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


The morning was as clear and balmy as a festival day should be, and the cars were at the door of the June Holiday Home at three minutes before nine o’clock.

“Let’s go early,” Juanita Sterling had said, “while the day is fresh from the hand of God.” And in accordance with her wish Polly had appointed the hour.

Most of the ladies were in Sunday attire, their wardrobes holding few changes between “everyday” and “best.”

Juanita Sterling handled her small stock of apparel so that, plain as it was, it had an air of distinction. Little deft touches here and there added character and daintiness to any garment that she wore. Some of the less fortunate realized this as they rode out of the Home gate that July morning, and one or two were actually envious of the little woman who sat in Colonel Gresham’s beautiful car and responded so merrily to the Colonel’s sallies.

“I guess Miss Sterling has ways of getting her nest feathered that some other folks don’t know anything about,” whispered Miss Castlevaine to Miss Major.

“No such thing!” was the prompt retort. “She knows how to put her feathers on, that’s all.”

“Knowing how don’t change colors as I’ve ever heard huh! Look at that white dress! They don’t give me white dresses!”

“Probably she had it when she came. She hasn’t been here a year yet, you know,” replied Miss Major.

“They won’t make over mine,” complained the other.

“Oh!” broke in Mrs. Albright, “look over there! Isn’t that magnificent?”

Fields and slopes of varying green, wooded hills, and mountains in the blue distance these made the picture that had called forth the exclamation.

“Magnificent!” echoed Miss Major.

Miss Castlevaine looked, but said nothing. The darkness of envy and discontent still dimmed her eyes.

Juanita Sterling, in the car ahead, was yielding herself to the bountiful joy of the moment and had forgotten disagreeable things. Polly and Colonel Gresham kept up a steady run of pleasantries, much of which came easily to her quick ears, and she found herself smiling with them even while her eyes were feasting on the ever-changing landscape.

“Doesn’t Mrs. Dick live somewhere out this way?” inquired Miss Mullaly.

Miss Sterling did not know and in turn asked the Colonel.

“Tenney, the milk dealer? His farm is over there to the left a mile or two. Would you like to call on the bride?”

“Yes, I should! Wouldn’t you, Polly?”

“First-rate! Let’s!” was the eager answer.

So at the next cross-road the car was turned that way.

“I’m awfully glad you thought of it!” Polly turned to say.

“I didn’t think of going there,” Miss Mullaly admitted, “but I’d love to. Won’t she be surprised!”

Surprised, indeed, was the former Mrs. Dick. She was on her way from garden to kitchen when the procession of cars came into view, and, her overflowing basket in hand, she halted on the side lawn until the party should pass by. A bunch of automobiles did not appear every day on the Tenney Farm road. Instead of going past, however, the big car ahead steered straight for her, and she recognized her friends! Down went her basket, and she skipped over the grass with the agility of a girl of fifteen.

“How do you do Miss Sterling and Polly and all of you! Well, I am astonished! And if there aren’t Miss Twining and Mrs. Bonnyman why, are you all here?”

“Pretty nearly,” answered Polly, who had jumped from the car and was clasping the speaker’s hand.

Mrs. Tenney was soon surrounded by her Home associates and was so overwhelmed by the suddenness of the call that she almost forgot to invite them into the house.

“Oh, we can’t stay!” declared Mrs. Albright. “We are just out for a ride, and those of us in the rear cars were about as surprised as you were. We’d no idea that Colonel Gresham was headed for your place we didn’t know you lived here till we saw you!”

“Dear people!” broke in Miss Sterling, “where are our manners? I’ll confess, I forgot! Mrs. Tenney,” with twinkling eyes she extended her hand, “I wish you every possible joy for all the days and years to come!”

Amid much laughter more good wishes followed, until somebody remembered that the morning was slipping away, and they were far from home.

“Well, say, why can’t you all come out here sometime and spend the day? ’T won’t make a mite of difference when. We always have enough to eat, and I am generally right here. I’d love dearly to have you. Pile ’em all in, if you can! Sit in each other’s laps any way to get ’em here! They’re going to keep up the rides, aren’t they?”

An instant’s silence was broken by Polly. “Yes, we are!” she promised. “Colonel Gresham and father are going to let us have the cars until we’re able to walk ten miles on a stretch!”

This sally was greeted by a shout, and the party climbed into the cars and were off, good-byes mingling with the noise of the motors.

“Anybody getting tired?” asked Colonel Gresham, as they swept into the village of Clare.

