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


Juanita Sterling was making her bed when the soft tap came.

“What shall I do?” Miss Crilly whispered tragically, slipping inside and shutting the door without a sound. Her eyes were big and frightened. “I’ve kept out of Mis’ Nobbs’s reach thus far, but I s’pose I can’t very long! They are lookin’ everywhere for Mis’ Dick you know she wasn’t down to breakfast, and I’d no idea she’d come all the while the rest o’ you were lookin’ for her. At half-past five this mornin’ I see her go away with the milkman! I happened to be at my window. I couldn’t sleep, ’t was so hot, and I sat down there to get a breath o’ air. He come along and sent in the boy with the milk, same as he gen’ally does I see him lots of times. But wasn’t I astonished when Mis’ Dick come marchin’ out, all dressed up in her Sunday togs, and got in and rode off with him! She had her big suitcase it must ha’ been all cut an’ dried beforehand! What do you s’pose it means? I’m scart to death! I do’ want to squeal on Mis’ Dick I always liked Mis’ Dick! An’ if they ask me, I can’t lie it out! Oh, what would you do?” Miss Crilly came near being distressed.

“Why,” answered Miss Sterling, “I think I should keep still unless I were asked. In that case I should tell all I knew.”

“Oh, dear, I hate to squeal!”

“Maybe you won’t have to. I hope not!”

“What do you s’pose she went off with Mr. Tenney for?”

Miss Sterling shook her head.

“He’s a widower! You don’t s’pose ?” Miss Crilly giggled.

The other shrugged her shoulders.

“Well, anyway, there’ll be a row till she’s found! Gracious! I was so upset I couldn’t eat much breakfast! I told Mis’ Albright finally I couldn’t keep it a minute longer. Then I came up here. You don’t s’pose she’s gone luny, do you? She was so upset about goin’ to that weddin’!”

“No, it isn’t that!” decided Miss Sterling. “Mrs. Dick is not the kind to go crazy.”

“Somebody’s comin’!” Miss Crilly darted to the closet and shut herself in.

Mrs. Albright and Mrs. Adlerfield appeared.

“I thought Miss Crilly was here.” Mrs. Albright looked about in surprise.

Miss Sterling nodded significantly toward the closet.

Mrs. Albright opened the door, and laughed,

“Come into daylight, you silly! Nobody’s going to eat you up! They’ve found out!”

“They have? How?”

“One of the maids saw Mrs. Dick go by the window, and she ran to see where she was going; but she didn’t dare tell at first. Finally, she did, and they’re going to send out to Mr. Tenney’s.”

“My! I’m glad I ain’t in Mis’ Dick’s shoes!” Miss Crilly emerged from the folds of Miss Sterling’s petticoats. She brushed back her disordered hair and drew a long, laughing sigh. “Isn’t it lovely they’ve found out! I b’lieve I’d have been luny myself in a little while if they hadn’t!”

“Nonsense!” pooh-poohed Mrs. Albright. “You couldn’t stay luny more’n half a twinkle! You’d have to come out of it to laugh!”

“Sure, I would!” Miss Crilly agreed. “My! How do folks live that don’t laugh!”

“You are in no danger of dying from that disease,” returned Mrs. Albright.

“No, I guess I ain’t. My mother used to say that she believed if I had to live with the Devil himself, I’d keep on laughing.”

The quartette settled down to calm, now that the danger was over, but the talk still ran on Mrs. Dick.

“She’s been married twice before, hasn’t she?” asked Miss Crilly.

“Before what?” chuckled Mrs. Albright.

“O-h! Did I? That’s one on me, sure! Well, maybe it is ‘before’ who knows! What else could she be goin’ off at half-past five with the milkman for? Might not be a bad thing either guess he’s all right. ’Most anything ’d be better ‘n bein’ under Miss Sniffen and her crowd!”

“Where did Mrs. Dick live before she came here? Did you know her?” Mrs. Albright inquired.

“I knew of her.” Miss Crilly answered. “She kep’ boarders over Kelly Avenue way. She used to teach school years ago. Her first husband died and all her children, then she took boarders and married one of ’em. this Mr. Dick. He didn’t live long only long enough to run through what she’d saved up. He drank. She’s worked hard all her life, I guess. I like Mis’ Dick! She’s good company.”

“I like her very,” agreed Mrs. Adlerfeld. “She has been nice to me a many times. If she goes to marry, I think it will no harm anybody, and I wish her the best things in the world.”

The little Swedish woman voiced the larger number of Mrs. Dick’s associates in the Home. Slighting remarks were heard from Miss Castlevaine and a few others, but in almost any case they were to be expected.

On the second day of Mrs. Dick’s absence Miss Crilly appeared in Mrs. Bonnyman’s room, where some half-dozen of the ladies were chatting.

“She is married!” she announced in a stage whisper, “married to the milkman oh! oh! oh!” Miss Crilly sat down in the midst of eager questioning.

“They say she wrote a note to Miss Sniffen yesterday, but I didn’t get my news from her no, sir-ee! It came pretty straight, though, I guess it’s so all right.”

“What’d you say, Mis’ Albright? Yes, she was married day before yesterday went to the minister’s! She told somebody she just couldn’t stand it here another minute.”

“I wonder if she’s ever seen him much,” said Miss Major.

“My, yes! She’s known him for years used to be her milkman when she kept house! He isn’t any stranger! Oh, don’t I wish I could see her!”

“Maybe she will come over and call on us,” observed Mrs. Prindle.

“If she dares,” spoke up Mrs. Bonnyman.

“Well, I’m glad for her!” declared Miss Crilly. “Wouldn’t it feel good to be cut loose from rules! Dear me! We’re so tied up it seems, sometimes’s if I must scream!”

“I don’t think people outside know how things go here,” put in Miss Mullaly. “Why, everybody congratulated me on getting in! I thought I was going to have the time of my life!” She laughed deprecatingly.

“It is the time of our lives the worst time!” snapped Miss Major.

“Well folks can get along some way,” said Miss Sterling; “but Heaven save the sick ones!”