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


Juanita sterling was forced to hear much bantering in regard to her prolonged ride with the Home president; but she received it with the utmost good humor. Not even to Mrs. Albright did she hint of the happiness that had come to her. It would be known soon enough; to-day the joy was hers and hers alone.

“What would Blanche Puddicombe have said to see you go gallivant’n’ off to Bryston with her lover!” cried Miss Crilly. “I wish she could have, I just wish she could have! ’T would have been a picnic, sure! Are you goin’ again, Miss Sterling?”

Juanita Sterling laughed, her cheeks coloring prettily. “He didn’t ask me to go to-day.”

“Too bad!” cried the tease. “But she blushes, so I guess she’ll go when he does ask her.”

“Perhaps she’s trying to cut out Miss Puddicombe,” suggested Miss Major.

“She hasn’t told us a thing he said to her,” winked Miss Mullaly. “They had time for lots of love scenes all those long miles’”

“An auto isn’t the best place in the world for love-makin’,” giggled Miss Crilly.

“Now you stop bothering her!” cried Mrs. Albright. “We’d every one of us give our eye-teeth for such a ride with the president, and you know it!”

“My! I guess we would!” Miss Crilly performed a pirouette. “I’d run my feet off to get into the car!”

“Well, what did you talk about?” queried Miss Mullaly coaxingly.

“Yes, we want to hear,” urged Miss Crilly; “so when we go with him we shall know what to say.”

“No danger of your not knowing what to say!” laughed Miss Major.

“Some of the time we talked about Belgian hare,” answered Miss Sterling demurely.

“Belgian hare!” grinned Miss Crilly. “I bet you didn’t talk five or six hours about Belgian hare!”

Juanita Sterling chuckled gayly. “He asked what I had for dinner yesterday, and I told him’”

“Honest?” gasped Miss Mullaly.

“Yes,” nodded the other.

“What did he say?”

“I don’t remember just what; but he was surprised.”

“I guess he was! I hope it will set him to thinking.”

“Well, if I stay here fooling away all the forenoon, I shan’t get a credit mark for having my bed made early!” And Miss Crilly tripped off.

The rest soon scattered, and Miss Sterling was left alone to dream over her joy and to wonder what her friends would say when the truth came out.

In the afternoon she called at Dr. Dudley’s, and was disappointed not to find Polly. The day was cold, with a raw wind, very unlike the day before; so after a short walk she returned home.

Mrs. Albright met her in the upper hall.

“Miss Crilly is sick,” she said anxiously. “She is in terrible pain, and nothing relieves her. She wants Dr. Dudley; but Miss Sniffen says it is not necessary. I don’t know what to do!”

Sh!” Miss Sterling held her answer to listen. “I thought I heard a footstep,” she whispered. “Is Miss Sniffen downstairs?”

“She went down. I don’t care if she does hear me! I’m getting desperate.”

“She ought to have a doctor,” Miss Sterling said, with wrinkled forehead. “I wonder if I can be of any use I’ll come right up.”

The combined resources of the two were of no avail. Miss Crilly grew worse,

“I shall die I know I shall! just as poor Miss Twining is going to!” wailed the sufferer.

“No, you won’t!” returned Mrs. Albright. “You haven’t any heart trouble.”

“I’ve got something!” insisted Miss Crilly, writhing with pain.

Miss Sniffen appeared at the door with a bowl of steaming water and a bundle of cloths. “I’m going to put these on,” she announced briskly.

“I tried hot water first thing,” said Mrs. Albright. “It didn’t do any good.”

The superintendent gave no response. She was busy administering the remedy.

“Don’t make such a fuss!” she reprimanded. “Pain never killed anybody yet.”

“You’d better go back to your room, Miss Sterling,” she turned to say. “No need of your staying here.”

There did not seem to be, and the request was obeyed without reply.

Later Mrs. Albright came upstairs to say that Miss Crilly was a little easier. “I think she’s going to get on now,” she concluded.

“I hope so,” was the reply; “but call me if she should grow worse.”

“Yes, I will, though you couldn’t do any good,” she amended.

“I could get a doctor for her.”

“I don’t see how!” Mrs. Albright gazed questioningly into the steady gray eyes. This was a new Miss Sterling. “You can’t do anything with Miss Sniffen.”

“There are other people in the world besides Miss Sniffen. If she needs a doctor she shall have one. So let me know if the pain comes on again.”

Miss Sterling had been abed an hour or more when she was awakened by a gentle rap.

Mrs. Albright softly opened the door.

“She’s worse than ever; but Miss Sniffen won’t hear to calling the doctor. She says if she isn’t any better in the morning she will send for him; but Miss Crilly insists that she can’t live till morning in such agony. Miss Sniffen thinks she is scared to death, and of course fear doesn’t help matters. But she does need a doctor I know that!”

