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


Polly was in Miss Sterling’s room when the box was brought up.

“Flowers!” she squealed as soon as the door had shut upon the matron’s stout figure.

“Bosh!” retorted Miss Sterling. “More likely Cousin Sibyl has sent me some of her children’s stockings to darn. She does that occasionally. I suppose she thinks

“0-o-h!” breathed Polly, for the speaker had disclosed a mass of pink exquisite roses with long stems and big, cool green leaves.

“Now what do you think?” Polly exulted.

Miss Sterling stood regarding the roses, her face all pink and white, the color fluttering here and there like a shy bird.

“It’s a mistake!” she said at last. “They can’t be for me.”

“Of course they’re for you!” Polly pointed to the address on the cover. “Isn’t there any card?” searching gently among the flowers. “I guess Mr. Randolph forgot to put in his card!” Polly’s eyes twinkled mischievously.

“Polly Dudley, don’t be silly’” The tone was almost impatient.

“It would be lovely for him to send them anyway!” defended Polly. “And I almost know he did!” she insisted.

“You don’t know any such thing!” Miss Sterling was taking the roses out. She brought them to her face and drew in their fragrance. Then she held them at arm’s length, gazing at them admiringly.

“Aren’t they beautiful!” she said softly. “I wish I knew whom to thank.”

“It looks like a man’s handwriting,” observed Polly.

“It might be Mrs. Lake,” mused Miss Sterling, quite ignoring Polly’s remark. “Mrs. Lake has always been nice to me. Only she would never omit her card. No, it must be somebody else.”

Polly tried the roses on the small table, on the desk, on the dresser where their reflection added to their magnificence. Finally they were left on the broad window-sill, while the two discussed possible givers. It was Miss Sterling, however, who suggested names. Polly clung to her first thought.

“I told him you had had an awful time with your ankle, and how Miss Sniffen scolded you,” Polly lowered her voice, “and I suppose he felt sorry

“How Miss Sniffen scolded me? Not about his being there?” The tone was dismayed. “Why, yes! What harm was there?” “Polly! Polly! You didn’t say what did you say?”

“I can’t remember exactly,” was the plaintive answer. “I don’t see why you care, anyway. I think I said it was because he stayed with us and took us to ride.”

“Well, it can’t be helped,” laughed Miss Sterling, “but how could you, Polly?”

“I should think you’d be glad to have him know how Miss Sniffen acts.”

Sh! Somebody’s coming!”

“I must go,” Polly whispered.

She let in Mrs. Albright and Miss Crilly.

“Oh, what dandy roses!” Miss Crilly dashed over to the window. “Your best feller must sure ‘a’ sent ’em! Ain’t they sweet? But why don’t you have ’em over on that little table? They’d show off fine there! May I?” She carried them across the room.

“Polly tried them in various places,” responded Miss Sterling.

“Well, ‘t don’t make a whole lot o’ difference where you put such roses! My, but they’re immense!” She stood off, the better to admire them. “Wouldn’t I rave if they belonged to yours truly! How can you folks take them so coolly?”

Juanita Sterling laughed. “I had my time when they first came!”

“You say it all, so we don’t need to,” laughed Mrs. Albright. “They are beauties, that’s a fact!”

Miss Crilly sat down, her eyes still on the flowers. “I don’t see a card anywhere,” she nodded. “Ain’t that proof positive?” winking toward Mrs. Albright.

“There was none,” smiled Miss Sterling.

“You don’t mean you don’t know who sent ’em?” Miss Crilly queried.

“Just that. Either the sender forgot to put in her card or she didn’t wish me to know.”

“I bet ’t isn’t a ‘her’!” giggled Miss Crilly. “Don’t you, Mis’ Albright?”

That lady twinkled her answer. “I shouldn’t wonder.”

A soft knock sent Miss Sterling to the door, and Miss Castlevaine came in.

Miss Crilly showed off the roses with all the pride of a possessor.

“I guess I saw them down in the lower hall,” smiled Miss Castlevaine knowingly. “There was a long box on the desk.”

“You did? And ain’t it funny?” Miss Crilly ran on, “she don’t know who sent ’em!”

“Perhaps Miss Sniffen could tell you.”

Miss Sterling looked up quickly.

“What do you mean?” asked Miss Crilly.

Miss Castlevaine moved her chair nearer, listened intently, and then began in a low voice: “I was coming up with a pitcher of hot water, and you know there’s a little place where you can see down on the desk. Well, Miss S. was there fussing over a box, and I said to myself, ‘I guess somebody’s got some flowers.’ Then I saw her lift the cover and slip out something white. I didn’t see it distinctly, for just as she took hold of it she looked up, and I dodged out of sight. When I peeked down again she was dropping something into a little drawer, and I came on as still as I could. I thought then that whoever had those flowers wouldn’t find out who sent ’em!”

“It isn’t right!” Mrs. Albright’s comfortable face took on stern, troubled lines.

“I’d go to the florist and find out,” declared Miss Crilly.

“There’s no name on the box.” Miss Sterling drew a deep breath, and indignation flushed her pale cheeks.

“I did suppose we could have what belonged to us, even here! Things grow worse every day. Boiled tripe for dinner ugh!” Miss Castlevaine’s face wrinkled with repugnance.

“And only potatoes to go with it,” sighed Mrs. Albright. “It’s too bad we can’t have green vegetables and fruit now, in the season.”

“I heard something yesterday,” resumed Miss Castlevaine, “that I guess you won’t like I don’t know what we’re coming to! Miss Major got it in a roundabout way through one of the managers, and it may not be true; but they say they’re going to cut out our Wednesday pudding and our Sunday pie!” Her little blue eyes glared at her listeners.

Juanita Sterling dropped back in her chair. “What next!” she ejaculated.

“They’ll be keeping us on mackerel and corned beef yet!” snapped Miss Castlevaine. “As if we didn’t pay enough when we came here to insure us first-class board for the rest of our lives’ I gave them three thousand dollars I was a fool to do it! and I have been here only two years! If they keep that woman much longer !” The flashing eyes and set lips finished the sentence.

“Well, ain’t that great!” cried Miss Crilly. “I didn’t bring any such pile as you did, Miss Castlevaine, but that isn’t to the point! They’ve got more money ’n they know what to do with! What they saving their old barrelful for, anyway? Not a scrap o’ dessert from one week’s end to another goodness gracious me!”