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Polly and the Princess by Emma C. Dowd

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POLLY AND THE PRINCESS

BY

EMMA C. DOWD

AUTHOR OF

POLLY OF THE HOSPITAL STAFF.
POLLY OF LADY GAY COTTAGE.
DOODLES, ETC.

ILLUSTRATED

1917

CONTENTS

I. WAFFLES AND DEWLAPS
II. IN MISS MAJOR'S ROOM
III. POLLY ADDRESSES THE BOARD
IV. A JUNE HOLIDAY
V. MISS LILY AND DOODLES
VI. "BETTER THAN THE POORHOUSE"
VII. ROSES--AND THORNS
VIII. WAITING TO BE THANKED
IX. BLANCHE PUDDICOMBE
X. "GOOD-BYE, PUDDING"
XI. "SO MYSTERIOUS!"
XII. MRS. DICK ESCAPES
XIII. ALONG A BROOK-SIDE ROAD
XIV. POLLY PLANS
XV. "LOTS O' JOY"
XVI. THE HIKING CLUB
XVII. GRANDAUNT SUSIE AND MISS SNIFFEN
XVIII. VICTOR VON DALIN
XIX. A MOONSHINE PARTY
XX. THE PARTY ITSELF
XXI. TWO OF THEM
XXII. DANCING HIKERS
XXIII. "HILLTOP DAYS"
XXIV. "HOPE DEFERRED"
XXV. ALICE TWINING, MARTYR
XXVI. MR. PARCELL'S LESSON
XXVII. "I LOVE YOU, DAVID!"
XXVIII. A VISIT WITH MRS. TENNEY
XXIX. DISAPPOINTMENT
XXX. DOODLES SINGS
XXXI. SHUT OUT
XXXII. THE TALE IS TOLD
XXXIII. THE PRINCESS AND THE DRAGON
XXXIV. A MIDNIGHT ANNOUNCEMENT
XXXV. A NEW WIRE
XXXVI. POLLY DUDLEY TO CHRISTOPHER MORROW
XXXVII. HOLLY AND MISTLETOE

POLLY AND THE PRINCESS

CHAPTER I

WAFFLES AND DEWLAPS

The June Holiday Home was one of those sumptuous stations where
indigent gentlewomen assemble to await the coming of the last train.

Breakfast was always served precisely at seven o'clock, and certain
dishes appeared as regularly as the days. This was waffle morning
on the Home calendar; outside it was known as Thursday.

The eyes of the "new lady" wandered beyond the dining-room and
followed a young girl, all in pink.

"Who is that coming up the walk?"

Fourteen faces turned toward the wide front window.

Miss Castlevaine was quickest. Her answer did not halt the syrup
on its way to her plate.

"That's Polly Dudley."

"Oh! Dr. Dudley's daughter?"

"Yes. She's come over to see Miss Sterling. They're very
intimate."

"Miss Sterling?" mused Miss Mullaly, with a sweeping glance round
the table. "I don't believe I've seen her."

"Yes, you have. She was down to tea last night. She had on a
light blue waist, and sat over at the end."

"Oh, I remember now! She's little and sweet-looking. Somebody
told me she had nervous prostration. Too bad! She is so young and
pretty!"

A tiny sneer fluttered from face to face, skipping one here and
there in its course. It ended in Miss Castlevaine's "Huh!"

"I think Miss Sterling is real pretty!" Miss Crilly, from the
opposite side, beamed on the "new lady."

"She has faded dreadfully," asserted Mrs. Crump. "They used to
call her handsome years ago, though she never was my style o'
beauty. But now--" She shook her head with hard emphasis.

"She has been through a good deal," observed Mrs. Grace mildly.

"No more'n I have!" was the retort. "If she'd stop thinking about
herself and eat like other folks, she'd be better."

"Nervous prostration patients have to be careful about their diet,
don't they?" ventured Miss Mullaly.

"She hasn't got it!" snapped Mrs. Crump.

"She thinks she has." Miss Castlevaine's thick lips curved in a
smile of scorn.

"If she can't digest things, it won't do her much good to eat
them," interposed Miss Major positively. "Nobody could digest
these waffles--they're slack this morning."

Miss Castlevaine gave her plate a little push. "I wish I needn't
ever see another waffle," she fretted.

"Oh!" exclaimed the "new lady," "I don't understand how anybody can
get tired of waffles!"

"Nor I!" laughed Miss Mullaly's right-hand neighbor. "I shall have
to tell you about the time I went to Cousin Dorothy's wedding
luncheon.

"I never had eaten waffles but once; that was at my aunt's. She
had gone to housekeeping directly after the wedding ceremony, and
was spoken of in the family as 'the bride.' I had been her first
guest, and, as she had treated me to waffles, I thought waffles and
brides always went together. So when I was included in the
invitation to Dorothy's wedding luncheon, my first thought was of
waffles. I said something about it to my brother, and Ralph was
just tease enough to lead me on. He told me that the table would
be piled with waffles, great stacks of them at every plate! Like a
little dunce I believed it all and went to that party anticipating
a blissful supply of waffles. In vain I looked up and down the
elegant table! I ate and ate, but never a waffle appeared!
Finally, when I could stand it no longer, I piped out, 'Cousin
Dorothy, please can I have my waffles now?' Of course, my mother
was dreadfully mortified, for some of the guests were strangers,
and very great people; but Dorothy took it as a mighty good joke,
and even after I was married she used to laugh about my 'w'awful'
disappointment. I've not gotten over my appetite for waffles
either! I believe I could eat and relish them three times a day."

"You couldn't! Just wait till you've had 'em fifty-two times a
year, five years running--as I have!" Mrs. Crump's lips made a
straight line.

"Mrs. Crump has kept tabs on her waffles," giggled Miss Crilly.
"How many does this morning make--five hundred and--?"

"Sh!" nudged Mrs. Bonnyman at Miss Crilly's elbow.

Two youngish women entered the room. They were the superintendent
and the matron.

Upstairs, meanwhile, Miss Juanita Sterling; in bed, and Polly
Dudley, seated on the outside, were having a familiar talk.

"I shouldn't think you'd want to die till God gave you something to
die of," Polly was saying wistfully. "I think He must want you to
live, or He would give you something to die of. Perhaps He has
some beautiful work for you to do and is waiting for you to get
well and do it."

"Polly, I cannot work! And there is no lack of things for me to die
of!" Impatience crept into the sweet voice. "Being in prison is
bad enough even with good health; but to be sick, wretched--the
worst kind of sickness, because nobody understands!--and to grow
old, too, grow old fast--oh, I wish God would let me die!" The
little woman gave a sudden whirl and hid her face in the pillow.

"Don't, Miss Nita!" Polly's voice was distressed. She stroked the
smooth, soft hair. "Don't cry! You're not old! You're not old a
bit! And you're going to be well--father says so!"

"That won't take away the dewlap--oh!" cried Miss Sterling
fiercely, "I don't want a dewlap!"

"Dewlap?" scowled Polly. "What's a dewlap?"

"Polly! You know!" came from down among the feathers.

"I don't!" Polly protested. "Is it some kind of--cancer?"

"Cancer! Polly!" Miss Sterling laughed out.

"Well, I don't know what it is." Polly laughed in sympathy.

"Look here!" The little lady raised herself on her elbow and
lifted her chin. "See that!"

Polly peered at the fair, pink skin.

"What? I don't see anything."

"Why, that! It's getting wabbly." Her slim forefinger pushed the
flesh back and forth.

"Oh!" Polly's face brightened. "I remember! That's what
Grandaunt Susie called it! She said she used to have an awful
one--it hung 'way down. And she cured it! You'd never dream she
had one ever!"

"Oh, yes, you can do away with such things if you have money--if
you can go to a beauty-doctor!" The tone was bitter.

"No, she didn't!" hastened the eager voice. "She did it herself!"

"Of course, if you have expensive creams and all the
paraphernalia--"

"But she didn't--she said so! She just used olive oil!"

"How old was she?" Miss Sterling inquired with a now-I-'ve-got-you
air.

"She was seventy when she had the dewlap; now she's seventy-three
or four."

"Polly Dudley! I don't believe it!"

"Why, Miss Nita, I'm telling you the solemn truth!"

