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


Juanita Sterling was in the little procession that started from the June Holiday Home at two o’clock. So was David Collins. They were nearly the whole line apart, and Polly skipped up and down between them.

“I’m so glad you were able to come!” she told Miss Sterling, squeezing her arm. “I haven’t had a chance to speak to David yet; but I must.” She sighed. “Oh, dear, I hate fusses! He’s with Leonora. Say, did you see Doodles? He had to go to the music store and have something done to his violin he said it wouldn’t take more than three minutes. He’s going to catch up with us farther along; he can take a short cut across from Columbia Street. Think of him and Blue coming clear down from Foxford just to go to walk with us!”

“It looks as if they wanted to come.”

Polly laughed.

“I suppose I mustn’t speak to either of them, or David will be furious! I guess I’ll go on and do as I like! There’s Miss Crilly beckoning I promised her I’d walk a little way with her. Good-bye for now!”

Miss Sterling saw Doodles come up a cross street, violin in hand, and run ahead to join Polly. She chuckled softly.

“Where are we bound for to-day?” queried Miss Mullaly in her ear.

“I don’t know. Polly hasn’t told me the route.”

A motor-car whizzed by.

“Wasn’t that Mr. Randolph?”

“I think so,” answered Miss Sterling. Her tone was indifferent.

“I’ve seen that lady with him two or three times. Do you know who it is?”

“Miss Puddicombe, I believe, daughter of one of the Board.”


The eyes of the other involuntarily followed the car.

“She dresses in all colors of the rainbow,” laughed Miss Mullaly. “It’s queer, how little taste some people But maybe she is a friend of yours!”

“No, I never spoke to her. I have heard of her astonishing combinations, though.”

Polly came running back.

“Isn’t it lovely that Doodles has his violin! He says when we get tired and come to a nice place to rest, he will play to us. Aren’t you tired? I want somebody to be, so we can have the music. He has learned some new pieces.”

“I think there is a pretty grove not far ahead. Don’t you remember it? There’s a great rock at one side, and a little clump of young birches near by.”

“Oh, yes, next to a sheep pasture! That will be just the place! I’ll tell Doodles!”

But before the wood was reached, the party came upon a car by the side of the road. Juanita Sterling had recognized it and longed to run away.

“Why, it’s Mr. Randolph!” discovered Miss Mullaly.

“Yes, he has tire trouble, I see.”

The president of the Home was already talking with those ahead.

Polly came back.

“Mr. Randolph and Miss Puddicombe,” she whispered. “He is introducing her to the ladies.”

Miss Sterling nodded and shrank away.

“I don’t want to meet her,” she objected. “I wonder if they’d notice if we should cut across this lot.”

“Oh, don’t! I’m afraid they would.”

The other looked longingly toward the way of escape while she walked on with Polly.

Juanita Sterling and Blanche Puddicombe stood face to face, a smiling “How do you do, Miss Puddicombe!” on one side, a gushing “I’m charmed to meet you!” on the other, with a gingerly hand-shake between.

Nelson Randolph was too busy with his tire for much talking, and, as early as decency would allow, Miss Sterling by degrees slipped into the background,

“Let’s go on,” she whispered, taking Miss Leatherland’s arm.

The others straggled after, by twos and threes.

“Why didn’t you stay longer?” questioned Polly, overtaking her friend.

“There was nothing to stay for,” she laughed.

“Miss Puddicombe said she would like to get acquainted with you.” Polly’s tone had the inflection of disappointment.

“Very kind of her,” was the quiet comment.

Polly glanced whimsically at Miss Sterling’s face. “I guess that is the grove you were speaking of,” was what she said.

Many of the ladies were glad to stop, and scattered stones and mossy logs made pleasant resting places.

Doodles played delightfully and finally slipped into a waltz.

“Oh, my feet just won’t stay still!” cried Miss Crilly. “Come on, Polly!” And the two went dancing through the wood.

“It’s better over there in the pasture,” said Polly, as they came to a sudden halt against a big pine.

