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


Polly aroused more enthusiasm among the ladies than Miss Sterling had thought possible. Almost everybody, even Mrs. Grace, with her rheumatic knee, was eager to join the new club.

It was agreed that those who were able should take a tramp together twice a week and should walk on the veranda, ten times its length, at least once a day.

Polly was unanimously elected president, Miss Major for corresponding secretary, and David Collins for treasurer.

“The club will be bankrupt from the start,” laughed Miss Crilly. “What do we need a treasurer for?”

“Oh, they always have one!” insisted Polly. “Maybe the money’ll come.”

“Sure! Somebody might donate a million dollars to us and what should we do without anybody to take care of it!” Miss Crilly chuckled happily.

The work of organization being disposed of, Mrs. Bonnyman asked what was to be done next.

Polly didn’t know.

“Oh, we must adjourn!” declared Miss Major. “That is the principal event of most business meetings.”

Accordingly, with much giggling from a few of the members, the new club voted to adjourn until the next Monday.

“Oh, dear! it’s raining hard!” cried Polly. “I thought maybe we could go for a little walk, just to mark the day.”

“Can’t we do something here have some game or other?” suggested Miss Crilly.

“I say!” burst out David, “I forgot! Mother told me to be at home by half-past three, and it’s almost that now. Will you come, Leonora, or wait for the shower to be over?”

Leonora preferred a walk in the rain to one alone, so they hurried into their raincoats and were off.

“Our company’s dwindling,” observed Miss Crilly, as the door shut upon Mrs. Post and Mrs. Crump, “but I don’t want to go home yet need I, Miss Sterling?” “Certainly not! I want you all to stay. Polly, you are queen of ceremonies what shall we do next?”

“We might try some of Grandaunt Susie’s exercises,” twinkled Polly.

“Just the thing!”

“Who’s Grandaunt Susie, pray?” Miss Crilly was frankly curious.

“Mother’s grandaunt,” explained Polly. “She was miserable, and these exercises made her strong enough to do almost anything. She is seventy-three, or was when she was here, a year ago, and father himself says she doesn’t look a minute over thirty-five!”

“Oh, my! Let’s try’em! I want to look ’not a minute over thirty-five’!” Miss Crilly waved her hands excitedly.

“How do you begin this way?” Miss Mullaly sprang to her feet, threw out her chest, and worked her arms up and down.

“Oh, no!” cried Polly. “That is not it at all! You take them lying down!”

“Mercy!” cried Miss Lily.

“I’d like that!” declared Mrs. Albright.

“Good and easy!” Miss Crilly nodded.

“Yes, they are every one to be practiced in bed, before you get up in the morning,” resumed Polly.

“What if you don’t wake early enough?” asked Mrs. Prindle with a shrug.

“Then you’re late for breakfast or lose your chance of going back to thirty-five!” laughed Miss Crilly.

“How can you thrash your arms round in bed?” Miss Mullaly queried.

“You don’t have to. It isn’t like gymnastics.”

“Well, do tell us, Polly! I’m just crazy to begin!” Miss Crilly laughingly shook Polly’s shoulders.

“There are so many of them,” Polly drew a long, laughing breath, “I hardly know which to take first. There is one for the legs that would help in walking. But you’ll have to lie down first.”

Miss Crilly and Miss Major hurried to the floor, Miss Mullaly following.

“Oh, lie on the bed!” cried Miss Sterling.

“This is all right.” asserted Miss Crilly. “Go on, Polly!”

“You want to turn just a mite on your right side. Now make your right leg firm, and put your left toes against the top of your right foot, yes, that’s it! and tense the muscles of your left leg hard! Now relax! Tense again! Relax! You mustn’t do it too long at first, but that’s the way tense and relax, ten times on this side and ten on the other.”

“Whew! takes some strength! Why don’t you try it, girls? It’s fun! Miss Sterling will let you have her bed we’ll make it over afterwards. Try it. Mis’ Albright, and you, Miss Leatherland, it’ll do you good!”

“Yes, go ahead, as Miss Crilly says,” urged Miss Sterling. “I’ve practiced that, and I think it has made me stronger.”

Polly’s class was increased to five, but the others could not be induced to make any attempt.

“There’s another that’s pretty good,” went on Polly. “It’s for both sides, alternate, but you can learn it on your right. Bend up your left knee, and take your left ankle in your left hand now pull hard, leg and hand both! That’s right. Pull and then relax. Here’s another; bend your knee the upper one, and take it in both hands and pull hard! Relax, and then pull again.”

“I wish there was an exercise to make thin folks fatter,” observed Miss Mullaly.

“I know some that’ll make your cheeks plump and round,” said Polly.

Little squeals of doubt greeted the announcement.

“I don’t believe they’d make my face round,” laughed Miss Leatherland.

“Yes, they would! Wouldn’t they, Miss Nita?”

“I can’t swear to it, as Polly does; but this I do know it plumps and pinks them for a little while. Polly says her aunt told her that after enough practice the plumpness would stay.”

“Oh, what is it?” queried Miss Mullaly eagerly.