"Yes, yes, child! I didn't mean you! But this Aunt Susie--"

"Oh, she's just as honest! Why, she's mother's grandaunt, and
she's lovely! She was sick and couldn't do anything, and her hair
was thin and her cheeks hung down and she was all wrinkles and she
had the dewlap--she said she looked dreadful. Now you ought to see
her! She's perfectly well, and her hair is as thick, and it's
smooth and solid all under her chin, and her face is 'most as round
as mine!"

"How did she work the miracle?" Miss Sterling's eyes twinkled.

"Why, I guess by massage and exercises. She didn't take anything.
She did lots of stunts; she had piles of them for her legs and arms
and neck and face and feet and all over. She made up mighty funny
faces. You lie over this way, and I'll show you one.

"First you must smile--just as hard as you can." Polly laughed to
see the prompt grin. "Now I'll put my hands so, and you must do
exactly as I tell you." Polly's little palms were pressed against
the other's cheeks, and she began a rotary motion.

"Open your mouth--wide, and then shut it again--oh, keep on
smiling! And keep your mouth going all the time, while I do the
massaging."

"Goodness!" Miss Sterling broke into a laugh. "I should think that
was a stunt! It ought to do something." She turned on the pillow
in another paroxysm of mirth.

"But you made me stop too soon," objected Polly. "You ought to
open and shut your mouth twenty-five times. 'Most everything Aunt
Susie did twenty-five or fifty or a hundred times."

"I don't wonder she got well! She'd have to if she didn't die. I
should laugh before I got through twenty-five times, I'm sure.
What's it for, anyhow?"

"To make the cheeks plump up and not sag--oh, yours look so pink!"
Polly danced over to the dresser and back.

The handglass showed a face of surprise. The thin, white cheeks
had taken on a soft rose tint and--yes, an extra fullness!

"Queer!" Miss Sterling ejaculated. "I wouldn't have believed it!"

"Oh, let's try it again! Then you get up and go to walk with
me--won't you?"

"I can't, Polly! Wish I could! But I don't feel as if I could
even stand up. I suppose I shall have to go down to dinner. I
don't dare not."

"Haven't you had any breakfast?"

"No. Folks that can't get up don't need to eat." She laughed
sadly. "It's well I'm not hungry."

"But you ought--"

"Tap! tap!"

The matron opened the door while Polly was on the way.

"Mr. Randolph is at the other end of the building and will be here
presently to see about the new wing."

Mrs. Nobbs was gone.

"Nelson Randolph!" cried Miss Sterling. "Hand me my blue kimono,
Polly, quick! It's right there in the closet, by the door!"

She swung her feet to the floor and caught up her stockings.

"You going to get up?"

"Of course! Hurry! I believe he's coming--no, he isn't! Oh, I
can get this on all right! You fix the bed! Never mind the
wrinkles--plump up the pillows! Yes, hang my clothes anywhere you
can find room. There! Does my hair look all right?"

"Lovely! That kimono is very becoming."

"Little flatterer!"

By the time Nelson Randolph, president of the June Holiday Home,
appeared in the doorway, what he saw was a well-appointed bedroom,
a little blue-clad lady demurely reading a small volume, and Polly
hovering near. With a perfunctory good-morning to Miss Sterling,
and a genial handshake for Dr. Dudley's daughter, he passed with
Mrs. Nobbs to the southwest corner of the apartment. He took a
glance around the ceiling, a look from the window, and some
measurements with a foot-rule; then he walked briskly across the
room, nodded politely, and departed.

"What a lovable man he is!" commented Polly, as the retreating
footsteps told of their safe distance.

"Is he?"

"Don't you know him?" Polly queried.

"Not very well. Probably he doesn't remember me at all. He used
to come to the house occasionally to see father. That was before
he was married. I was only seventeen or eighteen."

"I like to look at him, he is so handsome." Polly's head wagged
admiringly. "I guess he'd remember you all right, only he doesn't
know you're here. He hasn't been president very long, just since
Mr. Macy died. What are they going to build now?"

"I don't know. First I've heard of it. They have more money than
they know what to do with, so they've decided to put up an L and
spoil my view," laughed Miss Sterling.

"I could tell them lots of things better than an L--some new
dresses for Mrs. Crump and Mrs. Albright and Miss Crilly. They've
been here longest and look the worst. That brown one of Mrs.
Crump's is just full of darns."

"Same as mine will be when I've been here as long," added Miss
Sterling.

"Strange, when they have so much money, they don't give the ladies
nice things to wear," mused Polly. "Perhaps that is what makes
Mrs. Crump so cross-grained. Mrs. Albright isn't. She's sweet, I
think."

"She is a dear," Miss Sterling agreed. "But she's had enough
trouble to crush most women. I wonder sometimes if anything could
make her blue."

"Miss Crilly's cheerful," observed Polly. "I like her pretty well."

"She is kind-hearted. If only she weren't all gush and giggle!
She raves over everything, cathedral or apron trimming--it's all
the same to her."

Polly laughed. "She's rather pretty, I think."

"Too fat."

"No, you can't call her fat; only her bones don't show. I wish
Miss Castlevaine could thin up and show her bones just a little,
and I do feel sorry for her because she can't curl her hair. She'd
look a thousand per cent better with some little fluffs."

"Why don't you be sorry for me?"

"Oh, you don't need curly hair as the rest do!" answered Polly
comfortably.

"Need it! I'm a scarecrow with my hair straight!"

Polly took the smooth head between her two palms. "You'll never be
a scarecrow if you live to be a hundred and fifty!" she declared.
"But the dear homely ones--it is hard on them. What do you suppose
is the reason Miss Sniffen won't let them curl their hair just a
mite?"

"Walls are said to have ears," replied Miss Sterling, with a little
scornful twist to her pretty mouth. "It wouldn't be safe for me to
express my opinion."

Polly smiled. "It's a shame! And it isn't fair when she has curly
hair that doesn't need any putting up. I just wish hers would
straighten out--straight as Miss Castlevaine's!"

"You seem to have taken a sudden liking to Miss Castlevaine."

"Oh, no! Only I feel sorry for her, she is so fat and fretty, and
her hair won't fluff a mite. It must be dreadful to think as much
scorn as she does."

"And talk it out," added Miss Sterling. "I wish she wouldn't, for
she is really better than she sounds."

"Oh, if she'd try some of Aunt Susie's exercises, perhaps they'd
make her face thin!"

"I thought they were to make it plump."

"So they are--and thin, too, in the right places. They'd cure her
double chin."

"Anyway, she hasn't any dewlap yet. When it comes it will be an
awful one. I can't imagine her in that exercise you tried on me."

"Are you going to do it every day?"

"I would if I had any faith in it." Miss Sterling sighed--with a
wrinkled forehead.

"Oh, you mustn't pucker in wrinkles if I'm going to rub them out!"
Polly smoothed the offending lines. "Now I'll run over home and
get yon that book Aunt Susie gave to mother. It tells all about
everything, and it will make you have faith. It did mother."

"She doesn't need it."

"No; but Aunt Susie said she'd better begin pretty soon, for it was
easier to cure wrinkles before they came."

"Yes, I guess it is," Miss Sterling laughed, "and dewlaps too!"

CHAPTER II

IN MISS MAJOR'S ROOM

When Russell Holiday and his wife named their only child June, they
planned to make her life one long summer holiday. For eighteen
years success went hand in hand with their desire; then an
unfortunate marriage plunged the joyous girl into bleak November.
She grew to hate her happy name. But with the passing of the man
she called husband much of the bitterness vanished, and she began
to plan for others.

"I want this Home to be as beautiful as money can make it and as
full of joy as a June holiday," she told her approving lawyer.
"There must be no age limit. It shall welcome as freely the woman
of forty as her mother or her grandmother. I will gather in the
needy of any sect or race,--the oppressed, the disabled, the
sorrowful, and the lonely,--and as much as can be give to them the
freedom and happiness of a delightful home."

In just one week from the day the ground was broken for the big
building, a drunken chauffeur drove the donor and her lawyer to
their death, and the institution was continued in a totally
different way from that intended by the two who could make no
protest.

To be sure, it stood at last, in gray granite magnificence, on the
crest of Edgewood Hill, a palace without and within; but to those
for whom it was built had never come, through the years of its
being, a single June holiday.

It was this that some of the residents were discussing, as they
crocheted, knitted, or embroidered in Miss Major's room on a dull
May morning.

"Too bad June Holiday couldn't have lived just a little longer!"
Mrs. Bonnyman sighed.

"What would she say if she knew how her wishes were ignored!" Miss
Castlevaine shook her head.