None would admit fatigue, and on whirled the cars, leaving the handful of houses behind. Presently they entered the broad street of an old town, where houses with gambrel roofs and quaint porches neighbored in quiet dignity with towered mansions and verandaed bungalows. Colonel Gresham drew up his car at a little shop, and he and David disappeared through the doorway. They soon came back With their hands full of ice-cream cones, which they distributed and returned for more.

“Isn’t this cream lovely!” beamed Leonora to the back seat of the third car.

“Delicious!” responded Mrs. Albright.

“As good as I ever tasted!” declared Miss Major.

Miss Castlevaine nibbled hers for a moment longer before she spoke.

“My cousin goes automobiling a great deal,” she said, “and she makes her own cream solid cream it is, too! and she has something that she puts it in so that she can slice it off as she wants it. It keeps ice cold for an indefinite time.”

“I have heard of such contrivances,” said Mrs. Albright politely.

“No cream could be better than this,” asserted Miss Major confidently.

Miss Castlevaine drew her lips into a smirk.

“Trust the Colonel for buying the best of everything!” went on Miss Major. “What a man he is! I wish he were one of the directors of the June Holiday Home.”

Miss Castlevaine’s face stiffened into an expression of superiority, as if she could divulge things detrimental to the Colonel if she wished. But nobody appeared to regard her, and the cars jogged on,

Mrs. Adlerfeld, meanwhile, wore a look of saintly rapture.

Polly turned to say, “Isn’t the air nice this morning?”

“Here it is beautiful!” smiled the little Swedish woman. “I have lots o’ joy!”

Colonel Gresham threw her an admiring glance. “Glad you like it,” he said.

“Oh, I like it very!” she responded. “I hope it didn’t tired you to drive him.”

“Not a bit!” he laughed.

“It looks more play as work,” she smiled.

He nodded brightly back to her, and then turned to Polly. His tone was too low to carry to the seat behind.

“Why didn’t you tell me what a charming little woman we had with us?”

“Isn’t she sweet!” beamed Polly. “Didn’t you ever meet her before?”

“Never! I’m going to invite her to ride with me all alone, just to hear her talk!”

Polly chuckled. “I wish you would,” she told him.

“She’d go, wouldn’t she?”

“Of course! Why not?”

“I’ll warrant that sour-looking elephant in the back car wouldn’t!” laughed the Colonel. “She’s that kind!”

“Oh! I guess you mean Miss Castlevaine. She’s the biggest one there is. But she is very nice sometimes.”

“The times are few and far between, aren’t they?” he twinkled.

Polly laughed, but said apologetically, “She’s been pleasant to me.”

“She ought to be; but over at the Tenneys’ she looked as if she’d like to be somewhere else. She seemed to keep on the edge of things.”

“She doesn’t always come in with the rest feels a little above some of them. She is very proud of her Russian ancestry. Her mother or grandmother was a duchess.”

“I thought she was proud of something,” observed the Colonel, “and it couldn’t be her good looks.”

“I think you are pretty hard on her,” protested Polly.

“Am I?” he smiled. “Is she a particular friend of yours? You’ll have to excuse me.”

“Oh, she isn’t an especial friend, but I feel sorry for her because she has to wear such old clothes and she loves pretty things.”

“Why doesn’t she get pretty things, then, while she is about it?”

“She can’t!” cried Polly. “She has to take what Miss Sniffen gives her.”

“Oh, I see! Well, I reckon I’d look sour if I were dependent on that Miss Sniffen for clothes.”

Polly chuckled. “I can’t imagine it!”

“It would come pretty hard!” Colonel Gresham shook his head musingly. “It is a shame that those women are not better treated! I’ll take them to ride as often as I can you tell them so, Polly!”

“I will!” Polly beamed her delight. “It’s lovely of you! It will do them no end of good. They stay cooped up in the house too much. You see, there’s so much red tape about going out even for a little walk, that sometimes they’d rather stay at home.”

“I’m going to talk to Randolph about it when I get a chance. He is too sensible a man to let this sort of thing go on.”

“Oh, but you mustn’t make him think there has been the leastest mite of complaint! If anybody finds a word of fault, she’ll get turned out! They’re afraid of their lives!”

“This little woman back here doesn’t look afraid.”

“No, she’s different.” Polly cast a look at her.

Mrs. Adlerfeld caught it and smiled back, a bright, happy smile, as if, indeed, she had “lots o’ joy.”