Miss Sterling began to dress. “Where is Miss Sniffen now?”

“She went downstairs.”

“I will keep watch till she gets still, then I’ll go down.”

“What can you do?”

“I’m going for Dr. Dudley.”

“Suppose she sees you?”

“I know how to run!”

“She might catch you!”

“She shan’t!”

“I’m afraid to let you try it.” She lingered irresolute.

“You needn’t. I’ll let myself! Go back to Miss Crilly, and tell her to keep up courage a little longer and I’ll have Dr. Dudley here as soon as I can.”

She put on her softest slippers and crept carefully down the stairs. All was dark. Not a sound came to her keen ears. She crossed the hall and reached the heavy front door. Cautiously she passed her hand from lock to lock something squeaked! She frowned, and hastily slid the last bolt A light flared behind her!

“What are you doing? Miss Sterling!” Miss Sniffen came quickly towards her.

“I am going for the doctor!” She was out the door.

Miss Sniffen was almost as quick. “Come back!” she cried. “Come back this minute!”

Juanita Sterling was on the long flight of granite steps, so was Miss Sniffen. The lithe little figure ran swiftly along the walk to the street; the pursuer was close behind. The feet ahead seemed heavy and slow; the steps that followed came nearer, nearer! Miss Sterling could almost feel the big hand upon her shoulder! Her heart beat suffocatingly, her ears thundered defeat, she must drop or die! Then she thought of Nelson Randolph and grew strong! She bounded forward she was nearly there! No, she was only passing the corner! On, on, on! She reached the gate, bumped against it, sped along the walk, stumbled up the steps, and pushed the bell button not until then did she venture a backward glance.

A tall figure was walking slowly, very slowly up the street!

“Out of breath!” she said softly, with a chuckle that was half a sob.

A light flashed inside, and Mrs. Dudley opened the door.

“Why, Miss Sterling!”

“Is Doctor home?” she puffed.

“No, he isn’t. He’s out of town. Come in! Somebody sick?”

Mrs. Dudley put her into an easy-chair, felt her pulse, smiled in happy assurance, and waited for the story.

Before it was finished, Polly peeped in.

“I thought it was your voice! What is the matter, Miss Nita?” She drew up a chair and sat down, folding her crimson robe about her.

Part of the tale was hurriedly retold.

“Doctor may come on the 11.55 train; if not, he can’t get here before one o’clock.”

“And Dr. Vera is watching with Dorothy!” cried Polly.

“So I told her,” said Mrs. Dudley. “Dorothy is a very sick child; he cannot leave her. I would go over if I thought I could do any good.”

“I’m afraid Miss Sniffen wouldn’t let us in.” returned Miss Sterling. “I think I’d better call up Mr. Randolph. He said to do it if there was any trouble.” Her face rivaled in color Polly’s robe.

The young girl’s eyes widened.

“When did he ” she began; but her mother interrupted.

“Yes, by all means, telephone!”

Miss Sterling darted into the next room, while Polly sprang to turn on the light.

“Hallo! Is it Mr. Randolph?” came to Polly’s ears. “Juanita Sterling is talking. I am at Dr. Dudley’s. Miss Crilly is very sick, and I came over for the Doctor; but he is out of town. Can you come up? Yes. Yes. Good-bye! He says he will be here in less than ten minutes.” She returned to the chair she had left, and Polly cuddled down beside her, while Mrs. Dudley went to put her dress in better order.

“I’ll stay till he comes,” said Polly comfortably. “Then I can run and leave you to let him in you won’t mind, will you? Do tell me more about that race, Miss Nita. Oh, don’t I wish I had seen it!”

She laughed over the superintendent’s probable discomfiture, and lamented Miss Crilly’s illness.

“It is too bad father isn’t at home,” she said musingly; “but, oh. Miss Nita! what made you think of calling up Mr. Randolph? When did he tell you any such thing?”

“I went to ride with him yesterday,” was the quiet answer.

“You did! Wasn’t that lovely! Where did you go?”

“Over to Bryston. We took dinner at Squirrel Inn.”

“Oh, my!” chuckled Polly. “What will Blanche Puddicombe say?”

“I don’t care what she says. Polly, he is not engaged lo her.”

“He isn’t? Oh, I am so glad, I don’t know what to do! I didn’t want him to be engaged one bit!”

“I didn’t say he wasn’t engaged,” returned the other demurely. “I only said he was not engaged to Miss Puddicombe.”

Polly’s face fell. “Oh, dear!” she cried in a vexed tone, “I never thought of his being engaged to anybody else! Who is it? I don’t know that I care, but I may as well know!” Polly looked cross.