"Regular prison house!" snapped Mrs. Crump.

"Well, I'm glad to be here if I do have to obey rules," confessed a
meek little woman with grayish, sandy hair. "It's a lovely place,
and there has to be rules where there's so many."

"There don't have to be hair-crimping rules, Mrs. Prindle--huh!"

As the curly-headed maker of the hated law walked across the lawn.
Miss Castlevaine sent her an annihilating glance.

"Is that Miss Sniffen?" queried Miss Mullaly, adjusting her
eyeglasses.

Miss Castlevaine nodded.

The others watched the tall, straight figure, on its way to the
vegetable garden.

"She has the expression of a basilisk I saw the picture of the
other day." spoke up Mrs. Dick.

"What kind of an expression was that?" inquired Mrs. Winslow Teed.
"I saw a stuffed basilisk in a London museum when I was abroad, but
I can't seem to recollect its expression."

"Look at _her_!" laughed Mrs. Dick. "She has it to perfection."

Miss Crilly's giggle preceded her words.

"She's like a beanpole with its good clothes on, ain't she? But,
then, I think Miss Sniffen is real nice sometimes," she amended.

"So are basilisks and beanpoles--in their proper places," retorted
Miss Major; "but they don't belong in the June Holiday Home."

"Are her rules so awful?" inquired Miss Mullaly anxiously.

"I don't like them very," answered the little Swedish widow.

"Mis' Adlerfeld puts it politely." laughed Miss Crilly. "I'll tell
you what they are, they are like the little girl in the rhyme--with
a difference,--

'When they're bad, they're very, very bad,
And when they're good, they're horrid!'"

"I heard you couldn't have any company except one afternoon a
week," resumed Miss Mullaly, after the laughing had ceased,--"not
anybody at all."

"Sure!" returned Miss Crilly. "Wednesday afternoon, from three to
five, is the only time you can entertain your best feller."

"Why, Polly Dudley was here Thursday morning!"

"Now you've got me!" admitted Miss Crilly. "She's a privileged
character. She runs over any blessed minute she wants to."

"And she brings her friends with her," added Miss
Castlevaine,--"David Collins and his greataunt's daughter,--Leonora
Jocelyn,--Patricia Illingworth, and Chris Morrow, and that girl
they call Lilith, besides the Stickney boys up in Foxford--huh!"

"She must be pretty bold, when it's against the rule," observed
Miss Mullaly.

"No," dissented Mrs. Albright, "it isn't boldness. Polly runs in
as naturally as a kitten. The rest don't come so very often. I
shouldn't say they'd let 'em; but they do."

"There's never any favoritism in the June Holiday Home--never!"
Mrs. Crump's brown poplin bristled with sarcasm.

"Maybe it's on Miss Sterling's account," interposed Mrs. Albright.
"She thinks so much of Polly, perhaps they hope it'll help to bring
her out of this sooner."

"Don't you believe it!" Miss Castlevaine's head nodded out the
words with emphasis. "Dr. Dudley's a good one to curry favor with."

"Is Miss Sterling a relative of his?" asked Miss Mullaly.

"No. Haven't you heard how they got acquainted? Quite a pretty
little story." Mrs. Albright settled herself comfortably in the
rocker and adjusted the cushion at her back.

The others, who were familiar with the facts, moved closer together
and nearer the window, both to facilitate their needles and their
tongues.

"It was the day after Miss Sterling came, along in September," the
story-teller began, "and she was up in her room feeling pretty
lonesome--you know how it is."

Miss Mullaly nodded--with a sudden droop of her lips.

"She stood there looking out of the window toward the back of the
new hospital,--it was building then,--and she saw a little girl
climbing an apple tree. She watched her go higher and higher,
after a big, bright red apple that was away up on a top branch.
Miss Sterling says she went so fast that she fairly held her
breath, expecting to see her slip; but she didn't, she's so
sure-footed, and it would have been all right if she hadn't
ventured on a rotten branch. When she stepped out on that and
reached up one hand to pick the apple, the branch broke, and down
she went and lay in a little heap under the tree.

"Well, Miss Sterling said she felt as if she must fly right out of
that window and go pick her up. But it didn't take her many
minutes to run down the stairs and out the front door--she didn't
stop to ask permission--and over across lots to Polly. She was in
a dead faint, but in a minute she came to, and Miss Sterling ran up
to the house and got Dr. Dudley and his wife, and they carried her
in, and Miss Sterling went too. The Doctor couldn't find that
Polly was hurt at all, only bruised a little--you see, the branches
had broken her fall, and she was all around again in a few days.
Miss Sterling was pretty well upset by it, so that the Doctor came
home with her, and she had to go to bed, same as Polly did! It
made quite a stir here.

"Ever since then Polly has run in and out, any time of day, just as
I hear she does at the hospital. She's that kind of a girl, never
makes any trouble, and so nothing is said."

"I guess I shall break lots of the rules before I know what they
are."

"You'll learn 'em soon enough, don't you worry! There's a long
list; but you'll get used to 'em after a while--we have to.
There's nothing like getting used to things. It's a great help."

CHAPTER III

POLLY ADDRESSES THE BOARD

"It is a shame, Miss Nita!" Polly was saying. "To think of
it--that you can't curl your hair even to go to a wedding! I
wonder if father or mother could do anything."

"Oh, no!" cried Miss Sterling, in sudden terror. "Don't, I beg of
you, let them say a word to Miss Sniffen! She'd turn me right out!"

"I should wish she would, if I were you."

"Where could I go? I'd have to sit on the sidewalk!"

Polly laughed.

"No, Miss Nita," catching one of the slim white hands and pressing
it against her cheek, "you come right over to our house when Miss
Sniffen turns you outdoors, and we'll take care of you!"

"It isn't anything to laugh at," sobbed the little woman.

"I know, I'm wicked to laugh; but I had a picture of you sitting on
the curb in your nightgown, and I couldn't help it!"

Then Miss Sterling laughed too.

Shortly she fell to crying again. "I did want to look nice at
Cousin Jennie's wedding, as nice as I could, and I do think it is
downright mean!" She hammered out the last words with desperate
force.

Polly stood by her side, distressed into silence.

"You don't know that she'll let you go anyway, do you?" she asked
presently.

"Yes, she said I could, and then I asked her if I might curl my
hair. She snapped out a disagreeable 'no,' and I turned and came
upstairs."

Polly was doing some hard thinking.

"Queer, Jennie should marry at her age," Miss Sterling resumed
after a brief pause, wiping her eyes dry. "She is forty-one, only
two years younger than I."

"Are you forty-three? Nobody'd ever guess it." Polly gazed at her
critically. "I wonder if I couldn't curl your hair at the last
minute, and smuggle you downstairs, all wrapped up, so Miss Sniffen
wouldn't know. You could wet it out the next morning."

Miss Sterling shook her head with a wee smile. "I would if I
dared, but I don't. If Miss Sniffen weren't there to see, Mrs.
Nobbs would be, and nothing escapes her eyes. No, 't would be too
much risk."

"Maybe it would," Polly admitted, and then paused to listen. "It's
three o'clock and I must go. I halfway promised David and Leonora
I'd come down there this afternoon. I guess they're a little bit
jealous of you. It's handy to run over here, and they're so far
away. I should think you'd get tired of me, I come so much."

"Tired of you!" echoed Miss Sterling. "You are the only bit of
cheerfulness I have to look forward to. Last night I couldn't
sleep; I was just upset after seeing Miss Sniffen, and my head felt
wretched. But I kept saying to myself, 'Polly will be here in the
morning!' and that helped me through the night. You don't
know--you never will know!--what a comfort you are!" She pulled
Polly down and gave her a little squeeze.

"And then I didn't come this morning after all!" cried Polly in
sudden contrition. "That was mean! But I had some things to do
for mother, and Chris wanted me to help him with his stamps, and so
I didn't get to it. I'm sorry."

"Dear child! I don't expect you to spend all your time with an old
gray-haired woman who hasn't the mite of a claim on you."

"Gray-haired!" chuckled Polly. "You can't find one gray hair. I
dare you to try!" She shook a threatening finger.

"Don't have to try. I know just where there are two--right in
there." She bent her head.

"Oh, they're only a little pale!" laughed Polly. "They aren't
really gray. But I must go, Miss Nita. Good-bye."

"If you come across the Board anywhere downstairs, you may give it
my compliments."

