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


Early the next morning Polly ran over to the Home. She was eager to hear how Miss Twining’s new plan had worked. As she neared her friend’s door, however, a murmur of voices came from within, and she kept on to the third floor, making her way straight to the corner room.

Juanita Sterling met her with a troubled little smile.

“What is it?” she asked quickly, looking beyond to Mrs. Albright and Miss Crilly. Their excited faces emphasized the other’s doubtful greeting.

“Nothing,” spoke up Mrs. Albright, “only Miss Twining has had a time with Miss Sniffen.”

“What about?”

“Money,” answered Miss Sterling wearily. “It is lucky for the rest of us that we don’t have any.”

“That same money?” persisted Polly.

“No, dear.” Mrs. Albright drew up a chair beside her “Come sit down, and I’ll tell you about it. I’ve been telling them, and we have got a little wrought up over it, that’s all.”

“I should think anybody’d get wrought up!” put in Miss Crilly. “I guess it will be the death of poor Miss Twining!”

“No, no, it won’t! See how you’re scaring Polly!”

The girl glanced beseechingly from one to another.

“What is it? You’re keeping something back!”

Mrs. Albright patted the chair invitingly. “Come here! I’m going to tell you every word I know.”

“She was so happy yesterday!” mourned Polly.

“She will be again, dear.”

“Looks like it!” sniffed Miss Crilly. “I believe in saying the truth right out!”

“Katharine Crilly, you just mind your own business!” laughed Mrs. Albright.

“To begin at the beginning,” she turned toward Polly, “I was knocking at Miss Twining’s door yesterday afternoon when she came up the stairs. So I went in with her and stayed a little while. She was in fine spirits. She had been to see an old friend of hers, a member of the Board, and this lady had given her the same amount of money that Miss Sniffen had

“Stolen!” burst out Miss Crilly.

“I’m telling this story!” announced Mrs. Albright placidly. “But Miss Twining said,” she resumed, “that she had promised not to divulge the name of the lady to any one. So I don’t know who it is. On her way home she had bought a book that she had wanted for a long time. I told her she’d have to look out or she would get caught reading it; but she said they always knocked before coming in, and she should have time to put it on the under shelf of her table where the cover partly hides it. I said, ’Well, you look out now!’ and she laughed and promised she would.

“In the evening, as I was sitting alone, I heard talking, and I went to my door to listen. I thought I knew the voice, and when I opened the door a crack I was sure whose room it came from. ’Oh, I’m afraid she’s caught her again!’ I said to myself, and I waited till I heard somebody go softly away and down the stairs. Then I stole over to Miss Twining.

“It was just as I had feared! She was reading all so nice, when without a mite of warning in sailed Miss Sniffen! Of course she asked her where she got the book, and she said it was given to her. But she wouldn’t tell the woman’s name. Miss Sniffen couldn’t get it out of her! She talked and threatened; but Miss Twining wouldn’t give in. Finally she vowed she’d have it out of her if she had to flog it out! I could see that Miss Twining was all wrought up and as nervous as could be as who wouldn’t have been!”

“Oh!” gasped Polly. “It’s just awful! Did she whip her?”

Mrs. Albright shook her head and went on.

“Miss Twining said that Amelia Sniffen used to go round in society with her youngest brother, Walter, and that she was dead in love with him. Walter fairly hated her, and never paid her the least attention when he could get out of it; but she would put herself in his way, as some girls will, until he was married and even afterwards. And when Alice Twining came here and found that Miss Sniffen had been appointed superintendent she was almost a mind to back out; but she hadn’t any other place to go, so she stayed, and she said Miss Sniffen had seemed to take delight in being mean to her ever since. Well, it’s a tight box that Amelia Sniffen has got herself into this time!” Mrs. Albright sighed.

“Please go on!” whispered Polly.