Miss Sterling laughed softly. “What a little fire-box you are!” she said.

“Oh, yes, laugh!” pouted Polly. “Of course, you don’t care, because you don’t like him as I do; but I think it is mean for him to be engaged just when I was so glad he wasn’t! You haven’t told me who it is yet anybody I know?”


“Somebody here in town, then?”

“Yes, right here.”

“I don’t see who it can be. I never saw him riding with anybody but Blanche Puddicombe. Why don’t you tell me?” cried Polly impatiently.

“I said she was right here.” The little woman in gray sat very still. Her eyes were following the pattern of the rug. Her cheeks grew red and redder.

“Why, I don’t see ” began Polly. Then she started forward. “Oh, Miss Nita! you don’t mean

Juanita Sterling met the bright eyes, and nodded smilingly.

“Oh, Miss Nita! Miss Nita!” Polly squeezed her friend’s arm in ecstasy “I can’t believe it! It’s too lovely for anything! I want to hop right over the moon! How did he say it, Miss Nita? Do tell me how he said it! I’ve always wanted to know how they said it, and mother won’t tell me, and father won’t, and unless you do I never shall know!”

“You with a lover like David!” laughed the other.

“Oh, well, David’s only a boy! Please there’s his car! It’s turning round!” She started and her eyes fell upon the clock. “Just after midnight! I didn’t notice its striking. Good-morning, Miss Nita! How funny it will seem to say Mrs. Randolph!”

“Polly!” the other expostulated.

Polly laughed and flung her arms round Miss Sterling’s neck. “Remember! I’m not going to let you off! You must tell me how he said it!”

“Charmingly, Polly, charmingly!”

“No, that won’t do! There’s the bell!” And the crimson-robed little figure fled.

Juanita Sterling had wondered what she would say when they met the next time. How different this was from her dream!

Nelson Randolph took her hand in a warm clasp. “I am glad you let me come,” he said.

Briefly she explained the situation.

“Better call Dr. Temple.”

“I thought of him, but I didn’t like to take any more responsibility.”

“Where is the telephone?”

She led the way and made a light.

“Yes, it’s Randolph,” she heard him say. “I am at Dr. Dudley’s. He is out of town. A woman at the Home is very sick. Can you come up? Yes, I will wait here and go over with you.”

He settled himself in a big rocker, and regarded her smilingly.

“So the Princess had a race with the Dragon! That is more than I anticipated. Was she frightened?”

Miss Sterling blushed. “Not much a little,” she admitted. “Once for a long minute I was afraid the ‘Dragon’ was going to catch me!”

“But she didn’t! I am proud of you!” He grasped the hand that rested on the arm of her chair.

She pulled away and ran across the room. “I’m going to sit here!” she announced, smiling to him. To hold her hand that way when at any moment Mrs. Dudley might appear!

He surveyed her with amusement. “Was that an unforgivable sin?” he twinkled.

“M no,” demurely. “The Doctor may come.”

“He won’t come in at the window,” he laughed. “Don’t you think you are a little unkind, when I have been so far away all day and haven’t had a glimpse of you since last night?”

“You can see me just as well over here. There have been other days when you have not seen me.” A mischievous light gleamed in her eyes.

“It wasn’t my fault,” he smiled. “I tried pretty hard to see you!”

She went back, blushing like a school-girl.

“Thank you! I’ll be good! I can’t realize that you are coming to make my lonely home such a place of delight!”

She could not look up to meet the eyes that she knew were dwelling upon her.

“I want to take you over there to-morrow,” he went on. “There are a few changes I propose making, and you may like to suggest some on your own account. You can have it any way you please.”

She glanced up now, her cheeks still aflame, her face flooded with joy.

“I shall like to go,” she said; “but I think I’ll leave the changes to you. The outside looks beautiful to me just as it is. The wide lawn on the south side, with the background of evergreens, is magnificent!”

“I am glad you like that. I never tire of it. So you don’t want me to trim the trees up as some folks advise?”

“O-h!” she gasped. “The effect would be ruined!”

He smiled. “I might have done it to please you, but I think I’d have argued a little first.”

“I should have argued more than a little if you had suggested it,” she laughed.

“I am going to build out a big veranda from the dining-room, put in windows for the winter, and then give them over to screens through the summer.”

He paused to listen. “Dr. Temple, I presume,” as a car whizzed up and stopped. He went to the door, while Miss Sterling threw on her coat.

Mrs. Dudley joined them, and the four proceeded to the Home.

The superintendent opened the door to them, smiling a little when she saw Nelson Randolph.

“There is probably no real need of routing people from their beds at this hour,” she said; “but, of course, we wish to do all we can when any one is suffering. The patient will be glad to see you,” she added, addressing the Doctor.