"Does the Board meet this afternoon?" whispered Polly. "It
wouldn't be compliments I'd give them!" She waved her hand, and
the door shut.

Yes, the Board was in session, the Board of Managers of the June
Holiday Home. A little hum of voices came to Polly's ears from a
room at the left. "I wish--" She stopped midway between the
staircase and the front entrance, her forehead wrinkled in thought.

A maid came from the rear of the house, duster in hand.

"Oh, Mabel!" Polly began in a low tone, "would you mind taking a
message to the Board for me?"

The girl, with a shade of surprise on her face, said, "Certainly,
Miss Polly, I'll take it in. Who shall I give it to?"

"Mrs. Beers--she's president. Tell her, please, that I have
something very important to say to the Board, and ask her if I can
come in now, or pretty soon--whenever it won't interfere with their
business."

The maid knocked and disappeared. In a moment she returned.

"She says you can come now."

There was very evident curiosity mingled with the smiles of
greeting.

"I happened to think," Polly began at once, "that maybe you could
do something to help out matters. I've been up to see Miss
Sterling, and she is feeling pretty bad because she can't curl her
hair to go to her cousin's wedding, and I didn't know but you would
fix things so she can."

"'Fix things'?" scowled the lady at the head of the table. "You
mean, put on an electric attachment?"

"Oh, no!" Polly came near disgracing herself by a laugh. "But
it's against the rule, you know, to curl your hair, and Miss
Sterling asked if she couldn't, just for the evening, and Miss
Sniffen said no."

The ladies gazed at one another, plain surprise on their faces.
Then they looked questioningly at their presiding officer.

"The Board never interferes with the superintendent's rules--"
began Mrs. Beers.

"Unless it is something we especially don't like," put in the
member with a conscience.

The president sent a severe glance down the table.

"I thought, maybe, just for this once, you'd fix it so she
could--she would wet it all out before breakfast." Polly was very
much in earnest.

"There's altogether too much complaint among the inmates," spoke up
a fat woman on Mrs. Beers's left. "They should be made to realize
how fortunate they are to have such a beautiful Home to live in,
instead of finding fault with every little thing and sending people
to try to wheedle us into giving them something different from what
they have."

"Oh, Mrs. Puddicombe!" burst out Polly, "Miss Sterling didn't send
me at all! She doesn't know a thing about it! I never thought of
coming in until I passed the door--then it occurred to me that
maybe you would like to help her out. It's pretty hard to have to
go to a wedding with your hair all flat, just as they do it at a
hospital--I don't believe you'd like it yourself, Mrs. Puddicombe."

Several smiles were visible. A titter escaped the youngest member.

Mrs. Puddicombe's broad face reddened under her amazing labyrinth
of screwlike curls.

"These charity people," she resumed irrelevantly, "never know when
they're well off. Why, this Home is the very gate of heaven! Just
look at that new rug in the library--it cost three hundred dollars!
But who appreciates it?"

"Well, I should rather walk over a thirty-cent rug than every time
I turned round have to have a rule to turn by!" Polly tossed out
the words impetuously.

"You're a saucy girl!" returned Mrs. Puddicombe. "You'd better go
home and tell your father to teach you good manners." The
president rapped for order.

"I beg your pardon, if I was saucy," Polly hastened to say. "I
didn't mean to be. I was only thinking--"

"That will do," interrupted Mrs. Beers. "There has been too much
time given to a very trivial matter."

Polly walked away from the June Holiday Home in the company of
uneasy thoughts. She feared she had made matters worse for her
dear Miss Nita.

CHAPTER IV

A JUNE HOLIDAY

The wedding night brought no recall of the negative answer which
Miss Sniffen had given to Juanita Sterling, although the little
woman hoped until the last moment for some sign of relenting.

But Polly was on hand to braid the thick, soft hair into a becoming
coronet, and to assert that she knew the bride wouldn't look half
so pretty.

Several days after, Polly danced in, her face full of the morning.

"You feel pretty well, don't you?" she began in her most coaxing
way.

"A little better than usual," Miss Sterling laughed. "What do you
want me to do?"

"You know David and Leonora and I went down to Fern Brook last
week," Polly began deliberately, seating herself in the rocker
which Miss Sterling did not like, "and ever since then I've been
wishing it would come a lovely day for you and me to have a little
picnic all by ourselves. Or we might ask one or two others, if you
like. Will you, Miss Nita? You'll break my heart if you say no--I
see it coming! Just say, 'I should be de-e-lighted to go!'"

"Oh, I'd love to, but--"

"No, there isn't a 'but' or an 'if' or anything! We're going! Who
else do you want?"

"You crazy child! I'm afraid it will use me up. I don't dare risk
it. We'll have to take the trolley--and the walk across lots--oh,
I can't, Polly!"

"Yes, you're going! I've made up my mind! The trolley ride won't
hurt you; you'll have nothing to do but to sit still, and the walk
isn't long."

"Remember, I haven't been off the grounds, except for the wedding,
in months."

"I don't forget, and it's awful. You felt better the day after the
wedding."

"Ye-s, but--"

"We're going! It's decided!" Polly jumped up. "Say quick who
we'll invite, and then I'll run down and beg permission to go on a
picnic--unless you'd rather."

"Mercy--no! I guess that's one reason why I haven't been away; I
haven't had life enough to want to unwind red tape."

"I shall love it," laughed Polly. "Shall we ask Mrs. Albright?
She's nice."

"Yes, and how would you like Mrs. Adlerfeld? I think she's pretty
lonely."

"First-rate! She is sweet, and she talks the dearest way. Hurry
up now, and get ready! I'll be back in no time with the passports."

"Why, I don't know," Miss Sniffen hesitated, "How far is it, do you
say?"

"We take the trolley out to Grafton Street," Polly explained
slowly, "and then we go 'cross lots just a little way to the
dearest grove and a lovely little brook that tumbles over the
stones--oh, it's beautiful! Can't you go with us, Miss Sniffen?"
cried Polly in a burst of generosity, shivering the next minute for
fear her invitation would be accepted!

"No, thank you," actually smiled the superintendent; "my business
doesn't include picnics, and I doubt whether it would be wise for
Miss Sterling to go so far away from the Home. It might cause
trouble--and unnecessary expense; the others may go if they wish."

"Oh, Miss Sniffen, please let Miss Sterling go! That's one reason
why I want it, because I think it will do her good," wheedled
Polly, adding tactfully, "Father says it often makes the nerves
better to get the muscles tired."

"Yes, I think that myself. Of course, it would do her no real
harm, if you could manage to keep her from getting wrought up and
having one of her tantrums."

"Oh, I promise you I'll bring her home as good as new!" declared
Polly recklessly. And with profuse thanks she darted softly away.

The four walked sedately down the long stairs in repressed glee,
the three ladies waiting on the piazza while Polly registered their
names, destination, time of starting, and expected return, in the
daybook on the secretary's desk.

"Red tape all wound up!" she finally announced in a whisper, and
the quartette proceeded to the corner below, to be in readiness for
the car.

Juanita Sterling appeared to have lost her weak nerves somewhere on
the way, as the four left the road behind them and made a path
through the clover into the distance.

"I want to sit right down and enjoy it!" she exclaimed, dropping
among the blossoms. "Hear that bird! It's a bobolink--it is! Oh,
me! Oh, my! I haven't heard a bobolink for--I'm not going to
bother to think how long. It is glorious!"

"This isn't anything compared to the woods and the brook," asserted
Polly.

She put down her lunch-basket and snipped off some clover heads.

"Those are full of honey, Miss Nita,--taste! They aren't buggy a
mite."

Like bees they sipped and sipped, and laughed and said foolish
things like children at a merry-making.

Suddenly Miss Sterling sprang to her feet.

"The day is going," she cried, "and we must get there quick! Come!"

The "just a little way" of Polly's lengthened on and on until the
three who were not accustomed to country fields looked in dismay
toward the long line of trees which seemed so very far off.

"Are you fearfully tired?" Polly would reiterate, and "Not a bit!"
Miss Sterling would lie with complacency, while Mrs. Albright grew
wondrously jolly in her effort to keep everybody from realizing the
truth.

When, finally, they stepped into the dim, cool wood, melodious with
the gurgle and splash of hurrying water and the lilting of unseen
birds, nobody remembered the hot, weary way she had come.

Miss Sterling, stretched upon a bed of vines and moss, announced
that she was in "heaven."

Little Mrs. Adlerfeld looked across in answering sympathy.

