sing for you there!” cried the boy impulsively.

“Oh! you wouldn’t would you?” She clutched at the only straw of hope.

“Of course, I will! I’d be glad to!”

“You’re awfully good!” She wiped her eyes.

“I didn’t mean to entertain you with tears,” she smiled. “Seems as if I might stop, but I can’t.” Her eyes were wet again.

A sudden light illumined the lad’s face. He opened his lips, then shut them.

“How soon do you expect to go?” he asked.

“Some time the last of the week, the man thought.” She swallowed hard. “He said he’d give me time to pick up my things he was real good.”

“I’ll see you again before the last of the week,” promised Doodles, putting out his hand.

She clasped it in both of hers.

“You are just a dear that’s what you are!” she said tremulously. “And you don’t know how I thank you! I can’t tell you what it has been to me!”

As the singer passed down the stairs curious eyes peered out at him; but he did not know it. His heart was full of Miss Lily’s grief, although overspreading it was the beautiful thought that had come to him so suddenly a moment ago.