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


Juanita Sterling scowled a perfunctory thank-you to Mrs. Nobbs, who handed her a long box. She had come to hate those long boxes.

“I wish he’d keep his old flowers in his greenhouse!” she muttered disdainfully after the door was well shut. She gazed on the box with a sigh. Nevertheless, she untied it with hurrying fingers.

Great ruby roses sent their pent-up fragrance straight to her nostrils, and she drew it in with a breath of delight. Then she flung the box on the bed and finished putting her dresser in order, a task with which she had been occupied.

Little jerky bits of scorn were now and then directed toward the flowers, as if they were responsible for their intrusion. When their innocence suddenly suggested itself, she smiled.

“Poor things, they can’t help it! How should I feel if I were carried where I was not wanted and then should be blamed for being there!”

Contritely she took the roses from their box and put them in her prettiest vase, quite as if she would make amends. She sat down by them and looked the matter in the face.

“I can’t have these where they will remind me all day long of being a silly old woman!” She considered the blossoms with a dismal face. “What shall I do with them? I’d put them in a bundle under the bed, only I’d feel so sorry for them no, I can’t do that! I suppose I could give them away oh, there’s Mrs. Crump! The very thing! Maybe they’ll help her to forget her pain. I’ll take them in now!” She caught up the vase and bore it triumphantly along the hall.

Mrs. Crump was on the couch.

“All for me? Why, Miss Sterling! How good you are! You can’t have kept many for yourself.”

“I don’t want any,” laughed the donor. “I’ll be glad enough if you can enjoy them.”

Miss Crilly and Miss Major came in.

“Mis’ Crump! if you’re not tryin’ to beat Miss Sterling! Seems like a hospital ’stead of a Home, so many roses round! You don’t say she’s given you all hers? My, ain’t you the limit o’ generosity. Miss Sterling! You look lots better. Mis’ Crump! Maybe it’s the reflection o’ the roses! Lovely color, ain’t it! He must be a goner, sure! How many times a week d’ they come? ’Nother card swooped, I s’pose? It beats me!”

Miss Major opened the door for Miss Castlevaine.

“I couldn’t help hearing what you said about another card who’s lost one now?”

She shook her head while Miss Crilly explained. “We shall have to lock up our jewelry pretty soon huh! How do you feel this morning, Mrs. Crump? Had the doctor?”

The invalid winced and caught her breath, as a sudden twinge shot through her arm. “I don’t know as I’m any worse,” she said. “I haven’t slept a wink since two o’clock! No, the doctor didn’t stop here! I thought maybe he would, he was in Mrs. Post’s room, right next door; but Mrs. Nobbs said yesterday it wasn’t necessary it’s ‘only pain,’ you know!”

“Only pain!” laughed Miss Crilly. “Isn’t that enough? Then, when I’m sick it’ll be with something besides pain I’ll remember that! And I’ll have the doctor when I need him don’t you forget it!”

“What’s the matter with Mrs. Post?” queried Miss Castlevaine.

“Something about her knee she told me the doctor was going to bandage it up. It was Mrs. Post, you know!” Mrs. Crump emphasized the sentence with lowered voice and lifted eyebrows.

Miss Castlevaine nodded. “No favorites in the June Holiday Home! How did you like the dinner yesterday noon?” She smiled knowingly.

“It’s good-bye, pudding, forevermore!” laughed Miss Crilly. “Didn’t it seem queer not to have a bit of dessert?”

“Same as other days,” returned Miss Major. “I suppose the Sunday pie will go next.”

“So I heard!” Miss Castlevaine’s lips thinned themselves together. “But that isn’t the worst thing! Do you know about Mrs. Dick?”

“No what?” Miss Crilly stopped smelling of the roses.

“Why, Tuesday she met an old schoolmate on the street who inquired if she had been ill. Mrs. Dick said no. ’Why didn’t you come to the wedding, then?’ the lady asked. ‘Wedding?’ exclaimed Mrs. Dick; ‘what wedding?’ ‘Why, Anita’s!’ (Anita is her daughter.) ’I didn’t know she was going to be married, and it isn’t likely I should have gone without an invitation,’ she laughed. ’I invited you,’ the lady said. ’It was a very informal affair, no cards, and not many guests; but I telephoned to the Home, for you to come over and spend the day. I wanted you to see Anita’s pretty clothes and her beautiful presents. They said they’d give you the message right off.’ ‘First I’ve heard of it!’ said Mrs. Dick, and I tell you she was mad! Isn’t that awful? If anything happens to us, I don’t know as our friends will hear of it till after the funeral huh!”

“Is she going to make a fuss about it?” asked Miss Major.

“Of course not! She’d probably be turned out if she did.”

“What are we coming to!” For a minute Miss Crilly actually looked doleful. “I’m going to tell all my folks that if they want me to know anything in a hurry they’d better telegraph or send me a special delivery letter that’ll fix ’em. My! To think of bein’ invited to a weddin’ and not knowin’ it!”

“When I first came here,” resumed Miss Castlevaine, “my cousin was dreadfully upset because they wouldn’t call me to the telephone to talk with her. Finally she said so much they gave in, and I went down. I supposed it was the regular thing until she told me about it afterwards. She had to ask me two or three questions about something, and get my answers to know what to do.”

“There should be a telephone in every room, as there is in a hotel,” asserted Miss Major.

“Oh, my!” ejaculated Miss Crilly. “When you get it, send me word! Probably I shan’t be here by that time, but I guess I shall be hoverin’ somewhere round, and I’ll know when your ’phone’s in!”

“To have one in each room would be a great deal of expense,” said Mrs. Crump.

“What of it!” retorted Miss Major. “Haven’t they money enough? They’re always building additions now the one that’s going to spoil Miss Sterling’s room and Miss Twining’s down below. They’d a good deal better spend it on telephones.”

“They’ve got a new rug down in the hall,” announced Miss Castlevaine. “’Most anybody could have new rugs if they stole the money to buy them with!”

“What do you mean?” was Miss Crilly’s quick query.

“You’d better not say anything about it; but I heard that Miss Twining wrote a poem for a Sunday-School paper and got eight dollars for it

“My!” put in Miss Crilly.

“And,” went on Miss Castlevaine, “she bought a new shirt waist. When she wore it Mrs. Nobbs asked her where she got it. Like a simpleton, she told the whole story, so pleased to have earned the money, and never dreaming but that it was her own! What did they do but make her give up the seven dollars she had left! They did let her keep the waist she needed it badly enough.” Miss Castlevaine shook her head, while comments flew fast.

“I’m sorry for Miss Twining,” sympathized Miss Crilly. “She’s the kind that won’t sputter it all out, as I should; she’ll cry herself sick over it!”

“If we cried for all the hard things we have here,” said Mrs. Crump, “we shouldn’t have any eyes left!”

“I wonder if the directors know how things are going,” observed Miss Major.

“I bet they ain’t on to it!” Miss Crilly wagged her head decisively.

“But who’d dare tell ’em?” queried Mrs. Crump.

“Excuse me!” giggled Miss Crilly.