"It makes me so glad and happy, it hurts," she said, her hand upon
her breast.

"I knew you'd love it!" exulted Polly, dropping lightly between the
two and laying a hand upon each. "Let's come out here every week!"

Nobody objected. Mrs. Albright wagged an approving smile, Mrs.
Adlerfeld continued her dreamy gaze into the brook, the invalid was
too drowsy to speak.

"Go to sleep, all of you!" Polly commanded gayly. "I'll have a
red-and-green luncheon for you when you wake up!"

She bounded off along the slippery pine-needled path and
disappeared behind a curtain of foliage.

Miss Sterling awoke with a start--where was she? Then the events
of the morning flashed into view, and she smiled contentedly.

Mrs. Adlerfeld, leaning back against a stone, was peacefully
nodding, and a gentle snore from the other of the trio told that
Polly's order had been obeyed.

Where was Polly? Miss Sterling looked around, but she was not in
sight. Even with the springing of a sudden fear she caught the
sound of distant talking--a man's voice! She rose to her feet and
stood irresolute, listening. Then she smiled. That was Polly's
laugh' In a moment two figures rounded a clump of young pines.
Juanita Sterling caught her breath--the man walking beside Polly
was Mr. Randolph!

The president of the June Holiday Home found a welcoming hand as he
strode up the piney path.

"Weren't you surprised. Miss Nita?" cried Polly. "He's going to
have us arrested for trespassing on his land!"--with a roguish
glance toward the owner.

"Then we shall have to invite him to luncheon, shan't we?" Miss
Sterling's blue eyes held pleasant twinkles. "It is too pleasant
to-day to go to jail!"

The gentleman chuckled.

"Oh! will you stay?" begged Polly.

"You'd better!" urged Miss Sterling. "There are Banbury turnovers
and chicken sandwiches!"

"It is hard to refuse--" he began. "Oh, I knew you couldn't say no
when Miss Nita asked you!" sang Polly delightedly. "Nobody can!
Except Miss Sniffen!" she added conscientiously.

"Miss Sniffen" appeared to pass unnoticed. Polly suddenly
remembered her handful of wintergreen sprigs and berries, and the
sleepers awoke to join the merriment and the little pungent feast.

"I came up," Mr. Randolph explained, "to look over some trees that
a man wants, and I rather think I ought to go directly back; but,"
he went on with a whimsical laugh, "I guess business won't know it
if I steal this June holiday. It is a good while since I had one."
His face grew instantly grave.

"You have to catch June holidays quick," smiled Mrs. Adlerfeld
wistfully. "They don't stay!"

"No, they don't stay," Mr. Randolph agreed gravely. "But," he
brightened, "you of June Holiday Home have them all the year
round." He looked from one face to another.

Mrs. Albright smiled a wordless response, the swift color flushed
Miss Sterling's face, while fun played about Polly's mouth.

"You have a pretty good time there, don't you?" he persisted.

His eyes were bent on Miss Sterling; yet Mrs. Albright kindly
interposed with the safe assertion, "It is a beautiful place."

"Yes, it is beautiful," he replied, scanning the cheery, wrinkled
face. "Any town should consider it a great privilege to have such
an institution within its borders. Mrs. Milworth--or June Holiday,
as she preferred to be called--was a wonderful woman. I am glad to
be in a position to help in the carrying-out of her plans."

Miss Sterling smiled a little queerly. Polly opened her lips, then
shut them tight, and finally announced quite irrelevantly that she
was hungry.

One of Mrs. Dudley's prettiest tablecloths was spread on a little
piney level close to the brook, and Polly set out the paper plates
and cups and the boxes of food.

"Which do you like best, Mr. Randolph, coffee or chocolate?" Polly
queried anxiously.

"I will answer as a little boy of my acquaintance did,--'Whichever
you have the most of.'"

"Well, you see, we have only one, and I do hope you don't like
coffee best."

"I don't!" he declared. "I always drink chocolate when I can get
it."

"I'm glad I brought it, then!" cried Polly. "You cut the cake,
please, Miss Nita. I'm afraid I couldn't do it straight."

The little feast was ready at last, appetites were found to be of
the keenest sort, and everything went merrily.

"I have never had the pleasure of a meal at the Home,"--Mr.
Randolph was eating a Banbury turnover with plain enjoyment. "I
suppose you ladies are treated to this sort of thing every day."

"We have a pretty good cook," answered Miss Sterling discreetly;
"but these pies are of Mrs. Dudley's make. Polly brought the
lunch."

"Oh!" The man's eyebrows raised themselves a little. "Then I
should say, Mrs. Dudley is an excellent Banbury pie-ist."

"I shall have to tell her that," laughed Polly. "It will please
her very much."

"Nothing delights a woman more than to have her cooking praised,"
laughed Mrs. Albright.

"I learned that years ago." Mr. Randolph smiled reminiscently.
"When I was first married, I think I must have been a rather
notional man to cook for. My wife seldom did much in the kitchen,
but one day she made a salad. As it did not exactly appeal to my
appetite, after one taste I remarked that I was not very hungry.
To my dismay she burst into tears. It was her favorite salad, and
she had made it with unusual care, never dreaming that I would not
like it as well as she did. Ever afterwards I ate the whole bill
of fare straight through."

"It sometimes takes courage to do that," smiled Mrs. Albright. "I
hope you had a good cook. How much people think of eating! I
don't blame 'em either. Nobody enjoys anything better than--for
instance, a lunch like this."

"Robert Louis Stevenson did," spoke up Mrs. Adlerfeld. "I read in
my day-to-day book this morning--I can't quite 'remember--yes, this
is it: 'After a good woman, and a good book, and tobacco, there is
nothing so agreeable on earth as a river.' I did not think then I
should be eating my dinner right on the bank of a little river!"
She gazed down lovingly on the water swirling and, foaming among
the stones.

"Stevenson ought to know," said Mr. Randolph with a pleased smile.
"So he is one of your favorites as well as mine!"

"Yes, I like him very." Her little sunny face beamed with
pleasure. "His book is more educating as many things said by a
teacher."

"He is a good teacher."

"I wish he had not put in tobacco," scowled Mrs. Adlerfeld. "There
are a many things better as tobacco."

"You have not tried it," he returned. "Stevenson knew because he
had tried it."

The little woman shook her head decidedly. "I have been suffered a
many times by tobacco." Then a smile broke mischievously. "You
may smoke after dinner, Mr. Randolph."

The man laughed. "I was not pleading for myself," he protested.
"This is sufficiently soothing--" His hand made a comprehensive
sweep. "Tobacco would be superfluous."

Miss Sterling had risen and gone over to the lunch-box, where she
was trying to open a second thermos bottle.

"Let me do that for you!" He sprang to help her.

She stepped back heedlessly, her foot slipped, and with a sharp cry
she fell on the smooth slope.

Polly and Mr. Randolph reached her together.

"Are you hurt?" Polly's voice was distressed.

"Any damage done?" The man's tone was cheery, yet concerned.

She laughed bravely.

"Oh, no!" taking the proffered hands and trying to rise. Then she
sank back, catching her breath hard.

"It's just my ankle--but it isn't hurt!" she declared fiercely.
"Let me try it again."

She stood on her feet. "I guess I'm all here," she laughed; yet
even with the words her face grew white.

Mr. Randolph caught her, and she drooped limply against him.

He laid her down gently, and at once she opened her eyes.

Mrs. Albright was rubbing her hands. "You will be all right in a
minute," she said cheerily.

"I am all right now," Miss Sterling maintained. "How stupid of me
to faint! I won't have a sprained ankle--so there!"

The rest laughed, though a little uncertainly.

Polly, like a true doctor's daughter, was examining the injury.

"It doesn't swell, so it can't be sprained," she decided positively.

Miss Sterling sat up and supplemented Polly's inspection. "Merely
a strain. I'll be able to walk in a little while."

"You'd better not tax it," Mr. Randolph advised. "I am glad my car
is so near. I drove in as far as the road was good."

"Oh!" Miss Sterling's voice was grateful. "I was wondering how I
could ever walk over to the trolley."

"You would not have had to do that in any case, but my car is ready
whenever you care to return."

"The ride will be a lovely ending to the day," Miss Sterling
assured him, "and, if it won't hinder you, suppose we don't go any
sooner on my account."

Four o'clock found the picnickers leaving the wood, the injured one
assisted on either side by Polly and Nelson Randolph.