The physician was swift in his diagnosis. “It is a case that calls for quick work,” he told Mrs. Dudley. “There must be an operation at once. You think your husband will be here on the 1.03 express?”

“I feel sure of it.”

“Then we will wait for him.”

“She can be taken over to the hospital now; we need not wait for that.”

Mrs. Dudley returned home to make the needful preparations, and Juanita Sterling went to encourage Miss Crilly for the coming ordeal.

The patient was tearful, but brave.

“Probably I never shall come back,” she said; “but you are awful good to try to save me, Miss Sterling! I’d like to live long enough to show you how much I appreciate it.”

“Nonsense, that wasn’t anything! And of course you’re coming back! Dr. Temple says you have every chance in your favor if it’s done right away. He thinks you are in splendid condition. Now don’t you worry a single minute!”

“I’ll try not to! I wish I were as brave as you. I’d never have dared to go with her chasin’ me! My! I wish I could have seen you two leggin’ it!”

Miss Sterling laughed. “That is what Polly wished. But as for my being brave, Miss Crilly, I’m afraid I’m not. I am going to tell you my big secret I have told only Polly yet; but maybe it will give you something to think of, I expect to marry Mr. Randolph!”

“O-h, Miss Sterling! Oh, my! Isn’t that perfectly beautiful! Well, you have given me something to think of! Why, I ’most forgot already what’s comin’! And I’m going to keep thinking of it hard, so’s I won’t worry! The idea of your marryin’ the president! I do’ know’s I wonder you weren’t scared o’ Miss Sniffen! And to think how I jollied you only this morning about him! Why, I never thought of such a thing!”

“Of course not! But it didn’t trouble me.”

“It didn’t really?”

“No, I quite enjoyed it!”

“You’re awful good to say so! But what about Miss Puddicombe? I thought he was

“No, he wasn’t. It was a mistake. They’re cousins, distant cousins, that’s all.”

“Well, well, isn’t that funny! And I’m so glad for you that I don’t know what to do! O-h! my! that was a pretty big pain! But I can bear it better now will you kiss me once, just once, Miss Sterling?”

She bent and kissed her, and smiled cheerily.

“What’s that! I guess they’re after me! Oh, if I don’t come back

“But you are coming back!”

“Maybe but if I shouldn’t, remember I’ll always love you for what you’ve done for me!”

The patient was wrapped up quickly by one of the hospital nurses, and two orderlies bore her away. She was still smiling.

Juanita Sterling stood watching her out of sight, when a light step close behind made her start.

“Did I frighten you?” smiled Mrs. Albright. “It’s about Miss Twining Has Dr. Temple gone?”

“He was in the hall talking with Mr. Randolph. I’ll see.”

She ran down a few steps, and then back again.

“They’re there still. Is she worse?”

“I don’t know. She heard the commotion and after they’d gone called me in. She got nervous, lying there and imagining everything. I wish the Doctor could see her. Should you dare ask?”

“Yes ” She was on the stairs.

Nelson Randolph saw her coming and put out his hand. But he dropped hers suddenly, as his fingers touched it.

The sparkles of amusement were still in her eyes when she told her errand.

Dr. Temple looked at his watch.

“Time enough?” inquired the president.


Mr. Randolph approached the superintendent who was busying herself at her desk.

In a moment he returned. “Mrs. Nobbs will go up with you,” he said.

Juanita Sterling did not wait; she hastened upstairs to insure Mrs.
Albright’s safe exit from the corner room.

The door was left partly open as Mrs. Nobbs and the physician entered, and the two in the opposite apartment moved out of range.

The low voices of doctor and patient did not carry beyond the corridor; but at a step Miss Sterling bent forward.

Dr. Temple was taking an instrument from his bag.

“Stethoscope,” she whispered.

For several minutes no sound came from the sick-room. The listeners breathed anxiously.

“Good as anybody’s!” The tone was emphatic.

Miss Sterling caught Mrs. Albright’s hand in a rapturous squeeze.

“Do you mean no heart disease?” Miss Twining’s soft voice was shrilled with incredulous joy.

They could not catch the reply; but they smiled to each other in delight.

Shortly Mrs. Nobbs and the Doctor went downstairs, leaving the door free.

The others hurried across.

Miss Twining was tearfully excited. “Oh! did you hear? He says my heart is all right, and in the morning I can go down to breakfast! He’ll insure my living to be a hundred years old as if I ever would!” She laughed quiveringly. “Those pink tablets I’m to take after meals, and the brown ones if I should feel bad I never shall again! I believe it is two hours apart you see! He says it is just a little nervous breakdown There isn’t any anodyne in them! Oh, I’m so glad you called him!”