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


Polly carried the portfolio home with her, and later, alone in her room, read the poems it contained. Tears blurred her eyes as she read and read again the verses dated the day before. Such a lilting, joyous song it was! And now !

“Oh, but she will get well and write again!” Polly said softly. Then she sighed, thinking of the bright plans that had so suddenly ceased.

Her thoughts went farther back, to the days of watching and waiting for the message that had never come, to the sleepless nights of grieving

“Oh!” she burst out impetuously, “he’s got to know it! Somebody must tell him how he has made her suffer! Miss Nita would do it beautifully; but I don’t suppose I could hire her to! Maybe father will.”

When this suggestion was made to him, however, Dr. Dudley shook his head promptly, and his impulsive daughter began at once to form other plans. “Mother wouldn’t,” she told herself. “No use asking her. Dear! dear! if there were only somebody besides me! Perhaps I can coax Miss Nita

A telephone call broke in upon her musings, and the disturbing thoughts were exchanged for a ride and a luncheon with Patricia Illingworth. On her way home in the afternoon, the matter came up again.

“I may as well go now and have it over with,” she decided suddenly, and she turned into a street which led to the home of the Reverend Norman Parcell.

Yes, he was in and alone, the maid said, and Polly was shown directly to the study.

“How do you do, Miss Polly!” The minister grasped her hand cordially. “This is a pleasant surprise.” He drew forward an easy chair and saw her comfortably seated.

“Have you heard that Miss Twining is ill?” Polly began.

“Miss Twining?” he repeated interrogatively. “M-m no, I had not heard. Is she an especial friend of yours, some one I ought to know?” He smiled apologetically. “I find it difficult always to place people on the instant.”

His apology might not have been attended by a smile if Polly’s indignant thought had been vocal. When she spoke, her voice was tense.

“Yes, Mr. Parcell, she is a very dear friend.” Her lip quivered, and she shook herself mentally; she was not going to break down at this juncture. She went quickly on, ahead of the phrase of sympathy on its way to the minister’s lips. “She lives at the June Holiday Home.”

“Oh, yes! I remember! Her illness is not serious, I hope.”

“I am afraid so,” returned Polly, passing quickly toward what she had come to talk about. “I don’t suppose you know what a beautiful woman she is.” She looked straight into his eyes, and waited.

“No,” he answered slowly, a suggestion of doubt in his tone, “I presume not. I have seen her only occasionally.”

“She told me that you called upon her every year or two.” Polly hesitated. “You can judge something by her poems. You received the book of poems she sent you?”

“Oh, yes!” he brightened. “I have the book.”

“How do you like it, Mr. Parcell? Don’t you think the poems wonderful?” Polly was sitting very straight in the cushioned chair, her brown eyes fixed keenly on the minister’s face.

“Why,” he moved a little uneasily “I really don’t know ” He threw back his head with a little smile. “To be frank, Miss Polly, I haven’t read them.”

Something flashed into the young face opposite that startled the man.

“Do you mean, Mr. Parcell,” Polly said slowly, “that you have not read the book at all?” Her emphasis made her thought clear, and his cheeks reddened.

“I shall have to own up to my neglect,” he replied. “You know I am a very busy man, Miss Polly.”

“You needn’t bother with the ‘Miss,’” she answered; “nobody does. Then, that is why you haven’t said ’thank you’ you don’t feel ’thank you’!”

“Oh, my dear Polly! I am very grateful to Miss Twining, I assure you, and I realize that I should have sent her a note of thanks; but in fact, I don’t recollect just how it was I presume I was waiting until I had read the book, and I may as well confess it! I was somewhat afraid to read it.”

“Afraid?” Polly looked puzzled.

“Such things are apt to be dreary reading,” he smiled. “I am rather a crank as regards poetry.”

The flash came again into Polly’s face. “Oh!” she cried, fine scorn in her voice, “you thought the poems weren’t good!”

He found himself nodding mechanically.

“Where is the book?” she demanded, glancing about the room.

“I really don’t know where I did leave it ” He scanned his cases with a troubled frown.

Tears sprang to the girl’s eyes. She seemed to see Alice Twining’s gentle, appealing face, as it had looked when she said, “I hope he doesn’t think I am presumptuous in sending it.” She dashed away the drops, and went on glancing along the rows of books. The minister had risen, but Polly darted ahead of him and pounced upon a small volume.

“Here it is!” She touched it caressingly, as if to make up for recent neglect.

“Your eyes are quicker than mine,” said Mr. Parcell, taking it from her hand.

“Read it!” she said, and went back to her chair,

The minister obeyed meekly. Polly’s eyes did not leave him.

He had opened the book at random, and with deepened color and a disturbed countenance had done as he was bidden. Surprise, pleasure, astonishment, delight, all these the watcher saw in the face above the pages.

Five minutes went by, ten, twenty; still the Reverend Norman Parcell read on! Polly, mouse-quiet, divided her softening gaze between the clergyman and the clock. The pointers had crept almost to four when the telephone called. The reader answered. Then he walked slowly back from the instrument and picked up the book.

“Miss Twining must be a remarkable woman,” he began, “to write such poetry as this for it is poetry!”

“She is remarkable,” replied Polly quietly. “She is finer even than her poems.”

The minister nodded acquiescently. “This ‘Peter the Great,’” he went on, running over the leaves, “is a marvelous thing!”

“Isn’t it! If you could have told her that” Polly’s tone was gentle “it would have spared her a lot of suffering.”

“Has she so poor an opinion of her work?

“Oh, not that exactly; but” she smiled sadly “you have never said ‘thank you’, you know!”

The lines on his face deepened. “I have been unpardonably rude, and have done Miss Twining an injustice besides I am sorry, very sorry!”