The way was not long, but time after time it took all the pluck of
which Juanita Sterling was mistress not to stop in the path and cry
out that she could not go a step farther.

Her escorts were solicitous.

"Lean on me more, Miss Nita," Polly would urge. "I'm awfully
strong. Favor your foot all you can."

"Hadn't I better carry you the rest of the way?" asked Mr. Randolph
when she could no longer hide her pain.

Her thanks were gracefully given, but she refused to proceed except
upon her own feet.

"It is nothing," she insisted. "I shall be all right in a moment."

Never did hospitable inn look more inviting to a weary traveler
than did the waiting car to Juanita Sterling.

"You sit in front," advised Polly, "it will be much easier for you."

"Certainly!" the man exclaimed, throwing open the other door.

But before Polly could stay her she had stepped to the
running-board--and was on the back seat!

"You are naughty!" Polly pouted.

Miss Sterling laughed softly.

The man said nothing, only helped Mrs. Adlerfeld to a place beside
him.

The cooling, sunlit air was delightful. It was long since Miss
Sterling had been in an automobile, and the car rode as easy as a
rocking-chair. She drew deep breaths, and half forgot that her
ankle was still throbbing from its recent effort.

"Feel equal to a little longer ride?" suddenly inquired the driver,
throwing the query toward Miss Sterling.

"Equal to anything!" was the happy reply.

"Oh, that will be nice!" cried Polly, squeezing her friend's arm,
and beaming on her right-hand neighbor.

"Am I going too fast for you?" was the next question.

"Not a bit!"--"It is lovely!"--"The faster the better!" came in
merry succession from the back seat.

They spun along the smooth road with greater speed, and the
freshness of the country was brought to them in one steady sweep.

"This is glorious!" breathed Miss Sterling.

"I never rode in one of these cars before," confessed Mrs.
Adlerfeld blithely.

"Indeed!" a pleasant light flashed in the driver's eyes. "And how
do you like it?"

"Oh, I like it very!" The wrinkled face was radiant. "It makes me
so glad and happy!"

"We will have another ride some day," was the unexpected response,
which made the little Swedish woman fairly gasp in delight.

The gayety of the party came to a sudden end when Mr. Randolph
drove into the Home grounds.

"Please, not a word to anybody about my fall," said Miss Sterling
in a low voice, as she was helped from the car.

"Is that wise?" It was asked in a surprised tone.

"Extremely wise," was the smiling response. "I might wish to go
picnicking again, you know." Her twinkling eyes met his puzzled
face.

"As you will," he promised gravely.

There was time for no more. The others were waiting.

Polly kept beside Miss Sterling who walked without a limp and gave
no sign of the torture she was undergoing.

"Go right upstairs!" whispered Polly. "I'll report for all of you
when I come down."

"You needn't go up, the rail will be sufficient."

But Polly would not relinquish her charge until she saw her safe in
her room.

"How came you to be riding with the president of the Home?" Miss
Sniffen looked down sternly on Polly.

"Oh! did you see us come? Wasn't it lucky--nice that Mr. Randolph
had his car? And wasn't he good to bring us?"

"Was the meeting by arrangement?" questioned Miss Sniffen severely.

"Oh, no! I was so surprised! We all were! He happened to go over
there to see about some trees, and so stayed to luncheon. We had a
lovely time! Wasn't it queer it happened to be his land?"

Miss Sniffen's thin lips drew themselves into a sarcastic line.

"'Happened!' There seems to have been a number of _happenings_."

"I know it," Polly agreed demurely, looking at her watch to make
sure of the time. "We came in about five minutes ago, Miss
Sniffen. It was twenty minutes of six just before we got here."

"What time did you leave the picnic grounds?"

"I think it was four o'clock."

"Did you come directly back?" Miss Sniffen's hard eyes fastened on
Polly's face.

"Oh, no! We had a beautiful ride! We went way out on the Flaxton
road, along by the river. Don't you think Mr. Randolph is a very
lovable man?"

"I think it was entirely out of place for you to spend the day in
the woods with an unmarried man. I shall look into it."

Polly's brown eyes grew big and wondering. "Why, Miss Sniffen, I
don't see what harm there was! We had the loveliest time!"

The superintendent did not reply. She turned deliberately and
walked down the great hall.

Polly watched her a moment, the wondering look still in her eyes.
Then she sped swiftly toward home. She hoped Miss Sniffen would
not find out about Miss Nita's ankle.

CHAPTER V

MISS LILY AND DOODLES

The long line of choir boys issued decorously from the side door of
St. Bartholomew's. The running, pushing, scuffling, and laughter
were reserved for the next street. Sly nudges and subdued chuckles
were all that the most reckless indulged in under the shadows of
the church.

At the foot of the steps stood a slender, whitehaired woman with
stooping shoulders. She scanned each face as it emerged from the
dim passageway, and her own grew a bit anxious as the boys passed.
Then it suddenly brightened with recognition. Doodles had appeared.

The woman stepped forward to meet him. "Excuse me," she hesitated,
"but are you the one who sang that solo, 'Take heart, ye weary'?"

The boy smiled his modest answer.

"Oh, I want to thank you for it! I've been waiting till you came,
and I was so afraid I'd missed you after all, for I probably shan't
have another chance. I wanted you to know how much good it has
done me."

"Has it?" Doodles looked his pleasure.

"Oh, it was beautiful!" she said tremulously. "I never heard
anything like it! I always enjoy your singing, and am so
disappointed when you don't sing alone; but seems to me this piece
was sweetest of all!"

"I guess you'll like the one for next Sunday," Doodles told
her,--"'And God shall wipe away all tears.'"

"Oh!" It was mingled longing and regret. "That must be beautiful!
I wish I could hear it--seems as if I must!" Her voice broke a
little. "But I'm afraid I can't. I shan't be here next Sunday."

"That's too bad! I'm sorry!"

"It can't be helped. I am glad I could come to-day and hear
you--it does me more good than sermons!" Tears made the blue eyes
shine.

"Perhaps I shall sing it some other time when you are here,"
Doodles suggested hopefully.

The woman shook her head. Her reply was soft and broken. "I
shan't ever be here again."

"Oh!" Doodles was instantly sympathetic. Then a gleam lighted his
sorrowing face. "I'll tell you what," he began hurriedly, "I'll
come to your house and sing for you this afternoon--that is, if
you'd like me to," he added.

Such joy flooded the tearful eyes! "Oh, you dear boy! if you would!
I don't know how to thank you!"

"That's all right! I'd love to do it. Shall I come early, right
after dinner, or--"

"Oh, come early! It is so good of you!" The tears threatened to
overflow their bounds.

Doodles glanced down the street. "What is your address, please? I
have to take the next car."

"Why, yes! I forgot! I live at 304 North Charles Street."

"Thank you." He lifted his cap with a bright smile. "I'll be
there!" he promised and was off.

The woman watched him as he hailed the passing car. He saw her
from a window and waved his hand. She returned the salute, and
then walked slowly away.

"I hope he won't forget the number," she said to herself, "he
didn't take it down. And I never thought to give him my name!"

Doodles easily found the place the woman had designated. The house
was small and dingy, and two grimy babies were playing on the
doorstep.

"Miss Lily's upstairs, in back," answered the girl to whom the
inquiry had been referred. "I guess it's her you want. Ther'
ain't nobody else, 'cept Miss Goby, an' she's a big un."

The top of the dim flight was nearly reached when a door opened and
threw a stream of light on the stairway. The boy saw his new
friend waiting for him.

"Walk right in!" she said cordially. "It's awfully good of you to
come!"

The room was in noticeable contrast with the rest of the house.
Here everything was neat and homelike, although there was little
attempt at ornament. Doodles was soon seated in a cushioned rocker
and listening to the little old lady's grateful talk.

"When you spoke of that new song, 'God shall wipe away all tears,'
it did seem as if I just couldn't miss hearing you sing it! But I
never dreamed that you could do such a thing as to come and sing it
to me here. I wish I had a better place for you to sing in, but
I've had to take up with 'most anything these days."

The lad hastened to assure her that he was accustomed to sing in a
small room, and that it made no difference to him where he was.

"Then you don't mind not having an organ or piano or anything?"
The tone was anxious.

"Not a bit," he smiled. "I never used to have accompaniment--I can
sing anywhere."