“Let’s try it!” Miss Crilly pulled her forward, and over they ran, hand in hand.

“Doodles! Doodles!” they called.

The boy and the violin were quickly there, and Patricia and the young folks ran after.

“Oh, this is lovely! Better come and try it!” “The very dandiest place!” cried the dancers as they stopped for breath.

Miss Major, Miss Mullaly, and others came laughing into the open.

Doodles played with zest, everybody was in merry mood, and the dance went gayly on.

Polly suddenly ran into the grove for her beloved Miss Nita.

“You must! You must!” she declared, as Miss Sterling doubtfully shook her head. “You don’t know how much nicer it is to dance outdoors! Come!”

She hesitated, but the music was inspiring, and impulsively tossing all else aside she skipped on with Polly.

Along the road jogged a buggy, and the driver stared at the unusual sight. Then he stopped his horse.

“What’s up?” he called out. “Is it a boardin’-school or a lunatic asylum?”

Polly and Miss Sterling came whirling toward him. “Neither, sir!” answered Polly promptly. “We are dancing hikers!”

“Wh-at?” the man gasped.

But the laughing couple waltzed on.

Blue had gallantly claimed Juanita Sterling for her second dance, and as they waltzed down to the street they saw the motorists whom they had left beside the road driving toward them. The car stopped, and Mr. Randolph and Miss Puddicombe stepped out.

“It was too tempting!” he exclaimed. “We couldn’t go by. Is it a free-for-everybody dance?”

“Of course it is!” answered Blue. “We are very glad to have you stop and try it with us.”

The Home President turned to his companion. “Will you come?” he said.

She looked down with a scowl. “Why, Nelson, I can’t dance on such rough ground!”

“Oh, come on!” he urged. “What the others can do, we can!”

“It isn’t bad really!” smiled Miss Sterling. “The sheep have nibbled it pretty smooth.”

The couples whirled off, but soon afterwards Nelson Randolph was seen standing alone over by the wood.

“Guess she’s the kind that goes with waxed floors and a whole orchestra,” laughed Blue.

When the fiddling came to a pause Juanita Sterling found herself not far from the man whom she was endeavoring to shun.

“Let’s go down to those birches!” she proposed carelessly. But she was too late, for Nelson Randolph was already coming her way.

“Too tired for another turn?” he asked.

“Oh, no, I’m not tired!” yet her face did not reflect his smile. She wished he would go away and leave her alone. Why must she continually be meeting him! Still she could not easily refuse when he urged his request, and she yielded a somewhat grave consent.

Miss Crilly and David Collins gayly led the quadrille that followed, and even Miss Castlevaine’s habitual sneer was lost in the enjoyment of the moment. But Juanita Sterling, lover of all outdoors, devotee of music and the dance, with the best partner on the ground, went through the steps, her graceful feet and her aching heart pitifully at variance.

They walked together over to the edge of the wood.

“I have business in Riverview to-morrow morning would you like to go? The ride over the mountain is very pretty now, and my errand won’t take more than five minutes.”

She could feel the warm blood creep up her face. Her answer hesitated. “I am sorry,” came at last, “but I’m afraid I cannot to-morrow.”

He gave a little rueful laugh. “I always choose the wrong time,” he said.

“I am very sorry,” she repeated truthfully.

“Nelson!” called Miss Puddicombe, as they drew near. “It is horribly impolite; but I think I’ll have to hurry you a little. I want to see Grace about those tickets for the Charity Fair, and it is getting late.”

“I am at your disposal,” he replied gallantly. And shortly they were gone.

Polly walked home with Miss Sterling. David was devoting himself to Patricia. Polly’s gay mood had passed and left her quiet and pensive. Only commonplaces were spoken Miss Castlevaine was just ahead, and her ears were sharp. Miss Sterling knew that as soon as the seclusion of the third-floor corner room was reached Polly’s heart would overflow in confidences.

“Will you come in?” For Polly had stopped at the entrance.

“Yes.” A step forward. “N-no, I guess I won’t yes, I will, too!”