“I’ll try it on Miss Leatherland if she’ll let me,” offered Polly. “It will be more of a test on her, because she is thinnest.”

“Certainly you may, but I can’t quite believe it will do what you say it will.”

“Just you wait’” chuckled Polly. “First you must smile, a big, big smile! Not quite hard enough! Yes, that’s better! Now, while I press my hands against your cheeks and massage them this way, you must open and shut your mouth no, wider than that! a little wider just as wide as you can! Keep on smiling all the time!

“There! now I’ll let you look in the glass see how your cheeks have plumped out! Oh, but you lock pretty!”

“Doesn’t she!” Miss Crilly jumped up, the better to see. “Look! everybody! My, how pretty!”

“‘Pretty!’” scorned Miss Leatherland. Yet the pink rose higher.

“Polly! is this the right way?” Miss Mullaly was doing her best, but not well enough to satisfy the instructor.

“The middle of your hand must come up high on your cheek,” explained Polly. “Yes, that’s it! And twenty-five times you must open and shut your mouth.”

“Polly,” broke in Miss Sterling, “when you can, I wish you’d tell Mrs. Prindle how to make her hair grow.”

“Yes,” added Mrs. Prindle, “she says you know a way of massaging the scalp, and my hair is so thin!”

“You’ll have to take it down, I guess so you can get at it all over,” said Polly.

“Do you know it will really help it?”

“Grandaunt Susie said her hair was so thin you could see through it, and when she was at our house it was as thick as as thick as mine.”

“Oh, I’m going to try that my hair’s all coming out!” Miss Lily drew her pins from the thin coil.

Mrs. Grace and Mrs. Adlerfeld made their heads ready for manipulation.

“You just put your hands this way, right up under your hair,” Polly spread out her fingers, “and clutch at the scalp hard, as if you were going to pull it off. Go all over the head, again and again for five minutes two or three times a day. Aunt Susie says it will make the hair grow like fun.”

“Oh, Miss Polly, will you be so kind as to show me just how it goes, please?” Miss Twining was shaking down her scanty locks.

“It’s very easy,” Polly smiled. She liked the shy, gentle Miss Twining. “This is all there is to it,” working her hands under the soft blond hair. “The only trouble is, it tires the hands out pretty quick.”

“Oh, yours must be tired! I should not have asked you!”

“No, no! Mine are all right. I was thinking only of yours. Now, try it yourself. Yes, that’s the way! You have it!”

“Polly!” Miss Crilly was on the floor, hugging her knee.

“I’m here!” laughed Polly.

“Do you know anything that will scare away a double chin?”

“Yes, I do!”

“Oh, jolly! What is it?”

“I’d like to hear about that!” spoke up Miss Castlevaine.

Polly thought a moment.

“You’ll have to lie down flat on your back no, you go over on the bed, Miss Castlevaine, and I’ll tell you how to do it.”

“Don’t get up, Mis’ Albright!” cried Miss Crilly. “I can learn how here just as well!” She lay back, her eyes on Polly.

“I’ll put this pillow right under your shoulders so. Now throw your head

A sharp rap halted the sentence. Mrs. Albright sat up. The door was flung open before Polly reached it.

“Ladies! what does this mean?” Miss Sniffen stood there, resolute and merciless.

Nobody answered.

Miss Twining and Miss Lily began hurriedly to gather up their disheveled hair. Miss Castlevaine arose haughtily. Polly’s tongue was quickest to recover itself.

“I was only teaching the ladies some exercises to make them strong. We are not doing any harm, Miss Sniffen.”

“I infer that it makes them stronger to pull their hair down.” The tone was smoothly sarcastic.

“Oh, that!” returned Polly, with a tiny smile; “I’ve been telling them how to massage the scalp, so as to make their hair grow.”

“Very necessary, indeed! And I suppose their hair grows faster if they stretch themselves out upon the bed and the floor! I’m ashamed of you!”

“Oh, Miss Sniffen!” protested Polly, “you have to lie down to take these exercises! The book says so!”

“Book!” snapped the angry voice; “I’ll book you all for what you won’t like if I ever catch you in such unladylike postures again! You must be in your second childhood! Now march to your rooms, every one of you!” She waved her hand peremptorily toward the doorway, and the culprits filed meekly past her all but Miss Castlevaine. She walked with stately step and head held high, as became the great-granddaughter of a duchess.

“I think you would better go home now, you have worked mischief enough for one day!” She addressed Polly in a slightly mollified tone.

“Why, Miss Sniffen, I can’t see what harm there is in trying to get well and strong. I should think you’d like the ladies to be better. Father and mother think these exercises are fine! Mother’s Grandaunt Susie told us about them. They made her as good as new!”

“We won’t discuss the matter,” replied the superintendent in a hard voice. “You need not remain to talk it over with Miss Sterling.”

“I’m going right now!” Polly caught up her coat.

“Good-bye, Miss Nita!” She swept past Miss Sniffen with a curt bow.

The door tight shut, Juanita Sterling fisted the air in the direction of the departing superintendent. Then she drooped her head and sobbed.