After the first note Miss Lily sat motionless, bending forward a
little, her hands clasped in her lap, her eyes on the singer.
Whether she saw him was doubtful, for her tears fell fast as
Doodles sang the comforting words.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;...and there
shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying,...neither shall
there be any more pain:...for the former things are passed away."

With silence the listener suddenly dropped her face in her hands
and began to sob.

In a moment Doodles was singing again, and soon she grew calmer.
When he stopped she was ready to talk.

"I don't see what makes me cry so!" she broke out, with a great
effort fighting back the tears. "I'm all upset anyway. It is so
lovely having you sing--right here! You don't know! I'm afraid I
shan't ever want you to stop." She laughed quiveringly.

"More now?" he asked.

"If you aren't tired," she hesitated.

"Never!"

He sang again.

In the doorways upstairs and down people were listening. The
little house on North Charles Street had never heard such music
within its walls. As the song ceased, applause came,--uncertainly
at first, then louder and steady.

The two in the back room looked at each other and smiled.

"I guess they like it as well as I do," Miss Lily said.

In response Doodles sang "Only an armor-bearer," still one of his
favorites, and at its close the approval of those outside was
prompt and long.

Many other songs followed; apparently the audience grew.

"They'll tire you out," the little lady fretted.

The boy shook his head decidedly, beginning for the second time,
"And God shall wipe away all tears."

"Oh, it is like heaven itself!" Miss Lily breathed. Then she
sighed softly. "What if I had missed it!"

"I think I shall have to go now," at last Doodles said; "but I will
come and sing for you again any time, if you like,--any time when
you are here." He rose and picked up his cap.

"Oh, my dear boy, I'm not ever coming back! I'm"--she began to
sob, and Doodles could scarcely make out the words--"I'm going--to
the--poorhouse!" She broke down, and her slight shoulders shook
pitifully.

The boy stood as if stunned. Then he stepped near. "Don't cry!"
he said softly, "don't cry!"

"Oh--I can't help it!" she mourned. "I've kept up--I thought maybe
I shouldn't have to go; but my eyes have given out, and I can't
earn anything only by sewing--and I can't sew now! To think of me
in the poorhouse!"

"I'll come and sing for you there!" cried the boy impulsively.

"Oh! you wouldn't--would you?" She clutched at the only straw of
hope.

"Of course, I will! I'd be glad to!"

"You're awfully good!" She wiped her eyes.

"I didn't mean to entertain you with tears," she smiled. "Seems as
if I might stop, but I can't." Her eyes were wet again.

A sudden light illumined the lad's face. He opened his lips, then
shut them.

"How soon do you expect to go?" he asked.

"Some time the last of the week, the man thought." She swallowed
hard. "He said he'd give me time to pick up my things--he was real
good."

"I'll see you again before the last of the week," promised Doodles,
putting out his hand.

She clasped it in both of hers.

"You are just a dear--that's what you are!" she said tremulously.
"And you don't know how I thank you! I can't tell you what it has
been to me!"

As the singer passed down the stairs curious eyes peered out at
him; but he did not know it. His heart was full of Miss Lily's
grief, although overspreading it was the beautiful thought that had
come to him so suddenly a moment ago.

CHAPTER VI

"BETTER THAN THE POORHOUSE"

Polly was on the veranda when Doodles came.

"Why, Doodles Stickney! I was just thinking of you! How did you
know I wanted to see you this morning?"

"I didn't," he laughed; "but I wanted to see you'"

"I'm so glad--oh, I forgot! I'm due at the dentist's at ten
o'clock! Maybe I can get off."

"No, no! I couldn't stay till that time anyway. I came down on
business--"

"Dear me!" laughed Polly, "how grand we are this morning!"

"I don't know whether it is 'grand' or not--it depends a good deal
on the president of June Holiday Home. I'll tell you all about
it," dropping into a chair beside Polly.

He related the incidents of the day before, of Miss Lily's meeting
him at the church door, of his singing to her in the afternoon, and
finally of her distress at going to the poorhouse.

"And I happened to think if she could only come to the June Holiday
Home--"

"Lovely!" cried Polly. "I don't see why she can't!"

"Nor I, but somebody may. I thought I'd see you first and maybe
you'd give me a little note of introduction--you know Mr. Randolph
so well, and I never spoke to him."

"Certainly I will! I'll go right and do it now! Chris will want
to see you--I'll send him out."

The note that Doodles carried away with him was in Polly's best
style.

_Dear Mr. Randolph_:--
This is to introduce my friend Doodles Stickney,
or to be perfectly proper, Julius Stickney. He will tell
you about Miss Lily, and I do hope you will make a
place for her at the Home. I have never seen her, but
I know she is nice, or Doodles wouldn't like her or
take so much trouble to get her in. I feel awfully sorry
for her. It must be dreadful to have your eyes give out
so you have to go to the poorhouse.

Miss Sniffen made a terrible fuss because you stayed
at the picnic with us--or because we stayed with
you. Anyway, she scolded Miss Nita like everything.
I'm afraid we can't ever have a picnic again. She began
on me when I went to report our arrival--she
happened to be at the desk. You know you have to
report as soon as you get in, and I said I'd do it for the
crowd. Miss Nita couldn't because her ankle ached
so. It turned black and blue--just awful! She wouldn't
say a word to anybody, and father sent some liniment
by me. The first smelt so strong Miss Nita
didn't dare use it for fear they'd suspect, so father
sent her another kind. He said it wasn't quite so good
as the smelly sort, but her ankle is a whole lot better.
Don't you think she is brave? I don't know what Miss
Sniffen would say if she knew about that. We've all
kept whist.

This is a pretty long letter, but I knew you'd want
to hear about Miss Nita's ankle. You will let Miss
Lily in, won't you?
Yours with hope,
POLLY MAY DUDLEY.

Thank you ever so much for that beautiful ride! I
shall never forget it.

Doodles walked into the great office of the Fair Harbor Paper
Company and asked to see Mr. Randolph.

"We hired a boy last week. We don't want any more." The clerk was
turning away.

"Oh, I'm not applying for a place!" cried Doodles, his voice full
of laughter. "I wish to see the president on business."

The young man scowled, irritated by his blunder, and surveyed the
boy with a disagreeable sneer.

"Well, he's too busy to attend to kids. What do you want anyhow?"

Doodles hesitated. He did not wish to tell his errand to this
pompous young person.

"Please say to Mr. Randolph that I would like to see him on
important business about the June Holiday Home."

"Who sent you?"

"No one; but I have a letter of introduction."

"Oh, you have! Hand it out!"

Doodles made no move toward his pocket.

"I wish to give it to Mr. Randolph himself," he said gently.

"Well, you can't see him. He's busy now."

"I will wait," replied the boy, and took a chair.

The clerk went behind the railing and sat down at a desk.

Doodles looked out on the street and watched the passers.
Occasionally his eyes would wander back to the office and over the
array of men and women bent to their work, then they would return
to the wide doorway. He felt that he had small chance to speak
with Mr. Randolph until he should go to luncheon, and that, he
argued to himself, would not be a very good time to present his
business. He wished that the unpleasant young clerk would go
first--he would like to try some other.

Men and women came and went, some of them disappearing in the rear,
where, undoubtedly, was the man he sought. If only he dared
follow! Finally the offensive youth came out through the gate and
over to where he sat.

"Here, you kid," he began in an insolent tone, "you've hung round
here long enough! Now beat it!"

Into the soft brown eyes of Doodles shot an angry light.

The other saw it and smiled sneeringly. He did not count on the
lad's strength.

In a moment the indignation had passed. There was none of it in
the quiet voice. "Good-day, sir!"

Doodles was gone.

A plan had instantly formed in his mind. He would get himself a
lunch, and then wait outside the office until Mr. Randolph
appeared. That was the only way. It never occurred to him to give
the matter up.

One restaurant was passed; it did not look inviting. The next was
better, but flies were crawling over the bottles and jars in the
window. He went on.

"It will cost more, I suppose," he muttered regretfully to himself,
as he entered a neat cafe where the door was opened to him by a boy
in livery.

"Bread and milk," he ordered of the trim maid, and he smiled to
himself contentedly at the daintiness with which it was served.

The milk was cool and sweet, and Doodles was hungry. The whistles
and clocks announced that it was noon, and soon afterward people
began to stream in. Women with shopping-bags and bundles, men with
newspapers, hatless working-girls; but everywhere were courtesy and
low voices. Doodles was glad of his choice.

