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


“Are you busy?” asked Miss Leatherland at the threshold of Miss Sterling’s room.

“No, indeed! I was wondering whether I’d go out on the veranda or sit here and mull. I’m glad you’ve come. Take this chair it’s the easiest.”

“Then I’ll leave it for you.” She started toward another.

“No, I don’t like it!” Her hostess laughingly pushed her back. “I’m too short for that one. I’m always wishing I were as tall as you.”

Miss Leatherland blushed at the little compliment and smiled over it.

“I don’t know but I’m meddling in what is none of my business,” she began shyly. “At first I thought I wouldn’t say anything; then I decided I would do as I’d wish to be done by. I certainly should want to know anything of this kind though perhaps you know already.”

“What is it? Nothing dreadful, I hope.”

“Oh, no! Only it shows unless she has told you how things are going downstairs.”

She hesitated, as if not knowing just how to say what she had come to tell.

“You were home about four o’clock yesterday, weren’t you?”


“I met all of you down in the hall, you remember, and I thought it was along there. Have you heard anything about a telephone message that came for you while you were away?”

“No was there one?”

Miss Leatherland bowed her head and drew her chair nearer.

“This afternoon I went up to call on Mrs. Macgregor, and yesterday, it seems, she had business with Mr. Potter, of the Fair Harbor Paper Company, and was in his office waiting for him to come in. It was about three o’clock, she said. Mr. Potter’s office is next to the president’s, and the door was just ajar. Mrs. Macgregor has very sharp ears, and she happened to be sitting close to the door, so couldn’t help hearing. She says Mr. Randolph called up the Home she knew the number, she uses it so much and asked for Miss Sterling. I suppose they told him you were out, for he said he was sorry and inquired if they knew when you were coming home. Evidently whoever was at the ’phone didn’t tell, for he said if you should come in by half-past four to ask you to call him up. Probably she offered to deliver his message, for he said no, he’d like to talk with you, and then he rang off. Mrs. Macgregor asked if Mr. Randolph was a relative of yours, and I said I thought not.”

Miss Sterling shook her head.

“I don’t see why Miss Sniffen or Mrs. Nobbs, or whoever ’t was didn’t do as Mr. Randolph asked them to I don’t see why! It’s getting so we can’t tell anything!” Miss Leatherland looked distressed.

“Things are growing queer,” was the quiet response. “I don’t know what Mr. Randolph could have wanted, but I surely have a right to be informed about it.”

“If you should ask Miss Sniffen, please don’t say anything about me, she might think I’d interfered. I only thought you ought to know it.”

“I’m mighty glad you told me,” Miss Sterling smiled across into the perturbed face, “and I shall certainly not speak of the matter to Miss Sniffen or any of them.”

“I guess you are wise not to,” agreed Miss Leatherland. “Anybody that would do things she has done, you don’t know what she’d do!”

Polly heard of the little episode with mingled dismay and delight.

“Oh, I wonder if he wanted you to go to ride!” she burst out. “Only you won’t ever know! Dear me, I wish we had waited till the next day for our walk! Isn’t it too bad you weren’t home?”

“We had a nice time!” laughed Miss Sterling.

“Didn’t we! But it’s a shame for you to miss a ride with that lovable man!”

“Polly, why will you? He didn’t say anything about a ride! Probably it was simply some little business matter.”

“But what?”

“I haven’t the least idea.”

“’T was a ride! I know it just as I knew he sent the roses! I was right about the roses!”

“Rides and roses aren’t the same!”

“No, rides are better more good-timey. Dear, dear! I’d been wishing he would ask you and now!” Polly sighed. “Anyway, he wanted to talk with you about something!” she chuckled. “But it’s so mysterious!”

She said good-bye and then came back.

“I happened to think,” she whispered, “why can’t you come over to our house and telephone to him? He’ll never know where you are.”

Miss Sterling shook her head. “It wouldn’t do! They’d ask me what I was going for and I couldn’t tell!”

“Do they always ask that?” scowled Polly.


“Then let me telephone!”

“No, no! We’d better leave it to work itself out. I am not supposed to know anything about it.” She laughed uncertainly.

“It’s a shame! Oh, everything about him always gets mixed up with trouble! I wish it didn’t!”

Juanita Sterling made the same wish as she sat alone in the hour before bedtime. What could Nelson Randolph have wanted of her? And why did Miss Sniffen and her subordinates strive so strenuously to keep her from communicating with him or knowing of any attention that he paid her? She wrestled with the hard question until the bell for “lights out.” Then she noiselessly undressed in the dark.

Sleep was long in coming, yet her nerves did not assert themselves unpleasantly, as usual. In fact, she had forgotten her nerves, in the strange, vague gladness that was half pain which flooded her being. She would berate herself for being “an old fool,” though conscious at the same time of little, warming heart-thrills that exulted over her reason. As Polly had said, the president of the June Holiday Home had wished to talk with her about something that of itself was as surprising as it was mysterious.