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


When Polly chanced to find her Miss Nita out she usually dropped into some other room for a little chat. On one such afternoon Miss Twining welcomed her most gladly.

“I get lonesome sitting here by myself day after day,” the little woman confessed. “Sometimes I am actually envious of Miss Sterling when I happen to see you go in there.”

“Then I’ll come oftener,” Polly declared. “I’d love to! I’m always afraid the ladies will get sick of the sight of me, I’m round here so much.”

“Mercy! I don’t believe anybody ever thought of such a thing. I’d be so happy to have you come to see me every day, I’d feel like standing on my head!”

Polly laughed. “I shall surely come! I should like to learn how to stand on my head I never could seem to get the trick of it.”

“I didn’t say I’d do it!” twinkled Miss Twining; “but I declare, I believe I would try, if that would get you in here!”

“Never you fear!” cried Polly. “You’ll see me so much, now I know you want me, you won’t get time for anything!”

“I’ll risk it.” Miss Twining nodded with emphasis.

“I’ve wondered sometimes,” Polly went on, “what I would do if I had to stay alone as much as some folks do the ladies here, for instance. Of course you can visit each other.”

“Yes, except in the hours when it is forbidden.”

“Strange, they won’t let you go to see each other in the evening.”

“I think it is because the ladies used to stay upstairs visiting instead of going down to hear Mrs. Nobbs read. Not all of them are educated up to science and history and such things.”

“I should think they would have some good books in the library, story books. Such a dry-looking lot I never saw!”

Miss Twining smiled. “They say that one night when Mrs. Nobbs was reading ‘History of the Middle Ages,’ she went into the parlor to find only two listeners, and right after that the rule was made forbidding them to go to each other’s rooms.”

Polly shook her head laughingly. “That was pretty hard on Mrs. Nobbs, wasn’t it? Is she a good reader?”

Miss Twining gave a little shrug. “I don’t go down usually,” she answered.

“Too bad! I don’t wonder you are lonely. But you can read, can’t you?”

“Not much by this light. It is too high.”

Polly regarded it with dissatisfaction.

“Yes, it is. I wish you had one on the table. They ought to give you good lights.”

Miss Twining pinched up her pretty lips with a thumb and forefinger, but said nothing.

“I was so indignant to think they took that money from you that you earned for writing a poem, I haven’t got over it yet!”

“It did seem too bad,” Miss Twining sighed.

“It was the meanest thing!” frowned Polly.

“For a long time I had not been in the spirit of writing, but that day I just had to write those verses, and when the paper accepted them it seemed to give me strength and courage and pleasure all at once. I was so happy that morning, thinking I could earn enough to buy me little things I want and perhaps some new books besides.”

“I’ve felt like crying about it ever since,” said Polly sadly. “You have written a good deal, haven’t you?”

“Oh, yes! When I was at home with father and mother I wrote nearly every day. I had a book published,” she added a little shyly.

“You did! That must be lovely to publish a book!” Polly beamed brightly on the little woman in the rocker.

“Yes, it was pleasant part of it! It didn’t sell so well as I hoped it would. The publishers said I couldn’t expect it, as I hadn’t much reputation, and it takes reputation to make poetry sell. They said it was good verse, and the editors had been so hospitable to me I counted on the public ” She shook her head with a sad little smile. “I even counted on my friends that was the hardest part of the whole business!”

“Surely your friends would buy it!” cried Polly.

“I don’t know whether they did or not I didn’t mean that. I mean, giving away my books that was the heart-breaking part!”

“I don’t understand. Miss Twining.”

“Before it was published years before,” went on the little woman reminiscently, “I used to think that if I ever did have books to give to my friends, how beautiful it would be! I thought it all out from beginning to end the end as I saw it! I wrote inscriptions by the dozen long before the book was even planned. It looked to me the most exquisite pleasure to give to my friends the work of my own brain, and I pictured their joy of receiving!” She gave a short laugh.

“But, Miss Twining, you don’t mean you can’t mean that they didn’t like it!”

“Oh, a few did! But I never heard from many that had read it that’s the trouble! Almost everybody thanked me before reading the book at all. When they wrote again they probably didn’t think of it. One man even forgot that I had given him a copy! The funny part was that at the time he had praised the verses. Then afterwards he told me that he had never seen my book, but should so like to read it. I was dumfounded! I believe I laughed. In a moment the truth dawned upon him, and he fairly fell over himself with apologies! I made light of his blunder, but of course it hurt.”

“How could he! He must have been a queer man!”

“Oh, no! he was very nice, only he didn’t care enough about me or the verses to remember. I have never seen him since. But what grieved me most of all,” Miss Twining went on, “was to send books to friends or those I called so and never receive even a thank-you in return.”

“Oh, nobody could !”

“Yes, more than once that happened more than twice!”

“It doesn’t seem possible!” Polly’s face expressed her sympathy.