Miss Castlevaine looked round with a short laugh. “What’s the matter, Polly? Lost your beau?”

“No, he’s lost me!” was the quick retort.

“Oh, is that it?”

“Yes, Miss Castlevaine, that is precisely it!” A warning flush was on Polly’s cheeks. “Thank you, Miss Nita, I’ll go up for a little while,” she said.

With a shrug and a little “Huh!” the descendant of the duchess passed on.

The door clicked shut, and Polly dropped into a rocker, tossing aside her hat and coat.

“What shall I do with David?” she sighed. “He barely nodded to me to-day!”

“I presume I should cruelly let him alone.”

“Then ’twould be good-bye, David! He’d never, never, never take the first step! And I like David!” Polly caught her breath.

“Poor little girl! I’m sorry!” Miss Sterling knelt beside her and threw an arm about her.

Polly began to sob. “I thought he’d be decent this afternoon! I haven’t done a single thing!”

“No, you haven’t!” agreed Miss Sterling. “And for that reason when he has thought it over long enough I believe he will see how foolish he has been.”

“But he won’t give in!” declared Polly, wiping her eyes. “Well, I can’t go to him and say, ‘Please forgive me!’ when I haven’t done anything! I guess I’ll let him gloom it out! There, that’s settled! Now let’s talk about you!” She stroked Miss Sterling’s hair, and smiled.

“You just ought to have seen you two dancing together!” she broke out in a lively tone.

“Pity there couldn’t have been a long mirror set up somewhere!” replied Miss Sterling.

“Well, you did look lovely!” Polly went on, ignoring the retort.

“Do you mean each of us separately or only when we were in company?” asked the other gravely.

“Oh, now, don’t you make fun of me! I know what I’m talking about! Doodles said you were the best dancers he ever saw!”

“And he has seen so many!” murmured Miss Sterling.

Polly tossed her head in disapproval, but continued, “I was so in hopes he would have time to ask you to go to ride and then she had to hurry him up! It sounded exactly as if she were jealous!”

“He invited me,” said Miss Sterling quietly.

“Oh, he did?” The voice was joyful. “When are you going?”


Polly stared at her friend in dismay. “Miss Nita! You don’t mean ?”

“Yes, I declined the privilege!”

The brown eyes blazed. “I think you’re

“Polly, wait! I do not wish to ride with Mr. Randolph he is engaged to Miss Puddicombe!”

Polly’s eyes grew big. “I don’t believe it! How do you know?”

“I was told so.”

“Do you really think it is true?” demanded Polly.

“There is nothing else to think.”

“She calls him Nelson,” mused Polly “I thought she was pretty bold! But he is too smart to be such a fool!”

“Love sometimes makes fools of the best of us.”

Polly watched the red flame up in the thoughtful face beside her, and in that moment Polly grew wise.

“He doesn’t love that Puddicombe ninny and he never will! You should have heard her talk when he was dancing with you. I was over there. Such airs! You’d think she held a mortgage on the world!”

A soft tap on the door was followed by the entrance of Miss Castlevaine.

“Have you heard?” she whispered tragically.

“No.” Miss Sterling grew grave.

Polly bent forward in her eagerness.

“You see, I went down to get a pitcher of hot water, and I heard Miss Sniffen’s voice in the dining-room and so went in that way. Mrs. Nobbs was up on the step-ladder in front of the placard, so I didn’t see it at first, but when I did it muddled me so I just stood there and stared. Miss Sniffen turned round and said, ’What do you want?’ sharp as could be, just as if I had no business there. She felt guilty all right! You could see that! Well, if you’ll believe me, I couldn’t think what I had gone for! And she said it again! Then I happened to see my pitcher, and that brought me to my senses, and I told her, ‘Some hot water.’ ’Why don’t you go get it, then?’ she yelled out, as if I were deaf! And I went huh!”

“But what was it they were doing?” urged Polly.

“Didn’t I tell you? They were putting up a notice in big letters, ‘No talking, please.’”