“She had had pretty hard experiences in giving away her books, but I persuaded her to send one to you, for I knew you liked poetry and I thought you would appreciate it. I was sorry afterwards that I did. It only brought her more disappointment. She cried and cried because she did not hear from you. I’m afraid I ought not to tell you this she wouldn’t let me if she knew. But I thought if you could just write her a little note she isn’t allowed to see anybody it might do her good and help her to get well.”

“I certainly will, my dear! I shall be glad to do so!”

“You see,” Polly went on, “she fears that perhaps you scorn her book and consider her presuming to send it to you and that is what hurts. She has lain awake nights and grieved so over it, I could have cried for her!” Polly was near crying now.

“The worst of such mistakes,” the man said sorrowfully, “is that we cannot go back and blot out the tears and the suffering and make things as they might have been. If we only could!”

“A note from you will make her very happy,” Polly smiled.

“She shall have it at once,” the minister promised; adding, “I am glad she is in so beautiful a Home.”

Polly shook her head promptly. “No, Mr. Parcell, it is not a beautiful Home, it is a prison a horrible prison!”

“Why, my dear! I do not understand

“I don’t want you to understand!” Polly cried hurriedly. “I ought not to have said that! Only it came out! You will know, Mr. Parcell, before long people shall know! I won’t have oh, I mustn’t say any more! Don’t tell a word of this, Mr. Parcell. Promise me you won’t!”

“My dear child,” the man gazed at her as if he doubted her sanity, “tell me what the trouble is! Perhaps I shall be able to help matters.”

“Oh, no, you can’t! It must work out! I am going to see Mr. Randolph as soon as I can. But please promise me not to say a word about it to anybody!”

“I shall certainly repeat nothing that you have told me. Indeed, there is little I could say; I do not understand it at all. I supposed the June Holiday Home was a model in every respect.”

Polly shook her head sadly.

“I am there every day, Mr. Parcell, and I know! The ladies are lovely most of them. They can’t say a word, or they’d be turned out, and I’ve kept still too long! But I mustn’t tell you any more.” Polly drew a long breath. “I must go now, Mr. Parcell. I am so glad you like Miss Twining’s poems! And you’ll forgive me, won’t you, for all I have said?”

“There is nothing to forgive, my dear.”

“I don’t know, maybe I’ve said too much; but I knew you must have lots of presents, and I kept thinking of those people that perhaps you wouldn’t thank, and I felt somebody must tell you, and there wasn’t anybody else to do it. Then, as I said, I hoped you would like Miss Twining’s poems well enough to tell her so. And I just had to come!”

“Polly, I am glad you came!” An unmistakable break in the minister’s voice turned Polly’s eyes away. “I have been inexcusably thoughtless, not only this time but many a time before. I am grateful that I still have the opportunity to give my thanks to Miss Twining.”

“And you can say ‘thank you’ to the next one!” cried Polly eagerly.

“Yes, I shall always remember you may be sure of that. I shall not forget my lesson!”

They had reached the door, and Polly shook hands with him and said good-bye.

She went straight to Miss Sterling.

“Well, it’s done!” she said soberly, taking her favorite seat.

“What is done?”

“My talk with Mr. Parcell”

“Did you go?”

“Yes, I had to. Father wouldn’t.”

“What did you say? How did he take it? Tell me!”

“Oh, he took it all right! I guess he didn’t really like it at first. I was pretty hard on him, I suppose. But he needed it! I didn’t go there to give him sugar-plums!”


“Well, I didn’t! It had got to be said, and I thought I might as well say it plain at the start!”

“Oh, Polly! Polly!” Miss Sterling chuckled softly.

“Why, Miss Nita, you’re laughing!” Polly’s tone was reproachful. “There isn’t anything to laugh at. I almost cried, and so did he!”

“Dear, forgive me! But I couldn’t help seeing the funny side.”

“There isn’t any funny side!”

“Go on! I won’t offend again.”

“There is not much to tell. Oh, I do wish Miss Twining could have heard him praise her poems after he had read them! Do you know, Miss Nita, he hadn’t even looked in the book! He thought it was trash not worth his while! Think of it those lovely poems! But I found the book for him He didn’t even remember where he’d put it! and I told him to read it, and he did!”

“Polly! you mean you asked him!”

“I guess I told him all right I was mad just about then. And he read steady, by the clock, ’most twenty-five minutes! I don’t know as he’d have stopped by now if the telephone hadn’t rung.”

“And he liked them?”

“Oh, he thinks they’re beautiful! He was awfully sorry he hadn’t thanked her I know he was! But he is going to write her a note, and I told him he could say ‘thank you’ to the next one, and he said he should.”

Juanita Sterling disgraced herself the second time. She dropped back in her chair with a stifled laugh.

“Miss Nita!” began Polly plaintively.

“I know, dear! But to think of your saying such things to that dignified man!” She chuckled again.

“Don’t, Miss Nita! It hurts. His dignity is all on the outside, I guess. Anyway, it went off before I left.”

“Oh, Polly!”

“I don’t see a thing to laugh at. It was as solemn as as a sermon.”

“I rather think it was a sermon to him!”

“Perhaps. Anyway, I’m glad I went.”

“I wonder that your father and mother allowed you to go.”

Polly smiled, a tiny, flushed smile. “They don’t know it.”

“Why, Polly Dudley!”

“Well, it had to be done, and there was nobody but me to do it. I didn’t dare say anything beforehand, for fear they wouldn’t let me. Now I’m going home, to tell them all about it.”

Miss Sterling smiled. “You’ll do, Polly! When I have a hard errand on hand, I’ll commit it to you.”