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


Polly came early the next morning to talk over things.

“You got all tired out, didn’t you?” she exclaimed, meeting the wearied eyes.

“Oh, no!” denied Miss Sterling. “I didn’t sleep quite as well as usual, but I’m all right.”

“I’m glad it is only that. You look almost sick,” Polly scanned the pale face a little doubtfully. “I’m worried about David he acted so queer last night.”

“What’s the trouble? They were talking of it coming home.”

“About David? or me?”

“Miss Castlevaine spoke of David’s being with Patricia, and was wondering if you had quarreled that’s all.”

“No, there hasn’t been a word!” cried Polly disgustedly. “But I suppose he is jealous of Doodles such a silly! He’s a lovely boy, if he weren’t always getting jealous of everybody. He wants me to stay right with him every minute and not speak to anybody else!”

“That is foolish.”

“I know it, but that’s David Collins!”

“I wonder ” she stopped.

“What?” asked Polly.

“I was only thinking about Colonel Gresham. Perhaps it was jealousy that caused the estrangement between him and Mrs. Jocelyn.”

“Maybe I never heard what it was.”

“Possibly it is in the blood, and David can’t help it.”

“He needn’t be a goose just because his grand uncle was! It isn’t as if we were grown up!”

Miss Sterling gave a little laugh.

“I don’t care, it isn’t!” insisted Polly. “If I were eighteen and engaged to him, of course, I shouldn’t expect to go around with other boys ’t wouldn’t be right: but now !” Polly’s face finished it.

Juanita Sterling looked gravely at nothing.

“And such a boy as Doodles!” Polly went on. “To start with, he is younger than I am, and that ought to be enough to give David some sense! Mother says she didn’t see me do anything out of the way did you. Miss Sterling?”

“Why why, what was it you asked, Polly? I was thinking so hard, I lost that last!”

Polly looked keenly at her friend’s flushed face.

“I believe you do think I did something! What is it? Tell me right out! I shan’t mind!”

“No, no, Polly! Forgive me, it wasn’t anything about you and David I happened to let another thought in just for a minute that was all. No, I don’t think you did anything that a sensible boy would mind in the least. Even if you were grown up and engaged to David, you did nothing that should have caused him any annoyance.”

“Oh! that’s more than mother gave me credit for! Do you really know what you’re saying anyway?” laughed Polly.

“Perfectly, Miss Dudley! And I declare to you this moment that you are a model of propriety!”

“O-o-h! Don’t I look awfully puffed up? Now you’ll think me silly! But I’ve talked long enough about David and me. I’m dying to tell you how glad, glad, glad I was last evening every time I looked your way! I almost forgot the birthday girl for thinking of you! Wasn’t Mr. Randolph lovely? And didn’t you have a dandy time? Why, he kept as close to you as if you ’d been engaged to him! He

“Oh, Polly, don’t talk that silly stuff! I won’t hear it!” Miss Sterling got up hurriedly and went to her work-table, apparently hunting for something in her spool basket.

“Why, Miss Nita!” Polly’s tone was grieved.

“Well, forgive me,” came from over the array of threads and silks, “but I do hate to hear you say such things!”

“I was only telling the truth,” said Polly plaintively. “I thought you were having a lovely time you looked as if you were! Doodles spoke of it.”

“Yes, I dare say I looked and acted like an old fool!”

“Miss Nita! You couldn’t! You looked too sweet for anything, and I guess he thought so

“Polly! what did I tell you?” She came back with a half-mended stocking.

“Aren’t you ever going to let me speak of Mr. Randolph again? He acted as if he were dead in love with y

A hand was clapped over her mouth.

“I won’t hear it! I won’t! I won’t!” Miss Sterling laughed a little uncertainly.

Polly drew a long breath of disappointment. “I never knew you to act like this before,” she mused.

“How sweetly Doodles sang!” said Miss Sterling.

“Yes,” agreed Polly dispiritedly.

“And you are a charming accompanist.”

“Oh! now, who’s silly?”

“Nobody.” Miss Sterling drew her hand from her stocking.

“It doesn’t seem to me that I play well at all I long to do so much better.”

“It is a rare gift to be a good accompanist, and you surely possess it.”

“Thank you you’re not saying that to counterbalance what you said about ?”

“No, I’m not! When I say a thing I mean it.”

“Perhaps some other folks do. Oh, Miss Nita! I couldn’t help hearing what Mr. Randolph said when he bade you good-bye I was so near!”

“What if you did! There was nothing secret about it.” The voice was hard and unnatural. Miss Sterling felt the flame in her cheeks.

“Well, I was almost sure that it meant he was going to take you to ride, weren’t you?”

“Of course he won’t ask me!” She crossed over to the work-table for another stocking.

“I think he will,” said Polly decidedly. “You’ll go if he does, shan’t you?”

“No, not an inch!”

“Oh, why? I’d go in a minute if he’d ask me!”

“Isn’t there something we can talk about besides that detestable man! How did Colonel Gresham enjoy Mrs. Adlerfeld?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him. I guess I’d better go. Mother may want me.” Polly walked slowly toward the door.

“I hope I shall be in a more agreeable mood when you come next time,” smiled Miss Sterling.

“I hope so,” replied Polly soberly.

The door had shut, the light footfalls were growing faint, when Juanita Sterling began to sob. Her lips twitched as she tried to suppress the tears. It was no use, they would have their way, and she finally hid her face in her hands and let them go.

“Why, Miss Nita! Dear Miss Nita!” Polly had her arms around her friend’s neck, crooning love words.

“I I didn’t hear you knock!” apologized Miss Sterling.

“Never mind, you darling! I only gave one little tap and then I came in. You don’t care, do you? If you do, I’ll go right away. But I’m sorry you feel so bad! You’re not sick, are you?”

“N-no, oh, no!”

“Well, don’t tell me, unless you’d rather. Sometimes I feel better to tell mother when things trouble me.”

Getting no answer, she went on.

“Should you like to have mother come over?”

“Mercy no! Don’t tell anybody, Polly, will you? what a fool I am!”

“Of course, I won’t tell ever! But you’re not a fool! Nobody can help crying when things go wrong. Miss Sniffen hasn’t been saying anything, has she?”

“Oh, no! I haven’t seen her lately.”

Polly waited patiently.

“I came back for my handkerchief,” she explained. “I thought I must have dropped it oh, there it is!”

“Was I dreadfully cross to you? I didn’t mean to be, dear child!”

“You weren’t a bit!” insisted Polly. “I ought to know better than to torment you about that man. But I like him so well, I can’t understand why you don’t. I wish you did!”

The sobs started again, and Miss Sterling got up quickly.

“I don’t see what makes me act like this!” she exclaimed fiercely.

Polly was not obtuse. She began to think hard. Still, Miss Nita had said Miss Nita would not lie! It was beyond her understanding.

Miss Sterling wiped her eyes.

“You know we’re to go on a hike to-morrow,” said Polly tentatively.

“Ye-s,” feebly. Then, “I’m not going.”

“Oh! why?”

“Don’t want to! Should if it wasn’t for that!”

“Good reason,” commented Polly, and she waited for a retort, but none came. “I’m afraid David will fuss,” she said finally.

“I don’t blame him one mite!” Miss Sterling broke out.

“Wh-why, you said I hadn’t done a thing!” Polly was plainly astonished.

“You haven’t! But I don’t blame David all the same.” Miss Sterling smiled a queer little equivocal smile.

“Well, you two are the hardest mortals to understand!” sighed Polly. “I give it up!” She skipped toward the door. “Be ready at two, to-morrow. Miss Nita!” she called back. “If you’re good, I’ll let you walk with David.”