He sat eating slowly, wishing he knew at what time he would be most
likely to meet Mr. Randolph, when he stared at a man coming toward
him--it was the president of the Paper Company! The boy drew in a
delighted breath--what great good luck!

Mr. Randolph sat down at a little table not far away. He looked
tired, the lad thought, and he decided to wait until the close of
the meal, if he could manage to make his own small supply of milk
last long enough.

"Nothing more, thank you," Doodles told the maid who came to ask.
"This milk is very nice," he added, which brought out an answering
smile.

At last the president had reached his fruit.

The boy's last crumb had vanished long ago, and he thought he might
venture across to the other table.

"May I speak with you a moment, sir?" he asked softly, taking the
letter from his pocket.

"Certainly." The man bowed with his accustomed courtesy.

"Polly Dudley gave me this for you."

At mention of the name a pleasant light over-spread the grave face.

The lad watched him as he read. The light deepened, then the brows
drew together in a scowl. Doodles wondered what Polly had written.

"This lady is a friend of yours, I take it."

The keen gray eyes looked straight at the boy.

"Yes, sir," Doodles smiled, "though a very new one. I never saw
her till yesterday."

The eyes bent upon him widened a little.

The lad told his story as simply as possible, touching lightly upon
his own part in it. "And so," he ended artlessly, his appealing
brown eyes looking straight into the steady gray ones, "I thought,
even if there were rules and patches and things she didn't like, it
would be better than the poorhouse."

A little amused smile replaced the hint of surprise on the man's
face.

"Where do you sing?" he asked abruptly.

"At St. Bartholomew's Church, Foxford."

"Did you come down expressly to see me about this?"

"Yes, sir," answered Doodles.

"How did you know I was here?"

"I didn't." A smile overspread the small face. "I waited at your
office until"--he hesitated an instant--"I thought I would find you
after I had had a lunch."

"Get hungry?"

"Oh, no, sir!"

Mr. Randolph eyed him questioningly.

"The young man thought I'd waited long enough," was the gentle
explanation.

"So he told you to go!"

"I guess he got tired of seeing me there," smiled Doodles.

"Did you wait long?"

"'Most two hours."

"Tall, light-haired fellow, was it?"

The boy assented.

The president mused a moment and then resumed:--

"In any case your friend will have to make an application. I think
I will let her take a blank. Have her fill it out, and you can
send it down to me. I will attend to the rest."

Doodles rose from his chair, feeling that it was time to go, yet he
could not forbear one question.

"Do you think she can come to the Home?" His tone betrayed his
solicitude.

"I will do the best I can for her, Master Stickney." Mr. Randolph
had also risen, and he smiled down into the upturned face. "It
will have to be referred to the Committee on Applications, but I
will see that it is put through as quickly as possible."

Doodles decided to see Miss Lily before going home, so it was still
early afternoon when he entered the little house on North Charles
Street.

"Why, you dear boy!" The little lady had him in her arms. "How
good of you to come! I was thinking this morning, what if I
shouldn't ever hear you sing again--and now here you are!"

"I told you I'd come," laughed Doodles.

"Yes," smiled Miss Lily; "but people forget. I guess you aren't
the forgetting kind."

"I didn't come to-day to sing," the boy began slowly. Now that the
moment was at hand he felt suddenly shy at disclosing his errand.
"I happened to think yesterday of the June Holiday Home down in
Fair Harbor, and I wondered if you wouldn't rather go there and
live than to go--anywhere else."

For an instant Miss Lily stared. "That beautiful place up on
Edgewood Hill?--me?--go there?" Her mobile face showed a strange
mingling of astonishment, fear, and joy.

"Certainly! Shouldn't you like to?"

"'Like to'! All the rest of my life?--Oh, I can't believe it!"

"I don't know that you can get in," Doodles hastened to explain;
"but I went to Fair Harbor this morning to see Mr. Randolph--he's
the president of the Home. He doesn't know yet for certain, but he
has sent you a blank to make out, and then it's got to go to a
committee. He said he'd do the best he could for you,--he is a
very nice man!"

"And you have taken all this trouble for me?" Miss Lily's hands
went up to her face. The tears trickled down and fell on her dress.

"It wasn't any trouble," asserted Doodles. "I thought maybe there
was no chance, and so I wouldn't tell you till I found out." The
lad took the paper from his pocket.

Miss Lily wiped her eyes. "I can't see to write," she said
tremulously; "that is, not well, and the doctor said I mustn't
try." She looked mournfully at the boy.

"I'll do it for you," he proposed cheerily. "Then if there's
anything to sign you can do it with your eyes shut. I love to
write with my eyes shut and see how near I come to it!"

"I never tried," she admitted, "but perhaps I could."

"It says first, 'Your name in full.'" Doodles looked up inquiringly.

"Faith Lily." repeated its owner mechanically. Then she started
across the room. "I'll get you a pen and ink," she said.

Doodles wrote with careful hand. "That's a pretty name," he
commented.

"I always liked it," she smiled. "But I'm afraid my faith has been
going back on me lately. I did have a good deal. I thought the
Lord wouldn't let me go to the poorhouse, then it seemed as if He
was going to. Only a little while ago I thought He must have
forgotten me--and now this!" Her dim eyes grew big with wonder and
thankfulness. "Even if I can't go, I shall be glad you tried to
get me in; it will tell me I have one friend."

"The next is, 'Time and place of birth.'"

"I was born August 3, 1847, in Cloverfield, Massachusetts."

"'Name of father,'" read Doodles.

"Jonathan Seymour Lily."

There were many questions, and the boy was a slow writer. It took
no little time to place all the answers. But the end of the list
was finally reached without blot or smudge. Doodles surveyed his
work with gratification.

"I guess I haven't made any mistake," he said, reading it over.
"Now if you can just put your name there, it will be done."

Her hand trembled and the letters were wavering, but when Doodles
declared it was "splendidly written," she smiled her relief.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday went by, and Doodles heard nothing
from Mr. Randolph. He began to be afraid that the committee had
decided against his friend, and although his mother told him that
such procedures always take considerable time, he grew more nervous
with every mail-coming. When Saturday morning brought him no word,
he decided to go over to Miss Lily's.

"I don't know that she could read the letter if she had one," he
said in dismay. "Why didn't I think of that before!"

His first glimpse of the little woman corroborated his worst fears.
Her eyes were swollen with weeping, and her face was haggard and
despairing.

"Can't you go?" he ejaculated.

"I haven't heard a word!" she answered mournfully. "I didn't know
but you had."

"No, I haven't. That's why I came over."

She shut the door and made him sit down.

"I guess I'll have to go to the poorhouse after all," she began in
a hushed voice, as if fearful of being overheard.

"Oh, I wouldn't give up! Mr. Randolph said it would take time."

"But I can't wait! The woman thought I was going, and she's rented
my room, and she won't let me stay another night! I haven't quite
enough money to pay up, and she says she shall keep my trunk and
furniture--oh, to think I have come to this!"

The little woman's distress was agonizing to Doodles.

"Now, don't you worry!" he pleaded. "You are coming straight home
with me to stay at our house over Sunday, and next week we shall
probably hear."

"No, no!--your mother--your mother won't want me!" she sobbed. "I
can't go to make her all that trouble!"

"'T won't be a bit of trouble!" he insisted. "She will like to
have you come! We all will! We'd better go right away, too. Is
your trunk packed?"

"Pretty much; there are a few little things to put in." She found
herself yielding to the stronger will of the boy. Going to the
closet, she brought out some articles of clothing which she began
to fold.

"Is all the furniture yours?" Doodles asked, looking around on the
meager array.

She shook her head. "Only the rocking-chair and the couch and that
little chair you're in and the oil heater and the pictures--" She
ran her troubled eyes over the things enumerated, as if fearing to
forget some of her few remaining possessions. "Oh, yes! there's my
bookshelf! I mustn't leave that."

"Suppose I make a list of them," suggested Doodles. "I think maybe
we'd better have them taken over to our house--Blue can come this
afternoon and see about it. Blue's my brother, you know."

"But Mrs. Gugerty won't let me have them!"

"She will if you pay up."

"Yes, but I can't! I gave her the last cent I had!" Her voice
quivered.

Doodles took out his purse and counted over his change.

"No, you're not going to pay it!" she cried. "I shan't let you!"

"I'm afraid I haven't enough," smiled the lad ruefully--"only
sixty-seven cents."

"I owe a dollar and a quarter," she admitted.

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