“Yes, dear. I got Miss Twining to bed, and she quieted down a little. Finally I left her and crept back to my room. I don’t know what time it was, but after eleven, I woke dreaming that I heard my name called. I jumped up and ran and opened the door. Everything was still. But I waited, and pretty soon I heard a voice in the room opposite. I rushed across the hall the door was locked! ‘Miss Twining! Miss Twining!’ I called, two or three times. At first nobody answered; then Miss Sniffen came over to the door and said, ‘Shut up and go to bed!’ I asked her to let me in, but she wouldn’t. I said things that I shouldn’t have dared to say if I’d been cooler; but I’m glad I did! After a while I went back to my room, and I took out my key and hid it. I was afraid she’d lock me in. She did mean to, but for once she got fooled. I lay still as a mouse, hearing her fumble round my door. Finally she went downstairs. When I was sure she’d gone for good I took my key and stole across the hall. Sure enough, it unlocked the door, just as I hoped it would. Oh, that poor child was so glad to see me! Miss Sniffen had come up prepared to give her a whipping! She had brought a little riding-whip with her! But the very sight of it so upset Miss Twining, in her nervous state, that she had a bad turn with her heart, you know her heart always bothers her, and once she gave a little cry. Of course, Miss Sniffen didn’t want any rumpus, and she just clapped her hand hard over Miss Twining’s mouth. She says she doesn’t know whether it took her breath away suddenly, or what; but she fainted! When she came to, Miss Sniffen was rubbing her I guess she was pretty well frightened! There wasn’t anything more said about whipping! After she made up her mind that Miss Twining wasn’t likely to die right off, she and the riding-whip left.”

“Oh, dear, what will become of us!” cried Miss Crilly. “We are not safe a minute!”

“You shall be!” Polly burst out excitedly. “I’m going to tell Mr. Randolph everything about it!”

“Polly! Polly!” Miss Sterling laid a quieting hand on her shoulder.

The girl threw it off. Then she caught it to her lips and kissed it passionately. “I can’t bear it! I can’t bear it!” she cried. “To think of you all in such danger! You don’t know what she’ll do!”

“I don’t think we need have any fear until she gets over her scare about this,” said Mrs. Albright reassuringly. “She seems to me pretty well cowed down. Her eyes looked actually frightened when I caught her off guard. You see, she’s in a fix! She knows Miss Twining needs a doctor; but, of course, he would ask first thing what brought this on, and she couldn’t make the patient lie it out.”

“I guess lying wouldn’t trouble her any,” put in Miss Crilly.

“Dear Miss Twining!” murmured Polly plaintively.

“She is a sweet little woman,” Miss Crilly sighed.

“How is she this morning?” asked Polly.

“I hardly know what to tell you,” hesitated Mrs. Albright. “I think if Miss Sniffen would keep away she’d be better. Still, when she got up and tried to dress, she fainted again. Now Miss Sniffen has told her to stay abed, and she has put a notice on her door that she is too ill to receive visitors.”

“Then can’t you go in?” queried Polly anxiously.

“I do,” chuckled Mrs. Albright. “They’d have to do more contriving than they’ve done yet to shut me out!”

“Oh, I’m so glad!” cried Polly. “But she ought to have a doctor! I suppose if she did it would be that Dr. Gunnip He’s no good! Father says he’s little more than a quack and he isn’t safe. I wish father could see her; but he can’t unless he is called. It is too bad! I believe I’ll go straight to Mr. Randolph!”

“I don’t dare have you,” returned Mrs. Albright. “He would, of course, favor the Home, and if Miss Sniffen should hear of it

“Before I say anything I shall make him promise not to tell.”

“I’m awfully afraid to let you do it oh, Polly, don’t!” Miss Crilly was close to tears.

“Had you rather die?” she demanded. “You may be sick yourself and want a doctor! How are you going to get him?”

“If I’m sick I bet I’ll make such a fuss they’ll send for a doctor and a good one too!” cried Miss Crilly hysterically.

Polly had risen, and Miss Sterling drew her within the circle of her arm. “When the time comes we’ll decide what is best to do,” said she.

“I should think the time had come now!” the girl fumed. “Poor Miss Twining! It’s just an outrage!”

“Oh, I forgot!” Mrs. Albright bent toward Polly, with lowered voice. “She gave me something for you, dear.”

“Me?” Polly calmed at once.

“Yes. When I was with her in the night I think she feared that her heart might give out, and she said, ’If anything should happen, I wish you would give Polly those papers in my portfolio or you may give her the whole portfolio. She will understand.’”

“Oh, I know! Yesterday morning she was planning to write some poems, and those must be the ‘papers.’ But perhaps she won’t want me to have them now.”

“She spoke of it again to-day,” nodded Mrs. Albright. “She said she should somehow feel easier for you to keep them.”

“I hope Miss Sniffen won’t rummage round and get hold of them first,” returned Polly anxiously.

“I guess she won’t find ’em in a hurry!” chuckled Mrs. Albright. “They’re in my room!”