“I don’t think I required too much,” Miss Twining went on. “I didn’t want people to pour out a punch bowl of flattery. But just a word of appreciation of my thought of them, even if they didn’t care for my verses. Oh, it is heart-breaking business, this giving away books!”

“I should have thought it was about the most delightful thing,” mused Polly soberly.

“It may be with some writers. Perhaps my experience is exceptional I hope so. It took away nearly all the pleasure of having a book. Of course a few friends said just the right thing in the right way and said it so simply that I believe they meant what they said. I never felt that my work was anything wonderful. I did my best always, and I was happy when any one saw in it something to like and took the trouble to tell me so that was all.”

“I should think that was little enough for any author to expect,” said Polly. “I always supposed authors had a jolly good time, with everybody praising their work. I never saw anything of yours I guess I should like it. I love poetry!”

“You do?” Miss Twining started to get up, then sat down again. “I wonder if you would care for my verses?” she hesitated. “You could have a copy as well as not.” Her soft eyes rested on Polly’s face.

“Oh, I should love them I know I should!” Polly declared.

Miss Twining went over to her closet and stooped to a trunk at the end.

“There!” she said, putting in Polly’s hand a small, cloth-bound volume neatly lettered, “Hilltop Days.”

The girl opened it at random. Her eye caught a title, and she read the poem through.

“That is beautiful!” she cried impulsively.

“Which one is it?” asked the childlike author.

“‘A Winter Brook.’”

“Oh, yes! I like that myself.”

“What lovely meter you write!” praised Polly. “The lines just sing themselves along.”

“Do they? The publishers told me the meter was good. I guess my ear wouldn’t let me have it any other way.”

“Do you play or sing?” queried Polly.

“I used to before we lost our money. Since then I haven’t had any piano.”

“That must have been hard to give up!” Tears sprang to Polly’s eyes.

“Yes, it was hard, but giving up a piano isn’t the worst thing in the world.”

“No,” was the absent response. Polly was turning the leaves of the book, and she stopped as a line caught her fancy. Her smile came quickly as she read.

“Miss Twining!” she exclaimed, “I am so astonished to think you can write such lovely, lovely poems! Why, the June Holiday Home ought to be proud of you!”

“Oh, Polly!” The little woman blushed happily.

“Well, only real poets can write like this! If people knew about them I’m sure the book would sell. The poems that Mr. Parcell ends off his sermons with aren’t half as good as these!”

Miss Twining smiled. “I wonder what made you think of him. Do you know I never told this to a soul before I have wished and wished that he would come across one of mine some day and like it so well that he would put it into a sermon! Oh, how I have wished that! I have even prayed about it! Seems to me it would be the best of anything I could hope to have on earth, to sit there in church and hear him repeat something of mine! There! I’m foolish to tell you that! You’ll think me a vain old woman!”

“No, I shall not!” cried Polly. “I should like it ’most as well as you would! It would be a beautiful happening. And probably he would if he knew them. Did you ever give him a book?”

“Oh, no, indeed! I shouldn’t dare!”

“Why not? He is very nice to talk with.”

“Yes, I know. He calls on me every year or two. I like him.”

“I do, and I want him to read your poems. Do you mind if I take this home to show to father and mother? They love poetry. And then I’ll mid a way for Mr. Parcell to see it!”

“Why, my dear, it is yours!”

“Oh, did you mean that?” Polly drew a long breath of delight. “I shall love it forever and you, too!” Impulsively she put her arms round Miss Twining’s neck and kissed her on both cheeks.

“If I thought Mr. Parcell wouldn’t think it queer,” hesitated Miss Twining, “I have several copies, and I’d like to give him one; but I don’t know

“Of course he wouldn’t think it queer!” asserted Polly. “He’d be delighted! He couldn’t help it such poetry as this is! I’ll leave it at his house if you care to have me.”

“Oh, would you? That is dear of you! I Was wondering how I’d get it to him. I’ll do it right up now.”

Miss Twining came back with the book, a little troubled scowl on her forehead.

“Oughtn’t I to write an inscription in it? I don’t know what to say.”

“It would be nice,” Polly nodded. “Of course you’ll say it all right.”

In a moment the poet was at her table, the book open before her. She dipped her pen in the ink, then halted it, undecided.

“I wonder if this would be enough, ’To Rev. Norman S. Parcell, from his parishioner, Alice Ely Twining’?”

“That sounds all right to me,” answered Polly deliberately.

“I can’t say ’loving parishioner’ to a man,” laughed Miss Twining a bit nervously.

“It isn’t necessary,” chuckled Polly.

“If he came to see me oftener I’d love him more,” said the little woman wistfully.

“He’ll come often enough now you just wait! He hasn’t anybody in his church that can write such poetry as this.” She patted the little book caressingly.

“I hope he’ll like it, but I don’t know,” the author doubted.

“He will,” smiled Polly.

In a moment the package was ready.

“It is so good of you to do it!” Miss Twining looked very happy.

“I love to do such errands as this,” laughed Polly. “I’ll be in to-morrow to tell you about it.”